Rita L. Houlihan is a Eucharistic minister, lector and catechist as well as a member of her parish’s Parish Council. She had a long career at IBM working in technical support, sales, and Organizational Change Strategy. Rita is a graduate of Newton College of the Sacred Heart and holds a Masters in Educational Psychology from NYU. She is a member of FutureChurch’s Women in Church Leadership Committee and joined the FutureChurch Board in 2008.
After retiring Rita explored the role of women in salvation history and committed to work on the restoration of our historical memory of early Christian women leaders with a focus on St. Mary of Magdala. Much is known of these women in academic circles however, relatively few Catholics (including clergy) even know their names (such as Phoebe of Cenchreae, Lydia of Philippi, Tabitha of Joppa, and the Women of Worth of Proverbs 31) or their significance. Most of these faithful women are omitted from our Sunday Lectionary.
Recognizing that the popular misconception of Mary of Magdala as “penitent sinner” is reinforced with negative images Rita commissioned the sculpted relief – “Mary of Magdala Proclaims the Resurrection” by Margaret Beaudette, SC. The art captures a determined Mary of Magdala first proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord” to a group of women and men disciples. The original relief is installed at the Church of the Ascension on West 107th Street in NY, NY. Copies are also installed at the Sisters of Charity house in Riverdale, NY and Blessed Trinity parish in Cleveland, Ohio.
Since 2009 Rita has sponsored
Boston College’s annual “St. Mary of Magdala Lecture” and sponsored Elizabeth
Johnson’s lecture on Mary of Magdala at Fordham University in 2015. Also in
2015, Rita led a small group in writing a letter to Pope Francis requesting
that the Vatican issue a corrective teaching on Mary of Magdala and elevate her
commemoration to a Solemnity. On June 3, 2016 the Vatican elevated Mary of
Magdala’s memorial to a full Feast with her own Preface. The decree presents her
as a true apostle and evangelizer. Mary of Magdala is the only woman saint
celebrated with the Feast designation. There is much more to be done to
overcome the negative images of Mary of Magdala and to restore her and many
other early women leaders to their rightful place in our liturgies and our
Links to videos of the lectures and the Vatican’s Decree: