Cynthia Bowns has felt the calling to be a deacon since her husband went through the diaconate formation program a few years ago. Despite the Catholic Church’s rule that women cannot be ordained, Bowns started preaching to members of her parish at Mass and whenever she is requested.
“There’s a great need for [preaching] from a woman’s perspective, especially married women,” she said.
Bowns said her preaching has been well-received among her fellow parishioners, and several of them even call her a deacon because of it.
Her time at the pulpit hasn’t gone unnoticed. A couple of years ago, Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, an organization that advocates for women’s ordination and ending clerical celibacy, asked Bowns if she would be interested in participating in a new initiative dedicated to women preaching.
Today, Bowns is one of 34 women preachers who are part of Catholic Women Preach, a project dedicated to showcasing women preachers through modern technology, including internet-based resources.
The preachers consist of laywomen leaders from various backgrounds, including women religious, theologians and others who are active with their church and Catholic-affiliated organizations. All of them are volunteers. As of February 2015, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, there were more than 39,600 lay ecclesial ministers in the U.S.; 80 percent of them — about 31,680 — are women.