Women's Ordination Worldwide

WOW Member Organisations - a selection of self-introductions for the WOW2001 Conference

This list is not exhaustive.


IMWAC was created in November 1996 during a meeting of leaders of twelve national organizations that had launched or were preparing to launch the "Kirchenvolks-Begehren" in their countries. This initiative originated in Austria and consisted in collecting signatures approving a call for urgent structural reform of the Roman Catholic Church and, in particular, the implementation of equal rights for women in the Church. Women should be admitted without any restrictions to all Church ministries.

A wide public opinion campaign started, centred on the "purple stole actions" . Women (and men) attend ordination ceremonies wearing purple stoles to exhort the institutional Church to overcome the discrimination that is practiced against half of its membership. Special "purple stole liturgies" are celebrated across the world on different occasions as in the World Day of Prayer for the Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church (March 25th, Feast of the Annunciation): the day of Women Deacons (April 29th, Feast day of St. Catherine of Siena): or Feast day of the Apostle to the Apostles (July 22nd, Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene). During the Special Assembly for Europe of the Bishops' Synod in Rome, (October 1999), an international group of women and men celebrated such a "purple stole action" in front of St. Ignazio, with great media success.

In Germany, the first official preparation course for women deacons has begun in 1999 with fourteen women. Members of IMWAC are among those who undergo this preparation. In Austria, an autonomous mutual training programme for presbyteral ordination of women has started.

In France, Cardinal Lustiger has - unwillingly - become an instrument of the Holy Spirit in support of IMWAC and "purple stole actions": for Lent 2001 he has asked those adults and young persons who were to be baptized at Easter, and also all others who would wish to do so too, to wear a purple stole with the inscription "Be confident; He is calling you" ! Elfriede Harth, spokesperson IMWAC


OCW was founded in 1993 by Marie Louise Uhr and Zoe Hancock to raise public awareness of and work for the inclusion of women into a renewed priestly ministry. OCW has approximately one hundred and sixty members and operates on both a national and regional level. The regional groups work independently as well as under the umbrella of the national group. Our newsletter, OCW News, is produced three times a year and is circulated among members and forwarded to the Australian Bishops, various clergy, religious congregations and libraries.

To commemorate the Pope's proclaimed Day of Vocations, - May 6 - OCW prepared a booklet of stories of six members called to ordained priesthood. Copies of this booklet were forwarded to the Pope and to the Australian Archbishops asking that the stories be read in a spirit of pastoral care and that the ban on discussion, dialogue and study of women's ordination be revoked. Judi Vassarotti, OCW.


We Are Church (Portugal) was launched in January 1997 when the five-point petition was made public. It was also sent to all bishops, monasteries and convents and to hundreds of parishes by post. The media coverage was overwhelming; it was included in every single main news hour of the major television channels. As the months progressed many manifested their interest in the movement but signatures did not flow in in large numbers, possibly because the idea of signing a petition to the Pope was so unexpected. About a thousand were gathered and five of us (including a parish priest) went to Rome to join the pilgrimage to present the petition. We tried to set up a network of focal points in various parts of the country and in that year produced three newsletters.

Over these years many events have been organized - meetings, lectures, articles in the mainstream press. Purposely we have never become an 'organization' with statutes, formal leadership, etc. We have organized lectures by Jacques Gaillot, Leonardo Boff, Thomas Plankensteiner and Lavinia Byrne; all of them have pulled large audiences and much debate. The media are particularly friendly to us - a lot of the journalists who cover religious issues in the mainstream press also signed the petition! In 2000 and 2001 we organized a vigil in a church (with permission from the Cardinal!) in order to pray for the ordination of women. Although media interest was again overwhelming, numbers actually present were disappointing.

A public opinion survey carried out by a reputable institution found that 71% of Portuguese saying they were catholic were in favour of women's ordination! Ana Vicente, We Are Church, Portugal.


WOC was established in 1975. Currently, we have over 2,000 members across the United States of America, and approximately 50 international supporters. WOC members are committed to creating reform within the Roman Catholic church, while working at a grassroots level to support the ordination of women to a renewed priestly ministry.

Following the example set forth by Jesus, who included women in his earthly ministry, WOC seeks to reclaim Christianity's early tradition of a discipleship of equals. WOC's mission is to support and affirm women's talents, gifts and calls to ministry.

WOC works to create a church environment that is inclusive of all people, free of all forms of domination and discrimination and includes the full participation of women in church leadership roles. We produce a quarterly newsletter, 'NEW WOMEN/NEW CHURCH', and undertake prayerful protests around the country. WOC also sponsors the Young Feminist Network (YFN) which supports young adults seeking to integrate their faith and feminism in today's church and world. Erin Hanley, WOC communications Director.


We Are Church (Austria) was founded in 1995 in a spontaneous action to organize a referendum of the People of God to demand five things from Catholic Church authorities:
  1. removal of the strict dividing line between 'clerics' and 'laypeople';
  2. ordination of women;
  3. optional celibacy for diocesan priests;
  4. priority of conscientious decisions in matters of human sexuality;
  5. humanization of church life.

The referendum was very successful and We Are Church Austria ever since has upheld these goals until they will be part of canon law and general church practice. WACA has some 2,000 members (individuals and organizations), conducts regular meetings, prayer and discussion groups, annual purple stole demonstrations on ordination day, also issues a bimonthly paper 'Wir sind Kirche' and regular press communiques on church events on local and world levels. Hubert Feichtlbauer, WACA spokespserson.


WOSA was launched on August 9, 1996 in Umlazi & Durban, South Africa by Dina Cormick and Velisiwe Mkhwanazi. It has a steering committee of seven: Marylyn Cason, Dina Cormick (newsletter), Rosemary Gravenor (treasurer), Thoko Makhanya, Velisiwe Mkhwanazi, Betsy Oehrle and Cherryl Stone. WOSA Newsletters are distributed free twice a year to 450 supporters - including several of our unsupportive hierarchy! Our annual get-to-gether (AGM) is usually held around March 25 or the Mass of Chrism. This year we had excellent press coverage for our stand outside Durban Emmanuel Cathedral before the Mass of Chrism. The publicity has also led to another round of vindictive personal attacks on several members of the steering committee - but we remain determined not to be intimidated.

Initially WOSA began an overt campaign for ordination with public debates and placard signs outside churches. We discovered that Catholics here are too nervous and conservative to openly and publicly support us, so we started a covert campaign with the newsletter! This has proven to be a far more effective campaign tool and our readership is growing. Dina Cormick, WOSA-WAC.

MARIA von MAGDALA, Germany
- Initiative for Equality of Women in the Church, Inc.

The German organisation is a Christian Women's Group for the purpose of improving the structural situation of women in the (catholic) church and of striving for a renewed church in which women and men are equal in all matters. (par.1 of the statutes)

First contacts were made at a church meeting in Aachen in 1986, and already by March 1987 the group Maria von Magdala was founded in Munster (Westfalia). There we articulated our identity and our aims.

Since September 1993, we are an officially registered organization.

We meet twice a year at different places for a weekend. We hold services, work on a topic and plan our next activities. In the meantime, several regional groups have been formed in Germany and there are also contacts with interested groups and individuals abroad.

Our aims are:

All women who are willing to work toward the goals of the organisation are welcome as members of the organisation.

For further information: Susanne Mandelkow, Dorffelder Strasse 110, 59227 Ahlen, Germany.

Netzwerk Diakonat der Frau - Women Diaconate Network:

After the theological convention in Stuttgart in 1997, the nationwide 'Netzwerk Diakonat der Frau' was brought into being. Since 1999, this grouping has made women's preparation for diaconate possible through a 'Diakonatskreis' (diaconate circle), in a three year training programme. Fourteen women are now preparing themselves in a training programme similar to that of the men, who have already had a training process for ordination to a permanent diaconate since before Vatican II.

The training process contains three elements: working in the practical side of diaconate ministry, spiritual assistance and spiritual exercises, as well as six weekend seminars per year. The training is financed by donations and from the womens' private means.

With theological doubts about the women's diaconate being removed, the church will today have to 'repeal the exclusion of women from diaconate for the sake of the credibility of her saving mission'. This will 'set a necessary example for a redeemed co-operation of women and men in its structure and offices'.

For one and a half years I have been part of the first 'Diakonatskreis' for women (1999 - 2002). I am well aware of the fact that there will be no ordination at the end of the training. Going my way, I am confident that I am one of many who prepare the way for the strengthening of a diaconate-based church.

For further information: Angelika Fromm, Fritz-Kohl-Strasse 7, 55122 Mainz, Germany


Netzwerk Diakonat der Frau, c/o Katholischer Deutscher Frauenbund, Mauritz-Lindenweg 65, 48145 Munster, Germany.

Aktion Lila Stola - Purple Stole Movement:

The 'Purple Stole Movement' was brought into being in Mainz, Germany in 1996, in response to the second demand of the 'We are Church' movement for 'full equality of women in the church', taking English women as an example.

During the ordination ceremonies for diaconate and priesthood, women as well as men wear the purple stole as a symbol of hope for a changed church without the hierarchy of offices and where women, too, can work according to their calling.

The colour purple has long been the colour of the women's movement, but it is also an ecclesiastical symbol of changing one's ways, of repentance and of new beginning.

In Germany, this symbol has meanwhile become widely known and even some clerics are prepared to support it!

For further information: Angelika Fromm, Fritz-Kohl-Strasse 7, 55122 Mainz, Germany.


An Australian women's ordination body, it was founded on March 25th 1993 under the patronage of Our Lady and Blessed Mary MacKillop, to promote the 'Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church. In this year (1993), our first action was to initiate a petition on an inclusive priesthood. This petition was presented to Pope John Paul II on his visit to Australia in 1995 for the beatification of Mary MacKillop. On March 25, 1994 we commenced, in conjunction with international and local groups the 'World Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination'. Aside from initiating public prayer vigils, an essay competition for students and a student resource kit in 1996, our women's ordination publication 'Bread and Wine' was awarded a grant by the Victorian Women's Trust. In 1997 we participated in and distributed material at the Australian Catholic Bishops Inquiry on the 'Participation of Women in the Church'. Our membership consists of women and men, lay and clerical. Alistair Gillard.

BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ), Ireland.

Who are we?
BASIC is an Irish-based network of women and men - lay, religious, priests who feel called to play an active part in building up a Church Community which is freed from the sin of sexism and healed from the divisions between men and women.
What do we believe?
BASIC believes in a Church which affirms, proclaims, lives out and makes visible sacramentally God's creation of women and men as equal partners and the Good News of their reconciliation and unity in Christ.
What is our Mission?
BASIC's mission is to foster women's vocations to a renewed priestly ministry and to bring about the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic church, through prayer and action.

BASIC was founded in 1993. Its first initiative was to launch a petition calling for 'all ministries and offices in the church to be equally open to both men and women, and for all sexist structures and regulations to be abolished'. 22,000 signatures were collected and were sent to all the Irish Bishops.

In 1995 BASIC held a seminar 'Women - Sharing fully in the Ministry of Christ' at which the main speakers were Mary McAleese, now President of Ireland, and Reverend Enda McDonagh, the now retired professor of Moral Theology at Maynooth. Three hundred people attended. The proceedings have been published, under the same title, by Blackwater Press.

BASIC then produced a short pamphlet 'Women - called to be priests - 7 Questions for reflection, discussion and discernment', launched by Dr. Gabriel Daly, OSA. 50,000 copies were distributed, largely outside churches around the country.

Then in 1998 BASIC commissioned an oil painting by renowned Polish artist Bohdan Piasecki: 'THE LAST SUPPER'. It features Jesus celebrating his last Passover meal in the company of men women and children. It was reproduced on the cover of the National Catholic Reporter for Holy Week 1999 accompanied by an article from Sr. Joan Chittister OSB. BASIC has since sold thousands of prints and postcards of the 'LAST SUPPER' to all parts of the world.

As a member of WOW, BASIC was chosen to host the First International Conference to be held in Dublin in June 2001. The group has almost 180 members, with a few abroad. Members keep in touch through the newsletter published three times a year.

BASIC has celebrated the World Day of Prayer for the Ordination of Women (March 25, Feast of the Annunciation) since inception in 1994. It is also affiliated to the European Network of Church Reform Groups.

Contact: Address: 456 Merville Garden Village, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland, BT37 9TX.


CNWE was founded in Canada in 1981 as Canadian Catholics for Women's Ordination. In 1989 it changed its name to reflect an awareness of the interconnectedness between issues in church and society. Its mission is...

CNWE aims to:

CNWE is a national movement that operates using a federated model of local groups as well as individual members where no local group exists. A National Work Group is chosen at the Annual General Meeting to facilitate and support the work of the organisation. The NWG chooses from within the group a co-ordinator, secretary and treasurer. Local groups arrange regular programs and inclusive ritual and organise actions such as 'Purple Stole' and 'Women in Black' vigils. Each year a differenct local group is responsible for planning the annual conference.

Contact: Web-site:
e - mail:
Co-ordinator Veronica Dunne.

PHOEBE - Japan:

Encouraged and inspired by WOW to which meeting one member was invited in London in October 1998, the group was formed in March 2000 in Tokyo. About a dozen women joined; lay and religious with diversity in age, work and nationality. A feminist theologian, teachers of women's study, social scientists, peace study activists, journalists etc. We meet every month to study about the women in the early Church, to share the information we get as to the women's participation in the Church and to exchange our opinions.

Contact: Naoko Iyori, e - mail:


CATHOLIC WOMEN: KNOWING OUR PLACE in New Zealand sent warmest greetings to the delegates at the WOW International Conference. You are all prophets and we would have loved to have sent a New Zealand representative to be with you but this has not been possible. Despite the geographical distance we are spiritually close to you in prayer.

Slowly but surely there have been small changes in attitude to women's ordination and your conference is important in affirming Catholic Women around the world. We look forward in hope and prayer to the day when the institutional church places women and men side by side and employs the fullness of human gifts and abilities in all facets of church leadership, management, operation and ministry.

You may like to know a little about us. We began, as did many grassroots Catholic organizations, when twelve women met in June 1994 to discuss the Pope's letter on ordination of men alone. The group organised a public meeting in August 1994 at which there was standing room only. Two hundred and fifty people attended and made suggestions with respect to future action. As a consequence, a Pilgrimage of Hope was held on 18 September 1994 when a few hundred people met at the Christchurch Cathedral and walked away to pray elsewhere, symbolising the exclusion of women by the institutional church. The Pilgrimage was accompanied and filmed by two television crews, giving national attention and causing ongoing debate.

We look forward to the day when it will be possible for us to walk back again.

Meanwhile, we exchange newsletters with you, our international friends, and hold several main event a year with liturgies which include and embrace all those present in the love of God our Mother and Father.

We pray that your voices and your prophecies will be heard afar. Blessings and peace to you all. Sheryn Gillard Glass <> on behalf of Catholic Women: Knowing Our Place.

Last updated 17-Oct-2001