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Students send letters to Pope

| Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saint Mary’s College Center for Spirituality introduced a program Monday called “Voices of Young Catholic Women” that gives young women a chance to express their perspectives on Catholicism in writing — and for those letters to be hand delivered to Pope Francis later this year.

The program, which began accepting submissions Monday, will continue to do so until November, when Saint Mary’s College President Carol Ann Mooney and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend take the letters to Rome, director of Campus Ministry Judith Fean said. There, the letters will be hand-delivered to the Pope in a general audience, Fean said.

Women of the millennial generation, ages 18-30,  are invited to write letters to Pope Francis expressing their perspectives on the Catholic Church, in relation to their demographic and why its participation has fallen, Fean said.

Fean said the program was created in response to concerns raised by an article published in “America” in February 2012 titled “A Lost Generation?” by Patricia Wittberg.

“It was a study … talking about the women who have been leaving the Church, especially in the range of the millennial generation,” Fean said. “Men are not leaving as quickly as women are and it’s not 100 percent certain why, but … there might be something that [women] hope for that isn’t there.”

Fean said Wittberg’s article sparked reflection and conversation among students active in campus ministry in the College’s Center for Spirituality. Fean said 11 students met continuously for a year to bring their idea to fruition. There, they discussed how to reach out to other women within their generation.

“We asked [the Campus Ministry students] whether they would like to participate in exploring what we could do with the College,” Fean said. “And so this idea of writing letters to the Pope [was born].”

The effort to reach women in the Church extends far beyond Saint Mary’s campus, Fean said. All Catholic colleges and universities within the United States have been contacted about the opportunity, she said.

“The word has gotten out,” she said. “The invitation to participate went out to all … campus ministries with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. … It’s also been sent out to parishes … and there’s an ad appearing in ‘America’ magazine.”

Fean said the goal is to allow Catholic women across the United States to let their voices be heard within the Church.

Although the letters and content will remain confidential, messages will be screened to make sure they follow the appropriate guidelines for expression, Fean said. Submissions of prayers, poetry, works of art and other creative expressions are welcome in addition to traditionally-formatted letters. All submissions must be received by Nov. 1 and follow the guidelines for submission. More information can be found at saintmarys.edu/Letters.

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About Tabitha Ricketts

As of this summer (2013), I hail from Clarkston, Michigan. I am a junior in the Saint Mary's College dual-degree engineering program, pursuing a degree in English Writing from Saint Mary's and Computer Science from the University of Notre Dame. I have written for the Saint Mary's News department of the Observer since my freshman year, and began working for Viewpoint last spring.

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