Voices of Young Catholic Women

The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity, and the joy that is so characteristic of you.

--Pope Francis, World Youth Day 2013

Pope Francis' call to Catholic youth comes at a time of significant decline in Catholic practice among women of the milllennial generation, as sociologist Patricia Wittberg describes in her article "A Lost Generation?"  According to the General Social Survey, nearly 35% of millennial women in the United States who were baptized into the Church are no longer active Catholics.

Ours is also a time in which women's baptismal holiness and created dignity are threatened in numerous ways.  Young women in the United States face many challenges, including a media culture that is degrading to women, social pressure to participate in hook-up culture, high rates of sexual violence, and inadequate maternity leave provisions for mothers who work outside the home.

In this context, students active in Campus Ministry at Saint Mary's with the support of the College's Division for Mission invited their millennial peers to join them in writing letters to Pope Francis expressing their love for the Catholic tradition and sharing ideas that could contribute to the Church's outreach to young women and support them in meeting today's challenges. This national invitation was issued in September 2014:

Invitation to Millennial Women

Dear Women of the Millennial Generation (ages 18-30),

Join your voices to ours in writing letters to Pope Francis on these topics:

  • What do we cherish about the Catholic tradition? In what ways does the Church mediate God's beauty, truth, and goodness in our lives?
  • What is it like to be a young woman today?  Are there new ministries, programs, or initiatives that could support young women in meeting with strength and dignity the challenges we face? How might we evangelize our culture?
  • Are there broadened ways in which the gifts we bring to the Catholic community as baptized women might contribute to the life of the body of Christ and serve the Church's mission? The priesthood, Pope Francis reaffirms in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), is reserved to males because the priest is a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist. At the same time, Francis emphasizes, "we need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church."
  • If you are no longer active in the Church, why did you leave?  Are there ways in which other young women could support your return?

In addition to letters, we welcome prayers, poetry, works of art, or other forms of creative expression.

Thank you and God bless you,

Kaleigh Ellis '17 Emily Krach '14 Haley Koth '14 Kristen Millar '15
Malea Schulte '14 Devree Stopczynski '14 Victoria Wilbraham '15 Grace Urankar '14
Ambar Varela '16 Leah Walsh '17  

Presentation to Pope Francis

Photo courtesy of L’Osservatore Romano
President Mooney and Kristen
Millar '15 present letters and gifts to
Pope Francis. Photo courtesy of
L’Osservatore Romano.
On November 24, 2014, letters and works of art from 225 women from 15 high schools, colleges, and universities were personally presented to Pope Francis by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Saint Mary's President Carol Ann Mooney, Kristen Millar '15, and Grace Urankar '14.

An account of their journey to Rome can be found here:


The 2015 Madeleva event consisted of a panel discussion of this project.  The public event took place on April 16, 2015 in Carroll Auditorium at Saint Mary's College.

Article in America Magazine!

Check out an article on the "Voices" project, which appeared in the Sept. 14, 2015 issue of America magazine: