Page last updated at 04:36 Asia/Manila, Friday, 02 August 2013 PH
In this Year of Faith, it is fitting that we reflect on the completely indispensable role of women in the task of this new evangelization that the Church through the Pope and Bishops are asking of each baptized Christian. Let me start with my own personal reflections. Next to the role of my own mother and paternal grandmother who taught me how to pray and showed me by example how to practise the acts of piety that are part of a normal Christian life, I must recognize the part that women religious played in initiating me to, using the words of St. Josemaria Escriva, "seek Christ, find Christ and love Christ." My first consciousness of the religious life came from nuns of the Holy Ghost who were running the parish school in the town of Sto. Tomas, Batangas before the Japanese occupation. When I was barely three, my mother would bring me to the convent and I was fascinated by the unique headdress that they would wear. These nuns all perished as quasi-martyrs when they were buried alive during the bombings that took place during the so-called liberation of the Philippines in 1945.
Then there were the Holy Ghost nuns who prepared me for my first Communion in the Holy Infant Academy run by the SVD priests in Calapan, Mindoro Oriental where my father was assigned as the Municipal Health Officer in the late 1940s. I owe to these pious nuns my first steps in understanding the Catechism of the Catholic Church and in preparing for my first Confession and first Communion. Then when our whole family moved in 1947 to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental where my father assumed the post of Provincial Health Director of the province, I studied the last three years of elementary school and first year of high school with the St. Paul College nuns in the first school that they established in the Philippines at the beginning of the last Century. St. Paul University of Dumaguete is now one of the high-quality universities run by the St. Paul nuns all over the Philippines, which includes that of Tuguegarao, the first ISO certified university in the whole country. I can really say that before the Christian brothers of De La Salle took over my early Christian formation, women played the crucial role in my early childhood education.
In my personal experience, then, I can fully identify with the content of the document issued by the Pastoral Commission of the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of People in July 1976 entitled "The Role of Women in Evangelization." Even though, because of the very example given by Christ Himself, women are not ordained priests in the Roman Catholic Church, women have a special contribution to evangelization because of "certain human qualities which are properly feminine and which offer a precious support to evangelization." Here let me quote from the said document: "Women are builders of life and they know the qualities demanded of them and developed in them by the long period of gestation of children. They have a great capacity to love the child which is to be born and to live by that hope, in spite of delay, problems, trials. Women are capable of giving themselves without counting the cost 'in order that human beings may have life'--all life and especially that of the soul, through grace, that they may have it in abundance, that is to say, in the fullness of the gospel, the sacraments and the church."
In fact, as a student of management science myself, I can attest to volumes of literature on people management and organizational development which posit the same competitive advantage of women in the work force: "Their devotion is often more intuitive than that of men. They are better able to discern the aspirations, the distresses, even unacknowledged, of humanity and to sense what is the appropriate response. Such intuition leads spontaneously to concrete initiatives: 'It is man's nature to have ideas; it is woman's to act'. But one should not force this antithesis. In her work, it is easier for a woman to maintain continuity and faithfulness to life as it unfolds. Her faith in life sustains her faith in grace and gives her the patience needed for the work of natural and supernatural education."
In evangelization (as in people management), women possess a more alert sense and a more profound respect for the individual person and for his unique characteristics. "She is a better judge of character. More easily than can men, she is able to bring to flower the seeds of goodness which lie hidden in every soul. In the multiple work of evangelization, women demonstrate a special capacity for cementing relationships with a delicate sympathy, for implanting deeply the seeds of Christian conviction, for building up in a hundred ways the family of the children of God." The Catholic Church owes women a deep sense of gratitude for their evangelizing role, especially in today's very difficult circumstances. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.