Meet the Laywoman Who Is Running a Catholic Church in Albany, New York

Tags: Currents Faith, Pope Francis, Vatican, Women in the Church, Women Religious, Women's History Month, World News

By Emily Drooby

Switching out décor, coordinating Church events, washing and folding rags — Elizabeth Simcoe does it all.

She’s a laywoman but she’s taken on a job usually reserved for the clergy, leading a Catholic Church, St. Vincent De Paul Parish in Albany, New York.

She tells Currents News that a portion of Canon law allows for this: “The code of Canon Law allows for the Bishop to appoint a deacon or a layperson if there aren’t enough priests to pastor the parishes.”

The world has been dealing with a priest shortage. Recent Vatican data showing the number of priests has dropped, with only one for every 3,000 Catholics.

That’s where people like Elizabeth come in. Her job title is Parish Life Director. While there’s a canonical pastor for council, and rotating priests to celebrate Mass, Elizabeth runs the show.

She serves as both a spiritual and administrative leader.

“So you need to be able to manage parish finances, you need to manage personal issues, you need to manage crisis, or be with people in crisis,” she said.

Her entire church is run by women. “Actually all of our staff, with the exception of our custodial staff and the priest who celebrates Mass with us, are women,” Elizabeth explained.

The strong role of women in Albany is part of a growing trend within the Church.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis appointed two women to high ranking Vatican posts previously only held by men: Nathalie Becquart and Catia Summaria.

For Elizabeth, taking the role wasn’t just about being a trailblazer. It was about stepping in where she was needed.

“There are many, many examples of women who have stepped forward to lead not because they wanted to be powerful, but because they saw a need that had to be met,” she said.

Elizabeth also now gets to be there for her faith, just like her faith is there for her every day.