Women’s Theological Voices in a Global Conversation

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Cunningham
Photo courtesy of Caitlin Cunningham

by Andrea Vicini, SJ


Andrea Vicini, S.J. is Associate Professor of Moral Theology on the Ecclesiastical Faculty at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, specializing in theological bioethics. A native of Italy, Fr. Vicini holds an M.D. from the University of Bologna and an S.T.D. from the Pontifical Faculty of Theology of Southern Italy. He also holds two degrees from Boston College (S.T.L. and Ph.D.). He began teaching at BC in 2009 as the holder of the Gasson Chair, and he joined the faculty at the STM the following year.


What would it be like to listen to Asian women Catholic theologians sharing their theological reflections and engaging in a conversation with theologians from Africa, Europe, and the USA–without leaving our campus? It would show the Catholicity of our faith. It would further enrich the theological debate with insights not yet sufficiently heard. It would also reveal a commitment to promote global interactions in sustainable ways without spending limited resources and adding more travel to our heavy carbon footprint.

One concrete occasion to engage in such a global conversation is coming soon at the School of Theology and Ministry (STM). On November 15 (11:00 AM-12:30 PM, room 135), the global network Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC) will host a videoconference session with the 6th biennial conference of the forum of Catholic women theologians Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA) held in Bangalore, India. EWA promotes contextual feminist theologies from the perspective of those who are excluded and in dialogue with other disciplines and religions. The theme of the EWA conference is “Liberating Power: Asian Feminist Theological Perspectives.”


Three stimulating papers will be presented during the first part of the videoconference: the Malaysian Sharon Bong will reflect on the transforming power of personal narratives; Kristine Meneses will examine deafness and deafhood among deaf Filipinas in light of one of Jesus’ healings (Mark 7:31-37); and the Filipina Jeane Cana Peracullo will highlight the original theological contributions of Ecclesia of Women in Asia.


A first similar initiative took place during the last EWA conference in 2011. On that occasion, five American universities participated in the videoconference: Barry, Fordham, Loyola Chicago, Santa Clara, and Boston College. It was a simple but successful event. This time, six universities from three continents will join the videoconference–from Africa: Saint Augustine College in Johannesburg; from Europe: the University of Glasgow in Scotland and the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College in Dublin; from North America: the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Santa Clara University in California, and Boston College. Hopefully, this list will expand in the coming weeks. Moreover, to stimulate the participation, the papers will be distributed, questions from all six international locations will be gathered via chat, and the three speakers in Bangalore will answer these questions.


Why should we bother? Why should we listen to what Asian colleagues are sharing? Why should we engage in conversations across the oceans via internet? Our lives are already so full of commitments and responsibilities that it seems there is little space for more. Maybe we should care because the faces, voices, themes, and ideas of today’s theology are rapidly changing, globally. Moreover, in becoming more aware of what is happening, we can also participate in the ongoing transformation.


This theological style that aims at promoting participation globally characterizes a growing number of initiatives and, among them, the networking generated by CTEWC. Initially, two world conferences in Italy–at Padua (2006) and at Trent (2010)–gathered, respectively, 400 and 600 Catholic moral theologians from around the globe. James Keenan, SJ, Founders Professor of Theology at Bosotn College, launched both initiatives and made them possible. Then, in the recent years, CTEWC fostered regional interactions: Bangalore and Nairobi in 2012, Berlin in 2013. Forthcoming continental conferences are planned: in Asia (2015) and in Latin America (2016), as well as another world conference in 2018. Finally, a website, a monthly newsletter, and a book series consolidate the interactions. The EWA videoconference confirms this way of being theologians and of doing theology that fosters relationality, inclusivity, and participation.


The Second Vatican Council has inaugurated this new season of today’s Church and of theological inquiry. Many steps need to be made to fully implement it and even more steps are required to further develop and expand the Council’s agenda and spirit. At Boston College, we contribute in many ways: in our classrooms, in our research and reflection, and with specific events. For example, on November 12 (Gasson Hall 100, at 5:30 PM), three days before the EWA global videoconference, a panel discussion on “Women in the Contemporary Church” will feature three women Catholic theologians from Boston College: Francine Cardman (STM), M. Shawn Copeland (Theology Department), and Megan McCabe (doctoral student in theological ethics), moderated by the vice provost Patricia DeLeeuw.


Definitely, local and global voices invite us to join insightful conversations with women Catholic theologians. The promise is that our Catholicity will be strengthened and expanded.


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