Love, Hope, and “Adelante!”: An Open Letter to the Church on the Diaconate for Women

Dear Pope Francis and Vatican Officials,

Our hearts are just burning within us. So many of us women feel called to this something that doesn’t exist. Why is the spirit moving us? We don’t know. It just is. And we allow it. We love the church. We love you. And to allow the movement of the Holy Spirit is to allow God. The Holy Spirit nurtures our call. She believes us. She believes in us. Do you? 

The synodal process gave me such hope. Hope for myself, hope for my daughters, and hope for my husband, who has left the church because the church will not ordain women. As a man, he is not comfortable going to a church that does not recognize women as ordainable. He does not want to raise our daughters in a church where he experiences the female voice as controlled, dampened, smothered. He says when he is inside church, he feels complicit to misogyny and that a little bit of him who believes in the full beauty of humanity is dying. I work to respect this, honor the sacrament of our marriage as I work to remain Catholic for a church I love.

Why? I have felt deeply and sincerely called to something that does not exist. I was so glad to see women and the diaconate as a part of what you wanted us all to synodally discern this coming year leading up to the 2024 synod.

Your recent CBS interview where you deny the diaconate for women as possible felt like a punch to the gut and a knife in the backs of all women, all mothers, all sisters, all daughters. Now, so many who believed in you feel such lament, despair. To ask us to discern and then to deny the diaconate for women as even possible before the discernment is complete: it just simply felt cruel. We who are called carried such great hope that our church would be able to see our charisms, recognize our gifts, hear our call. We women had hope in you. We feel betrayed. More than this; it feels like you betrayed the synodal process. You told us, “Adelante!” We believed you. And we have been working and praying so hard. It feels like you no longer see us. Why did you ask us to discern restoring women to the diaconate synodally if you were not willing to allow the Holy Spirit time to move? We feel caged by your denial before the synodal process has even had a chance to come to fruition.

I sincerely ask you to pause, open your heart, and allow the Spirit to move. She is moving. When we create synodal space, so many of us are hearing whispers, nudges, and shoves that the Spirit wants women to be ordained as deacons like they used to be. And if not deacons, then what? Our church has ordained Fathers, and feels not fully divine, not fully human, without some form of ordained Mothers. We are here. We are called. Create the space where it is acknowledged that we are worthy, that we too through our baptismal dignity can participate fully, co-responsibly in our church—a place where we are allowed to have voice in a church we LOVE. We pray you allow our hope, allow space for us, believe in us. 

Pope Francis, we pray that your heart will not be that of stone but that of flesh. Allow the synodal process you started to live. Allow the process you started to open your heart.

In love and hope, and prayers for renewed encouragement of “Adelante!,”

Dr. Sarah Probst Miller

Dr. Sarah Probst Miller is a mom, veterinarian, creative director of her own ag education company, and writer. On-farm, she works to educate a culture of care for both humans and animals. In her writing, she seeks to birth sacred ground, onto which we can plant seeds. She is the co-chair of the Women in the Church Working Group of the Association of US Catholic Priests (AUSCP).

Image: Detail from Emmanuel Tzanes, Samaritan Woman at the Well, 1689.

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4 replies
  1. Sarita Melkon Maldjian
    Sarita Melkon Maldjian says:

    You wrote the truth sincerely, Dr. Miller, in your response to the hardened heart of the Pope. The recent CBS interview aired on May 20th left me sad and speechless so thank you for writing what so many of us have felt this past week. The Pope specifically stated that all ideology is bad in reference to the unfortunate vicious wars taking place right now in the world. Isn’t the refusal to ordain women an ideology in and of itself?

    • Sarah Probst Miller
      Sarah Probst Miller says:

      Yes, I think so. And akin to vicious wars, the refusal feels like a form of hostility. I heard one woman in lament speak of feeling like a “jilted lover.” She said, “I love Pope Francis so much, but this ‘no’ just hurts so bad.”
      Prayers to you Sarita. You are not alone.

    • Sarita Melkon Maldjian
      Sarita Melkon Maldjian says:

      Thank you for this confirmation of support, Sarah,

      The analogy of feeling like a “jilted lover” from that poor lamenting woman is sadly quite accurate for many. The question now is where do we go from here? What is there for us to do and say at the Synod this October? I have nothing left to say and everything has been said and written for almost fifty years since the first WOC conference in Detroit, Thanksgiving of 1975.

      Many blessings to you, too, Sarah and God bless,


  2. Michael Hickin
    Michael Hickin says:

    Sarah, thank you for opening your heart to Francis. It is moving. I hear your call. I’m praying he will too. Your passion and pain has empowered me to work on my own letter to Francis. The status quo cannot withstand the Holy Spirit. Standing with you, storming the Vatican with love and witness. Michael


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