Lillian Vogel


I grew up in Protestant churches that did not allow female preachers, but I always felt a call to proclaim and live the Gospel, so I thought of it as a call to missionary service when I was young. This was being debated and changed when I was in college, so two of my roommates were pre-seminary majors, and one did go on to become a pastor. I had already set a course to teach English internationally and witness to God’s love informally, but everything changed when I found out my parents’ marriage was breaking up the week I graduated from college. I reoriented my career path to focus on providing for myself and my ill mother, and around the same time I fell in love with Catholic Mass and theology. Entering a Church where I was told even missionary service was effectively reserved to nuns, I focused on establishing a professional career and family, and let the still small voice of ministerial vocation be drowned out by the worries of the world for nearly 20 years. After I started seeking solace from those worldly woes in daily Mass and a robust prayer life, I began to feel intense yearning to share my experience of God’s love and healing power with others. But I also felt painful frustration over my lack of opportunities to do that, and at the pastoral incompetence and arrogance of many priests I encountered locally. I do not have formal theological training, but I am constantly listening to and meditating on God’s Word, and self-educating about God’s work in the world and the Church. Beginning on my 40th birthday, the Spirit led me down a path toward “preaching” through blogging (in consultation with a former seminary professor), and ministering to searching and hurting souls through social media. Local parishes do not afford women any opportunities to speak or lead in our own words (many still don't even allow altar girls!), but I do literally share the gift of my voice as I am allowed, as a cantor, choir member, and volunteer English teacher for immigrants. Still, my God-given gifts to speak words of teaching and encouragement in the Catholic faith are suppressed by gender-based limitations. Recently, I learned an acquaintance just a few years older than I is beginning the diaconate training program in our Diocese. Talking with him, I realized how that path would be an excellent fit for my situation as well: a five year course of study over weekends, leading toward ordination for service that can be done in addition to paid professional work, usually expanding into more hours of service after retirement. I pray that Pope Francis will open the door very soon to women like me to serve the people of God under the authority of diaconal ordination. Though I would probably have to move to a less conservative Diocese to be accepted into the diaconate, I am wholly willing to go where the Spirit leads me to answer the call and best share my gifts with the Church.
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