Going from civil servant to a life in God’s service, Barbara left her home in small-town Belgium to join a South-African oratory. “Men and women are not at war. You see, inequality and difference are two distinct concepts.”Barbara
I was 42 years old when I decided to join the Church. That change of course led me to South Africa, where I entered the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri. Up until 2014, the congregation consisted only of men. Over the past few years, however, it has grown into a mixed community and female divisions have emerged.
Around here, we do not sit and wonder about gender equality as such. Male or female: we are all part of a bigger whole. As Paul the Apostle put it, “Although we are all different parts, we belong to the same body.” Every single one of us has a certain amount of energy and potential. We can choose to develop our talents and draw on them for the common good. When you decide to follow that path, it really does not matter whether you are a woman or a man.
I read an article once that covered women who protested and marched against the fact that priesthood is unobtainable for women. I do not feel the need to take part in discussions of the kind. Leading a life according to your beliefs is not about pursuing a career. You devote yourself to a life of service, and that applies to men just as much as it does to women. What differs is the title you get.
When you look at it more closely, it makes sense that men become priests, and women do not. As an institution, the Church is regarded as the bride of Christ; the pastor is her groom. That does not alter the fact that within the Church, women do have their importance. Throughout history, we can find many cases of female clerics who had more influence than their male counterparts. They also managed to accomplish more.
But that should not be the point, we are not at war here. You see, inequality and difference are two distinct concepts.
You do not step into a religious congregation, contemplating about what position you will be holding in ten or twenty years. Instead, you think about how you can set a positive example, how you can be of service to the local community. Basically, you want to find out how you can help.
By setting a good example, we try to convince people that there is another way. Inequality is broken down by treating each other with kindness. And that is what it should be all about.