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Episode No. 12: Amplify Female Composers   

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, acclaimed organists and church musicians Janet Yieh and Carolyn Craig collaborated in founding AMPLIFY Female Composers – a project dedicated to promoting music written by female composers. As a preview for their spring 2021 offering – a virtual Stations of the Cross featuring organists playing solemn meditations – Janet and Carolyn join host David Ball to introduce our listeners to this important project. They’ll be highlighting some beautiful tracks both from their 2020 Virtual Advent Calendar; and, the upcoming Stations of the Cross. These are featuring performances by church musicians and choirs across the United States, England, and even here in California {from both San Diego native Chelsea Chen and Cathedral Organist David Ball on the mighty Walker organ of Christ Cathedral}.

Find out more about 2021’s Stations of the Cross and many more resources about female composers for music listeners and church musicians at:


The Center for Spiritual Development, supported by Bishop Timothy Freyer, is responding to the needs of women who feel a desire and a call to explore religious life. The center is offering a series of monthly education and reflection days on different aspects of religious life via Zoom. Those interested are invited to join with a group of women who are exploring and discerning where God is calling them. 

The eight-part series began in September and continues monthly through May, with December off. Topics covered include ministry and community life, prayer and the Eucharist, the vows of poverty, celibate chastity and obedience. Each session will begin at 10 a.m. with prayer and will conclude by noon. A booklet on each topic covered will be included for further study and reflection. 

If interested, call Sister Sharon at
714-744-3159 or email [email protected]


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Early in the morning, in the chapel of his residence, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the feast of the Annunciation and paid tribute to women religious, especially those caring for the sick during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joining the pope for the Mass March 25 were a few members of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who work at the papal residence and, more importantly for the pope, run the Santa Marta free pediatric clinic at the Vatican.

The Daughters of Charity around the world renew their vows every year on the feast of the Annunciation, so the pope had the sisters renew theirs during his Mass.

“I want to offer the Mass today for them, for their congregation, which always has worked with the sick, the poorest — as they have done here (at the Vatican clinic) for 98 years — and for all the sisters who are working now to care for the sick, and even risking and giving their lives,” the pope said at the beginning of the liturgy.

Instead of giving a homily, the pope reread the Gospel of Luke’s account of the Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and announcing that she would become the mother of Jesus.

“Luke the evangelist could have known these things only if Mary had told him,” the pope said. “Listening to Luke, we have listened to the Madonna recounting this mystery. We are before a mystery.”

“Perhaps the best thing we can do now is reread the passage, thinking that it is Mary who is telling us about it,” the pope said before reading it again.


Last year, French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking at a Gates Foundation event in New York, suggested that no well-educated woman would have a large family. “Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children,” he said. 

Catherine Pakaluk, a professor at The Catholic University of America with degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, responded by posting a picture of six of her eight children. It ignited a Twitter storm. Other smart women around the world with large families followed suit. 

There is this element of truth in President Macron’s comment: First World countries do have lower fertility rates. In the United States, the rate has been cut in half twice over the past two centuries, from seven or eight children in 1800, to 3.5 in 1900, to 1.7 today. More babies made economic sense when children worked in a family business and supported aging parents. 

Today, people, and women in particular, have more job opportunities. Social Security and Medicare take care of old people. And the pill makes it possible to limit family size to whatever the desired number might be. 

The thing is, our incentives are now badly misaligned. Social Security and Medicare depend on a large number of young workers to support retirees. But because it doesn’t matter whose children provide the support, people are tempted to become free riders — let someone else have the children who will pay for the welfare state. Children are a public good. 

This makes the answer to President Macron’s question even more interesting. Why would educated women go to the trouble of bearing and raising the children who will support other people’s retirement? This is a question that Professor Pakaluk, an economist, has undertaken to explore. She is doing a study that interviews mothers with large families and asks them about their motives. 

She won’t finish her work for another year or so. But her contretemps with President Macron has got me wondering about the issue.   

It is widely known that there is a strong correlation between fertility and faith. Most educated women who have large families are seriously committed to some religious tradition: Judaism or Islam, Catholicism, evangelical Protestantism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That correlation suggests some possible lines of inquiry. 

One is that such women are more likely to follow religious injunctions about reproduction. Genesis 1:28 tells Adam and Eve (and their offspring) to be fruitful and multiply. Traditional Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism encourage procreation, too. Many, perhaps most, traditional faiths condemn the practice of abortion. Some of them (most notably Catholicism) ban the practice of artificial contraception. 

But I find it hard to accept that well-educated women, particularly in Western cultures, would resolve to have large families simply because their faith directed them to. That would give new meaning to the scholastic notion of marital duties. However seriously they might consider the obligations their faith imposed, I would be surprised if such women didn’t also find that their approach to family planning left them happy and fulfilled. 

And although women who have large families provide us all with a public good, the sense of fulfillment can’t be just the satisfaction one derives from making a civic contribution, like serving in the armed forces or in public office. If it were, the phenomenon would not be limited to religious women. 

I think the virtue that inspires such mothers is not obedience or even generosity, but hope. They see a future for themselves and their children, filled with the happiness that God has promised. If that’s your view of what life has in store, why not share it?


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The world will not know peace unless there is an end to violence against women, the exploitation of their bodies and the denial of their dignity, Pope Francis said on the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

Celebrating Mass Jan. 1 for the feast day and the World Day of Peace, the pope said: “If we want a better world that is a house of peace and not a courtyard of war, we must take to heart the dignity of every woman.”

Jesus, the prince of peace, was born of a woman, he said. “The woman is a giver and mediator of peace and must be fully involved in decision-making processes because when women can share their gifts, the world will find itself more united and more at peace.”

“A victory for women is a victory for all of humanity,” the pope said.

The Christmas season and the feast of Mary, Mother of God, he said, are celebrations of the great gift of God sending his son into the world as a human baby, born of a woman so that he would have the same human flesh of all those he came to save.

Catholics begin the new year honoring Mary, the “woman who wove the humanity of God,” the pope said. “If we want to weave humanity into the plot of our days, we must start from the woman.”

Every human life is born of a woman, and the rebirth promised in Christ also was born of a woman, he said.

“Women are the source of life, yet they are continually offended, beaten, molested, coerced into prostitution and to terminate the life they carry in their wombs,” the pope said.

“Every violence inflicted on a woman is a profanation of God, who was born of a woman,” he said. “Humanity’s salvation was accomplished through the body of a woman; how we treat a woman’s body is an indication of our level of humanity.”

It’s not just violence, the pope said. “The body of the woman is sacrificed on the profane altars of advertising, profit, pornography, exploited like a thing to use.”

“Today maternity is humiliated because the only growth that interests people is economic growth,” he said.

Pope Francis also drew attention to migrant women, “mothers who risk arduous journeys desperately seeking a better future only to be judged as excess numbers by people who have a belly full of things and a heart empty of love.”

The newborn Jesus received his first caresses from Mary and exchanged his first smiles with her, the pope said. “With her, he inaugurated the revolution of tenderness. The church, looking upon baby Jesus, is called to continue it.”

The church, like Mary, “is woman and mother, and finds its distinctive traits in Our Lady,” he said. “It sees her, the immaculate one, and says ‘no’ to sin and worldliness. It sees her, fruitful, and feels called to proclaim the Lord, to generate lives in him. It sees her, mother, and feels called to welcome every man and woman as a son or daughter.”

By drawing closer to Mary, he said, the church will become more of what it is meant to be, more focused on Jesus and more united.

“The enemy of human nature, the devil, seeks to divide it,” the pope said. The devil entices people to put their “differences, ideologies, thoughts of sides and parties” first.

“Structures, programs and tendencies, ideologies and functions” may tell people something about the church, he said, but those are not “the heart of the church, because the church has the heart of a mother.”

“We her children today invoke the Mother of God who unites us as a believing people,” he said, praying: “O Mother, generate in us hope, bring us unity. Woman of salvation, we entrust this year to you, watch over it in your heart.”


The stigma associated with attending church remains, yet a growing number of young women are seeking truth, spirituality, a deep connection with God, and ways to serve the community. 

In fact, growing numbers of young people are gravitating toward consecration – including ordination as priests, taking vows as religious, or living consecrated live in community or individually. 

“Come and See Day,” held at the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center in Santa Ana, is a recent example of meetings, retreats, and workshops offered by religious communities responding to questioning young people discerning vocations. 

“It’s important for all young people to be open to what God is calling them to,” explains Sister Gabrielle Vogl, director of the center and a member of the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  

“The possibility of religious life helps women to fully give themselves to what God has planned,” Sister Vogl explains. “God’s plans are infinitely greater than what we can come up with ourselves.” 

About 20 young women attended the Nov. 3 “Come and See Day,” she notes. “Not only were the numbers good, but these women in particular showed a remarkable maturity. There was a depth to them showing they are ready to respond to God.” 

Events like “Come and See Day” allow young people to easily witness the charism of a particular institute or religious community, says Joan Patten AO, Diocese of Orange Delegate for Consecrated Life. “It is always very helpful for young people discerning to hear vocation or discernment stories. Experiences such as these usually provide structured opportunities to pray, which is ultimately where one hears the call from the Lord.” 

When the disciples noticed the extraordinary life of Jesus, they were attracted and asked Him, ‘where are you staying?’ Patten notes. “Jesus invited his disciples ‘to come and see.’ The invitation strikes their hearts and they respond by following Him.”  

While young people have a lot of opportunities both in the world and in the Church, “a vocation to consecrated life is always in the context of a relationship of love and it is important to remember that our identity and particular vocation flow from this relationship.” 

Discerning young people want to know how to identify God’s call. “It’s a pretty big question,” agrees Sister Vogl. “The second-biggest question is how to deal with the perceived things that one gives up as a religious.  

“What is it like to take a vow of obedience? Do you miss not having a husband and children? We help them try to understand what is considered a loss by the world’s standards and show the gains that come from giving all to our Lord.” 

There is a deep fulfillment that comes from God, she declares. “An intimate relationship with Him can be just as or even more fulfilling than marriage or children. It is the consolation that Our Lord gives that sustains us.” 

A vocational retreat December 28-30 at the center will attract women 17 to 25 years old and a number of adult education programs are upcoming, Sister Vogl notes. For more information, visit or call the Heart of Jesus Retreat Center at 714-557-4538. The center is located at 2927 S. Greenville Street, Santa Ana. 


It’s imperative today to encourage young women to enter the STEM fields — to empower their work in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. 

One of the pioneers who first broke the gender barrier in the competitive, fast-paced world of computers was, perhaps surprisingly, a Catholic sister.  

Sister Mary Kenneth Keller, a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in 1965 became the first U.S. woman to earn a Ph.D. in computer science. Her legacy is an ongoing inspiration to women who choose to study and work in traditionally male-dominated fields. 

Even before earning her terminal degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she helped implement the BASIC programming language, under the direction of John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz. 

Sister Keller believed in the power of computers to open the doors of higher education to women. Upon matriculating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she went on to develop instructional equipment that encouraged undergraduate computer studies. 

After directing one of the nation’s first computer programs at a small college for more than 20 years, Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, now features the Keller Computer Center and Information Services, which provides computer access to staff, faculty, and students and where she served as its first chairperson. 

From the beginning of her career, Sister Keller was an advocate for women’s studies in the scientific and technical fields. She helped establish the Association of Small Computer Users in Education, and wrote four books in the computer science field. 

In 1975, she prophetically noted, “we have not fully used the computer as the greatest interdisciplinary tool that has been invented to date.” 

Indeed, Sister Keller believed computers would help make people smarter and encourage them to think on their own. “For the first time, we can now mechanically simulate the cognitive process,” she said. “We can make studies in artificial intelligence. Beyond that, this mechanism [the computer] can be used to assist humans in learning. 

“As we are going to have more mature students in greater numbers as time goes on, this type of teaching will probably be increasingly important.” 

In addition, Sister Keller anticipated the growing importance of computers to libraries. “Its function in information retrieval will make it the hub of tomorrow’s libraries,” she noted. 

Sister Keller was born in Ohio in 1914, entered the Sisters of Charity in 1932, and professed her vows in 1940. She was supportive of working mothers, encouraging them to bring their babies with them to class if necessary. 

Despite the overarching belief that women belonged in the home and not in the workplace, she believed that women could play significant roles in advancing science. 

There is much to learn from Sister Keller’s example. Recognizing her trail-blazing success in a man’s world, today’s women can anticipate workplaces that increasingly welcome their valuable contributions in science, mathematics, and technology.


Washington D.C., Jan 24, 2019 / 05:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News) – A survey of bishops in the US released this week found that among respondents, 41 percent believe it theoretically possible to ordain women as deacons, and only 33 percent believe this should be allowed.

The survey released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (CARA) was sent in September 2018 to 192 bishops, of whom 108 responded, resulting in a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6.25 percentage points.

The responses regarding the possibility of female diaconal ordination and whether it ought to occur suggest that eight percent of bishops in the US might believe it possible, yet not believe it should be authorized.

Diocesan deacon directors were also surveyed by CARA. Of the 186 deacon directors invited to participate, 133 responded, leading of a margin of error of 4.55 percentage points.

Asked if they believe the USCCB would implement the sacramental ordination of women as deacons were it authorized by the Holy See, 79 percent of bishops and 72 percent of deacon directors responded in the affirmative. Of bishops, 54 percent said they would consider implementation in their own local Church, and 62 percent of deacon directors believed their ordinary would do so.

Twenty-seven percent of bishop and deacon director respondents believe the Church will authorize the sacramental ordination of women as deacons.

Among the bishops, 97 percent agreed strongly or somewhat that their diocese is committed to increasing women’s involvement in ecclesial leadership; 86 percent of deacon directors affirmed this.

Asked if it would be helpful to have women deacons in liturgy, word, and charity ministries, most of the bishops responded in the affirmative for each category. Most deacon directors responded affirmatively as well, and all of the deacon directors said women deacons serving in charity ministries would be somewhat or very helpful.

It is to be held definitively that priestly ordination is reserved only to men.

The question of female deacons has recently resurfaced after Pope Francis appointed in August 2016 a commission to look into the historical role of deaconesses in the early Church.

Non-sacramentally ordained deaconesses were part of the early Church, although it is not entirely clear what their role was.

In June 2018, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and head of the commission, clarified that “the Holy Father did not ask us to study whether or not women can be deaconesses…but rather, [he asked us] to try to say in a clear way what the problems are and what the situation was in the ancient Church on this point of the women’s diaconate.”

Francis has acknowledged that the subject of deaconesses has already been studied by the Church, including a 2002 document on the diaconate from the International Theological Commission, an advisory body to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The document, which gave a thorough historical context of the role of deaconesses in the ancient Church, overwhelmingly concluded that female deacons in the early Church had not been equivalent to male deacons, and had neither a liturgical nor a sacramental function.

The ITC wrote: “a ministry of deaconesses did indeed exist, and that this developed unevenly in the different parts of the Church. It seems clear that this ministry was not perceived as simply the feminine equivalent of the masculine diaconate. At the very least it was an ecclesial function, exercised by women, sometimes mentioned together with that of sub-deacon in the lists of Church ministries.”

In his seminal 1982 work Deaconesses: An Historical Study, referenced several times by the ITC, Aime Martimort wrote that “the Christians of antiquity did not have a single, fixed idea of what deaconesses were supposed to be,” and that “the Greek and Eastern canonists of the Middle Ages were even less able than those of antiquity to know who and what deaconesses were.”

He added that “the continuity of a true ecclesiastical tradition was lacking in the case of deaconesses,” and that their institution “lasted only as long as adult baptisms were the norm” and that “it rapidly became obsolete.”

According to Martimort “the resemblance between the ordination rituals of the deacon and deaconess … should not deceive us,” and that “the various euchologies had already given fair warning that there were significant differences as well as resemblances.”

“During all the time when the institution of deaconesses was a living institution, both the discipline and the liturgy of the churches insisted upon a very clear distinction between deacons and deaconesses.”

Martimort concluded that “the real importance and efficaciousness of the role of women in the Church has always been vividly perceived in the consciousness of the hierarchy and of the faithful as much more braod than the historical role that deaconesses in fact played. And perhaps a proposal based on an ‘archeological’ institution might even obscure the fact that the call to serve the Church is urgently addressed today to all women, especially in the area of the transmission of Faith and works of charity.”


VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Too often in the Catholic Church, “the sacrifices of women are used only to reinforce the power of those who already have it,” wrote the editor of the Vatican newspaper’s monthly section on women in the Church. 

In the “Woman-Church-World” supplement to L’Osservatore Romano published Jan. 2, editor Lucetta Scaraffia wrote, “A revolution is not needed to give women the place they deserve in the Church; it is not indispensable to admit them to the priesthood or even the longed-for, but at the same time feared, diaconate.” 

“In fact,” she wrote, “all that is needed is a bit of courage and the prophetic ability to look to the future with positive eyes, accepting changes that often are already written in the order of things.” 

The January issue of “Woman-Church-World” was dedicated to a series of articles looking at how, without changing Church law or discipline, more could be done within the Catholic Church to treat women as equals, value their contributions and talents and include them in leadership and decision-making at all levels of Church life. 

A central concern of many of the articles was the lack of investment in educating women, including consecrated women, for leadership in the Church and simply not thinking about including them in discussions and planning meetings from the parish level all the way to the Vatican. 

The 1983 Code of Canon Law opened to all laypeople, including women, “many possibilities for institutional participation,” but, Scaraffia wrote, “the impediments lie only in the refusal of many to make real an equality already recognized and accepted in theory.” 

No legal obstacle exists to women being consulted by the pope as part of his ongoing efforts to reform the Roman Curia, she said, and there is no reason a woman could not be among the people who speak at the pre-conclave meetings of cardinals about the needs of the Church before they process into the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope. 

Scaraffia argued that the Vatican should rely on organizations like the women’s International Union of Superiors General for advice and input rather than on “the current practice of the hierarchy selecting individual women. In that way, one could avoid a paternalistic relationship to religious women and a selection that risks rewarding not the most competent, but the most obedient.” 

“If one really wants to deal a blow to clericalism,” she said, “one must start there, with the women religious.” 

She described as a “fig leaf” the approach of appointing a woman or two to mid-level management positions in some Vatican offices and used as an example the fact that while women make up two-thirds of the consecrated religious in the world, there has been only one female undersecretary at a time at the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. 

Many other women religious perform almost hidden work in the Vatican — running the switchboard, keeping house for cardinals, doing secretarial work. 

“It’s like self-sacrifice is the only way to live a religious vocation,” Scaraffia wrote. But, in the end, it simply supports the power and authority the men in charge have. 

The January edition of “Woman-Church-World” also included a short article about the Benedictine convent of Fahr, Switzerland, which attracted attention during the world Synod of Bishops in October. The sisters distributed a photo of 15 of their members wearing their traditional, long black habits and holding signs saying, “Votes for Catholic Women,” which was part of a campaign calling for women to be among the voting members of the synod. 

“We women are part of this Church and therefore we should be able to have our voice heard and make our contributions,” Prioress Irene Gassmann told L’Osservatore. 

The 20 sisters at Fahr, she said, have been reflecting for years on the role of women in the Church and, in 2016, were among the leaders of a walking pilgrimage to Rome to draw attention to the need to do more to promote women’s involvement in Church leadership and decision-making.


On this podcast, Deacon Steve Greco welcomes a guest to the studio who is making her radio debut. Her name is Kate Neuhauser, and she is a young adult who is “on fire” with her faith in God. Still, she reveals that she often feels isolated while attending mass at her local parish. Why is that?

Tune in – and hear what she has to share with us today.







Originally broadcast on 12/16/18