Fortress Press

Women Called to Catholic Priesthood: From Ecclesial Challenge to Spiritual Renewal

Women Called to Catholic Priesthood

From Ecclesial Challenge to Spiritual Renewal

Sharon Henderson Callahan (Author), Jeanette Rodriguez (Author), Christine Schenk CSJ (Foreword by)


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Sharon Callahan and Jeanette Rodriguez explore the contexts, calls, journeys, spirituality, and theology of women called to priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in this compelling and carefully crafted ethnographic work. Posing the questions of how womenpriests' stories illustrate both ecclesial challenges and spiritual renewal, the authors encourage readers to thoughtfully engage these women on their own terms.

Women Called to Catholic Priesthood draws on the stories of forty-two women serving in the United States, Canada, Colombia, Europe, and South Africa. Ranging in age from their early thirties to their late eighties, these women tell stories that help us understand the spirituality and deep sense of call womenpriests experience despite the challenges they face in challenging Roman Catholic canon law. Callahan and Rodriguez's work is both moving and timely as the global church engages in synod work aiming to discern where the Spirit of God is calling Roman Catholics in the twenty-first century.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781506498393
  • eBook ISBN 9781506498409
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 184
  • Publication Date March 19, 2024


This book is an unmissable asset for anyone interested in the ordination of women. It documents, with incredible detail, the stories of forty-seven Catholic women who were ordained despite the opposition of the official church. It describes their call, their struggle to surmount barriers, their inner motivation, and the spirituality that guided and still guides them in their ministry. Fascinating and significant data, underpinned by the authors' highly professional scholarship and compassionate understanding of real people.

Dr. John Wijngaards, professor emeritus, Missionary Institute London; chair, Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research

In a carefully crafted ethnographic study of the Roman Catholic Women Priests' movement, Callahan and Rodriguez offer a hopeful and joyful message to anyone who feels marginalized by institutional religion.

Gary Macy, professor emeritus of theology, Santa Clara University

Callahan and Rodriguez offer a stunning pneumatological and ethnographic reversal of expectation on the "ordination of women" question within the Roman Catholic Church by rigorously examining the ongoing ministries and "spirits" (1 John 4) of women ordained in apostolic succession (if contra legum, canon 1024). Scripturally, theologically, and phenomenologically, the authors provide ample testimony to Spirit's fruit and ecclesial renewal in (and because of) the faithful perseverance of over forty womenpriests living their priestly vocations. That this is done with such clear love of a church that refuses such women, even with theological-ecclesial integrity and prophetic challenge, makes this a compelling read and a remarkable testimony to God's ongoing work in the world, sometimes despite the church.

Lisa M. Hess, ordained clergywoman (PCUSA); professor of practical theology and contextual ministries, United Theological Seminary (Ohio), and author of A Companionable Way: Path of Devotion in Conscious Love

What can it mean to willingly invest oneself in a religious institution that tells you that you cannot, that you should not, lead? How do you follow the Holy Spirit into leadership amidst oppressive structures? These are some of the most difficult questions Roman Catholic womenpriests must struggle with, and this compelling and beautifully written book explores the diverse and multiple answers these women articulate. The wider Christian community has so much to learn from their journeys, and to ignore them is to miss out on the surprising joy the Spirit breathes into the world in the twenty-first century.

Why ever would a woman want to be a Roman Catholic priest? This book offers the surprising, compelling, and powerful stories of women who have chosen to do just that, even as the official church excommunicates them for doing so. The wider Christian community has so much to learn from their journeys, and to ignore them is to miss out on the surprising joy the Spirit breathes into the world in the twenty-first century. Quixotic, compelling, full of both joy and sorrow, the stories of Roman Catholic womenpriests that Callahan and Rodriguez have gathered into this book offer captivating glimpses into a church in transition in the twenty-first century. The book also offers a concise yet substantial historical overview of the question of women and the priesthood in the Catholic church, with careful attention to both church documents and contemporary theological wisdom.

I have a front-row seat to the struggles of women seeking to lead in the Catholic church, not simply because of my own journey, but because I've followed my mother-in-love Dagmar as she became a Roman Catholic womanpriest as part of the Danube 7. This book is a compelling, carefully researched, and thoughtfully contextualized engagement with the movement of Roman Catholic womenpriests. Callahan and Rodriguez have given us a profound gift that has much to teach all of us who care about Christian community, leading with the Holy Spirit, and embodying church in the twenty-first century.

Mary E. Hess, PhD, professor of educational leadership, Luther Seminary

What better time for this carefully researched and profoundly inspiring work than now, with the hope-filled dawning of a new church that calls for and listens to the voices of its women, lay and religious, as equals in a synodal, not hierarchical, church. The authors reveal the love, concern, and spirituality of these women in their lives as priests, albeit illegally ordained. They have dedicated their lives to a church that still runs away from them. The women in this text were called by and responded to their call from--they argue--the same God who called all who came to serve God's people before them.

Diana L. Hayes, JD, PhD, STD, professor emerita, Georgetown University