This is the second book published by Catholic Women Speak to coincide with a Synod of Bishops. Our first book, Catholic Women Speak: Bringing Our Gifts to the Table, was published by Paulist Press in 2015 in time for the Synod on the Family.

Visions and Vocations was published on the occasion of the Synod on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment. More than 60 Catholic women and girls from 20 different countries shared their personal stories and theological reflections on themes relevant to the Synod. The book is intended to showcase the diversity of what it means to be Catholic and female in the modern world, and to raise awareness about the wisdom and insights that women would offer if they were full and equal participants in the formation of church teaching and practice. 300 copies of the book were made available in the Synod venue free of charge, as an invitation to the bishops participating in the Synod to engage more fully with women’s voices and to enter into dialogue and collaboration with women from different contexts and cultures. We were delighted when Cardinal Bo of Myanmar held up a copy of Visions and Vocations at a Synod press conference and said that he was reading it.

List of Contributors
List of Contents

Meet some of the contributors and read extracts from the book by clicking on the images below

(We apologise that the links here seem to be broken. Our website consultant is working on the problem).

About 60 members of Catholic Women Speak gathered in Rome for a book launch and symposium at the Pontifical University Antonianum on Monday, 1st October 2018. Our time together began with a Laudato Si’ Mass in the wild and beautiful gardens of the RSCJ sisters in Trastevere on Sunday, 30th October. We spent Tuesday sharing feedback and ideas for the future of Catholic Women Speak. On Wednesday, some of our members attended the papal Mass in the morning, and in the afternoon some joined a demonstration outside the Vatican as the bishops gathered for the Synod. Chanting the slogan, “Knock, knock, who’s there? – More than half the Church”, the small group of peaceful protesters were campaigning for women religious to be allowed to vote at the Synod, in the same way as their male counterparts. You can read more about this campaign by scrolling down.

Watch the videos of our symposium here.  You can watch selected sessions here by scrolling through these unedited versions and following the running order listed in the programme beneath the videos, or visit us on YouTube to watch individual sessions.

PART ONE – 10.30 am to 1.05 pm

PART TWO – 2.05 pm to 6.30 pm


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To see exact locations of each section on the video, please see timings in italics and brackets below.

10.30 am—WELCOME:
Tina Beattie (UK), Coordinator, Catholic Women Speak; Director, Catherine of Siena College
Sister Mary Melone (Italy), Rector, Pontifical University Antonianum (7 mins 17 secs)
Chantal Götz (Liechtenstein), Director, Voices of Faith (9 mins 49 secs)

10.45 am—READING: 
Extract from “A Letter to Pope Francis” (Girls from Ursuline High School, Wimbledon, UK) – introduced by Lisa Thefaut (UK) (15 mins 30 secs)

10.50 am—TALK:
Woman, Why Are You Speaking? (Carolina del Rio Mena, Chile) (23 mins 25 secs) – introduced by Jeannine Pitas (USA) (22 mins 08 secs)

11.05 am—TALK:
Donne Chiesa Mondo – promoting the role of women in the Church and the World (Lucetta Scaraffia, Italy) (37 mins 26 secs) – introduced by Anna Cantelmi (UK/Italy) (36 mins 06 secs)

Educating Catholic Girls for Leadership and Social Transformation – introduced and chaired by Ginny Jordan-Arthur (UK)
Elizabeth Mudzimu (Zimbabwe); Julia Waters (UK); Catherine Cavanagh (Canada) (51 mins 30 secs)

11.55 am—READING:
Extract from “A Letter to Pope Francis” (Girls from Ursuline High School, Wimbledon, UK) (1 hour 16 mins 20 secs)

12.00 noon—TALK:
Unheard Voices and Neglected Gifts – the Church and women who are intellectually disabled (Cristina Gangemi, UK) (1 hour 21 mins 23 secs)– introduced by Thérèse Craine Bertsch (USA) (1 hour 20 mins 14 secs)

Reflections in a Time of Crisis: Power, Abuse and Sexuality  
Ursula Halligan (Ireland); Nontando Hadebe (Southern Africa); Astrid Lobo Gajiwala (India); Celia Wexler (USA) – introduced and chaired by Jennifer Reek (USA) (1 hour 32 mins 51 secs)

Maeve Heaney (Australia)—Woman of God (2 hours 20 mins 42 secs)



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To see exact locations of each section on the video, please see timings in italics and brackets below.

2.05 pm—READING:
Extract from “A Letter to Pope Francis” (Girls from Ursuline High School, Wimbledon, UK) (5 mins)

2.10 pm—TALK:
Introducing Catherine of Siena College – Tina Beattie (UK) and Anna Cantelmi (Italy/UK) (11 mins 58 secs)

The Three-Legged Cooking Pot: Culture, Catholicism and Women’s Rights – Nontando Hadebe (Southern Africa) (20 mins 31 secs)

Sharing Our Stories: Cultures and Catholicism – introduced and chaired by Sheila Pires (Mozambique/South Africa)
Leslye Colvin (USA), Mishal Francis (Pakistan/UK), Anna Kasafi Perkins (Jamaica), Zuzanna Radzik (Poland), Gertrude Jusufu (Sierra Leone), Jen Owens-Jofré (Bolivia/USA) (25 mins 12 secs)

3.30 pm—TALK:
Seminaries and Priestly Formation (Cettina Militello, Italy) (1 hour 24 mins 27 secs)- introduced by Luigi Gioia (Italy) (1 hour 22 mins)

Women Religious in a Changing Church
Anne Arabome SSS (Nigeria/USA); Mary Deepika SND (India); Madeleine Fredell OP (Sweden); Jeannine Gramick SL (USA); Gemma Simmonds CJ (UK) – introduced and chaired by Margaret Susan Thompson (USA) (1 hour 35 mins 16 secs)

Called to Ordination – Women and Priests in Conversation
Colette Joyce (UK); Kate McElwee (Italy/USA); Jeannine Pitas (USA); Luigi Gioia (Italy/UK); Luke Hansen SJ (USA); Liam Hayes (UK) – introduced and chaired by Ruth Fehlker (Germany) (2 hours 25 mins 48 secs)

5.35 pm—READING:
Extract from “A Letter to Pope Francis” (Girls from Ursuline High School, Wimbledon, UK) (3 hours 22 mins 07 secs)

Laudato Si’ – Hearing the Cry of the Earth (Mary Colwell, UK) (3 hours 29 mins 52 secs) – introduced by sheila Peiffer (USA) (3 hours 27 mins 43 secs)

Working Together for Change – Christopher Stephens, Principal, Southlands College, University of Roehampton (3 hours 54 mins 26 secs)

6.20pm—CLOSING REMARKS by Tina Beattie 

Mary Comes Down – Jeannine Pitas (USA) (4 hours 03 mins 27 secs)



Scroll through below for a selection of photos from our gathering in Rome from 30th September to 4th October to celebrate the launch of Visions and Vocations.

On the evening of Sunday, 31st September, Ambassador Melissa Hitchman, Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, invited book contributors to a reception at her residence. Ambassador Hitchman is a passionate supporter of women’s rights and gender issues. We were delighted that she attended our symposium the following day and bought several copies of our book to give to people.

It was a wonderful way to spend our first evening in Rome. These photographs give a sense of the warmth and friendship that was already so much in evidence, and that would deepen and grow through the week.

Catholic Women Trying to Speak

On the afternoon of Wednesday, 3rd October, some members of Catholic Women Speak joined Women’s Ordination Conference and Voices of Faith to stage a peaceful protest outside the Vatican as the bishops gathered for the start of the Synod. As they walked past in their red and black finery, we chanted a litany – a list of all the bishops’ names, followed by the words, “Let women vote”. The chorus was, “Knock, knock who’s there? More than half the Church.”

The reason for the protest is that the Synod rules have recently been changed so that non-ordained participants can vote, but it seems this applies only to non-ordained men. Two religious brothers will be entitled to vote during the final deliberations and decisions of the Synod, but religious sisters and other female participants will not. That was the reason for the protest.

Two Irish members of the Synod stopped to engage in warm and friendly conversation with the demonstrators – Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin and Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. Others walked by, ignoring the protesters. After about half an hour, the Italian police arrived in force – two police cars with blue lights flashing, followed by a riot van, followed by two mounted police on horseback. The police demanded to see the women’s passports, and the organiser of the protest, Executive Director of Women’s Ordination Conference Kate McElwee, was manhandled and threatened with arrest.

Eventually, the police returned the passports and the demonstrators dispersed to a local bar to drink Prosecco and share a sense of solidarity. We invited the police to join us, but they declined.