Johnson City, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The role of women in the Catholic Church has been a highly debated topic for centuries, and several proponents for the cause spoke out Monday evening.
Margit Mayberry, Coordinator of the Spanish Apostolate of the Southern region for the Syracuse Diocese, holds the job of a deacon, without the title.
"I wrote a letter to Bishop Cunningham presenting myself as a candidate for the Deaconite, just because I wanted to force him to have to say 'no you can't'," said Mayberry in the Rectory of St. James.
Sr Alma Jones, Sister of St. Joseph, has completed 51 years of religious life. Serving over 20 years in Peru as a missionary, she spoke about the opportunities that were open to her.
Ministry in a different culture and different county is just that -- different, she explained.
"We were the church," said Sr Alma, talking about how the sisters were the connection to religion in the Altiplano and in the countryside where the Bishops traveled infrequently.
Sister Alma explained that the responsibilities of her sisters were equal and comparable to those of the ordained men serving in the Catholic Church.
"Our reality today, when you constantly hear of the shortage of priests, and how are we going to handle the situation, I think as women we have a great thing to contribute... if it's opened to us," said Sr. Alma.
In January, Pope Francis spoke about women's roles, and became a strong proponent for the fight that religious women are facing.
"I strongly wish that opportunities and responsibilities may open themselves up further to the presence and participation of women in the church," said the Pope.
Mayberry posed a difficult question that silenced the room on Monday night: "How in the world can the gifts of the Holy Spirit have anything to do with our sexual organs?"
The nods that followed made it clear that many were left echoing the Pope's wish for women's increased opportunity in religious life.
Mayberry explained that there is talk of allowing women to become ordained deacons in the Catholic Church, which would allow them to perform some ministries such as baptisms, weddings, and funerals. As for the priesthood, she said there are still many barriers to overcome, and possibly long years to fight, before that becomes a reality.
The event drew both women and men to St. James Church in Johnson City, and attendees were invited to discuss their feelings and concerns on the topic.