During May, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month to honor the contributions of Asian and Pacific Islanders to America’s history and culture, and to advocate for their future successes. Catholics of AAPI heritage have contributed to the life of the Church through their traditions, culture, and saints. This month, we’re highlighting the AAPI Catholic women who inspire us.
Sarah Hoyoung Ku
Sarah is a biracial (Korean and white) convert to Catholicism, wife, and mom living in Silicon Valley. She is passionate about sharing the diversity of the Church, particularly through the experience of Asian and Asian American Catholics. Sarah uses her social media platform to talk about Asian saints, traditions, and the influence that her heritage and faith have on each other. She shares her experiences and reflections through her podcast A Growing Home, her Sunday reflections at U.S. Catholic, her writing, and her recent partnership with the Hallow app. You can find Sarah on Instagram.
Lisa is an author, speaker, mindset coach, and mom of nine living in Florida. She is an interior designer (with a show on HGTV!), turned entrepreneur and coach, who is passionate about helping moms “build a business and wealth without sacrificing faith, family, or what matters most” through her own business, The Possibility Mom, which has been featured on the Today Show. Lisa hosts coaching groups for moms, The Possibility Mom Podcast and The Possibility Mom Conference, and is the author of Possibility Mom: How to be a Great Mom and Pursue Your Dreams at the Same Time. You can learn more from Lisa on Instagram and Twitter.
Rachel is a first generation Chinese-Canadian writer, speaker, and podcaster living in Vancouver. When she was 20 years old, Rachel had a radical encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist, and ever since she has been passionate about sharing her love of Jesus and the Church through her ministry. She primarily speaks and writes on the feminine genius, the intersection of faith and mental health, and race and representation in the Catholic Church. Rachel hosts The Feminine Genius Podcast, through which she hopes to “celebrate the diversity of the Catholic Church, one woman’s story at a time.” You can find Rachel on Instagram.
Rachel is a Filipina, Catholic convert, wife, mom, writer, speaker, and podcaster living in Florida. She loves to share her faith with people of all ages, from kids to young adult groups, as a retreat facilitator and keynote speaker. Rachel and her husband, Jason, share more about their life through their Word on Fire Youtube show, Meet the Bulmans. You can find Rachel’s writing on the Word on Fire blog and at Catholic Mom. You can also learn from Rachel by listening to her talk for FemCatholic’s “Women,Sex and Empowerment” Summit and to her and Jason’s School of Humanity podcast. You can find Rachel on Instagram and Twitter.
Carolyn Woo, PhD
Dr. Carolyn Woo was born and raised in Hong Kong and came to the United States to study at Purdue University. Over the course of her time in academics, she was the first female dean to chair the accreditation body for business schools, AACSB. She also served as the President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services. Dr. Woo currently works at Purdue as the Distinguished President's Fellow for Global Development. You can find her writing in her column for CNS, “Our Global Family”, and most recently in her new book, Rising: Learning from Women’s Leadership in Catholic Ministries.
Rakhi McCormick is a wife, mother, artist, writer, speaker, and part-time minister at her home parish in Detroit. A first-generation Indian-American and convert from Hinduism, Rakhi loves to share about the beautiful diversity of the Catholic Church. Her creative work often features reflections on finding the light in the darkness and encouragement for cultivating one’s gifts to serve the world. Rakhi has a gift for holding space for nuance and messy conversations, which she hosts regularly on her podcast, A Place In Between. You can sample her writing on FemCatholic, check out her artwork on Etsy at her shop Rakstar Designs, and find her on Instagram.
Krista Corbello is a Filipina-American speaker, activist, and artist residing in LA. She serves as the President of the Board of Rehumanize International, co-founder of Friendship Explored, founder of Even This Way, and the campus minister at the Newman Center Pasadena. She is passionate about social justice, finding joy and beauty in living the Gospel, a consistent life ethic, and comprehensive education and human empowerment. You can learn more about Krista on her website and find her on Instagram and Twitter.
Sr. Maria Kim Bui, FSP
Sr. Maria Kim Bui is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees and a woman religious in the congregation of the Daughters of Saint Paul (aka the “media nuns”). Originally from Tempe, AZ, Sr. Maria Kim now lives in Boston and works with the congregation’s publishing house as the Director of Marketing and Sales. As a Daughter of Saint Paul, her ministry is done primarily through social media, which offers glimpses into the daily life of a nun. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.
Marianne Soratorio Dyogi
Marianne Soratorio Dyogi is a wife, mother, and Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner in LA. She and her husband, Gary, founded As He Loves Ministries in 2009 to support engaged and newly married couples. A former Catholic school teacher, Marianne now serves her parish and surrounding community by teaching the Creighton Model. She is also a speaker, having recently given a talk on realizing your gifts and how to share them for the GIVEN Institute. You can learn more about Marianne on Instagram.
Menstrual leave is making waves in the news, from an April BBC article on the topic to a bill introduced in Spain that would, in part, fund paid leave for women with painful periods. These policies acknowledge that women’s and men’s bodies are different, and this acknowledgement comes in a space that, historically, has not recognized this truth.
Corporate America has been eager to provide benefits like contraception, abortion, and egg-freezing as a way to eliminate fertility and pregnancy, rather than accommodate women. Many companies still offer no paid maternity leave.
However, the conversations about menstrual leave have overlooked the fact that the symptoms that require a woman to use this leave are not "normal" for a period: Debilitating pain, out-of-control mood swings, and unmanageable bleeding are not normal (or at least, they shouldn’t be). Women experiencing these symptoms deserve not to be penalized for missing work – but they also deserve authentic health care.
What Is Normal for a Menstrual Cycle?
Conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis are common and often run in families. Due to this, many women who experience symptoms like irregular cycles, heavy or painful periods, or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) think that this is normal because they know so many women who experience them. Severe menstrual cramps and dramatic mood swings, in particular, have become part of our cultural understanding of what a “normal” period is. We make jokes about them, we (sometimes) make allowances for them – but we never question them.
While a healthy period might be uncomfortable, and while you may need to take it easy or take some Ibuprofen, you should not be in so much pain that you can’t go about your normal daily activities. You might have some minor mood fluctuations, but you should not experience depression or anxiety that significantly interfere with your life.
Beyond Menstrual Leave, Provide Authentic Health Care
The standard “treatment” for these symptoms is to ignore them or prescribe hormonal contraception. While hormonal contraception can help women manage symptoms, it does not address their root cause. As a result, even women who experience relief – and even women who do so without any side effects – may still have a health condition that is not being treated and may even be getting worse.
Hormonal contraception works by flooding the body with synthetic hormones, knocking the natural hormonal cycle out of whack. For a woman whose body is already not cycling the way it’s supposed to, contraception doesn’t restore its natural functions. It doesn’t treat whatever is causing problems with the reproductive system; it shuts the system down.
Restorative reproductive health care protocols, such as NaPro Technology and FEMM medical management, identify the specific hormones that are out of balance in a woman’s body and then use approaches like bio-identical hormone supplementation, lifestyle changes, and diet to restore health. They treat fertility and a healthy cycle as something good to work toward, not something to be manipulated or eliminated.
A recent Scientific American editorial points out that women’s reproductive health conditions are shockingly under-researched and calls for the removal of stigma around menstruation. The author, Dr. Christine N. Metz of the Research OutSmarts Endometriosis clinical study, notes that although endometriosis affects approximately 10% of women, the National Institutes of Health has allocated $176 million to fund its research since 2008, compared with $2 billion for ulcerative colitis, an illness that affects only 1% of Americans of both genders.
Simply discussing periods in the workplace – let alone offering menstrual leave – is a good step in the right direction. It acknowledges that women’s bodies have unique needs. What’s left is for the workplace to acknowledge that women’s bodies are also uniquely good, and for health care professionals to treat them that way.
In 1980, as part of his teaching on the theology of the body, Pope St. John Paul II said, “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.” It is time for our workplaces and our health care to reflect this reality: That women are made in the likeness of God, that the female body is good, and that fertility is not a condition to be prevented, but rather a gift to be supported.
On May 20, the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee announced a new paid parental leave policy for all diocesan employees. The new policy, which goes into effect on July 1, 2022, offers three weeks of paid parental leave in the event of a birth or adoption to employees at the diocese's schools, parishes, agencies, and pastoral center employees.
Renée Roden spoke with Bishop William Wack, CSC to discuss how the diocese's new policy came to be.
Renée Roden: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me again, Bishop Wack. When we spoke in March, you said that this is something you wanted to do and was one of your goals for the diocese. So we were excited to hear that it happened! Could you take a moment to explain the policy that the diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee has implemented for its employees?
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: I brought the question to our Presbyteral Council on May 12, with the idea that we would start with something.
At the time, we did not have a policy, really, outside of the Family Medical Leave Act. Paid parental leave was not something that we had really addressed before. I don't know if people had asked for it before I got here, but it wasn't being done.
As soon as I mentioned it, unanimously, all the priests said, “Oh my gosh, yes, let's do it.” And I just threw out, "How about two weeks?" And they said, “Let's do more. Let's start with three weeks.” So I got overruled. [laugh] But that's what the council is for.
Renée Roden: And what was the reasoning behind the three weeks?
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: I think the sense was, well, let's just start with this. We didn’t want to overwhelm people, especially the schools. It’s going to mostly affect schools, I think, because most of the people who would access those funds would be teachers.
So just knowing our budgets right now, we thought, let's start with this and see where it goes. We'll probably build more and lengthen it in the future, but we wanted to start with the three weeks.
Renée Roden: That's great. So this policy is for all employees across the diocese?
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: Yep. For all diocesan employees – over 1,300 of them.
Renée Roden: You met with the Presbyteral Council on May 12, and you announced it on May 20, just about a week later. That's a really quick turnaround.
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: We like to make decisions. We are a smaller diocese, one of the smaller ones, and we're also one of the youngest: we were founded in 1975. So we have this feeling that we can make decisions. I don't mean that others can't, but we just don't have a lot of history or a lot of layers of administration to go through.
So they often have to take their time, but we have the ability to act a little more quickly on something. So we do that for a lot of things. We do end up having to tweak things or say, "Ooh, that didn't go so well, let’s do something else."
But, you know, for me, this idea has been with me since December, when these two women approached me. Ever since then, I've been thinking about paid leave.
So I say we like to make decisions, but it wasn't that quick. December was, what, five months ago. It’d been long enough, so we decided to just put something in place.
And that's something I do that's my style: I try to get a lot of input, discern, pray about an issue, but then to act, to make a decision.
Renée Roden: So the Presbyteral Council is all clergy. What role did the laity play in this decision-making?
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: Well, as I mentioned the first time you interviewed me, two people – an employee of the diocese and another was her friend – contacted me separately in the fall, just asking about this. And that prompted me to go to Human Resources. And I found out that we don't really have a parental leave policy outside of the FMLA. So that got me talking to other people, talking to young people, teachers, some people here in the pastoral center, about their experiences and they said, yeah, we could have used a paid maternity and paternity leave policy.
It got me thinking. But it really began with two people bringing the issue to the forefront and then talking to others, saying, yeah, why don't we do that?
Renée Roden: That’s pretty impressive that two phone calls can produce this change, that it can be this simple for people to speak up and put things in motion.
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: It is. And that's how we’ve begun a couple of other ministries as well, one to formerly incarcerated, violent offenders. Some people said, "Why don't we start a ministry for them?" So now we do.
And then, "How about a ministry for elderly homeless men?" Now we have a house for them. "How about for pregnant women who are on the verge of being, or who are, homeless?" Now we have a place for them. I keep telling people that's how it begins.
What doesn’t work is when people say, “We need this,” and then they just walk away, but what works is when they say, “We need this, and I have several people who want to work on it.” And I say, “You have my blessing.”
Renée Roden: What has the reaction from the diocese been to this announcement?
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: We only just announced it a couple of days ago, so I haven’t heard much, but I’ve just heard gratitude and people saying that's fantastic. The superintendent of schools was thrilled. All I’ve heard so far has been positive.
Renée Roden: At the beginning of May, the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision prompted a lot of discussion about what the Catholic Church needs to do to support women and live out its pro-life mission. Did any of that come up in your discussions about this policy?
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: That’s not what drove it, but after our discussion, one of the priests on the council said this strengthens the Church’s pro-life position with whatever comes down the pike. But to be completely honest, it really is something that was begun with those two simple phone calls back in December.
But this policy is one more example of how we need to, as the bishops say in their program, walk with moms in need. And not just moms, but to really recognize what mothers, fathers, and families go through in raising children, having children, and choosing life. We need to not just say, “You should choose life,” but support them, walk with them, and give them the means as much as possible to do that.
We're all in this together. So how can we sacrifice maybe a little bit in our budget so that young families can have the means to use just three weeks with paid leave to really start bonding with their children and raise up their family?
We’re trying to step away from just saying we're anti-abortion to asking, “How can we be pro-life? How can we accompany and encounter and walk with young families?”
I think the paid leave policy is very much a part of that. Even though it wasn't driven by that, it dovetails nicely into where we want to be as a diocese.
Renée Roden: Well, thank you for speaking with us. It’s really encouraging to hear that two people call a bishop and, five months later, there are three weeks of maternity leave where there were none. I think that’s a testament to real cooperation.
Bishop Wack, C.S.C: Thank you. This is how things happen.
How a Catholic Mother, Lawyer, and Former Chancery Official Combined Her Love for the Church with Her Career
We sat down with attorney Mary FioRito, the former Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Here’s what she told us about how she uses her gifts in her career, as a working mother, and as layperson in the Church.
Using Her Gifts to Find Purpose in Her Career
Growing up, Mary dreamed of being a pediatrician. Later in life, however, she discovered that she excelled in reading, writing, and analysis. This self-awareness led her to explore careers where she could use her gifts.
“Law school seemed like the most logical next step,” Mary concluded. As the first person in her immigrant family to go to graduate school, Mary knew that she had to work hard to achieve her goals. So, she worked at the Archdiocese of Chicago during the day while attending law school at night.
This path would support her financially, but also let her to use her God-given gifts. Like many successful women, she realized that embracing her strengths could help her find purpose in her career.
Using Her Gifts by Working for the Catholic Church
After working as an assistant at a program supporting Catholic inner-city schools and eight years as the Director of the Archdiocesan Pro-Life office, Mary was named the first female Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Chicago. This was a catch-all role that involved coordinating with the archbishop and parishioners. While the particular duties of the job vary by diocese, they involve working closely with the diocesan leadership.
One of especially interesting things Mary was tasked with was reviewing books labeled as acceptable to teach in local Catholic schools. Other highlights of her career included facilitating an adoption between a single mother and a family, and assisting with writing speeches for two Cardinal Archbishops that were given in national and international venues. She did all of this while “bringing [her] perspective as a laywoman, wife and mother to a high-level theological discussion.” Evidence of her professional accomplishments as Vice-Chancellor, she was recognized in Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40 list.
While her role shifted at the archdiocese throughout the years, one thing remained constant: embracing opportunities to work on pro-life issues.
Navigating Career and Motherhood
As Mary’s family grew, she used her accumulated sick leave to care for her children. There was no paid maternity leave for employees of her archdiocese until 2016. When her work-life balance became more difficult to manage, she sought help and found an answer through a friend of the family. A widow who had raised seven sons was willing to support Mary and her husband by taking care of their daughters.
Entrusting the Future of Her Career to God
What’s next for Mary? Well, she enjoys her current work as a fellow for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which gives her flexibility to spend time with her teen daughter. Wherever life or her career takes her, Mary is confident that God will provide a clear path and support along the way.
When asked about advice for discerning her family and career, Mary recommended opening up your heart to God and to those closest to you. Pray about it. Ask your loved ones to pray about it. And for single women who hope to be working mothers one day? It’s not too early to pray for your future spouse and family.
Mary Hallan FioRito is an attorney, public speaker, and commentator on issues involving women’s leadership in the Catholic Church, work/life balance for mothers, and Catholic Church administration. Her interests also include human life issues, primarily abortion, post-abortion aftermath, and contraception. Ms. FioRito serves on the Board of Directors of numerous pro-life and charitable organizations, including Aid for Women, a pregnancy resource center and maternity home, and the National Office for Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing. She and her husband are the parents of three daughters.
Do you ever get the feeling that everyone else around you knows the script, but you’re left in the dark, trying to catch up? Do you ask yourself, “How does everyone else seem to be so sure about their life’s purpose?” Do you want to learn how to be more confident about living your life and making good things happen? If you answered, “Yes,” to any of those questions, we have a book recommendation for you!
Therapist Julia Hogan Werner, LCPC opens her new book A Work in Progress: Embracing the Life God Gave You with these questions. This book helps readers uncover ways to find meaning in their lives as they tackle the challenges of young adulthood, navigate what feels like constant change, and face the ever-present questions about identity, goals, and their purpose in life.
With its supportive tone and relatable advice, reading A Work in Progress feels like you’re sitting at the table with your sister or good friend who is just a few steps ahead of you in life and really listening to your struggles. She offers you suggestions based on her own lived experience that not only seem realistic, but also feel attainable.
Throughout the book, Hogan Werner provides strategies that serve as tools for getting to know yourself better, which makes it easier to navigate life and uncover your own skills, gifts, and calling from God. She shares her own experiences and those of her clients to illustrate the lessons she’s learned and how to approach these moments of being overwhelmed or having self-doubt.
At the end of each chapter, she provides questions to guide further reflection about how each concept relates to your own experience, plus a tangible action item that can help you implement the new strategy. Overall, A Work in Progress will help you “develop new habits of thinking and acting and living each day that will empower you to live your life freely and claim it with purpose” (134).
Here are three main takeaways from the book:
1. Finding Your Purpose in Life Begins with Knowing Yourself
Who are you? It’s a question that can make a lot of us uncomfortable, yet one that we should be able to answer easily. Werner Hogan sympathizes with this struggle and attributes it to the voice of “false friends”: those stories that we or others tell about who we are, what we can and can’t do, what our imperfections are, and the expectations others place on us. She argues that these “false friends” are consistently burying our true identity and obscuring our worth.
Our worth is ultimately immeasurable because it is rooted in the image of God that He has placed in every human being. The best work we can do on ourselves is to truly believe that God loves us into being and has made us each a unique and unrepeatable person with particular gifts, talents, and skills that we can use to better the world. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
A strategy the book offers for understanding who we are is to determine what our values and expectations are. Our values, Julia writes, “signify to us…what qualities we use to measure our own worth and the worth of others” (33). When we truly dig into our values, it will set our priorities and expectations, providing a meaningful purpose to what we do.
Then, we are better able to know what direction to head in, what decisions are good for us right now, and what boundaries we need to set to be able to focus on our goals.
2. Take a Balanced Approach to Decision Making
Decisions are hard. Decisions are even harder when we’re not sure what we want or where we are heading. Julia’s balanced approach to decision making provides guidelines that take into account everything from your feelings about a decision to its impact on your life and future.
She challenges her readers to observe, reflect, and then decide. As she outlines this process, she explains why each step is important and sets one up to respond rather than react when decisions need to be made. Rather than focusing on making the “right” decision, this process helps you reach the best decision that aligns with who you are and what you value. By following this process, you can approach decision making in a way that is neither apathetic nor controlling.
3. Remember that Finding Your Purpose in Life is a Process, Not a Moment
An overarching theme of Work in Progress is that building a meaningful life is a process, not a moment. In a hustle culture that declares that we’ve arrived when we have a certain amount of wealth, power, or popularity, the process can feel like a rat race rather than a source of learning.
Hogan Werner often suggests setting aside time for reflection and she encourages making thoughtful choices along the way, which requires time to think. Whether setting boundaries, quieting the voice of “false friends,” or working on self-care, these strategies ask the reader to take time, to find pockets of rest, and to reflect, so that embracing the life that God gave us and finding purpose is a cycle of growth rather than a race to the finish line.
Hogan Werner advises that “instead of living reactively, feeling like you are perpetually late to the game, you can take an active role in shaping the trajectory of the life God has given to you – and you can do this without figuring it all out first” (14).
A Work in Progress is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.
A few years ago, I was interviewed by a popular Catholic podcaster. I had prayed about the message I was going to share and I was excited about our conversation because of the many ways my faith had transformed my life. I had envisioned all the ways that my story, as an immigrant to the United States, could help others. I couldn’t wait for the interview to air – but to my disappointment, weeks passed without a word from the interviewer. The self-doubt began to creep in. “Was my message not good enough? Was my story unworthy of sharing?”
When I reached out a year later, the podcaster had actually forgotten who I was and that our interview had even taken place.
It can be discouraging to share yourself and your story, only to be forgotten. Instead of sitting around and waiting for things to change, I decided I was going to take greater ownership of telling my story and advocating for myself.
If you ever face a similar experience, here are some tips on how to find your voice.
Remember that you are worthy
As a woman of color who is also a trauma survivor, I’ve often felt defeated by attempts to speak up in the workplace or share my story. Experiences like the above confirmed my body’s urge to self-protect. My brain has often, in the past, offered me thoughts like, “Why should I speak up if previous attempts left me feeling ignored or pushed aside?”
It can be easy to give in to the temptation to hide your opinion or not speak up for fear of rejection, especially when society as a whole has a long way to go in truly seeing women of color as leaders.
Since my own body was still healing from traumatic experiences, I knew I also had ongoing internal work to do (and for God to help me through).
I remember at some point trying to say affirmations like “I am worthy,” and I realized that it was not working for me. Trauma is stored in the body, and so I needed more than simple cognitive practices to overcome deeper insecurities around honoring my voice and speaking up.
Surrounding myself with safe and secure people, licensed mental health professionals, and giving myself permission to rest instead of hustling to prove my worth were practices that helped me remember my worthiness. Over time, I unlearned the fear responses to being ignored or not being accepted that I held for so long.
We can remember we are worthy when we surround ourselves with people who remind us that we are made in the image and likeness of God and mirror this back to us, especially during moments when we can’t believe it ourselves.
Understand your story
What prevents us from speaking up is often a lack of understanding where this fear even comes from.
Is it fear of rejection? Fear of being misunderstood? Are you constantly feeling unwelcome or out of place in your work environment?
Whatever the case may be, pray for self-knowledge and so that you can give God permission to heal wherever it is you need healing.
This is a critical prerequisite to the next step. In order to speak up for ourselves from a self-honoring place instead of from a place of wounded-ness, we need to realize that we can honor ourselves and the other person at the same time.
Speaking up for ourselves takes courage because it can feel vulnerable. If you’re used to not speaking up for yourself, being assertive will take practice. You may want to practice speaking assertively to people you feel safe with or practice speaking up for yourself in writing.
Speaking assertively is possible when we use relational awareness: honoring ourselves, the other person, and the relationship all at the same time.
When we speak up, we take ourselves seriously and we take our audience seriously. Such a level of respect is a building block for positive relationships at work and beyond.
Author’s Note: Women of color are not a monolith and experiences will vary from person to person. This is my personal experience.
The Archdiocese of Denver recently became the fifth U.S. Diocese on record to offer a 12-week, fully paid maternity leave.
The new policy was announced on April 28, 2022, and it applies to all diocesan employees in the diocesan Pastoral Center. "This paid parental leave policy was a great opportunity to emphasize our support and encouragement of families in their walk with Christ, and really honor the Church’s teachings on openness to life," said Mark Haas, Director of Media and Public Relations for the Archdiocese of Denver.
On the feast of the Annunciation, FemCatholic released a report on the state of paid leave across the 176 U.S. Dioceses. As of press time, less than 40 of those dioceses offered some length of paid leave at 100% of an employee's salary. FemCatholic contacted each diocesan communications and human resources department in the United States multiple times via phone and email. To date, 34 dioceses are on record as offering at least five days of fully paid parental leave to at least their chancery or pastoral center employees.
In the month following the release of the report, FemCatholic has continued to receive information from dioceses and diocesan employees. Two U.S. Catholic Dioceses recently announced paid leave policies for their chancery employees.
The Diocese of St. Augustine announced a two-week leave for adoptive and biological parents on April 26, 2022. Prior to this paid leave policy, which goes into effect on July 1, women who worked for the Diocese of St. Augustine could pay for a short-term disability insurance policy or use sick days to cover their twelve weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed through FMLA. Female employees in the Diocese of St. Augustine can still opt into a short-term disability insurance policy to cover part of their pay after their two weeks of fully paid leave
Two days later, the Archdiocese of Denver, which previously did not offer a maternity or paternity leave policy, announced a parental leave policy that offers sixty days of leave for mothers and thirty days of leave for fathers. The Archdiocese of Denver, with a population of approximately 600,000 Catholics, holds approximately $81 million in assets, according to its 2020 financial statements. The average Catholic diocese in the United States holds roughly $120 million in assets and has a population of just over 400,000.
The policy became effective for employees starting in August 2021. And, throughout the year, the Archdiocese began finalizing the details of the plan. Although the Archdiocese did not offer parental leave, Mr. Haas said that it had a "very generous PTO policy."
Because many women need to use sick days to care for children or schedule doctor's appointments during pregnancy (or use them for times in which they are actually sick), using their general paid time off is often not enough to cover the twelve weeks of parental leave guaranteed by FMLA and recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Archdiocese of Denver is offering this paid leave to employees who have worked at the pastoral center for 12 months. Employees who have worked at least six months are eligible for half of the paid leave offered. The Archdiocese of Denver, one of approximately 40 dioceses that require Natural Family Planning courses for couples marrying in the diocese, offers reimbursement for Natural Family Planning education and materials for archdiocesan employees and their spouses.
With their new policy, which retroactively went into effect August 21, 2021, the Archdiocese of Denver has become the fifth dioceses in the United States to offer twelve weeks of fully paid leave to employees, joining the Archdioceses of Chicago, New York, Raleigh, and the Diocese of Omaha.
The Archdiocese of Denver cited the decision to offer this leave as a specifically pro-life action. Their leadership expressed hope that other dioceses would trust in God to provide for an action that would create a culture more in line with the teachings of the Church.
"We celebrate the heroic decisions of our employees to welcome life and children into their families," said Mr. Haas.
On May 2, a draft of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to the media, igniting a firestorm of reactions across the United States.
In the United States, nearly 1 in 4 women have had an abortion, so the topic of its legality is an immensely personal one. FemCatholic is hosting an opportunity to process the news together on May 5th at 8pm CST / 9pm EST.
Rebecca Christian, CPD, CLEC is a writer, doula, and lactation counselor living in Los Angeles, CA. She loves all things related to filmmaking, birth, and wellness. Having served over 150 families since 2016, she has walked with women facing every type of reproductive health outcome, and is especially passionate about improving maternal health disparities, empowering women’s healthcare decisions, and building a culture of life rooted in reproductive justice. Her doula practice can be found at Fiatdoulaservices.com.
Leticia Ochoa Adams is a 43 year old wife, mother, grandmother and lover of her family’s three pit bulls. She is a born and raised Texan. She is Hispanic, Catholic, Whole Life, anti-racist and is dedicated to helping people make space in their lives for their own grief or for the grief of those they love. She speaks and writes on parenting, her Catholic faith, learning how to process childhood trauma and suicide loss. She lived the worst day of her life the day that her oldest son Anthony died by suicide, and honors his life by telling people about him and helping others who have also suffered a huge loss. Because she has lived that day and survived, she is no longer scared of anything except not showing up as her full self. You can find out more about her at leticiaoadams.com.
Leah Libresco Sargeant is the author of Arriving at Amen and Building the Benedict Option. She runs the substack Other Feminisms, which is focused on the dignity of mutual dependence.
We’re thrilled to announce the return of #FemCatholicBookClub!
In June we will be reading “Fair Play” by Eve Rodsky, the bestselling book that PopSugar called “A must read for every busy woman out there.”
Fair Play gives voice to the often invisible load women carry at home, a load that exploded during the pandemic and contributed to millions of women leaving the workforce entirely.
Millennial women have more degrees than any generation before them, and many eagerly pursue careers only to hit what some have called the “maternal wall” - this phenomenon where, after having kids, women suddenly drop far below men in career advancement, earnings, and even free time.
Catholic women in particular face many cultural ideals about marriage and motherhood, which further complicates the search for what is “good” - for women, their families, and for society at large.
Whether you are wondering what to ask your boyfriend to ensure you’re on the same page long term, drowning in the trenches of a dual-working-parent household, or just passionate about understanding the cultural and economic systems that keep women back from their full potential, this book is for you.
Join FemCatholic Book Club with an All Access Pass
Join the book club for weekly discussion questions, a network of women inside our Mighty Network community, and a live Zoom panel discussion at the end of the month.
FemCatholic Book Club is part of the FemCatholic All Access Pass Membership.
Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars, and in a moment of frenzied television, the entire world was activated. From #arrestWillSmith trending on Twitter, to videos on TikTok outraged about Chris Rock’s mockery of Jada Pinkett Smith, it seems everyone has an opinion. However, few people are talking about the context in which the Oscars slap happened.
Racism and Black Women’s Hair
Chris Rock has insulted Jada Pinkett Smith at the Oscars before. He made a demeaning and misogynistic joke about her in 2016. His recent joke about G.I. Jane 2 mocked Jada for not having hair, which is because of a medical condition. Jada has been vocal about the pain of that medical condition.
Black women have a complicated relationship with their hair. For decades, they’ve been held to the White standard of beauty of having long, straight hair, and have been subject to intense chemical processes to adhere to that standard. Those who wore their hair in natural styles like afros – or specifically Black styles like cornrows, dreadlocks and Bantu knots – are often seen as unprofessional or unfeminine. Some Black women have lost their jobs because they chose to wear their hair as it grows from their heads, as God intended.
Chris Rock knows all about this because he has two daughters and made a great documentary on the subject called Good Hair. He interviewed a woman with alopecia for the film, and he listened attentively as she described the challenges of being viewed as less feminine because she was bald.
This is why so many women, especially Black women, took offense to Chris Rock’s joke. The four-second joke had several complex layers where race and gender intersect, and those layers can be hard to understand if you haven’t lived with this dynamic.
Mocking Jada Pinkett Smith’s Career
In addition to mocking her hair, though, Chris Rock also demeaned Jada for her career. He had just been talking about Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, and how they were both up for Oscars. The joke about Jada started with saying that Will Smith had to win, so that Bardem and Cruz would not fight that night. To joke about maybe seeing her in G.I. Jane 2 was a barbed insult at her career at an event that celebrates that career.
It was a grave discriminatory joke against her as a woman, as an actress, and as someone with a medical condition. As the closest person to her, Will Smith must know the pain she endures at not being at that point in her career yet, and at not getting to have fancy hair for the night. I cannot imagine the depth of pain to be at what should have been the greatest night of his career, only to see his wife mistreated in this way.
Making Fun of a Medical Condition
Women, People of Color, and people with disabilities or serious medical conditions have endured centuries of cruel treatment. Jada Pinkett Smith is at the intersection of all three of those minorities. She has been very open about her diagnosis and has spoken about it with dignity and grace, and it’s a shame that Chris Rock didn’t treat her with that same dignity and grace.
Will Smith’s Righteous Anger
Much of the world can relate to feeling like injustice always wins. What Chris Rock did was wrong, and it doesn’t justify Will Smith’s actions. At the same time, Will Smith’s anger and grief speak to the powerlessness felt by so many. The strength that victims of bullying and cruel treatment are asked to uphold is unreasonable.
It is completely okay to feel righteous anger, as Scripture says, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). Jesus himself spoke out against the wrongdoing of others, mourned when people were mistreated, and explained better options to leaders who were hurting others – but Jesus drew the line at violence. We must remember that on the Cross, in the hour of his greatest agony, Jesus never lashed out against his persecutors. Rather, he prayed for them.
Will Smith acknowledged that his actions were wrong and spoke about his own spiritual fight. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we can acknowledge the hurt behind those actions in order to support him and others in finding constructive ways to create change.
How Should We Respond to Anger?
It is the imperative of our faith that we bring God’s love and mercy to the world, so let’s take the rest of Easter as a time to see those in our world who are suffering and comfort them. Let us set boundaries that create safety for others and ourselves. Let us expect and even demand better from our celebrities and our own communities. Let us be examples of God’s love to the world.
And let’s pray for Will and Jada Pinkett Smith – and Chris Rock too – for healing and for true peace that respects the vulnerable.
Luana Lienhart, OFS, is a Secular Franciscan, and holds a Master of Social Work and Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has worked in social services and ministry in varied settings in the Chicago-Metro area, and is an adjunct instructor at DePaul University.
Julia O’Donnell hosts a TikTok community for those struggling with deconstruction and religious trauma and who still believe in God and want a relationship with Him. You can find her @byjuliaodonnell on all platforms.
The self-help genre sometimes gets a bad rap for generic advice, celebrities with out-of-touch perspectives, or promises of gimmicky “quick fixes.” But every once in a while, a real gem comes along that’s worth reading. When I find one of these gems, I add it to my rotation of most recommended books for my psychotherapy clients. Here are the seven best self-help books that I reach for and recommend to my clients time and time again.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D.
One of the unfortunate misconceptions about mental and emotional health is that it’s “all in your head,” meaning you should be able to think your way out of any problem you face. This can look like telling someone with anxiety to “worry less” or someone with depression to “smile more.” This can also look like embracing a toxic-positivity way of thinking.
The Body Keeps the Score pokes holes in these misconceptions until they resemble Swiss cheese. The book is all about the brain and body connection, how we store memories in general, how we store traumatic memories, and how healing from trauma involves both mind and body practices. Dr. Van der Kolk weaves his own findings with other research and provides incredible insight into how our brains and bodies work together.
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
While boundaries are a crucial component of all healthy relationships, few people know why they are crucial or how to set them effectively. This leaves us wondering why we feel taken advantage of by others or feeling perpetually exhausted trying to protect our time and energy.
Boundaries is a valuable resource because it explains why boundaries matter and how to set them confidently and effectively. If you’ve been curious about learning more about boundaries and how to set them, this book is for you.
Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
If you often find yourself in relationships (family, friend, romantic, work-related, etc.) where you feel like you are giving more to the point of feeling taken advantage of, Safe People is for you.
The authors explore the qualities in ourselves that leave us vulnerable to being in imbalanced relationships, as well as the qualities in others to watch out for. I recommend this book to anyone who describes themselves as a people-pleaser or codependent. It provides invaluable insight and practical tips for helping you to cultivate healthy relationships with yourself and others.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, PhD
This book is for anyone who would describe themselves as a perfectionist. Perfectionistic thinking comes from setting the expectation that being perfect makes us worthy of love from ourselves and others. The trouble with this way of thinking is that we will always be disappointed because making mistakes is part of being human.
The Gifts of Imperfection sheds light on the value that comes from recognizing our imperfections and seeing them not as reasons why we fail at being perfect, but rather as avenues for growth and healing. It’s a refreshing perspective.
The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman, PhD and Nan Silver
Gottman’s claim to fame in the world of pop psychology is that he can predict whether a couple will stay together or break up after observing their interactions for just a few minutes. But this book offers so much more than avoiding the four traits that most often predict divorce (called “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”).
The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work is research-based, and full of exercises, related scenarios, and helpful insights. It offers a practical approach to solving the most common conflicts among couples and presents a unique, helpful take on how to make effective compromises. This book is hands down my most-recommended book on the topic of relationships.
Your Blue Flame by Jennifer Fulwiler
Not only is Fulwiler a great comedian, she is also the author of Your Blue Flame, which I recommend to anyone who is struggling to find a sense of purpose in their current circumstances. Too often, we equate living a meaningful life with one that is full of achieving milestones – so when our lives feel very “ordinary,” it can be hard to feel a sense of purpose with this mindset.
Your Blue Flame presents a unique approach to finding meaning, which Fulwiler calls your “blue flame” – and which can be found in the most ordinary of circumstances.
Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts by Sally M Winston, PsyD and Martin N. Seif, PhD
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health conditions in the U.S., and intrusive thoughts are one of its many distressing symptoms. This book came highly recommended to me by several other therapists and I’ve heard very positive feedback from my clients who have read it.
Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts walks you through the different types of intrusive thoughts and offers several practical strategies for coping with them. If you or someone you know struggles with anxiety, this book would be a great way to learn more.
You’re sitting in a team meeting with your boss, who introduces a new project or idea. And you disagree with it – strongly, even. How do you professionally disagree with your boss without getting fired?
When managing conflict and a disagreement with your boss, here are eight steps to consider:
1. Think about where your boss might be coming from.
Try to understand why your boss came up with that specific idea and put yourself in their shoes. One helpful question to ask is, “What’s the intention and motive behind this?” If you still disagree, try to visualize why other ideas may not have worked as well.
2. Check yourself and think about where you’re coming from.
Take a moment to think about your current mood and where you might be coming from. A person's mental and emotional state can influence their thinking process, choices, and what they agree or disagree with.
Checking ourselves can help us make sure that something else isn’t negatively impacting our judgment in the workplace. It’s important to remain calm and respectful while voicing concern, especially with our supervisor.
3. Find an appropriate setting.
Where you confront your boss plays a considerable role in how he or she will react to what you have to say. A private setting can optimize focus and increase exchanges of ideas and openness for all parties. After all, Jesus tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” While disagreement is not necessarily rooted in sin, public confrontation can lead to your boss shutting down or damage your rapport.
4. Find an appropriate time.
Timing is everything. Ask your boss if it’s a good time to talk. When managing conflicting ideas, it’s important that both people are able to receive and listen to what the other has to say. If your boss seems stressed or busy, your message might not be well received.
Remember that bosses are human too, and they might not always be ready to take in criticism.
5. Keep your history with your boss in mind.
How you approach your boss depends on the type of relationship you have with him or her. If you have a history of disagreeing or arguing with your boss, the way a new disagreement is delivered will matter even more. If you haven’t spoken much with your boss, though, building rapport before voicing disagreement could be vital.
6. Be well prepared.
Take the time to do any research you need to so you can explain the full scope of your disagreement. And if you’re an expert in your field, your years of experience will give you a gut feeling when something isn’t right. Trust your instincts.
7. Be bold – but avoid pointing fingers.
Stating what you believe – especially if you disagree with a superior – takes courage. Be bold in stating your opinion, but also be respectful. Being accusatory or judgmental doesn’t help.
8. Accept the outcome.
You did it – you talked to your boss and voiced your disagreement. Good work! Now, take some time to think about the outcome of your conversation. Whether your boss understood your perspective or not, try to accept the outcome and learn from the experience.
Approaching disagreement is an art. Depending on how we see it, disagreement can be a great opportunity to explore new ideas, go outside of our comfort zone, and explore the workplace from new lenses.