Women now pastoral directors in ten German dioceses

Daniela Engelhard was the first woman to take responsibility for all pastoral work in the Diocese of Osnabrück

Women now pastoral directors in ten German dioceses

By Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner/ la-croix.com/

The German Bishops Conference has welcomed the fact that its target of 40 per cent of women in posts as directors of pastoral work has been achieved. Anne-Bénédicte Hoffner

Fifteen years ago, Daniela Engelhard became the first woman to take overall responsibility for pastoral work in the Diocese of Osnabrück in north-west Germany. Today there are ten women holding similar positions in different German dioceses.

The German Bishops Conference (DBK) welcomed the fact that its target of 40 per cent of women in posts as directors of pastoral work has been achieved, it said in a statement published on July 31.

At the moment the 27 German dioceses now have a woman as the head of their pastoral work departments. The women are responsible for “multiple fields of pastoral work".

These include restructuring pastoral zones, accompanying couples and families but also emergency aid, migrant pastoral care as well as interreligious dialogue.

Degrees and professional experience

The DBK now has a page on its website presenting each director with a photo, contact details as well as professional experience and pastoral “priorities”.

Daniela Engelhard told La Croix that she strives to develop within the Church “new forms of more participative and community-based work” as well as “new ways of speaking about faith”. She believes in “turning our attention less towards the limitations than the opportunities".

Xavierian Sister Gudrun Steiss, who studied pastoral catechetics and interreligious dialogue at the Catholic Institute of Paris, is now director of pastoral work in Hamburg.

Her work priorities include studying “how administrative functions could better serve pastoral needs", improve “the culture of communication and decision making in the Diocese of Hamburg and in the German Church".

She also aims to turn “the relative wealth of the [German Church] into an opportunity".

Members of Bishops committees

All these women are also “members of the executive bodies of their dioceses and the bishops’ councils", the DBK said in its statement.

And “many of them also bring their theological and pastoral competence to one of the fourteen committees of the German Bishops Conference".

The president of the DBK pastoral commission and the sub-commission on women, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, welcomed these developments, which have been “successful in increasing the number of women holding posts of directors".

“To enable a lasting cultural change, about a third of women were necessary,” he said. “I am pleased that at a national level we have achieved a figure of 40 per cent.

“This is good for the Church,” he added. “The face of the Church is changing. I hope that this will encourage young women to take up leadership posts in the Church.”

Commitments by the bishops

At its meeting in Trier on February 21, 2013, the DBK had made several commitments to various changes set out in a document on “The interaction between women and men in service of the life of the Church". The document was adopted and aimed to increased the proportion of women holding management positions.

In mid-May, however, the Diocese of Münster once again appointed a man as pastoral director.

“Despite a national search, the desire to find a woman was not successful,” the vicar-general of the diocese said in an interview with the website Eglise + Vie.

“Women still hesitate to take up leadership positions,” he lamented.

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 07:50
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