NEWTON, Mass., Dec. 14, 2010 – Two women who reported losing their positions because of discrimination have received the first grants awarded by the Voice of the Faithful’s Emily & Rosemary Fund for Women in the Church. The $10,000 grants were awarded to Carolyn Johnson, Ed.D., of Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., and Karen DeFilippis of Colleyville, Texas.
Lynette Petruska, formerly a Roman Catholic nun and now a St. Louis attorney, established the Emily & Rosemary Fund last year. The fund was established to support women who lose employment in the Roman Catholic Church as a result of injustice or discrimination and to help women who are working to bring about justice and equality in the Church. Petruska said she experienced injustice and discrimination after opposing sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct by priests at Gannon University, Erie, Penn., where she was appointed the first female chaplain in 1999. She filed a lawsuit against the university and Erie’s bishop.
“I was fortunate to have a profession to which I could return, but many women serving the church find themselves and their families at great risk when targeted by discriminatory practices or when they stand up to injustice,” she said during a ceremony last year establishing the fund.
In her grant application, Johnson said her position as a Fordham University Graduate School of Religion assistant dean included helping to run and expand admissions and enrollment. After four months of sex discrimination and mistreatment, Johnson said, she filed a complaint with Fordham’s equal employment opportunity office and was fired a week later. She will use the grant for legal fees and living expenses while she seeks another position.
Expressing her gratitude to VOTF, Johnson said, “I am most grateful for the generous financial and moral support that Lynette Petruska and VOTF have extended to me and other women faced with the dilemma of risking their livelihoods by speaking the truth.”
DeFilippis was a pastoral associate in the Roman Catholic diocese of Ft. Worth, Texas, for 25 years. In her grant application, she said she was dismissed primarily because her degree from a Jesuit university was considered too liberal for the current climate of the church. She was dismissed without severance or unemployment compensation. DeFilippis will use her grant to further her education and obtain a master’s degree in social work or a doctorate in pastoral care.
“God is a God of liberation and has sent a holy chorus of angels in the form of VOTF to help get my feet on firm ground and move forward in service of the reign of God,” DeFilippis said. “My heart is filled with gratitude for the work you do and for this new path of light that you have shown to me.”
Dan Bartley, VOTF president, said, “We’re extremely grateful to Lynette for making it possible to ease somewhat the effects of discrimination that women can experience within a church we are striving to remake more in Christ’s image. Our fear is that such cases are not the exception but the rule. We have much work to do to reform the church’s attitudes toward women.”
The application process for the next Emily & Rosemary Fund for Women grants begins Dec. 15, 2010, when applications will be available at http://www.votf.org. Completed applications must be returned to VOTF, P.O. Box 423, Newton, MA 02464, by Feb. 1, 2011. The grants will be awarded March 30, 2011.
Voice of the Faithful
Voice of the Faithful is a lay organization formed in 2002 in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Started in a Wellesley, Mass., church basement, Voice of the Faithful has expanded worldwide to comprise more than 150 Parish Voice affiliates and 30,000 members. VOTF is committed to helping the Catholic Church. More information is available at http://www.votf.org.
Nick Ingala, Public Relations Director
781-559-3060, 617-291-3495 Cell, firstname.lastname@example.org