Women are to preach at services in Germany in what they are hailing as an “important step for the necessary renewal of the Church”.

– 12 women apostles in honour of the apostle Junia

This Sunday May 17 marks the day of commemoration in the Church of St. Junia, a woman well-known in the early Church whom St. Paul hails in his Letter to the Romans (16:7) as “prominent among the apostles” and “in Christ before I was”.

Beginning in the late second century and early third century with Origen, the Church sought for centuries to downplay Junia’s feminine identity, recasting her name even in the masculine form Junias.

But scholarly consensus has now restored Junia her womanhood, and in a further celebration of her example, the Catholic Women’s Association of Germany (kfd) is organising for her memorial this year a day in which 12 women around the country will preach sermons in 12 different churches.

“Originally, we all wanted to preach in a Eucharistic celebration”, explained Ulrike Göken-Huismann, a member of the kfd Executive Board and one of the preachers this weekend.

“The corona crisis forces us to prove once again that we women are flexible and trained to make the best of a situation”, the kfd spiritual adviser continued.

In a reference to the fact that some women will preach Sunday in Masses and celebrations of the Word of God in those churches that will have in-person services, while some will send video or audio recordings, Göken-Huismann celebrated that “the diversity of our chosen formats reflects not least of all the diversity in our large association”.

“I also see our campaign as a contribution by the kfd to the synodal path of the Church in Germany”, the kfd member added, referring to the Church’s grassroots process of consultation and reform in the country.

“The withdrawal of the ban on preaching for lay people in the Eucharistic celebration would be a small but important step in terms of the necessary renewal of the Church”, Göken-Huismann added.

– New protest outside the Bonn seminary: “It is very hurtful how women are still devalued by the Church”

Despite the coronavirus crisis and associated lockdown measures, demands for women’s equality in the German Church have by no means died down.

Along with the consistent demands of reform group ‘Maria 2.0’ – which has been organising online initiatives throughout the entirety of the traditional Marian month of May – a new push for gender justice popped up May 1 in Bonn, when young Catholic women erected maypoles outside the seminary and tied hearts to the fence with messages demanding the ordination of women and an end to compulsory priestly celibacy.

“It is very hurtful how women are still devalued by the Church today, for example by the exclusion from all ordained ministries”, one of those activists – who preferred to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals – told katholisch.de.

“We also criticise the Church’s treatment of homosexual and non-binary persons”, the young Catholic woman added, denouncing that “the Church’s positions in these areas are not compatible with our values and our image of the human”.

In response to the demonstrators’ action, Bonn seminarians invited them to a barbecue once the coronavirus crisis dies down, but the young woman who spoke to katholisch.de insisted that “it’s not about barbecuing, it’s about changing the Church”.

The seminary “is a house of exclusion, because we are not allowed to enter just because we are women. At the same time, future Church decision-makers are trained there”, the activist denounced.

More stories on Novena on the fight for gender equality in the Church:

German Amazon Bishop insists debate on married priests, female deacons not over

Swiss lesbian Catholic theologian: “I love my Church too much to leave it in the hands of those who would rather see me gone”

Demands for women’s equality grow louder in German Church… Next stop, Rome

German laity cry: “The opening of the sacramental diaconate to women is overdue”


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.