On Nov. 26, representatives of the “Voices of Young Catholic Women Project” of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., offered Pope Francis a handmade stole, artwork and binder filled with 200-plus letters collected from millennial women across the United States.
Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., Bishop Kevin Rhoades introduced Saint Mary’s College president Carol Mooney and student Kristen Millar to Francis at his weekly general audience. The two women shook hands with Francis and offered the collected gifts. Saint Mary’s College graduate Grace Urankar and Mooney’s husband, George Efta, were also present.
“We told Pope Francis that the letters contained the joys and hope, griefs and sorrows of our young women,” Mooney said. “The interchange was brief but truly moving. He asked us to pray for him, he said that he needs our prayers."
“I am honored to advocate on behalf of the women of the Millennial generation and I am hopeful that the pope will hear our message,” Millar added. “This is truly about the church and for all women struggling to maintain their Catholic identity in a time when religion is not deemed as necessary. I am here to give a voice."
Francis, will you hear this voice? So many young women have offered their gifts with all the “enthusiasm,” “creativity” and “joy” you so powerfully celebrated your 2013 World Youth Day homily. The picture of this encounter is now enshrined in my classroom. Again and again, I return to the image, wondering:
How will you respond, Francis? Our voices, these gifts, have been presented. Now, we are waiting for you. Will you read our letters? Wear our stole and share with us a picture? Welcome the gifts of women so joyfully offered to our church?
[Jennifer Mertens recently completed her Master of Divinity from the Catholic Theological Union. She teaches religion at a Catholic high school in Cincinnati.]