What is the source of a woman’s dignity? Where does a young girl learn what it means to be a woman? The messages of contemporary culture often tell young girls that their value lies in external qualities, especially their physical appearance and attractiveness to men. This superficial and demeaning view frequently traps young women into trying to live up to a false image instead of growing into their own God-given identity and mission.
In his remarkable apostolic letter On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, Pope John Paul II presented an authentic vision of the dignity of women, based on the truth of God’s creation of humanity in his image. Women and men are equal in their dignity as persons but different in their gifts. John Paul II’s distinctive insight is captured in his phrase “the feminine genius.”
What is the feminine genius? It is the unique capacity women have to uphold the primacy of love in human life. Written into a woman’s physiology, even if she never physically carries a child, is “room for another” and an innate sensitivity to the goodness of the human person. Man, John Paul II taught, always stands in some sense outside the life process, learning a significant part of his role as son, husband, and father from woman. Woman, then, has a great service to render humanity as custodian of the person and of the family—some women as literal mothers, and all women as spiritual mothers, by seeing persons from the heart and bringing the truth about the human person to the fore wherever they work and serve.
Because of their unique charism, women have an irreplaceable contribution to make in human society and in the Church. Women of every age and vocation, even young girls, are called to bring their feminine originality to every sector of society—family, neighborhood, workplace, and parish.
The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling.
—Closing message of the Second Vatican Council
In fact, woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church. It is certainly not a question of comparing woman to man, since it is obvious that they have fundamental dimensions and values in common. However, in man and in woman these acquire different strengths, interests and emphases, and it is this very diversity which becomes a source of enrichment.—John Paul II, July 23, 1995
The goal of St. Catherine of Siena Academy is to develop the strengths, interests, and emphases inherent in women by forming young women who are secure in their identity as daughters of God, who cherish their feminine originality, and are well prepared for their God-given mission in the Church and society.