While organizing my Women of the Church files this spring, I realized that we celebrated a very important milestone in May—the 10th anniversary of our very first planning meeting for Women of the Church!

Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB, Agnes Kovacs, Sr. Traci Stutz, OSB, and I met on May 9, 2014, for that initial meeting. The minutes report that the four of us gathered “at a round table in an upper room of Newman Hall at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.”

Yes, we really included that line. We had taken note that the room itself provided a perfect setting for our dreaming and planning for a conference, as yet unnamed. The round table evoked a sense of collegiality. The 4th floor upper room brought to mind biblical gatherings. I no longer remember if we had in mind the Last Supper when Jesus gathered with his disciples or the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, or both. I do remember we talked about wonderful surprises happening in Scripture when people gather in an upper room.

And what wonderful surprises have come in the ten years since that first meeting! At that time, the minutes record that we were exploring the possibility of having “a conference that celebrates and honors the work of women in the Church, creating space to support each other and build friendships as we ponder with Pope Francis on what is possible for women’s leadership and service in today’s Church.”

10 members of the 2016 Planning Committee

Our planning committee quickly grew from four to seven by July and kept growing until around 20 people were involved in one way or another when we launched the conference in October 2016! Then, at that first conference, we grew from a committee into a community of 250 people engaging in conversation around Pope Francis’s call for a more incisive presence of women in the Catholic Church (Evangelii Gaudium §103). Our conversation and community have continued to expand ever since!

Likewise, opportunities for women’s leadership have expanded as Pope Francis has put his words into action. Many examples come to mind. I’ll share just one in this post: the appointment of Sr. Nathalie Becquart, XMCJ, as the undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops in 2021 made her the first woman to have a vote in the Synod of Bishops! While many of us were marveling that a woman would have not only a voice but a vote, Pope Francis went a step further by including even more women as voting delegates for the Synod on Synodality, with 54 women having a vote!

Closer to home, new opportunities have come over the years for the three of us from Saint Meinrad who were at that very first meeting. Our shifting roles became very visible on the stage at commencement on May 11, 2024, just two days after the anniversary of that first planning meeting. Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB, has been part of the platform party at graduation since becoming Dean of School of Theology programs in 2015, the lone woman on the stage…until now. This year, I joined her as I had a dual role, serving as the faculty moderator and the commencement speaker. When I stepped into my place next to Sr. Jeana on the stage, I had a flashback to that 2014 meeting in an upper room. I thought, the founding co-chairs of Women of the Church are here, present on this stage, side by side, offering leadership and witness with our presence, with our words, and with our work! My face was beaming as I thought of the journey we’ve shared with one another and YOU over these years.

Kimberly and Sr. Jeana at Commencement. Photo credit: Saint Meinrad Archabbey

And, there’s more. Our fellow co-founder, Agnes Kovacs, began a new role this summer as the Director of Vocational Synthesis at Saint Meinrad. In this role, she is helping to create and implement something completely new for the final stage of priestly formation for our seminarians. With this new role, she also has moved into a new office space. Would you believe that it’s the very same upper room in which we first dreamed up Women of the Church! Although the round table is no longer there, I trust that the creative Spirit will be at work as she works and prays in that space….and as all of us in the ever-growing Women of the Church community continue to offer our gifts to the Church and to celebrate our life together!

Agnes leading a group at Saint Meinrad. Photo Credit: Saint Meinrad Archabbey

Photo Highlights from our National Conferences

2016 – Sisters of St. Benedict Ferdinand, Indiana

2019 – Saint Mary’s College

2023 – St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota