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Online Edition - Vol. V, No. 6: September 1999

Godtalk in Femspeak

Don't tape this, but . . .

Catholics need to change their "sacramental imagination", said Sister Kathleen Hughes, RSCJ, in a lecture at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Sister Hughes is the newly-elected Provincial of the Religious Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and former professor of liturgy at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. She delivered the first Mary Byles Endowed Lecture at Maryville University September 9.

Sister Hughes, a long-time member of the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), has also served on advisory committees of the NCCB Committee on the Liturgy. She is the co-author of Silent Voices, Sacred Lives, a "women's lectionary"; and her recent research on "priestless Sundays" was funded by the Lilly Endowment.

"Sacramental imagination" was a recurring theme in her Maryville talk. Lay prayer leaders help to change it, said Sister Hughes, as do women giving "reflections" in place of homilies.

She recounted that she was asked to "sing the Eucharist" for a 35-minute service on the BBC; and that five years ago she was invited to give a presentation on "inclusive language" to the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome.

"We need more metaphors for God", she said, and complained that Deus was too often improperly translated as "Father".

In response to one questioner who asked if the Aquinas Institute, a Dominican school in St. Louis, had been told to stop giving women instruction in homiletics, Sister Hughes quickly replied that the directive from the archdiocese said only that women are not to be allowed to preach homilies in actual Masses.

When asked about the possibility of ordaining women as priests, Sister Hughes provoked laughter when she said, "This is exactly why I asked that this talk not be videotaped!"

She said that women priests were "needed" and that she believed women's ordination would happen in her lifetime.

Maryville's Mary Byles Endowed Lecture honors a Sacred Heart nun and noted "progressive" who served on the Board of Trustees of this formerly Catholic university.

***

Hymn to . . . Her?

In an essay in a recent issue of Pastoral Music, "Shouldn't We Sing to ... Her?", Sister Mary Irving, SSND, writes:

"With a renewed theological teaching on woman, it follows that there is no theological reason not to use female language for God. In fact, if God's incomprehensibility, the necessity of multiple images in speaking to God, and woman's dignity as the full image of God are to be honored, female language and images must be used to speak about and to sing to God. We must ask with [Benedictine Sister] Mary Collins: 'What if the assemblies where neither presider nor preacher nor congregation are troubled by androcentric address to God are unwitting or unwilling participants in idolatry?' What is at stake is not replacing God the Father with God as Mother. It is affirming the wholeness and goodness of woman, body as well as soul, as the full image of God".

[Pastoral Music: June-July 1999, p. 44.]

***

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