Barbara Chmielewska

42 years old; Librarian; Poland
Institute of Our Lady of Schoenstatt.

What do you see as the challenge for women today?

In 2017, the American writer and poet Neil Gaiman wrote the poem “The Mushroom Hunters” to honor women in science and to confirm their contribution, which is still underestimated and often overlooked. In a wonderful way, I think, as only poetry can do, the text shows the differences and complementarity between man and woman, woman and man.

“The men go running on after beasts.
The scientists walk more slowly, over to the brow of the hill
and down to the water’s edge and past the place where the red clay runs.
They are carrying their babies in the slings they made,
freeing their hands to pick the mushrooms.”
(Neil Gaiman, The Mushroom Hunters, excerpt)

To appreciate differences between women and men and to strengthen mutual complementarity – this is exactly what I see as the challenge for women today. Feminism, which is spreading around the world in our time, reduces women to their reproductive powers and still places a strong emphasis on the levelling of differences of women and men. The loudest of the liberal women shout for the right to abortion. In my opinion, that is what has gone wrong in feminism. To accompany life is the first and greatest task of women. We women can fulfill this task, according to our calling.
And there is a lot more than that. I think that we women are still too little committed to equal and fair pay for women and men. We protest too little against the common image of women in advertising and the media. Often we have very little courage to take on responsibility when it is offered at work or in our environment. If we do, our management style may be rather masculine … Are we not aware of the genius of women? Do love, devotion, joy, sensitivity, attention, initiative, ability to make contacts count less than strength, performance, broader perspective, consistency and individualism?

I have been working in a library for a number of years and am currently the head of a department in which mainly women work. In my work, a word from St. Paul comes to mind again and again: “Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, to older women as mothers, to younger women as sisters – with absolute purity.” 1 Tim 5: 1-2. This saying, written by an older man to a younger one, shows the motherliness of St. Paul, of which Father Kentenich often spoke. But how differently I understand this saying as a woman and empathise with it! And what’s more: when I see my mother and my sisters (that I always wanted to have so much) in my colleagues… As a woman, I can understand another woman better. And a man too, because I know what he can do better than me. But I also know what I can do better than him: in dialogue with others, when solving a problem together…

What seems to me to be very important in this context is that we women should support each other much more in our diverse talents and activities. Above all, this demands of us self-education and work on our feminine weaknesses: jealousy, criticism, intrigue …, ultimately nothing but vanity. The Mother of God, our MTA, is an antidote and very good help in this battle. We want to reflect ourselves in her image and regard the unity of Jesus and Mary as a model for a new, holy complementarity of man and woman.