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THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH Ab initio, the role of women in the church has always been understood

and respected as helpers, as is clearly stipulated in Gen. 2:18. This is a Godgiven role and a life mission which has been maintained from biblical history through the early church till date. Browsing through the Old Testament, we encounter the likes of Hannah, Deborah, Esther, Ruth, Judith, the Shunamite woman, who were women of staunch faith and trust in God, remaining steadfast in turbulent times as well as influencing Gods people in positive ways not to lose sight of Gods promise of salvation. As such, they are presented as role models and custodians of faith not only to women but also to all Gods faithful. Jesus ministry further portrays the prominent role of women in salvific history. The Gospels report that the women supported and catered for Jesus public ministry out of their own resources. The few names mentioned in the Gospel include the Blessed Virgin Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary Magdalene, Martha and other Marys. They featured as intercessors and instructors (the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee) as well as vessels of special blessings. Distressed and mournful, yet unflinching, they clung onto our Lord all through this passion, death and burial, in loyalty and empathy. It was they also who first discovered the Resurrection due to their zealous and passionate love for Christ, and broke the news forthwith, just as it was to a woman also that the incarnation of Christ was first revealed. So we find them exhorting, teaching, inspiring, motivating, unrelenting, believing, sharing, sponsoring, praying, sympathizing, prophesying and also spreading the good news. In the formative years of the church, women never slacked in aiding and providing for the missions, helping the poor, caring for the sick, providing shelter to missionaries and being involved and committed to grassroots evangelism. The figure of Tabitha (Dorcas) comes early to mind here. Making good use of their initiatives, they go out of their way to perform Charity. The same holds true, and is even more ardent, in the church today. Charity, they say, begins at home, and that is the family. The family is the domestic church today where the children are taught the Catechism and Doctrines of the church and the proper way to live their lives. Appropriately, the mother

is basically in charge of this noble task. They teach the children how to pray, fear God and cultivate the Christian virtues. They inculcate good Christian values and ordinances into the children who are the young church. At the parish level, women handle some of the lay ministries like reading, distributing Communion, singing, evangelism, Catechism, and are also active participants in pious association and sodalities, among which the Catholic Women Organization (CWO) is in the foremost. In fact, the C.W.O. is the powerhouse of the parish. They take care of the clergy, the religious, the rectory, and the church and other miscellaneous affairs in the parish. The C.W.O. contributes far more than any other wing in the church. This is because naturally, women care like God. They are always involved in one charity project or another like visiting prisoners, motherless babies homes, orphanages, old peoples home, hospitals, schools, priests and religious, seminaries, monasteries, the sick, name it. They also organize Seminars, retreats, recollection, pilgrimages and other spiritual bouquets for the purpose of keeping the flame alive in the faithful and reaching out to the lost sheep. Above all, women make up a substantial part of the church. They complement the efforts of our pastors. They are always conscious of their status as helpers to those who administer the word and Sacraments. They readily respond in time of need financially, morally, physically, spiritually, psychologically and otherwise. They effectively propagate the faith to their children right from cradle, bearing in mind that they are the first evangelists the children come in contact with. They contrive to imitate our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary in her gentle but firm, tender but commanding, soothing but severe, simple but serious injunction. Do whatever He tells you (John. 2:5). Thus, we cannot but assert that women have an all important role in the church and in the history of salvation.