The increasing visibility of women on the ecclesial and cultural scenes from the sixteenth century on adds a new complexity both of choice and analysis to Vol 3 of Women & Christianity. On the one hand, sources for the history of women become relatively more available on the other, the very familiarity of such women as Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Jane de Chantal, or Marguerite Bourgeois makes the historical analysis of their real contributions at once more difficult and more important. Vol 3 places such women in the context of their times, thus casting a more critical historical light on their contributions. The educational innovations for women and girls provided by generations of women religious, not to mention the extraordinary assortment of other ministries, is highlighted and placed in proper context, having been taken for granted for centuries, and now regarded with some suspicion and cynicism. The twentieth century expands the perspective in every direction, but the closing chapters focus particularly on the expansion in the consciousness of western christian women provided by their sisters in Asia, Africa, Central and Latin America.
Besides this new breadth of vision, there is a new depth challenge to Christianity by the fact of christian feminism, particularly by ecofeminism, womens spirituality, and the more politically active movements such as those focussed around the debate on the priestly ordination of women. The issues raised by these movements, and equally by their opponents, are breath-taking in their scope, but have released the kind of spiritual energy that will definitely carry many women through the twenty-first century.
Mary T. Malone retired home to Ireland in 1997 after almost forty years in Canada where she taught in Toronto’s St Augustine’s Seminary and in the University of St Jerome’s, the Catholic College on the campus of the University of Waterloo. Since returning to Ireland, Mary has written a trilogy on Women & Christianity, 2000, 2001, 2003, and Praying with the Women Mystics, 2006, all for The Columba Press, as well as several articles. Mary lives in her home county of Wexford.