In 1972, singer Helen Reddy exploded onto the pop charts with a song that became the anthem for the young women of my generation and our older sisters. I Am Woman Hear Me Roar proclaimed our liberation and told the world that we were a liberated force whose time had come. I was twelve years old, on the brink of becoming a teenager and starting to envision my place in the universe. Along with other young girls and women of the time, I made that song my own and my girlfriends and I sang it with gusto, not realizing that it went against everything I was taught at home.
As an over-achieving and involved student at a girls’ Catholic high school in Toronto, my teachers, including religious sisters who had thrown off the habit, impressed upon us that we could be and do anything we wanted. In hindsight, there was a subtle undercurrent of feminism in the school but I didn’t know that. All I knew was that it was a great time to be a teenaged girl.
In my second year at university, I naively opted for an elective course in Women’s Studies. The required textbook was Our Bodies, Ourselves. After skimming through the book I realized that I didn’t belong in the class. The radically feminist, pro-choice book and curriculum stood for everything that the Catholic Church was against. I was a typical Sunday-only, lukewarm, young Catholic woman but even so, I knew that the woman portrayed in the Women’s Studies course wasn’t me and I didn’t want to be her. That woman, and the movers and shakers of the radical feminist movement, embraced an ideology that was self-centred, pessimistic, devalued life, and rejected God. Ultimately, it was and is a self-destructive way to live. I wanted no part of it. With the guidance of an understanding priest and my mother’s weapon of choice—her rosary—I realized that I belonged to Jesus and the Catholic Church.
The years flew with career, marriage, children, mortgage. Like many women, I was busy trying to keep my head above water and didn’t have much time to think about what it meant to be a Catholic woman of Faith. I was having a hard enough time just trying to live it. It has only been in the last few years as my eight children have started to become young adults and as my professional life as a registered nurse has evolved that I have been able to articulate my thoughts on how I, as a faithful Catholic woman, engage the world.
Recently, speaker, author, consultant, and entrepreneur Dorothy Pilarski kindly invited me to be part of the panel discussion at this year’s Dynamic Women of Faith Conference (12 April in Toronto). Among the many important points of the Mission Statement of Dynamic Women of Faith are the following: to connect women with dynamic women of Faith who practice their Catholic Faith openly and confidently, to encourage women to have a lively and dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ, to inspire and educate women in both matters of Faith and practical matters, to promote a life based on a spirituality rooted in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.
The dictionary defines a dynamic person as one who is positive in attitude and full of energy and new ideas. In light of that definition and the above partial Mission Statement, I ask the question: who is a dynamic woman of Faith?
We are daughters, sisters, friends. We are spiritual mothers. We are biological mothers. We care for our families, friends, and neighbours. We are the salt of the earth and a light for the world in our homes, workplaces, communities. We witness with our actions. We witness with our words. We use our gifts. We share our talents. We spread our love. We kneel in adoration. We fold our hands in prayer. We are fiercely loyal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. We defend the Church. We pray always. We honour our bodies. We honour ourselves. We cry. We laugh. We are angry. We are sad. We are thoughtful. We are jubilant. We are sisters in Christ. We are, as Blessed Pope John-Paul II wrote, the feminine genius. We have as our role-models over two thousand years of holy, God-centred women and we place our femininity squarely in the loving hands of our Blessed Mother.
We are dynamic women—and with our quiet, faithful, constant, joyful Catholic witness, hear us roar!
Photo courtesy of Dorothy Pilarski and the Dynamic Women of Faith Conference on 12 April 2014 in Toronto. For more information, click here.