Matters India Reporter
Rome: Two young women from India, both sisters, were the star speakers at the “Voices of Faith International Women’s Day” celebration in Rome on March 8.
Nivedita Lobo and Gayatri Lobo Gajiwala from Mumbai spoke on the topic, “Is the Church even relevant to young women?” at the program on the theme “Why Women Matter.”
The sisters, daughters of a Catholic mother and Hindu father, were not baptized at birth but were brought up in the Catholic tradition; Catholic school, religion lessons, Sunday Mass, Sunday school and parish activities.
At 13 years old, Gayatri was sent to a Hindu ashram boarding school that did not encourage religious practice but taught the philosophy of its founder Shri Aurobindo. She remained there for five years and at 21 she decided to get baptized.
Nivedita graduated from a convent school and received the catechism prize three years in a row. Her friends thought she would become a Catholic leader, although they never realized she had chosen not to get baptized.
In Rome, the sisters shared on the meaning of the Church today. How young women experience a Church, full of rules and regulations and how they apply it to their everyday lives.
“I’ve always thought of Jesus as the original rebel against patriarchal structures, welcoming women, children, the disabled and the otherwise disenfranchised into his love,” said Gayatri, a high school educator and facilitator.
“I’d like to think Jesus would speak to me, rather than about me! I wait for women’s role in the church to be acknowledged independently of men in the same way. The question I ask myself is do I really need to be part of a system that expects me to minimize myself in order to support, rather than give the best of myself? If Jesus could see us as more than mere scaffolding, surely the Church can also see that we aren’t here simply to support the men of the Church. We are the Church too,” Gayatri added.
Nivedita, an executive tech recruiter, noted the current “tumultuous times where women are fighting for a seat at the table in every industry imaginable.”
She says the Church seems to be removed from reality when it sticks its heels in the ground and continue with its old fashioned gender normative ways. “Jesus was a humanist. He treated women as equal to men and since women were considered inferior in those days it was almost like he was elevating them. A church that doesn’t have space for strong, opinionated, fierce women has a lot to learn,” she asserted.
Both spoke how the Church needs to be relevant especially by listening to women creating space gender equality.
More than 250 people are attending the Voice of Faith program. The speakers were from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and USA.
The event took place at the Aula of the Jesuit Curia, Rome. The Jesuit Refugee Service and Fidel Gotz Foundation are sponsors.