Among the women profiled in A Woman's Voice is Sr. Helen Prejean, a prominent death penalty activist. Photo courtesy of Salt and Light Media

Documentary celebrates women’s voice in the Church

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  • April 30, 2018

The role of a woman in the Church does not have to be second best. 

Gillian Kantor, whose latest project is called A Women’s Voice, said that when many people talk about the role of women in the Catholic Church, an inevitable question arises about whether women should be allowed to become priests. But this is not the only way a woman can be instruments of progress and change, she says.

“When I sat down to write for this documentary, I was writing with (these people) in mind,” said Kantor, who wrote the script. “To be able to demonstrate to people that there is work in the Church for women and it’s not second best, it’s not leftovers and it’s not anything that women are settling for, but that they are celebrating.”

A Woman’s Voice is Salt + Light Media’s latest documentary examining the spectrum of work that Catholic women are doing around the world. It aims to show people the “feminine genius” at work in the Church.

The film features prominent figures such as Carolyn Woo, former CEO of Catholic Relief Services; Vera Baboun, first female mayor of Bethlehem; death row activist Sr. Helen Prejean and many others.

“These women are pro-active caregivers, healers, reconcilers, communicators, political leaders, activists, problem-solvers and teachers,” S+L CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica wrote, introducing the film in an Easter letter. “Without their conviction, witness and fidelity to the Risen Lord, the Church and the world would be deprived of the dynamism and effects of the Resurrection.” 

The film opens with an introduction to the 10 women. Each share their own unique ministry, whether it be as a stay-at-home mom or as CEO of an organization. Each share the challenges they face as an advocate for pro-life or as the solitary female voice in a room full of male decision-makers. “One of the messages we’re trying to emphasize is that there is a place, there is ministry, there is work, there are roles for each of these unique women in the Church, so that when a woman watches it, she can recognize herself in them,” said Kantor. 

Kantor added that one of her more memorable interviews was with Lisa Raven, executive director of Returning to Spirit, an Indigenous program that helps reconcile First Nations people and the Church in the wake of divisions caused by the residential school system. In the documentary, Raven shared how the program’s workshops have helped in her healing as a residential school survivor. Now, she is grateful for the ability to give this same opportunity to others. 

“Her gratitude for the chance to do what it is that she does and she says that it’s simple but it’s necessary and that’s sometimes the most profound way of making a difference,” said Kantor. “For women searching for their role and their value within the Church, I think we can be encouraged.”

The documentary has been a labour of love for the S+L team since 2014. The idea was first proposed by former S+L producer Cheridan Sanders. The task was to collect stories from around the world where women are at the forefront of the Church. When Sanders left S+L, producer Gita Hosek wanted to make sure that this story was told.

“For me, it was wonderful to see how these women were able to share with the whole world their story, their femininity and their love for the Church,” said Hosek. 

The film, produced with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, is available on DVD with a study guide sponsored by Catholic Curriculum Corporation. For more information, visit saltandlighttv.org/awomansvoice.

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