They Call Her Pastor

A New Role for Catholic Women

By Ruth A. Wallace

Series: SUNY series in Religion, Culture, and Society
Paperback : 9780791409268, 204 pages, February 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409251, 204 pages, February 1992


Ruth Wallace explains in her new book why women are now being appointed to positions of lay administration in the Catholic Church which were previously occupied solely by men. She describes the effects of the priest shortage, changing church law, and the contemporary women's movement all of which have contributed to the trend toward Catholic parishes headed by women.

The book presents an in-depth look at the institutional and interpersonal constraints and opportunities of this new and growing phenomenon of women "pastors. " It provides a detailed sociological study of twenty priestless parishes throughout the United States, some headed by married lay women, others by nuns. A portrait of these pastors focuses on the new collaborative leadership practices by women, the restructuring of the parishes, the unique qualities of the "pastoral heart," the support systems and constraints of this new role, and the issue of gender inequality in the Church.

Ruth A. Wallace is Professor of Sociology at George Washington University, Washington, D. C.


"The book portrays a clear and detailed picture of the life and work of Catholic women pastors. The anecdotes and quotes make the people come alive. (It also) gives us the first look at an important religious phenomenon. It deals with the Church's struggle to come to grips with social changes in twentieth-century American society. These shifts include the women's movement, secularization, and desacralization of church structures. These phenomena are important in their own right. " — Edward C. Lehman, Jr. , State University of New York at Brockport