Women’s Place in Taiwan Catholic Council of the Lay Apostolate: A Case Study from Hsinchu City
Shih-Tse Chang(Northern Taiwan Institute of Science and Technology General Education Center)
The Second Vatican Council has established that laities should be greatly encouraged to join the daily life and public affairs of churches. The documents, issued shortly after by the Holy See and Bishops’ Conference, have also been continuously advocating the laities’ rights and responsibilities. Consequently, growing numbers of courageous and intelligent female laities have become leaders of catholic churches all over the world, including the Catholic Church in Taiwan. The majority of female laities, who currently hold senior posts in their churches, have rich and long experiences in church administration. Although most Catholics would not be surprised to learn that women have been playing crucial roles in parish work, they are not as much aware of the increasing numbers of female laities who serve as key administrators responsible for various church activities, in social service agencies, and alms deed-practicing organizations.
This study examines the position of lay women in Taiwan Catholic Council of the Lay Apostolate, while paying a close attention to the qualitative analysis of Hsinchu Catholic Council of the Laity. By conducting focal interviews and institutional analysis, we hope to better comprehend the lay women’s experiences, their institutional status, and interaction between their personal religious perceptions and the public norms of the church. Therefore, frequent visits were paid to the pastor of the parish, and a number of interviews were conducted with those female laities who were the most involved in the church activities. These interviews, among others, bring us to the discussion of workgroups on catechism, liturgy, pastoral work, and the image of Mother Mary, while also attempting to demonstrate the phenomena of the church decline, the hemorrhage of the priests, and the lack of parishioners’ commitment. Nevertheless, a great number of Taiwanese female parishioners continues to respect and retain their Catholic identity, and, moreover, uses it as a foundation for assuming multiple roles in the church. Consequently, female parishioners can become more aggressive in attending the church activities; and it is this devotion that molds their desire to revitalize Catholicism.
By examining these issues, this study also aims to understand the dialectic development and tension in the relationship between the male church hierarchy and female lay leaders, and investigate possible influences of this relationship on the church. Finally, in the light of the latest historical changes, including the encouragement of an individual’s escape from the constraints of social institutions, this study attempts to explore the ways in which Catholicism negotiates its roles in the newly developing economic, political, and social spheres.
Catholic Lay Woman, Council of the Lay Apostolate, Roman Catholic Church, The Second Vatican Council