Argument club aims to help women grow in faith

| Susan Klemond | May 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

It’s usually not hard to find an argument. But a constructive and thought-provoking debate tends to be less common.

With the introduction of the Argument Club for Women, Catholic women in the archdiocese now can hear — as men have for about 13 years — debates that identify different sides of important issues and offer insights into Church teaching.

The women’s club, which will take up the topic of contraception at its inaugural meeting May 28 at St. Michael in Stillwater, will feature the same format as the men’s popular Argument of the Month held at St. Augustine Church in South St. Paul.

But the women’s club will feature an approach and debate topics that reflect women’s interests and preferences, according to Deborah Savage, theology and philosophy professor at St. Paul Seminary and co-founder of Siena Symposium, an interdisciplinary faculty group at the University of St. Thomas dedicated to rebuilding families and culture through scholarship and insights of the Catholic faith.

Getting grounded in faith

The women’s club isn’t a take-off on the men’s, but rather it reflects the desire of archdiocesan women to enter into a deeper understanding of their faith, she said.

“They’re realizing that they’re not equipped to articulate the reasons why the Church is right on a whole host of issues, and they’re losing their children . . . to the culture and [also losing] nephews, sisters, brothers,” she said.

Savage got the idea to start the club after hearing that women around the archdiocese were interested in the idea. A committee from different parishes and St. Croix Catholic Faith Formation helped establish the women’s club and organized the May 28 meeting around the question: “Do Contraceptives Liberate Women?”

Debating in the affirmative will be the Rev. Kelli Clement of the Minnesota Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and in the negative, Anne Maloney, philosophy professor at St. Catherine University. Savage will serve as moderator.

The event will start at 6 p.m. with appetizers followed by the debate and question-and-answer period from 7 to 9 p.m. Organizers hope to draw 200 women, welcoming all points of view and faith traditions, Savage said. Women’s club meetings will be held quarterly at different parishes on topics including history, politics and religion. The next event, on same-sex marriage, is scheduled for October, she said.

With St. Joan of Arc as their patron, club organizers want to help women understand and articulate Church teaching on a deeper level than legal arguments — something not often presented in the secular media, according to Savage.

The meetings should help level the playing field, said Eileen Douglass, executive director of St. Croix Catholic Faith Formation, which serves St. Michael and St. Mary in Stillwater, and St. Charles in Bayport.

“I think that women in their lives hear many, many, many different things,” she said, giving them an opportunity to address questions from a Catholic perspective “that they encounter in their daily lives and to have that complete conversation.”

Mary Henseler, who has been promoting the event at her parish, Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul, said she thinks the purpose “is to give Catholic women strong talking points so they can help change the culture one conversation at a time.”

She added, “I hope it also attracts women who are on the fence about this issue and need to hear the fullness of the Church’s teaching, even if it’s challenging.”

Taking back the culture

Women’s club organizers met with men’s club members and decided to follow the same standard debate format, Savage said. While they emulate the men’s success, women’s club organizers are choosing issues women will appreciate, shortening meetings to accommodate mothers and serving heavy appetizers rather than a full sit-down dinner, she said.

They also learned that men attend their own meeting every month to hear two sides of an issue debated publically — including the Church’s side, Savage said. “The men say they come because there’s this great debate, but they also come . . . because every single time it becomes clear in the course of the debate that the Catholic Church is right.”

Said Douglass: “We feel very confident in the Catholic Church and in her wisdom and in her philosophy that she has wonderful and brilliant things to say to us, not just on a theoretical level but very much on a practical level.”

The women’s club “will help establish and solidify a strong base of Catholic women who also care about our culture and want to put their faith in action,” said Henseler.

It is a tribute to women in the area who are “absolutely hungry” for help in articulating the issues, Savage said. “They can see what’s happened and maybe in some unspoken way realize that they’re responsible for taking back the culture.”


If you want to attend

What: Argument Club for Women

When: 6 p.m., May 28

Where: St. Michael, Stillwater

More info: Visit the events section on

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Category: Arts and Culture