SAN DIEGO — Local theology professor Dr. Maureen K. Day acknowledges that, on one level, Pope Francis’ appointment of three women to the group that helps him select bishops is “business as usual.”
She noted that these women are “competent and dedicated members of our Church (who) are going to serve us well.”
But on another level, their appointment serves as a reminder that “women are important to our Church as active leaders,” said Day, associate professor of Religion and Society at Franciscan School of Theology in San Diego. “It forms our imagination to think about how we might foster collaborative leadership that is not only excellent, but also reflects the demographics and experiences of those served.”
She expressed hope that the U.S. Church might follow the pope’s lead in considering how to bring “more diverse leadership” to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and to U.S. dioceses and parishes.
On July 13, ten days after saying he would name two women to the Dicastery for Bishops, Pope Francis appointed three women to the office. Among the 14 new members named by the pope were: Sister Raffaella Petrini, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, who is secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City State; French Salesian Sister Yvonne Reungoat, former superior general of the order; and Maria Lia Zervino, an Argentine who is president of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations.
The dicastery is led by Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet and is responsible for helping the pope choose bishops for Latin-rite dioceses outside of the Church’s mission territories. Members meet twice a month to review dossiers submitted by Vatican nuncios about potential candidates and to vote on the names they recommend to the pope.
Before Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia took effect in June, members of the dicastery were only cardinals and a few bishops.
The new members join existing members, including U.S. Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey.
Dr. Constance Carroll, who retired last year as the longest serving chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, welcomed the pope’s decision to add three women to the dicastery.
“It is encouraging to see Pope Francis’ efforts to include women in more meaningful roles in the Catholic Church,” said Carroll, president and CEO of the California Community College Baccalaureate Association and a longtime parishioner of St. Rita’s in Southeast San Diego. “His most recent appointment of several women to play a role in the selection of bishops is another step toward recognizing the importance of women in the Church and incorporating their perspectives in major decisions. This is an excellent direction that he has taken.”
Day said that, when she heard of the women appointed to the Dicastery for Bishops, she recalled Pope Francis’ appointment of Sister Nathalie Becquart, a member of the Congregation of Xavières, to the second-highest ranking position on the Synod of Bishops early last year, making her the first woman with voting rights at a synod.
“I remembered then hoping that her appointment was just the beginning of more and more women being invited into important leadership roles,” she said. “I am so graced to see that is exactly what happened. I’m excited for our Church.”
The Southern Cross contributed to this report.