ROME, FEB. 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is Part II of ZENIT’s interview with the Rossi sisters, three laywomen theologians at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum.
Part I appeared Tuesday.
Q: Do you not give the impression of being “angry” feminists. How do you see your role as laywomen in the Church?
Theodora Rossi: I am not, in fact, an angry feminist. I am very happy with my role and I am profoundly grateful to the Dominican Fathers who providentially and prophetically some 15 years ago called me to teach.
Margaret Mary Rossi: One other thing I would like, not as a woman but as a layperson, would be a status that would allow me to be solely dedicated to research, without having to guarantee my daily bread by other work.
Teresa Frances Rossi: It would be ungrateful and unjust to be angry. I understand my role as a “sign of the times”: some perceive it sooner, others later. Some see potential in it and others, risks. I think “angry” feminism suffocates this dynamism, which is very healthy for communion.
Q: Is it difficult for your students, the majority of whom are seminarians and priests, to have women as professors?
Theodora: No, no. In Number 66, the postsynodal apostolic exhortation “Pastores Dabo Vobis” states that the laity, men and women, are called to collaborate in the work of formation of priests. Given that the Pope makes this exhortation, there is great willingness in the auditorium.
Margaret Mary: I am not aware, perhaps, because I teach specialized, not compulsory, courses. What we do find is much enthusiasm for our teaching, because the students absorb and exchange intensely their love and enjoyment of the subjects. The integration is also made possible by the Dominican Colleges.
Teresa Frances: We would have to ask our students. Perhaps in some isolated cases some find it difficult, but the fact is the response has always been encouraging, especially at the Angelicum and the Pro Unione Center [an ecumenical institution where she also works].
Q: Do you feel at ease in an environment that is primarily masculine?
Theodora: I feel comfortable in an environment of communion, in which differences are not noticed. What is experienced is the richness of the different gifts.
Margaret Mary: Yes. We are especially careful to respect the environment in which we find ourselves, avoiding excessive emphasis on feminine aspects. This awareness, which we also put into practice in other environments, helps to attenuate the masculine/feminine polarity.
Teresa Frances: Ecumenism is increasingly less masculine. What is needed is a degree of greater respect on both sides.
For me it has meant beautiful years of work with the Marianists, a congregation characterized by its great attention to the laity, formative sagacity and, above all, “family spirit.” I have learned from the Marianists how to treat, in a respectful and natural manner, the different vocations and the binomial woman-lay woman and men-seminarians.
Q: Would you encourage other women to dedicate themselves to theology?
Theodora: The study of theology is a sort of vocation to gratitude, an exercise of freedom. It is so to the highest degree, but these dimensions can be lived in any other work, understood as thanksgiving and commitment to others.
Margaret Mary: I would advise dedication to theology not for personal ambitions or to escape from other frustrating situations. Theology is the search for truth, for which one must begin, at least, with the truth about oneself.
Teresa Frances: It fulfills life!