(Updated December 19, 2017)

On Friday, January 19, 2018 there will be an interactive video conference featuring one of the paper sessions of the biennial conference of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA), which will be taking place in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. EWA is a forum of Catholic women doing theology in Asia. EWA’s vision is the development of theologizing from Asian women’s perspectives and the recognition of Asian Catholic women theologians as equal partners in theological discussions within the Church and Academe. This is the 4th videoconference that EWA is holding in collaboration with partners from the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church.

The theme of the conference is “Foodscapes: Gastronomy, Theologies, and Spiritualities.” A foodscape connotes a “plate-full” of issues connected to food, such as the abundance of food in some places of the world and hunger in others, industrial farming, food trade, the politics of food vis-à-vis caste, religion, and gender, within the larger context of global capitalism and climate change. Given the social expectation of women in Asian cultures as “the mother-nurturer,” and therefore as “cooks” and “helpers,” food-related concerns impact women in a very central way. The conference reflects on these food issues from various Asian perspectives on ethics, theologies, or spiritualities.

The two papers that will be presented in the video conference session are:

Sappia-Christ: Rice of Life
Rachel Joyce Marie Sanchez (Philippines)

For many Filipinos, a meal is not a meal without rice. A study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute also shows that, “When the going gets tough, mothers go hungry.” In response to hunger experienced in an urban poor community, the women of one parish initiated “Isang Dakot ng Pagmamahal” (One Handful of Love), a practice wherein members of BECs (Basic Ecclesial Communities) contribute rice grains for members of the community in dire need. This turns out to have life-giving effects for the BEC.

This essay explores stories and insights from these women BEC leaders and how they interpret a Philippine rice myth about Sappia, a goddess who, moved by compassion for the poor, used an insignificant weed, and squeezed both her breasts upon it for milk until blood came out to produce rice grains. Sappia is explored as a Christ-figure by bringing out Christological themes from her story, specifically sacrifice, compassion for the poor, and faith. This Christological image can be liberating, but may lead to reinforcing social expectations of the “martyr mother.” Instead of “giving until it hurts”, women from the BECs show that sharing can be done by everyone creatively. From this discussion on the story of Sappia we explored further the image of Christ as the Rice of Life, which avoids the association of the female Christ image with the self-sacrificing mother, and instead highlights sharing and nurturing communal and ecological relationships.

Rachel Joyce Marie O. Sanchez is 2016 2nd place winner of the Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza New Scholar Award. She teaches Theology at the Ateneo de Manila University while currently working on her PhD dissertation on Philippine feminist theologies at the Loyola School of Theology.

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The “Vocation of a Business Leader” Stephanie Ann Puen (Philippines)

This paper discusses the importance of “good goods, good work, and good wealth.”

A gendered lens in understanding work is required in order to genuinely bring about “good goods, good work, and good wealth.” Using the example of the Fair Trade movement, this paper wishes to address this lacuna in the document: the need to recognize how systems of understanding gender and sexism, also affect labor, and that in order to truly do “good goods, good work, and good wealth,” these must be taken seriously, particularly when it comes to labor in food production, where women play a big role.

Stephanie Ann Puen is a Ph.D. student in the Theological and Social Ethics program at Fordham University in New York, USA. Prior to doing her PhD studies, she worked for corporate planning at the Ramcar group of companies and taught at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. Her major research interests are economics and business ethics, Catholic social thought, and theology and popular cultures.

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The venues, local times, and contact persons for the videoconference are as follows:

Boston College, Boston, USA 10:00 am Mary Jo Iozzio (mary.jo.iozzio@bc.edu)

Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, USA 9:00 am Gina Wolfe (rwolfe@ctu.edu) and Sr. Diane Bergant (dbergant@ctu.edu)

Fordham University, New York, USA 10:00 am Christine Firer Hinze (hinze@fordham.edu)

Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR), 6:00 pm, Elias Opongo, sj (eliasomondi@gmail.com) and Sr. Anne Achieng (aachieng0106@gmail.com)

Jesuit School of Theology Berkeley, Santa Clara, USA 7:00 am Lisa Fullam (lfullam@scu.edu)

Marquette University, Marquette, USA, 9:00 am, Katherine Ward (katherine.ward@marquette.edu)

St. Augustine College, South Africa, 4:00 pm, Nontando Hadebe (noehadebe@gmail.com)

If you are interested in hosting a viewing at your institution please contact Gina Wolfe, rwolfe@ctu.edu or Mary Jo Iozzio, mary.jo.iozzio@bc.edu or Agnes M. Brazal, agnesmbrazal@gmail.com to see if there is still a slot available. The 70 minute session will be held on Friday, January 19 at 10:00 pm local time in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

We are very excited about this project and hope that CTEWC members who reside near the hostvenues will participate in what promises to be a rich opportunity to engage in dialogue with these two Asian women theologians.