IT IS very important that women’s voices, which have been so long silenced, are heard in the church and everywhere.
That’s the feeling of recently ordained Dean of Cloyne, Susan Green.
A mother of three, she is the first female to hold the position, and only the second female dean in the country right now — a distinction and opportunity not lost on her.
Coming to the position after a decade in the role as school chaplain in Kilkenny, where her youngest daughter still boards, she feels that women’s voices aren’t heard often enough in church.
“There are voices in society that are not supportive of women and it’s important we are heard more. There are global misogynistic voices that need to be countered by rational, strong female voices,” she said, speaking from her new home in Midleton.
However, she welcomes the groundswell of support for women in ministry that she experiences all around her.
“When I first considered ordination, legislation for women to be ordained as deacons, priests and bishops hadn’t been passed and I’ll be forever grateful for those who introduced it.
“In the Church of Ireland, such decisions are made by the General Synod, a governing body which is made up of people from each of the 12 dioceses of the Church. There are both lay and clergy votes.
“I was ordained 26 years ago in 1992; women have only been ordained in the Church of Ireland for the last 30 years. I just get wonderful reaction now, more so than back then, to being female,” she said.
Still settling in to her new role in Cork, and admitting to still getting lost, she’s relishing being back working in parishes after spending time as a school chaplain, being involved in youth work, and as chaplain in Tallaght Hospital for 10 years, while her children were small.
And while the family’s only association with Cork is to have holidayed in Baltimore, she says it’s a ‘real joy’ to be here.
Married to Andrew Orr, formerly Archdeacon of Ossory and Leighlin, he is also settling into a new role as Chaplain to Midleton College, and as Priest-in- Charge in the adjoining parish of Youghal Union. They’ve both been welcomed to their new roles by Bishop Dr Paul Colton.
It’s not all that unusual for two clergy to be married to each other, there are others, Susan points out, but adds that it does make their recent move an awful lot easier.
Their children are Rachel, 22, studying in Dublin; Patrick, 20, studying in Maynooth; and 17-year-old Ciara in Leaving Cert in Kilkenny.
Having worked both as a Youth Officer and a School Chaplain, Susan is very in tune with young people and feels that life is hard for them in terms of feeling pressure to look good and to sound good and be high achievers.
“There are so many pressures for young people right now that it’s important we support and listen to them as they go about their business and remind that that it’s OK to just be yourself.”
Originally of Glenageary, Co Dublin and the fourth of five children, Susan became aware of a call to ordained ministry in her late teens, although this was prior to legislation.
Initially she trained as a secondary school teacher, and worked in several second level schools for a while, before answering the call.
Now, in her new role, she is rector of the busy parish of Cloyne union, which covers four churches — Corkbeg, East Ferry, Midleton and Cloyne — and is Dean of the Cathedral in Cloyne. There are three services for her every Sunday.
Although the community in the Cloyne Union is welcoming, vibrant and lively, one of the challenges being faced by the Church of Ireland is dwindling congregations.
“That’s caused by lots of things such as changing lifestyles and absolutely, it’s important for me to encourage people to attend.
“Above all, my role is to be a faithful priest and communicate God’s love, not browbeating people into attending, but being welcoming and interested in them and their lives.
Facing into her favourite religious time of year, Advent, her message is: “God loves people as they are; you don’t have to be anybody but yourself.”