On Sept. 3, 56 pilgrims from four countries gathered in Mexico City at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe to celebrate St. Phoebe's feast day. In the presence of an archbishop, several priests and nuns and a host of Catholic lay women, the pilgrims honored the little-known saint who makes a solitary appearance in the New Testament's Letter to the Romans as an associate of St. Paul and a female deacon of the early church.
Deacons in today's Catholic Church are ordained clergy who preach and minister in the community but can't celebrate Mass. Like priests and bishops, they are always men. But Amman, a stay-at-home mother of Evelyn and her sister and now the deputy director of engagement for a group called Discerning Deacons, planned to pray for Phoebe's intercession to restore Catholic women to the diaconate.
"Phoebe represents hope and evidence that women have been in service to the church since the beginning," said Amman. "This isn't new. It makes me feel that it can happen in the future."
More than a half million U.S. Catholics have participated in synodal listening sessions over the past year, and responses indicate that many Americans want a church that allows women to serve in ordained ministry.
Last year Pope Francis changed canon law to allow women to be installed as lectors and acolytes. Will a female diaconate be next?