Southeastern Pennsylvania WOC grew out of the Philadelphia Task Force on Women and Religion; some of the Episcopal members were ordained as the “Philadelphia Eleven” in 1974. The Catholic members affiliated with Saint Joan’s Alliance, but when National WOC was formed in 1975 they organized a local “branch,” which has been “inspired by but independent of” National WOC since then, as we state in our newsletter.

The early years were characterized by great optimism, and the major efforts were toward education: appearances in the media and at colleges and universities, both of which have remained part of our program. SEPA WOC also appeared at Archdiocesan councils and meetings; the last of those semi-sanctioned contacts, informal personal meetings with chancery officials, ended in 1993. In 1984, we organized the only Philadelphia meetings to provide feedback on the Bishops’ pastoral; we participated in our own meeting and the meetings the Archdiocese held in 1988. During that period, we also held secret meetings with priests on the RAPPORT model, to build support for women’s ordination within the clergy. More recently, we held one Saturday workshop with Mary Hunt and Diann Neu of WATER, and have participated in the educational meetings organized by local ARCC and Call to Action.

SEPA WOC is best known for its witnesses and for Equal wRites, its quarterly newsletter. The first demonstration occurred in 1979, with the pope’s visit to Philadelphia. It was small but three days later Sr. Theresa Kane made the point. In 1980 and 1981there were prayer services on Ordination Day, and in 1986 we resumed that witness. In 1987, we shifted to Holy Thursday and in 1991 we began holding two witnesses a year. Holy Thursday this year had street theater, a prayer service, women at the doors of the Chrism Mass, banners and signs; there were over 100 people there. Ordination Day has been a Eucharistic liturgy in the park across the street from the Cathedral; last year, we had empty chairs for those women not being ordained. We have held other witnesses as well: when St. Theresa was made Doctor of the Church and at large Archdiocesan events, like the gathering of Cardinals April 26, 2002. We have many contacts in the local news media, and generally are covered well.

Equal wRites began in June1992 as a “Catholic Feminist Newsletter for Women and Men in the Philadelphia Area.” It enabled us to reach a larger audience with more in-depth information about women’s ordination and to publicize events of interest to progressive Catholics in the region. It has published consistently every quarter since then, with articles on women’s ordination, analyses of local and national Catholic issues, book reviews, scripture reflections, personal experiences and poems, letters, a calendar of events, and a sometimes ironic column, “Did You Know?” As contributors moved from the Philadelphia area, it has become more national in authorship. Look for issues on the web site.

In 2001 we had the WOC billboard on City Line Avenue during the Philadelphia Call to Action meeting. We had excellent coverage by local media, and held a dedication at which other local Catholic reform groups were well represented. We have always had good relationships with these groups, especially Dignity, which has supported us financially and given our members opportunity to preach. In 1994, with the Federation of Christian Ministry, we organized a regional COR; we worked on joint meetings and on the referendum in 1996. Those close relationships remain, though the formal organization has not convened. We also have begun visiting local churches to distribute information about women’s ordination.

Before Dublin, Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference adopted the purple stole and began selling them in quantity locally and nationally. This sign of “mourning for the gifts of women lost to the Church” has become an important part of our public presence in our parishes. We also have available prayer cards, stickers, posters, greeting cards, tee shirts, and ribbons.

SEPA WOC is incorporated in the State of Pennsylvania and has a 501c3 tax exemption. We are a non-member corporation governed by three officers, with management delegated to a Core Committee of volunteers, which has about a dozen who regularly attend monthly meetings, to which all are welcomed. Those and others write for Equal wRites, which has an editor and others who assume regular responsibilities. Recently, we established this website,; we have had an email list for a couple of years. The circulation of Equal wRites is 800 three times a year and 1200 once a year.


Regina Bannan

April 23, 2002

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