A nun who has been appointed by a German bishop to take charge of his office has said that “the Church as a whole would benefit if there were more women in leadership positions” in the institution.
– “I hope to convince through my work, my commitment and my personality”
At his installation Mass early June, the new Bishop of Augsburg, Bertram Meier, named 43-year-old Sister Anna Schenck as his new office head.
Schenck, a member of the Congregation of Jesus, was due to make her perpetual profession as a nun this Saturday July 4 before moving back to her native Augsburg to take up her new role with Meier.
Before all that took place, however, Schenck spoke with katholisch.de about whether she felt specific pressure as a women taking on such an important position in the Augsburg bishopric, which will see her, among other things, running the bishop’s office and liaising directly between the bishop and other diocesan offices, groups and associations.
“Due to the current discussions within the Church, it naturally carries weight that I, as a woman, take on this position”, Schenck admitted.
She acknowledged the “many questions and discussions about the role of women in the Church” particularly in Germany, where the ‘synodal path’ reform process has devoted an entire forum to discussing the question of possible future women’s ministries.
But the young religious appeared to be taking it all in her stride, stating simply that in terms of her own capability and of women’s capabilities in general “I hope that I will convince through my work, my commitment and my personality”.
– “It is always necessary to sound out where women can be active in the Church, where they are needed with their specific abilities and charisms”
Asked if she identified herself as an “advocate for women”, Schenck answered with a resounding “definitely”.
“In Mary Ward, we of the Congregation of Jesus have a founder [of our Order] who already in the 17th century thought very far ahead on the subject of the role of women and the participation of women in shaping the Church”, Schenck recalled.
The young nun added “I feel very committed to this”.
“It is always necessary to sound out where women can be active in the Church, where they are needed with their specific abilities and charisms”, she continued.
“As far as it is possible for me, I will of course also promote women. After all, it is also a concern of Bishop Bertram to elevate women to positions of responsibility.
“I think it would do the Church as a whole good if there were more women in leadership positions”, Schenck concluded.
Though he was named Bishop of Augsburg in January, Meier, 59, has really only just taken the reins in the diocese, after the coronavirus crisis postponed his planned March 21 consecration.
However, the new bishop is already making waves in the German Church, declaring, for example, that “there’s too much ‘me'” in Catholicism and lamenting the focus on the Mass, or the lack of it, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, when he reminded the Church that “not every occasion needs the Eucharist” and that other forms of worship can also do depending on time, place and purpose.
As apostolic administrator of Augsburg, before becoming bishop, Meier also appointed a laywoman as the new director of the diocesan pastoral care office along with a male deputy, in a sign, he said, of male-female co-responsibility in “a fraternal Church in which we serve Jesus, the good shepherd, together”.
In sermons in the last two weeks, too, Meier has encouraged Catholics to accompany priests not only with honesty, closeness and benevolence but also with constructive criticism if need be, and also called on the faithful to appreciate women more, saying of men and women in the Church: “We need each other! We need God-given talents and charisms that, as we all know, are not linked to being a man”.