Extract from Maeve Louise Heaney, “From the Particular to the Universal: Musings of a Woman Theologian” in Shared Visions:
The Irish poet, Denis O’Driscoll, a quiet, humble man who died unexpectedly at the age of 58, wrote with elegant irony, in a poem titled Memoire: “It has been absolutely fascinating being me. A unique privilege. Now my whole life lies ahead of you. No thanks at all are called for, I assure you. The pleasure is all mine.”
I aspire to this kind of epitaph: a life that has embraced living to the full, in the concrete and real circumstances we are given, “. . . for just such a time as this” (Est. 4:14). Contributing to this book is one attempt to do just that, offering a theological reflection on the vocation to be a theologian, or rather a particular biographical lens into what it feels like to be an early to mid-career woman who identifies as a Catholic systematic theologian formed and forged in a plurality of cultural and ecclesial contexts.
I am not a feminist theologian – by conscious option at various stages of my writing and for a variety of reasons. This in itself reveals as much as it conceals. I do not presume to speak for anyone other than myself and/or those I have journeyed with. That being said, I think it is fair to say that one of the strengths of feminist thought and of women’s contribution to theology is respect for and attention to the particular as a means of accessing the universal, rather than seeing the two in conflict. It is also, I believe, one of the main strengths of the Catholic Women Speak Network: “We do not speak with one voice, nor do we deny our differences and disagreements. We regard these as creative aspects of the process of learning and growing towards one another in faith. We speak as women not as ‘Woman’.”
So my aim is to give access to what it feels like to be called to be a theologian in our current Catholic scenario, with its challenges and opportunities, in the hope that my reflection gives some insight to others, male and female, who may find themselves called to the same vocation and who will share the same world in the future. And this is my guiding thread: theology as a vocation – a calling, and an ecclesial one.