By Karla Pahel
On Saturday September 24th, I drove my 20-year-old high functioning autistic daughter and my 12 year old son to St. Vincent de Paul’s on North Front Street to meet the co-founders of Discerning Deacons, Casey Stanton from North Carolina and Ellie Hidalgo from Miami. Ellie Hidalgo spoke of her recent visit to the Amazon to travel with her friend, a Catholic nun, appointed by her Bishop to serve the river communities working as a woman Deacon, baptizing, marrying, preaching, holding funerals.
Through St Vincent de Paul’s creaking wood floors and the light streaming in from the stained-glass windows of the Blessed Mother holding a toddler and other children gathered around the table, one climbing on Joseph’s back, angels wrapped around them, my children and I listened to these women’s stories. Hidalgo and Stanton shared in an opening prayer with the Old Testament midwives, the Pharaohs daughter who took in Moses and raised him, the mothers who nursed the boys that Pharaoh ordered to kill and through the grace of the Holy Spirit, God made the people prosper and abundant.
During this event at St Vincent de Paul’s “Unleashing the Gifts of Women for the Church”, we were reminded that throughout history women have been providing for communities, making sure no one is being left out in the distribution of bread. We were reminded of this Live and Active question within our Catholic Church right now- to restore women to the diaconate. We were reminded too of the great need for men and women to break open God’s word.
The controversial issues of the Bishops asking for ordination for married Deacons and for women serving as Deacons in the Catholic Church all seems to be coming from the Amazon. As Hidalgo told her story of accompanying her friend, a woman Deacon to serve the Indigenous people of the river communities by boat in the Amazon, as she spoke of the wildfires, the smoke, the dirt roads, the setting up camp, the traveling by boat, the baptisms, her words opened our eyes, awakened my children and I to the universal churches example in instructing the world is all coming from the lush, mystical, mysterious Amazon. Hildalgo told of how she was standing next to her friend from the Amazon when Pope Francis said to her “Go forward with God’s strength!”
This is the time Pope Francis is calling us as Catholics to be a listening church, to have these conversations, to hold a space to have these difficult conversations that keeps us from division.
‘We are not running away from tension, we are here with it, we are loving the person in front of us fiercely, we are to be a collective witness” Hidalgo said.
Discerning Deacons is a national project endorsed by Fr Richard Rohr, founder of The Center for Action and Contemplation, Fr Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, Fr Bob Bonnot Exec. Director, Assoc. of US Catholic Priests, Rev. Emil Wcela Retired Bishop of NY, and many others.
More information can be found at discerningdeacons.org