SALT LAKE CITY — Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon will present "Women of the Gospel, Women of the Church" at this year’s Aquinas Lecture, scheduled for Jan. 26.
Sr. Florence is the director of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, based in St. Francis, Wisc. She also is part of the three-person presidency of the Leadership Conference of Religious Women. The LCRW represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States.
The LCRW was the subject of a Vatican assessment in 2012, which called for reform of the organization "to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality," according to Catholic News Service.
During her presidential address at last year’s LCRW assembly in Orlando, Fla., Sr. Florence said, "Our situation reflects larger questions and concerns such as the ongoing implementation of the Second Vatican Council; the ecclesial roles of women religious and of the laity, especially women; understandings of authority, faithful dissent, and obedience; and the need for spaces where honest, probing questions about faith and belief can be raised and discussed," according to a CNS article.
Many of these topics will be addressed in her presentation at the Aquinas Lecture; she has given similar presentations in recent years in other parts of the United States and in Europe.
Although the role of women in the Church has received renewed attention after Pope Francis’ remarks on the topic, "Most Catholics don’t realize that for the past 50 years popes have been addressing women’s roles in all aspects of Church and society," Sr. Florence said. "Paul VI particularly tasked women with integrating the spirit of Vatican II into institutions, schools, homes and daily life. John Paul II pointed out that women’s new self-awareness would affect how men understood themselves, how they interpreted history and their place in it and would help men reconsider "the way they organize social, political, economic, religious and ecclesial life."
Sr. Florence will present "new understandings of Church, inherent tensions that sometimes accompany the various gifts of the Spirit, and the role of all Catholics to further their ecclesial mission as they discern together how to apply the Gospel in this day and age," she said. "[I] will also put Pope Francis’ call for a deep theology of women into the context of what other recent popes have envisioned."
The role of women in the Catholic Church is currently a topic of great interest, said Mike McGinley, one of the committee members who chose the speaker for the Aquinas Lecture this year.
Typically, the speaker is "a notable individual speaking on a topic of interest to the parish, to the diocese and to the faithful in general," McGinley said, adding that this year, from a list of about 12 potential lecturers, Sr. Florence was the top choice.
Sr. Florence reflects "a faithfulness to the Christian message and to the Vatican as well," said Kathy Scott, another committee member.
Sr. Florence’s role as a spokesperson for so many religious women also was a factor in her being chosen for the Aquinas Lecture, Scott said, and "her message is so clear and she is so eloquent."
For committee member Mary Lowe, Sr. Florence’s message of the need to communicate with one another despite disagreements "is a topic that affects all of us," Lowe said.
The event will include a question-and-answer session after Sr. Florence’s presentation, and a reception will follow.
WHAT: 2014 Aquinas Lecture
WHEN: Sunday, Jan. 26, 12:30 p.m.
WHERE: Saint Catherine of Siena/Newman Center, 170 S. University St., SLC.
The lecture is free and open to the public but seating is limited and tickets are required for admittance. For the tickets, contact the Newman Center office at 801-359-6066 or go online to www.unewman.org. Tickets also will be available in the gathering space after Masses at the Newman Center.