The citation honoring Mary Luke Tobin when, in November 1992, she received the Leadership Award from Call to Action named her “a true Christian feminist: From women’s ordination to Mary’s Pence, she works to assure for women in church and in society not complementarity but true equality.” By then Mary’s Pence was in its sixth year, and Luke, one of its founders, had for decades promoted the empowerment of women.
Just a couple of years before Mary’s Pence started, Luke had gone to El Salvador to stand with the Mothers of the Disappeared. And as guest of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, she had in the mid-1980s visited the heroic Welshwomen of Greenham Common. As part of herwork as director of citizen action for Church Women United, she and another national staff member had carried 41,000 signatures of support from U.S. women to the “peace women” of Northern Ireland.
In her keynote address to a national conference on “The Future of the American Church,” in September 1990, Luke called for “the recognition that women are full human persons and must be treated accordingly.”
Just as 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of Mary’s Pence, it also signals the 50th anniversary of Vatican II. As one of 23 women auditors at the council, Luke called for the representation of women “at all levels of the church’s life and functioning: parochial, diocesan, and even at the highest level of the church’s administrative offices in Rome.” Years later, admitting that women had been invited to some new ministry roles since the council, she pointed out, however, that “nothing of this will substitute for the correction of the refusal to admit women to full ministry.”
The community building, educational opportunities, and economic sustainability that are at the heart of Mary Pence’s mission would be applauded by Luke, a woman who cherished and promoted the creative leadership and equality of women everywhere.Cecily Jones, a Sister of Loretto, is a former English and theology teacher, a journalist, and poet. During more than 30 years in Denver, she was involved in many justice and peace efforts in addition to serving as secretary to Mary Luke Tobin. Now a resident at Loretto Motherhouse in Kentucky, she is writing Luke’s biography. “It was a privilege to live in a small community with Luke for over 25 years,” she says, “and now to capture in words her contributions to the church, to women’s rights, to ecumenism, to women religious, and to the work of justice.”