This weekend, between swine flu, the revelations about torture memos by former officials, and the football draft, lurked two more stories about women stepping in and stepping up. In Iceland, voters overwhelming selected as prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, who’d first taken the job in February, replacing David Oddsson, who’d shepherded the nation into a free-market bankruptcy:

Sigurdarsdottir, who has been dubbed St Johanna as a result of her austere public image, said her election as the country’s first female prime minister marked another “long-term change” for Iceland. “It is a great thing for a woman to be elected prime minister for the next four years,” she said. Her election, after she presided over a caretaker cabinet which included as many women as men, follows the appointment of female chief executives at two failed banks, in a rejection of the macho business school elite, or “Viking raiders”, that many blame for their country’s financial trauma.

Siguarsdottir is also the first openly gay prime minister, though voters are likely more concerned about economics than labels.

Meanwhile, in Roxborough, Pennsylvania, two women were ordained as Catholic clergy, despite the best efforts of the old men at the Vatican to discredit them.  They are far from the first, the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out, though not always with such fearless publicity.

Many are done covertly and announced only afterward. Other ceremonies are public, as today’s will be. The service is scheduled for 3 p.m. at a Christian chapel inside Congregation Mishkan Shalom, a Reconstructionist Jewish synagogue on Freeland Avenue.

However, the archdiocese warns, lay Catholics who attend and take Communion could imperil their standing in the church.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean automatic excommunication,” as it does for the ordainers and ordinands, said Msgr. Michael Magee, chairman of systematic theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. “But it is a serious mistake against the communion of the church, and could carry penalties later.”

Such stances have galvanized the hardest feminist core.

“St. Augustine wrote that if a law is unjust, you must change it,” said Mary Schoettly. “And if you can’t change it, break it.”

The 66-year-old Schoettly – a retired biology teacher, a divorced mother of grown children, a lector and eucharistic minister in her mainstream parish in Sussex County, N.J. – is to be ordained a priest today.

Schoettly appears hardly underqualified for her new position, with three  masters degrees —in Science, Administration and Supervision, and Theology — and years of teaching in   religious education programs (CCD, Confirmation, RCIA, Renew 2000), Stephen Ministry and retreat work.  She has been a deacon for two years, though the longtime work of the maverick Catholic network that arranged this weekend’s rites. The organization, which WVFC has highlighted before, adds that “Mary Ann currently volunteers as a Spiritual Caregiver with the Chaplain’s Office at Newton Memorial Hospital, leads a Spirituality Group for Mental Health patients, facilitates Call to Community, a faith community which has been gathering for over thirteen years, and is in the process of forming a new intentional Eucharistic Community, the Catholic Community of Sophia.”

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  • Women’s Leadership News, from Iceland to the Catholic Church | iceland today June 2, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    […] Continued here: Women’s Leadership News, from Iceland to the Catholic Church […]

  • Sr. Colleen Clair, FMA May 15, 2009 at 10:46 am

    Some of the greatest female saints of all times would have wanted to be priests. It is a beautiful service, and very powerful to think they hold God in their hands! But these faithful Catholic women stayed with the Church and were faithful to Jesus’ example, our Holy Tradition, and papal teaching. What a shame that some people underestimate a woman’s role in the Church! Demanding that women who serve must be priests undervalues the contribution of any and all women (or for that matter unordained men) to the Church. One great example that comes to mind is Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who, without ordination or even feeling the need for ordination, made a sound and lasting impact on the Church. Do you suppose that Mother Theresa felt less valued than a priest? I certainly don’t!