Sister Maura Feeley - Women taking a stronger role in the Catholic Church
by C.L. LOPEZ
HIGHLAND, Cal., Dec. 27, 2006 (www.redlandsdailyfacts.com) - The woman in the navy blazer waited patiently during the Mass, her head bowed in prayer. When the service ended, people filed past Sister Maura Feeley, who greeted them, many by name, with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her Irish eyes.
But Feeley's work was far from over as the last parishioner left Highland's St. Adelaide Church and she approached the altar to prepare it for the next service.
It is all part of the job for Feeley, the parish's pastoral coordinator, whose duties include seemingly everything but leading Mass and listening to confessions.
With a shortage of priests to fill the diocese's leadership positions, women have been appointed as leaders of their parishes.
The diocese has 11 pastoral coordinators, five of whom are sisters like Feeley.
"When the Diocese of San Bernardino was created 28 years ago, we had 235,000 Catholics in San Bernardino and Riverside counties and 103 active diocesan priests," said Bishop Gerald Barnes. "Today we have 60 active diocesan priests and 1.2 million Catholics."
The Catholic Church's canon law lets the diocese call on deacons and women, "religious and laity," to take pastoral leadership positions when there is a shortage of priests, said Barnes.
Barnes said the religious sisters and laywomen have leadership positions from the pastoral care of some of the parishes to positions within the leadership structure of the diocese.
"I believe the role of women in leadership in the church and the sharing of their gifts and talents with people of God will continue to grow and enrich our church," said Barnes.
Feeley is living the life she envisioned when she grew up in an Irish Catholic home where her parents felt it was a privilege for their daughter to be called to religious life.