What Does It Mean to Be a Leader as a Catholic Woman?
“The world doesn’t need what women have. It needs what women are.” Saint Edith Stein
It was difficult for me to find my place in the Church. I was blessed to be raised Catholic but experienced a deeper awakening to the faith in college. Throughout my four years in undergrad, I struggled to know my identity. Not only was I trying to figure out my direction in life, but I was also struggling to know what it looked like for me to be young Catholic woman.
Was I the Catholic who would be super involved in ministry? Was I called to be a missionary? A religious? Called to get married young and homeschool her kids or get a Ph.D. in Theology? I felt like I was trying on different “roles” in the Church and nothing fit. For a long time, I floundered and felt like I couldn’t figure out who the Lord was calling me to be and how that woman belonged in the Church.
I had a handful of incredible friends and mentors who helped guide me during this time of discernment; however, I believe one of the reasons why it took me a little extra time was because I didn’t have a role model who was a leader in the business sphere.
This is one of the main reasons we started Catholic Women in Business: we want to connect Catholic women business leaders with those who are discerning a career in business and need guidance. I’m so grateful that I found my place in the Church as a wife, friend, and business owner.
Sisters, the Church needs more women leaders. I think the recent events of the last eight months in our Church in the U.S. makes this very clear. As women, we have unique gifts and abilities that are desperately needed by our Holy Mother Church right now. Leadership looks unique for every individual; you don’t need to be a speaker or CEO or office manager to be a leader in the Church. Catholic women need to extend their hands to the women next to them, behind them, and in front of them and generously offer their expertise and talents.
Being a leader means having the courage to extend that hand.
Here are three things to assist you in becoming more of a leader in your community.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
Each of us are daughters of the King of the Universe. In order to lead, we must act from a place of confidence in our true identity. This is no easy task, I know. Every day is a battle for our identity. The enemy is going to try to make you forget who you are. You’re going to get busy with household chores, your newborn won’t sleep through the night, or your husband might get sick. The Church in Her goodness has given us tools to remember our identity on a daily basis: Mass, adoration, the Divine Office, the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, to name a few.
Authenticity means operating out of this identity. Our words and actions have power. The Lord spoke, and from His words the world was made (in Psalm 33:9, “He spoke and it came it be”). Our words have the same power. Our thoughts and words shape our reality and the reality of those around us. Use them wisely and remember to dwell in Truth.
How can you strengthen your belief in who God created you to be?
2. Servant Leadership
“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
Leadership isn’t about being known. It’s about seeing the needs in your community that no one else notices. As leaders, we are called to be attentive to our community and go the extra mile. Smile and say hello to the stranger in the pew next to you. Bring a meal to the new family in your parish. The truth is, we are only stewards over the careers, material possessions, and gifts in our lives; we don’t own them. Therefore, they are meant to be shared.
Servant leadership requires vulnerability and action. Sometimes, vulnerability is scary. It can be nerve wracking. If you feel a tug on your heart to reach out to a woman or family in your community, rest on the truth that the Lord has equipped you with the skill and ability to follow through.
What actions can you take this Lent to become more of a servant leader in your community?
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
As I wrote a few months ago, it’s crucial as a Catholic leader to dream and believe in the beauty of your dreams. The dreams on your heart were purposefully placed there; they are God’s promises to you. Here’s the thing: being a Catholic is not for the faint of heart. Once we place our heart in the hands of Christ, He will ask much of you. Risk taking is inherent to the Catholic faith. We can’t ignore it or run from all that our faith asks of us.
What dreams are you putting on the back burner right now? They can be as “big” as starting a company or as “small” as setting time apart for yourself to take an online course. Take one small step this Lent to bringing your dream into the light to make it a reality. We’re here for you as a community to support and guide you.
I am praying for you, sisters, that you may take up the call to leadership in your life, whatever that may look like to you. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Pope Saint John Paul II that encapsulates our call to leadership as Catholic women: “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Elise Crawford Gallagher is the founder and CEO of RINGLET, a digital marketing and brand management agency that works with women business owners in the Washington DC area. Elise graduated with a Masters in Communication from Johns Hopkins University. She worked in the Catholic non-profit world before starting RINGLET. Her concentrations were in Public & Media Relations and Digital Communications. Elise currently lives in Maryland with her college-sweetheart-turned-husband who is a high school theology teacher and law student.