I was once called the dancing professor, by a colleague who witnessed me doing the Highland Fling and the Sword Dance after a university function at which the wine had been flowing freely.
I liked that title. As a Scottish Presbyterian child growing up in Lusaka, Zambia, I always wanted to be a dancer. I’m still not sure how I ended up as a Catholic feminist theologian on the CDF’s list of dissidents.
I spent most of my early life in Africa—Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe—before coming to live in Bristol UK in 1988 with my husband and four young children. I had converted to Catholicism the year before, while living in Zimbabwe. I was initially attracted by the Catholic Church’s sustained work for justice and peace in that troubled country, but I soon began to appreciate the sacramental riches of the Catholic tradition in its liturgies and devotions, and its capacity to inspire some of the world’s greatest artistic, musical and architectural achievements.
I left school at fifteen and I didn’t start university until 1991—the year my youngest child started school—when I began a degree in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol. I have learned to love the weaving together of grace and nature, revelation and reason, which constitute the Catholic theological method, and throughout my theological studies I have been interested in how this can be brought into creative dialogue with other perspectives and disciplines—feminism and gender studies, psychoanalysis, history of art, human rights theory.
My Catholic faith has enabled me to see the world through new eyes, as I gradually discover what it means to discern the grace of God within the primordial sacrament of creation. It has made me part of a global community of astonishing diversity and complexity, including Catholic Women Speak. When I started this Facebook group in December 2014, I had no idea that it would become what it is today—a vigorous, intelligent and witty sisterhood of women from around the world, united in our Catholic faith and in our determination to struggle for women’s voices to be heard in the Church and the world.
Catholicism is full of paradoxes as well as mysteries. For me, the paradoxical combination of Catholicism and feminism are the crossed swords around which I continue to pattern my footwork as I try to keep moving in this dance that we call life.