PARADIGM SHIFT IN VATICAN II AND ITS IMPACT ON WOMEN
Updated: Jul 4, 2018
At the Golden Jubilee of the start of Vatican II we felt the need to look back and take stock of the impact of this path breaking Council on women in the Church. Streevani Pune, CBCI Office of Women, NBCLC, Bangalore, ISI, Bangalore and Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad collaborated to organize the Conference on the theme “Paradigm Shift in Vatican II and its Impact on Women” at the NBCLC, Bangalore from 8th to 11th January, 2014. 113 women and 7 men from all over India, coming from all walks and states of life attended this conference.
Although several documents issued during and post Vatican Council II spoke about the equality of women and men, a lot remains to be done to make the shift from subordination to partnership in Church and society.
The Conference looked at the impact of Vatican II on women from various perspectives starting with the participation of 23 women as auditors to the Council called in midway. The creative ways in which they used their feminine genius to influence the shaping of Council documents within the limited space and voice allotted to them inspired us. We noted the important paradigm shifts made by the council especially the theological and ecclesiological shifts that form a solid basis for equal discipleship and partnership of women and men in the Church’s life, governance and mission.
The conference traced the development of feminist theology in India, the socio-cultural changes and the impact of the Council on women religious in particular. Time was spent to critically look at the various policies and documents of church bodies like FABC, CBCI, and CRI and their potential to aid greater participation of women in Church life.
The conference also brought to the fore the ground realities of women on the periphery – Dalits, Tribal, Adivasi women, and unorganized workers. In a special way we noted with pain the continued sufferings of women in Kandhamal.
A critical look at the situation of women in families brought an increased awareness that much has to be done to make our families a safe place for women and girls to grow with dignity and equal rights befitting a person created in the image and likeness of God.
We dreamed about a new way of being religious women in the future – as mystical prophets, theological critics and political activists who live a deinstitutionalized from of consecrated life.
The specially prepared liturgies each day helped us see Mary’s face in every woman especially women victims of violence. We gained insights reflecting on the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well representing contemporary women – the battered, the domesticated, the daring, the excluded, the untouchable, the abused…, who continue to come to the well to draw life giving water. Reflection on the bleeding woman of the Gospel who crossed boundaries to get healed and Jesus’ affirmation of her gesture of faith, reaffirms the sacredness of our bodies and bodily processes.
The Conference motivated us to get in touch with the Divine within and use our feminine wisdom to live life more prophetically and be witnesses to the values of the gospel. We realized the importance of empowering women in Church and the wider country and the need to work towards genuine sisterhood/brotherhood especially with the poor and those on the margins.
In a highly divided and unjust world, where the prophetic role of the church is almost lost, the Conference challenged religious women to live their consecrated life fully dedicated to God and to God’s people and to stand with people especially the Tribals and Dalits and to help them overcome exploitation and oppression.
We were challenged, to change our patriarchal mindset, to develop a feminist way of thinking, to create gender sensitivity, promote the use of inclusive language, break boundaries and move into a new way of being and doing.
We committed to move out of our comfort zones; to study the documents of the Church and share it with others; to listen and respond to people with compassion and justice; to uphold the dignity of women; to network with other congregations, like-minded people and organizations and to make a shift from institution-centered to people centered activities.
Sensing the need for a united voice of Christian women in the Church and society, to take up issues of justice and human rights of women, build sisterhood and solidarity, be a voice for Christian women the poor and the marginalized at the national level, the Indian Christian Women’s Movement was launched.
The power and presence of the Spirit was strong. She moved us to make a courageous commitment to reclaim the prophetic dimension of our faith for transformation of Church and society towards building the reign of God. We are confident that Mary will accompany us on this journey.