Key dates in women's ordination history

1911: St. Joan's Alliance founded, works for women's suffrage and women's ordination.

1974: Eleven women ordained Episcopal priests.

1975: First Women's Ordination gathering in Detroit; Women’s Ordination Conference  founded.

1976: Experts of the Pontifical Biblical Commission determined that there were no scriptural reasons preventing women's ordination.

1976: Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith overturn the commission’s judgment, issue Inter Insigniores stating women do not image Jesus.

1978: Second Women's Ordination Conference, held in Baltimore. WOC membership exceeds 3,000; Responding to Inter Insigniores, program heralds: "It’s time to lay to rest the heresy that women cannot image Jesus in the priesthood."

1979: Pope John Paul II visits U.S.; WOC members, after all night vigil in Washington; greet pope as he emerges; WOC’s Ruth Fitzpatrick, calls out; "Ordain Women!" Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane, then LCWR president, at National Shrine, addresses John Paul, urging him that all church ministries be open to women.

1983: Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith call upon bishops to refuse support to those who defend the priestly ordination of women.

1983: First International Women-Church Conference in 1983 in Chicago

1983: Women-Church Convergence, coalition of feminist non-profit organizations, forms. Women recognize women's ordination is not the primary issue for most women. Focus on broader justice and gender equality issues.

1992: U.S. bishops give up writing pastoral letter after trying nine-year effort.

1992: Ruth Fitzpatrick leads a trip to the Czech Republic to find Ludmila Javorova, one of the women ordained a priest in the underground Catholic Church of Communist Czechoslovakia.

1994: John Paul II Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, stating the subject of women’s ordination to the priesthood is no longer open to debate.

1995: WOC celebrates 20th anniversary with Washington conference. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Diana Hayes, Mary Hunt reject women's ordination, saying it would result in subordination within a patriarchal system. Fiorenza rejects "kyriarchy," interlocking systems of domination and submission.

1995: Three dozen young women meet during WOC conference, forerunner of Young Feminist Network (YFN).

1996: Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW) forms after women from six nations draw up charter.

2000: WOC celebrates "WOC 2000: If Roman Catholic Women Were Ordained Today" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

2002: "Illicit" ordinations of seven women as priests on the Danube River between Austria and Germany.

2003: Difference of opinion and strategies grow among women as to ties with Catholic tradition as pathways to ordination splinter. "What is essential to our Catholic identity?" WOC asks.

2006: First "illicit" women ordinations in US.

2006: WOC approves to incorporate anti-racism, diversity and inclusion in WOC programs.

2015: WOC conveys 40th anniversary gathering in Philadelphia one week before Pope Francis visits the city.  

See story: Catholic activists gather to press women's ordination issue