Who is Little Catholic Girl?
Little Catholic Girl originated in March of 2012. Judy Liteky, feminist, peace activist extraordinaire and dear friend, requested that I help her present Pink Smoke Over the Vatican; a documentary about Roman Catholic women priests. I was intrigued. When she stated she’d get social justice advocate Father Roy Bourgeois to speak, I was hooked.
We wanted a logo for the event and I remembered a letter I received from Father Roy several years back. He often copies a cartoon or photo and makes stationery—it’s not exactly Crane high gloss gold- embossed fancy stationery, but unlike many Catholic bishops, Roy took a vow of poverty and sticks with it. One image in particular stayed with me: a photo of a classroom of kids of both genders and various races/ethnicities eagerly raising their hands to the question poised above their heads in Fr. Roy’s bold handwriting:
WHO WANTS TO BE A PRIEST?
I shared the memory with Judy and we began to search for the best image. We wanted one little girl with her hand raised, but she had to have just the right expression. We thought we had found her, however, when it doubt, my personal motto has always been hire professionals. We did—wonderful graphic artist Melissa Hutton. She took the idea to a whole new level with the chalkboard background, chalk letters, and an entirely new little girl (complete with a Catholic school girl uniform) and best of all she was sporting the most contemplative expression. Voila, Little Catholic Girl was born!
Little Catholic Girl was initially the May 12, 2012 event poster for the showing of the film and talk by Father Roy. But after she’d helped make that such a success, I just couldn’t bear to let her go. Not yet. I had a feeling she was meant to continue her work for equality. I printed postcards for Father Roy and he includes them in all his world-wide correspondence. It turns out I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want to let Little Catholic Girl go, she just kept popping up.
When Father Roy and Jules Hart (director/producer of Pink Smoke Over the Vatican) traveled to Germany to speak and show the film, Little Catholic Girl preceded their appearance in a poster for their event—written in German! How wonderful, or auf deutsh—wunderbar and sehr schön! This continued to happen. Sometimes folks would ask me for permission to use her image, sometimes not. She became the unofficial face of a movement for equality.
One of the biggest thrills was when Little Catholic Girl became an NPR story by writer, journalist and commentator Marybeth Redmond. Please enjoy reading or listening to Ms. Redmond’s introduction to the power of Little Catholic Girl in its entirety here.
Here is an excerpt:
A heartfelt postcard arrived in my mailbox recently. On its cover—a photograph of a Catholic school girl dressed in her plaid uniform with hand raised high, as if to say "pick me." On the chalkboard behind this earnest youngster are scrawled the words, "Who wants to be a priest?"
I grinned upon seeing it, but winced as well. Appropriate humor from my friend, Father Roy Bourgeois, in light of his present circumstances. On the postcard's reverse side he had penned, "Thanks for your good support at this challenging time. You give me hope in the struggle."
In 2008, Father Roy was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI's reign. Then last October, Father Roy was dismissed by his religious society of 40-plus years, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, for refusing to recant his public position on the right of women to be ordained priests. Most likely pressure from the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith forced Maryknoll's hand…I am immensely sad that this church I still call home definitively rid itself of a faithful, 75-year-old man who has trekked across this country with messages of peace and inclusion for decades. At the same time, that Catholic Church has kept in its fold cardinals and bishops who protected priests responsible for the sexual abuse of children. The irony is astounding.
I myself recall as early as 8 years old, having a compulsion to serve others, to bring mercy, to deliver words of hope—to become a priest. I was told this vocation was closed to me forever because of gender—despite my own stirrings of conscience.
This day, I tack Father Roy's Catholic school girl postcard to my refrigerator where I can peer at it each day. "In my lifetime" becomes my mantra and mission now.
Little Catholic Girl grew legs. She speaks. She marches on. Stay tuned.
Debra Kay Hannula
Attorney at Law
Click here for more information on Father Roy and Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.