On April 29, the College of Saint Elizabeth’s Center for Catholic Women’s History hosted its 2019 Heritage Award Luncheon. The Heritage Award is a research grant presented by the Center to encourage students to learn more about the lives of Catholic Women in New Jersey. This year’s recipient, Katie Blevins, ’19, presented the audience with her topic: “A Christian Feminist: Reinterpreting the Value of Women in the Catholic Church.”
As Blevins entered college and deepened her theological learning, she began to notice the gender inequality that existed within the Catholic Church. Suddenly, she found herself wondering, “why is the priesthood reserved for men?” but initially felt uncomfortable even asking that question. However, passionate about marrying her feminist values with her religious identity, Blevins decided to delve into this challenging topic.
“You should never be afraid to ask questions because you never know where they may lead,” Blevins stressed. “Questions may actually be a great sign of faith because they can deepen your understanding.”
In her presentation, Blevins spoke about her profound respect for Catholicism, but stressed the importance of making more room for women in the church. She then proceeded to discuss specific elements of Christian feminist theology: the role of women in church hierarchy, stereotypes of female sexuality and the “maleness of God.” Using biblical passages, Blevins challenged each notion, traced the origin of female subservience and urged the audience to be conscious of gender in referencing God.
“It’s important to watch what we emphasize when discussing women in the Catholic Church,” explained Blevins. “For instance, Mother Mary is always portrayed as gentle and nurturing, but she’s also brave, strong and courageous. We can’t forget those traits either.”
Blevins closed her thought-provoking presentation by quoting Mary Catherine Hilkert, a feminist theologian.
“The image of God is reflected most clearly in communities characterized by equality, respect for difference and uniqueness, and mutual love.”
Mary Colleen Robinson has a communication degree with a concentration in journalism and is currently working as the PR/Social Media Specialist at the College of Saint Elizabeth