Do Catholic Women Want Women Deacons

When I taught at Clarke University Sr. Joan told me I should start all meetings with a prayer. I was fresh out of the 21 years of active duty where you did not pray at federal meetings. Asking me to lead a prayer before meetings caused me great anxiety. I was so bad at it that Sr. Kate gave me As We Gather, As we Part which contained 150 opening and closing prayers.  Mostly, I was bad at it because I didn’t feel I had led a life that deserved to lead a prayer, but I looked around at the Sisters and knew they had. Last night I searched the house for the book and couldn’t find it. Today I found it in my office. I should have known it was packed with office books because that is where I used it at Clarke. I knew I needed it.

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. Proverbs 10:21-22

Women are not fragile! I don’t know what women were like in 533 AD, but my guess is fragile was far from accurate. Today women are definitely not fragile. We fought for the right to vote and then we literally fought for the right to fight for our country. We fought for the right to work and then for equality in the workplace. Despite the obstacles, we continue to raise families and in most cases take on the majority of that task. We continue to show up even when you treat us as less than because of our gender. Fragile, those Bishops should have looked inward. I suspect their egos were what was fragile.

I’m not sure how many people are interested in the topic of women deacons. I’m not sure if Catholic women care enough to be the Dorothy Day of our time, but I do. Show up and be counted. If we do not bring equality to the church it will be diminished in our lifetime as young women walk away because they see the hypocrisy and the misogyny in the Bishops that deny history.

Let’s not be the fools that die from lack of sense. If we don’t trust that there are women chosen by God to be Deacons and stand and support them, then we are no better than the Bishops that saw women as fragile. Are you fragile or are you ready to be a suffragette?

Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system. – Dorothy Day


Plastic, Time, Cooperation

Healthcare is an industry that uses a lot of plastic. That use is necessary to save lives, prevent the spread of illness, and make it possible to provide better care. Plastic cups are an exception as there are other options that are equally safe and less toxic to the environment. There is little I can do about the amount of plastic used in a hospital, but it serves as a reminder to do all I can in my personal life and that as a society, we could do to reduce the use of plastics. The grocery store is a prime example. It might be the first step in saving our environment and all beings.

However innumerable beings are, I vow to save them.

I shop at three grocery stores on a regular basis. Krogers is a big corporation that caters to all manner of shopper and is highly unlikely to make any changes without a massive community effort. Earth Fare attempts to be conscious of their impact on the earth but does a poor job with all manner of plastic containers.  Three Reivers Coop is much better but still falls short on plastics, but is the most likely to be willing to make changes.

Step 1: Do What is Easy

I would like to imagine a world where when I go to buy a bicycle lock it isn’t packaged in plastic and where all plastic is recycled. When I examined all the single-use plastics in my house it was easy to figure out that the majority of them actually came from the grocery store.Plastic_objects

Plastics Easy to Avoid

  • Milk in plastic bottles
  • Soft drinks in plastic bottles
  • Water bottles
  • Drink cups (except at sporting events or concerts)
  • Plastic forks for lunch
  • Plastic tubs of lettuce
  • Plastic produce bags
  • Plastic grocery bags (though I grab these for kitty litter and don’t know an alternative)

There are things that we can all do to help, but we must remember to help within our means and not expect all people can do the same. I buy milk in glass bottles and then return the bottle for a deposit. Without the deposit 64 ounces of milk cost me $6. A half gallon in a carton is about $2.89. However, I realize that a family of four with an income at or slightly above the poverty line would never be able to afford the milk in glass bottles and it would be a poor use of their money. God help them if they had four teenage boys. They could, however, avoid plastic by using a carton.

I buy my ginger ale in cans. I haven’t bought a bottle of water in almost a year and carry my Hydro Flask with me everywhere. The $20 for the hydro flask seems expensive until you count how much one spends on bottled water. I actually prefer my mesh reusable bags for fresh produce to the plastic ones. I suspect if everyone used mesh bags the cost savings to the stores would be enough they could lower prices though it isn’t clear they would. 

Step 2: Work on What is Hard

There are things that I haven’t figured out where to buy without the plastic or how to avoid without taking a considerable amount of my time. Time is a valuable commodity to me. I’m much more stingy with my time than my money and probably because I feel like I have less of it.

Plastics Hard to Avoid

  • Plastic containers for prepared foods (yogurt is the biggest one, pimento cheese 2nd)
  • Things wrapped in plastic like cheese, veggie burgers, veggie sausage, etc.
  • Pill bottles
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Laundry detergent
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Condiments almost all now come in plastic
  • Bread

Today I bought a yogurt maker. It is one step to reduce my use of plastic and at the same time reduces sugar. Unfortunately, it is time-consuming though appears it will be cheaper than buying the yogurt. I make my own bread at times, but it is also time-consuming and so unrealistic to do it all the time. I love to buy crumbled goat, feta, and blue cheese, but it comes in plastic containers. Even if I buy it in a block it is still wrapped in plastic.

Step 3: Work Local

I think that the local coop could do more to promote reduced plastic use. Why can’t I bring containers for prepared products the same as I do for produce? Rather than putting the deli product in a plastic container, they could put the portion in my reusable container. How hard would it be to bring a shampoo bottle to refill or refillable laundry detergent?

I have neither the time or knowledge to make all of the things I use on a regular basis, but it seems like the coop could do more to make options available. If I can bring a spice jar to refill why not laundry detergent bottles? There must be like-minded people that want to significantly reduce the use of plastic in my community and think that we are losing the battle fight the government so maybe we start local and grow.

“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”
― Ansel Adams

Women Deacons, a Discussion, a Community

When I was a new nurse the Officier in Charge gave advice about how to manage meetings as one of the few women in the room.

When you know the meeting will be contentious bake cookies.

While we might imagine that Bishops and Priests are stuck in their male-dominated mindsets that see women as less than and will never change it wasn’t until this past year that there were more women in medical school than men. Fifty years ago I guarantee you that most physicians could not imagine a woman as the head of surgery or the chief of staff or any other role in the hospital leadership except in nursing. We have now had female Surgeons General. Those graduating female physicians are entering an entirely different environment than their mothers did because their mothers fought for their rights. In the next 20 years, we will see equal representation in leadership in healthcare. Let’s not let it stop there.

It would be nice if getting the Pope to move away from the misogyny that has dominated the Chruch was as simple as baking cookies. Yet, there may have been more to the baking cookies advice than my feminist ears could hear in my twenties. It could be that she had learned how to make powerful men drop their defenses around a woman that was smarter and more determined than they were. Should we have to bake cookies, absolutely not? But, if we want to win the battle for equal human dignity we need to figure out how to break down barriers.

I consider myself a feminist. Granted from the school of us born in the 1960s when what we wanted was the right to only bake cookies because we loved family and friends and not because it was an obligation or a way to get men to listen to us in meetings. It was all about equality. Maybe it is time to send cookies to the Vatican since it is a behavior that seems to disarm men who view a woman as less than. Clearly coming to the table with evidence and a historical record didn’t work. The problem is I’m annoyed and so I want to lash out at misogyny. Honestly, I would rather fling the cookies at them.

Like any good nurse, I know that the world is filled with misogyny and people that refuse to believe the evidence. How many patients believe there is a magic cure to their knee or back pain but refuse to recognize the extra hundred pounds they are carrying is making it worse? How many providers continued to do unnecessary test long after the evidence shows that it results in unnecessary procedures? Yet nurses teach and advocate even when we know the person isn’t ready to hear us.

The Pope made clear he didn’t have ears to hear. I for one need a like-minded group of people that want to discuss this issue. I want people fighting as hard as I am to stay in the church and not throw in the flag and say if you want a boys club you can have it. I’m taking my spirituality and my faith and going home. The feminist in me says I will die before I will step aside for misogyny and men that still think the world is theirs to control

Macy, Ditewig, and Zagano wrote a book, Women Deacons: Past, Present, Future that serves as an excellent study on the issue of women deacons and they have produced a free study guide to accompany the book. I would enjoy being part of a group of like-minded people that want to read and discuss the book.

Like many people I have a busy schedule and once I’m home from work I’m unlikely to go back out. I set up a Zoom meeting if anyone wants to join me to start discussing the book and then maybe planning what we can do as an online community to advocate for women deacons. If you are interested and like-minded please join. I’m not a theologian so I don’t want to debate the issue, but rather learn and eventually plan some activism. It is my church too and I’m fighting for the human dignity of women.

Women Deacons

Roberta Lavin is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Women Deacons
Time: May 15, 2019 7:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

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The link has a limit of 100 people, but I really doubt that will be an issue. Also, if you have never used Zoom before and email me at and will happily send you instructions.


Curse of a Nurse: Social Justice Nursing in the World

The curse of a nurse is an educated mind often formed by religious and social backgrounds combined with work experiences which enable us to see things from a little different perspective. Principles of religion, education, and nursing practice illuminate what is wrong in our society.

We are both blessed and cursed with what we see and experience. The day of an average nurse is full. It is full of cultural perspectives, love and hate, grief and joy, violence and compassion, and fear and bravery. Nurses see people when they are vulnerable and willing to share truths, but they also see them when in the delirium of medication or pain they reveal what they would normally never give a voice. The nurse in the clinic or at the bedside sees the end result of failed policy, bigotry, and poverty. The nurse also sees those with privilege, success, and wealth and realizes the results of disparities.

Nurses experience all we see and what we see fills our lives with wonder and a search for the truth. There are days that we are bone tired with aching feet. The best we can do is ramble on about what we have seen to supportive family and friends. There are times when the mind is too tired to resist and in those times the truth is most apparent. There are also angry and frustrating times when we can identify with the worst instincts of humanity. It is a unique perspective and empathy that drives us to work for social justice. Out of our wonder, we find joy.

Many nurses are called to address social justice in the world and see it as part of what it means to be a nurse. It is tied to our spirituality. I write from my perspective as one who embraces the curse of a nurse and strives to pursue social justice in my small piece of the world. Love my perspectives or hate them, but know I have a thick skin and think we all grow through open and honest conversation even when it is difficult.

And so the [hu]manwho philosophizes and wonders is ultimately superior to one who submits to the despairing narrowness of indifference. For the former hopes?  – Joseph Pieper

Destructive divisions

I hope they never distinguish what we share. I wish I had your way of bringing heart and soul into writing.

Radical Rhymes

They stand us up against one another. You know the drills as well as I do, just as you recognise their scape goating. Their adoption of diversity is just another means of creating divisions, of directing our accusatory gaze sideways rather than upwards.

Famine, terrorism, discrimination, nationalism, the destruction of the environment, all are the products of a corrupt system built and maintained for the benefit of a very small minority. The divisions they stimulate and exacerbate between groups of people are designed to channel frustration and deflect attention from the real causes of most human ills – inequality and injustice.

Immigrants bring crime, disease, cultural  incompatibility. Age old tropes that they wheel out periodically to generate divisions they then mercilessly exploit. Look up media accounts from the 19th century, then compare them to tabloid coverage today. Place them side by side, and you won’t be able to distinguish them.

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Letter to His Holiness, Pope Francis

women deacons

A detail from the “Procession of Female Saints,” a Byzantine mosaic in the Basilica St. Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy.

His Holiness, Pope Francis

Apostolic Palace

00120 Vatican City

May 9, 2019

Dear Pope Francis,

I am writing to ask that you call women to be ordained deacons in the ministries of the liturgy, work, and charity. I am aware of the committee findings, but at some point, we must admit the evidence is clear. To say it is not is to ignore facts and history.  When we ignore the truth about women we are all diminished.

There was a time when I prayed every morning and evening and attended daily mass, but in the last few years, I have found it harder and harder to pray. The acts of men scream in my soul that women are less than men and do not share the same human dignity.  It is so loud at times it drowns out the voice of God. I question how I can belong when I’m seen as less than a man. When I express my pain over this issue there is a segment of the Church that is condescending, insulting, and generally hateful.

The history of the ordination of women runs throughout the early church. In fact, the only person called a deacon in the Bible is Phoebe. There are even documents saying how old a woman must be to be a deacon. I understand that many people have theological arguments that relate to the Priesthood, but those are rules implemented by men in more modern times. Do we really think we are closer to God than was the early church?

I want someone that can minister to me and understand my life experience, needs, and desires within the church. When I read With God in Russia about Walter Ciszek, SJ ministering to men in the Gulag I was moved and saddened. I could not help but feel pain for the women I had never met. Fr. Ciszek was able to minister to the men in a special way, but the women were alone. Did God abandon them? Did God think men more deserving or did the hardened hearts of men cause greater suffering for women then as they appear to today?

I have spent most of my adult life as a nurse working with the poor, the underserved, and those experiencing a disaster or seeking refuge in the United States. I now teach nurses so that others will go out and do the same.  I can’t imagine teaching them that because they were born male or female they couldn’t be a nurse. Likewise, I can’t imagine a world where there is no role for women to preach and minister.

When I worked in a prison almost all the ministers were men and so men in prison received greater pastoral care than women. We need more space in the church for women and especially for women that can go into the world and preach and minister to us in a way that men have not.

I believe in the equality and dignity of women and I struggle with a church that does support women as it does men. Please ask women to step up and be ordained deacons. It would send a strong message to the world that women have equal dignity with men, that we have value, and that we have much to offer the world.

I pray that one day I, and all women, will feel at home in the Church. I ask for your prayers and hope you receive this letter with the love and compassion with which it is intended.

With Warm Regards,

Roberta Lavin

The letter was inspired by women who I highly respect for their tireless work on the issue of women deacons. There is more information on women deacons in the Catholic Church and I hope all people will prayerfully consider writing the Pope. Women are not less than men. The question is do we let ourselves be run out by those men or do we stay and fight for justice? I think the Catholic church needs a new generation of Suffragettes.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. (Romans 16:1-2 NRSV)

My Favorite Nurses

It is a good week to say thank you to all the nurses that helped me along the way. If I talked about one each year between now and my old age I would not be able to thank them all so today I want to start with just two, CAPT (ret) Cecelia Reid and Chris Kasper.

When I finished my MSN I had to report to duty the next morning in DC. I walked out of graduation, picked up my diploma, handed my father the keys to my apartment because he was going to meet the movers, and got in the car so that I could report at 0800 the next morning. I could not have been more excited. When I arrived a serious looking Captain in Service Dress Blues ask for my ID, slapped it down on her desk with her hand over it and ask me for my ID number. When I told her the number without a moment’s hesitation she smiled and we have been friends ever since. She was my first role model as an officer.

Cecelia recommended me for deployment on an NOAA research vessel to the South Pacific for two months that turned into three because we sustained damage going through a typhoon. She did forget to tell me that we would be going to the Aleutian Islands and into the Bering Sea first, which would have resulted in some warmer clothing. It was the greatest adventure of my young career.


CAPT Cecelia Reid with Faye Abdellah

Cecelia was there when a patient pulled a knife on my unit and she was there when another patient was so violent that all the nurses and psychiatric nursing assistants (PNA) were wrestling on the ground with him screaming at the psychiatrist to call a code. I still remember that woman saying, “You can handle it. You can handle it.” The words I used to get her to call the code shocked me. I think it was the first time I was disrespectful to a physician or an elder, but then again we were getting our butts kicked by the patient on PCP that should have never been released from the restraints.  She was also there with a sense of humor when a psychiatrist complained to her and the Chief Medical Officer that I called her incompetent in rounds. I did not. I called her a blanking idiot. In my defense, it turned out the psychiatrist had never passed her boards and somehow in ten years the hospital had not noticed. I noticed when one of the PNAs informed me that she was removing my orders from the chart every night and returning them in the morning. Needless to say, what she did could have endangered the life of the patient. Obviously, the psychiatrist didn’t say what provoked my inappropriate comment, but when I told CAPT Reid it resulted in the discovery that the psychiatrist didn’t have a medical license.

Cecelia was supportive when I ask to transfer to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and she arranged a temporary duty assignment for me with Indian Health Service when I was working in DC. She wrote my nomination for my first early promotion. She wrote one of my reference letters to my Ph.D. program and she is still always there when I write or call. Cecelia is that nurse you want to be when you grow up. She is kind, compassionate, organized, intelligent, creative, and always looking out for her team. What I didn’t realize as a young officer was that when you were on her team it was for life. She is still the nurse I want to be.

Chris Kasper is an academic through and through. She never stops thinking about how to make nursing and healthcare better. Her life is academic research and training the next generation of nursing researchers, and now Dean. When I first met Chris she knew I was doing some work with AFRRI and ask if I would find out if they did any research with muscle. The next time I was there I ask and was introduced to a scientist that had the answer she wanted. I never imagined it would result in her being my dissertation chair, a lifelong friend and mentor, or a total change in my career path. She said noone would ever doubt I could do policy since I was a Chief of Staff, but I needed something else when I moved into academia. She knew I would.61519_155812487780481_3082463_n

Chris is one of those rare people that see through the illusions and delusions. She knew better what I needed to do to be successful than I did and guided me down the path. She is the first person I told I wanted to move to academia, after my husband. She had perfect advice and helped me with negotiations along the way. Anytime I’ve changed academic jobs my first call has been to her to ask if it was a wise move. My success in academia is largely due to her guidance and letter writing.

Chris and Cecelia couldn’t be more different in their career paths, but they had four things in common:

  1. Leading by example and with love for patients and team.
  2. Tireless dedication and service to the nation.
  3. Unequaled integrity.
  4. Fierce loyalty.

Happy Nurses’ Week to all my mentors and friends.