The following comes from an Apr. 17 story in the Catholic Voice, diocesan paper for Oakland.

Almost a year ago, in answering questions asked of him by the International Union of Religious Superiors, Pope Francis said, “I accept. It would be useful for the Church to clarify this question. I agree,” when asked if he would establish an official commission to study the question of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate.

The pope’s “I agree” and his subsequent appointment of seven men and six women to study the issue laid the foundation for the April 8 presentation, “Women Deacons? A Dialogue,” at the Fremont motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose.

Most Rev. Randolph Calvo, bishop of Reno, and Dominican Sisters Mary Peter Traviss and Gloria Marie Jones, made their presentations to a group of 80 religious and laywomen — and a few men — for a lively panel, followed by thoughtful questions.

Bishop Calvo’s talk centered on “Women Deacons: What the Past Can Mean for Today.” His experience on the topic spans more than 20 years, he told the gathering.

While serving as president of the Canon Law Society of America in November 1995, he sent a copy of an ad-hoc committee’s “Canonical implications of ordaining women to the permanent diaconate” to then-Cardinal Josef Ratzinger.

His presentation drew upon the work of historians and scriptural scholars, who point to the presence of women deacons and deaconesses in the early church.

Beyond looking at history, Bishop Calvo encouraged looking at the possibilities.

“What we’re doing here today,” he said, in raising the question of women deacons, is asking, “Where is the Holy Spirit calling us on this particular question at this particular time?”

Sister Gloria Marie, who until last fall served as prioress of the order, was in the Pope Paul VI audience hall among the 900 religious superiors when Pope Francis said he would appoint the commission.

The question of women deacons is, said Sister Gloria Marie, “more significant than giving women more power or status, as some people may think….”