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Friday 17 September |

When a Lay Woman Leads the Parish

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 02/27/16

It’s happening more and more, and The Baltimore Sun this morning looks at how this phenomenon is playing out in one parish, the only one in central Maryland being run by a lay woman:

On a typical day at St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church in Rodgers Forge, you might find Carol Pacione counseling a young couple, haggling with a contractor, working on a capital campaign or arranging flowers in the nave. As the senior official of a parish that doesn’t have a full-time priest, Pacione, 63, fulfills many of the functions of a pastor. In a church that doesn’t ordain women, she’s a pastoral life director — one of a small number of lay leaders who enjoy all the powers and responsibilities of a traditional parish priest, except for the ability to perform the sacraments. It’s a role that has helped the Catholic Church cope with a decades-long decline in priestly vocations in the United States while opening a path to leadership for women. The number of priests in the United States has fallen from 58,632 in 1965 to 37,578 in 2015. “Carol is part of a pioneering group of women who have assumed some of the highest leadership positions in the church and in Catholic churches,” said Sean Caine, vice chancellor of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. …Today, there are some 35,000 “lay ecclesial ministers” — many know them as pastoral associates — working full time in the Catholic Church in the United States. “Without them, pastoral ministries would be crippled,” says Thomas Groome, director of the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College. “This is the cutting edge of a deep shift in how the Catholic Church conducts its formal ministries, away from a purely clerical paradigm to a more inclusive and representative one.”

Read it all.

Photo: Amy Davis / The Baltimore Sun

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