The voice of laywomen at FABC Conference
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp - Bangkok
Four laywomen attending the General Conference of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference (FABC) in Bangkok shared their thoughts with Vatican News about why their presence and contribution at this meeting are important.
Our work should be acknowledged
Ashita Jimmy, General Secretary of International Youth Catholic Students of India, began by saying that throughout the world, women are considered to be homemakers.
“Since this is true”, she continued, “then women should also be included in the making of the Church”. Since people are considered according to their gender, Ashita acknowledged that even in the Church, what laymen do is acknowledged “sooner” and “faster” than what women do. “To change that, and to be heard for our work and commitment, it is important for us to be here. Each person, each gender should have the right to speak about their concerns”, Ashita stated.
She feels that with the presence of laywomen at the FABC General Conference “we are being heard and our problems are being taken seriously”. She concluded quoting Pope Francis, “To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity…not through an angel…not directly…but through a woman”.
We provide wholistic image
“To give another perspective and to give a wholistic image of the Church” is why it is important for women to be present at this FABC Conference “and any Conference in the future”, Josephine Magdalyn Tan, a Youth Pastoral Worker from Malaysia said.
She says that the young women she works with and for serve “the Church with their lives” while also managing studies, parenting, and so forth.
“It’s not easy”, she explained. “Unfortunately, in this modern world, there is still discrimination” toward lay women. “There’s a lot of comments, sexism…patriarchy still exists. I just wished there were more space for young women to be part of it…giving them more significant roles in the Church”.
We are part of the journey
Cheryl Dugan, with the Laudati Si’ Movement in the Philippines, says she has witnessed many women and religious “committed to protecting our common home”.
It’s important, she continued, that “their voices and experiences be represented in this conversation especially as the Asian Church is charting its way toward the next 50 years”.
Cheryl is happy to be participating in this Conference. “In addition to having the voices of women heard, this conference is also very important because it allows us to link up, and build bridges and relationships since we will be journeying together in the coming years toward a better future and a better home.”
We add to the richness of Christ in the Church
Wendy Louis, Former Executive Secretary, Office of Laity and Family FABC, from Singapore, provided some context regarding the presence of laywomen in FABC meetings.
“The FABC”, she stated, “has always had laywomen leaders in the different offices.” Wendy too feels that “the woman’s perspective and experience of life, our way of relating to people, all adds to the richness and the dimension of Christ in the Church.”
She concluded saying, “It is important that this perspective is heard, lived in any reality of the Church. No doubt the FABC is about bishops, but women need to be present in order to provide the perspectives of women from all the different aspects of being a woman, whether single or married or widowed. This is very important for women to be part of every discussion and every decision that is being made in the Church.”
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