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History of the Commission of Women

The Commission for Women of the Worcester Diocese was established in 1989 by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. The following mission statement of the commission explains its goals.

The Commission for Women shall serve as an advisory board to the resident bishop of Worcester in regard to women’s issues. It shall function as a liaison between women in the diocese and the resident bishop, raising and promoting awareness of the evolving role of women in the church and society. The commission shall strive to bond together the women of the diocese through spiritual, educational and social programs.

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In its history, the commission has examined many issues affecting women and their relationship with their church. This has been accomplished through study, meetings and conferences and through its occasional column, “Concerning Women,” published in the Catholic Free Press.

Inclusive language, the problem of women and homelessness, the possibility of women’s ordination to the Permanent Diaconate, the history of women in the church and in the bible, and women’s spirituality have been the major issues.

In 1994, 1995 and 1996, the Commission for Women sponsored housing forums in the city of Worcester. From 1996 to 1998, members researched and wrote a handbook detailing historical instances of women serving the church in the role of deaconess. This study supported the majority opinion of the Canon Law Society of America which asserted that there was no canonical objection to women serving in the Permanent Diaconate.

The Commission initiated the annual luncheon for diocesan, parish and school secretaries (Secretaries Day) to honor these women in the support staff of the church. In 2000, the Commission held a Jubilee Day for Women. In 2002, the first women’s conference since the Diocesan Women’s Congress in 1950 was sponsored by the Commission for Women. It was called “Gather Us In, 2002.” This conference tradition was continued in November of 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009. The next conference will be held in 2011.

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Ongoing throughout are studies. Mary Magdalene, women in the Bible, women saints, and contemporary women theologians have been some of the subjects. In addition, commission members studied the report on the Conference on Common Ground, the initiative launched by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago.

The Commission customarily has between 12 and 20 members. Women are always welcome to attend Commission meetings. These take place on the third Tuesday of the month at the second floor meeting room in the new addition of St. Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The room is handicapped accessible with an elevator.

Persons interested in more information about the Commission for Women should write to Shirley Pukaite at 14 Bunker Hill Parkway, West Boylston, MA 01583 or email her at worcestercommissionforwomen@gmail.com. Please include address, parish, telephone number and/or email address.

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