Role and contributions of women in the Catholic Church

The Role and Contributions of Women in the Catholic Church.

 Background to the study

Right from creation, women have played an enormous role in the religious, social, political, economic and moral development of nations. As her male counterparts created in the image and likeness of God, the woman was also given the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and govern it. Since then, women have participated actively in various fields.




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Though not seen as equal with her male counterpart and relegated and discriminated against in almost every sphere of life, the women has been relentless, in her effort to assert her independence and God’s given role. Today, the influence and the indispensable role of women cannot be over emphasized.

In the political social and religious history of the Israelites, certain women performed outstanding roles so much so that the Bible will be incomplete without mentioning these women.

prominent among them are:- Eve, the mother of all creation, Abigail, Saphira, Miriam, Jezebel, Ruth, Esther, Hannah, Rahab, Naomi, Bathsheba, Delilah, Deborah, Joel, Dorcas Sarah, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Rachael, Leah, Hagar, Huldah, Ann, Mary, Jochesed,  Lydia, Tabitha, Martha and Mary Magdalene, Priscella, Phoebe, Salome, the Samaritan woman and so many others too many to mention both in the Old and New Testaments Esposito, J.L. et al (2006).

Statement of the problem        

Gone are the days when women were contended to be lookers. In spite of the great contribution of women in the history of the political and religious life of the Israelites, non of them was a member of the Sanherdrin, the Jewish political and religious coma.

They served as judges in the case of Deborah, prophetess as Ann, mothers, wives, concubines sisters, charity givers or recognized for one contribution or one problem or the other.

In Christianity, today, women constituted about 80% of the total population of Christians. In place of worships, the population of women is always greater than that of men. To this effect, it can be safely said that Christianity is what it is today largely because of the strong faith and contribution of women. In spite of this enormous contribution, perhaps due to the influences of Judaism, women are seen as not fit to officiate in religious matters. The battle to get women ordained as officiating ministers is legendary. But for the relentless effort of women, they would still have been occupying the backseat as on lookers or passive Christians as instructed by Paul.

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Christianity like Judaism, Islam and the religion of Asia arise in particular women have played the greatest roles in form of Christianity that valued direct and immediate religious experience (mystical Deity) as more authoritative than the institutional authority of the Bishops (Esposito, Fasching and Lewis 2006)

Although women played very prominent leadership roles at the beginning of the early communities, when the Church became institutionalized, prevailing customs of male dominance seemed to reassert themselves, and the pattern of excluding women from roles as priest and Bishops took hold. Thus, women were relegated to secondary roles such as teachers.

Gone are those days, when women were contended to play passive roles on religious matters. In Judaism, the religion where Christianity sprang from, women were excluded from active participation in religious activities. Women were never allowed to enter the temple and worship with men nor did they become rabbis and religious teachers. This culture prevailed into the time of the ministry of Jesus. It was Jesus that came and gave women a sense of belongings. He had women among his disciples, some of who attended to his needs. He interacted with women and treated them as human beings with equal opportunities as men. Women such as the sinful woman who anointed his feet with expensive ointment, the woman with the issue of blood, the Samaritan woman at the well, the woman during the passion and crucification and so on. Things that were seen as abominations to the Jewish leaders.

In the Acts and Epistle, some women became active Christians who attended to the needs of the apostles. However, the Jewish tradition took center stage at the time of Paul. Paul admonished women to keep quiet in the church, and if they have questions, they should wait till they get home to ask their husbands. And where he also curtailed the freedom of women by prescribing their dress and ornament (Meyer, 2006).

This tradition found itself in the Church and especially the Catholic Church where women had no say in Church matters except to dress decently and sit in the Church as worshipers.

Today there is a lot of transformation in the Catholic Church. Although women do not say Mass because that is the exclusive reserve of the priesthood, and only men become priests. The Reverend Sisters who are members of the religious and not laity now participate actively in church matters, especially during communion. Women are found in all societies in the church except for C.M.O women are now laity council chairmen, board of lectors, secretaries, treasurers and in all the church societies.

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Groups such as C.W.O, Zumuntan mata are the two dominant women groups. Church service or mass is not complete without women, apart from the fact that they constitute more than half of the worshippers, they, also sing to make the church lively and dress to add colour to the church. They sing in the choir, Zumuntan mata and are in all societies.

Today, the Catholic Church is still undergoing transformation, and women will be more involved. Women are agitating for ordination into the priesthood. This feat has been achieved in other churches like the Anglican and most Pentecostal churches where women are ordained priest and Bishops and Pastors and even church owners. This work will highlight the indispensable role of women in the Catholic Church, such as C.W.O which is the umbrella body of all women in the Catholic Church. And thereafter, make recommendations on how the Church will recognize and appreciate women.

Purpose of the study

        This study, taking into consideration the indispensible role of women in the Catholic Church has the following objectives.

  1. To identify the various women groups in the Catholic Church
  2. To the identify the various roles these women play in the Church
  3. To examine limitations or problems militating against women in the Church
  4. To suggest possible solutions to women issues in the Church.

Research Questions

        The focus of this study is to identify the role and contribution of women in the Catholic Church. In line with the objectives stated above, the following research questions will be addressed by this study.

  1. What are the various women groups in the Catholic Church?
  2. What role or functions do this women play in the growth and development of the church?
  3. What are constrains or limitations of women in the Catholic Church?
  4. What or how can the church be transformed to include women in all aspects including the priesthood?                                       

Basic Assumption

        Considering that the Catholic Church is one autonomous Church headed by the pope in Rome, and ruled by the Vatican Council Document, it is assumed that it is going to take a long time to get women into the priesthood. But their enormous contribution in the sustenance and development of the church will continue to be appreciated.

Significance of the study

        The study on the role of women in the Catholic Church is considered significant from the following perspective.

The research will provide an aware on the role of women in the Catholic. Although women constitute about 65-70% of the total population, they cannot be ordained to serve as priest.

The research will also highlight the roles that women play in the church apart from the priesthood. The research will also project the role of the Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O) which is the umbrella body of all women in the Catholic Church. Zumuntan mata and other associations exclusive to women.

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The research will be of benefit to the educational community as no knowledge is a waste, the entire Christian community and will add to the bank of knowledge of the entire world.

Scope and Limitation of the Study

        The issue of women in Christendom as a whole is an interesting one, and especially in the Catholic Church where women cannot become priests. The Scope of this study is the Catholic Church. But the time limit within which the study must be concluded.

It is in consideration of this, only the financial constrains of such an enormous research, the study is limited to Catholic Churches in Gwagwalada Area Council of the F.C.T.

Definition of Terms

Women: are adult female human beings, the female of the female race grown to adult years.

Catholic: The term catholic is connected with all Christian or the whole Christian Church. It is the church in all places, and it includes all people who say “Jesus is Lord”     

        The Roman Catholic Church popularly known as the catholic which is the church under study. According to church the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, it is the members.  The Catholic hierarchy include cardinals and Bishops, and is led by the Bishop of Rome known as the Pope.

Catholic Women Organization (C.W.O). This is the umbrella body of all women in the Catholic Church.

The Role and Contributions of Women in the Catholic Church.


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