Inclusion of Women in Ministry

Something weird happened on my flight back home recently. I was sitting in a row just behind first class and I noticed that there were sixteen first class seats. Of those passengers, fourteen were male and two were female. At the same time, I was listening to the soundtrack of Hairspray. One of the messages of Hairspray is that of inclusion and equality. There is a song titled “Come So Far (Got So Far to Go).” The message of the song is simple: we’ve made progress when it comes to inclusion and equality, but we have a long way to go. As I looked at the mostly male first class passengers, I couldn’t help but think about our church. As church, we have come so far when it comes to the inclusion of women, but it seems like we still have a ways to go.

What does this reflection have to do with leadership? There are a couple things that I have to come to grips with in my own way of thinking. Recently, I have asked myself some poignant questions:

Am I bias towards males? It has not escaped my observation skills to recognize that my entire team (of 3 people) is male. One hired personally by me, the other was already there when I was hired. We are also the only three males in an entire department of sixteen people. For a hierarchy that is dominated with male clergy, I have gotten used to the idea that the majority of professional lay ecclesial ministers in the Catholic Church are female (at least in my area). That is a great thing! The question still stands, am I biased towards males? Deep down, I really want to say no. But deep, deep, down, I know the answer is yes. Why? I don’t know. I’m sure our culture played a role in this, as well as stereotypes. My feminist Catholic mother would probably be upset to read this. Ask yourself the same question: are you biased towards males when it comes to your leadership in ministry? Are you biased towards females? How does this play itself out?

What can I do as a male to further women inclusion and remove gender biases and stereotypes? This is a much harder question to answer. I do believe it starts with first asking yourself the above question. If we study our church and ministry intently for a few minutes, I think we start to see the subtle ways that we are bias. I am reminded in the Rite of Baptism how we are all baptized to be priest, prophet and king. In our Catholic culture, all these words are male:

  • Priest: Yes, there are female priests in other denominations, but when a Catholic thinks of priest, we think male.
  • Prophet: There are female prophets in the Old Testament, but most are male.
  • King: Clearly male.

What other ways is our church biased towards males? Once we can name some of these things, we can begin to make changes in our organization and ourselves.

I honestly don’t have a lot of answers in this blog post, mostly deep questions. Maybe you can help me answer some of these questions. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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