Live NOW and Forever! All Saints and All Souls Celebration of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community with Three Roman Catholic Woman Priests
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida celebrated All Saints and All Souls day a bit early this year. On Saturday afternoon, October 16, 2021, twenty-seven people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and social class and cultural backgrounds, met outside in East Fort Myers where several members live, to give thanks to our Loving God for those who have gone before us. Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP, was assisted by Co-Pastors Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, RCWP and Marilyn E. Rondeau, RCWP, from Maryland. Rev. Marilyn gave greetings from The Living Waters Inclusive Catholic Community in Baltimore and Thurmont, Maryland and was warmly welcomed to our Good Shepherd Community. We also named those with Birthdays during this season and said we would celebrate those important events today as well.
We especially remembered and honored the faithful Mother and Grandmother of our Good Shepherd Community who made her transition home to God in August of 2021 after battling cancer for four years, our beloved Jolinda Harmon,70. Nine members of her family attended, including a daughter, Yolanda, eight grandchildren, Quayschaun, Natasha, Keeondra, Jolinda La Faye, Ni’ya, Ri’ya and Ki’ya, and Isaiah and Isaiah’s 5 year old son. Four of the young adult grandchildren present recalled that they were baptized with or after Grandma Harmon as she made sure they became a living part of our church community. We also recalled how Grandma Harmon brought all of the children and grandchildren and their friends that she could bring regularly, and how she was Grandma for everybody. Two other grandchildren who were baptized with or just after with her were not able to attend today, Jakeriya, who was home preparing a birthday party for her son Jamir and Jakein who is living and working in Alaska. While three Good Shepherd members attended her Funeral in August when Pastor Judy co-presided with Pastor Tommy White of Jolinda’s mother Lessie Ivory’s Missionary Baptist church, this was the first time we could celebrate our dear sister as a Good Shepherd Congregation. We lit a candle in her memory and her Grandson Quay placed her picture on the altar along with that of his mother, Linda Maybin, also our beloved member who went home to God in 2017.
We celebrated our dear Linda as well as Nathaniel Chester, who lived where we were worshipping until his death in 2016 and Michael Murray, Lauretta Rasmussen, Richard Duncan who made his transition home in 2021, our great supportive brother,Jack McNally, 93, in December of 2020 and other church members, along with our beloved Pastor Judy Beaumont who left us to return home to God in January of 2018. Each one was remembered. We recognized that we are a part of the vast Community of Saints who surround us with their love and guidance, especially those who welcomed Christ as their Beloved here at Good Shepherd.
We began with the hymn Revive Us Again as Pastor Judy introduced the theme of the day, to LIVE now and be assured that we will also rise again according to God’s love for us expressed in the Scriptures of the day. Pastor Marilyn read the first reading from Isaiah 25:6-9 where we learn that God will remove the mourning veil forever, and destroy all death forever, wiping away the tears from every cheek. Our elder, Mr. Harry Lee Peter Gary led us in the Responsive Psalm33-“May Your faithful love be upon us ,O God as we place all our hope in You”. Pastor Marina Teresa read from the Epistle to the Romans (6:3-9) where we hear that Christ was raised from the dead so we may lead a New LIFE and be raised from the dead as well.
We then sang and claimed the ground before us and ourselves and our neighbors as “Holy Ground” before singing ALLELUIA before the Gospel. Pastor Marilyn then read from the Gospel; John 6:37-40-“Whoever comes to me I won’t turn away…but rather raise them up….this is the will of my Abba (Father): that everyone who sees and believes in the Only Begotten will have eternal life….and be raised on the last day. ”
Pastor Judy then preached on LIVING NOW and the assurance of our rising again. She asked the congregation to reflect on their lives and to share what can keep us from really living now, can keep us as if we were dead. Grief was the first thing first mentioned…how it is so hard to let go even when we believe in the rising again of our loved ones. Then stress and money problems and health issues, and loneliness and other worries were mentioned. As we all owned the things that deaden us, Pastor Judy asked that we let them go and trust in our loving God and God’s people for support and compassion.
She went onto say that our faith in God’s love through Christ can give us the strength to let go of our heavy burdens of grief and worry and give us the strength to really live fully now. And we can turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ to give us the support we need to let go of death and embrace life. We have each other, we are not alone. The prayers of our loved ones and all the saints gone before us can enliven us again. Our God is the God of the living and our loved ones live with God and want us to live too, now and forever.
Our intercessory prayers included our loved ones and all gone before even as they pray now for us. Joelle White age 14, now taking college classes in her first year of High School, who grew up in our church read special intercessions for victims of war and conflicts, hunger and basic needs unmet, and victims of AIDS, Malaria, Covid-19 and other infectious diseases especially those who died without adequate care. This is Joelle next to Mr. Harry Gary and her mother Debbie and friend Felicia, and niece Courtney Bolt. Mr. Gary was Joelle’s Godfather at her baptism at Good Shepherd ten years ago .
We prayed for all our deceased members and loved ones who sleep in Christ and for families and individuals locked in grief, that God will give relief and consolation to them, and that we may minister to one another in this. This is Grandma Harmon and her grand and great grand daughters in 2018.
We welcomed all present to the Table of Plenty prepared by Jesus at his Last Supper. And we sang Thank You, God, and I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me as Holy Communion was received.
Before we concluded we gave Birthday blessings and gifts to Kathy Roddy, Natasha Terrell, Jolinda LaFaye Terrell, Keeondra Terrell, and Ni’Ya, Ri’Ya and Ki’Ya Battle who were ten in the picture above and 13 now and seven year old Courtney Bolt. We also recognized the presence of Ellen McNally at 91, our CTA President who continues always to support Good Shepherd. All received a big hand, especially Ellen McNally. She is on right in mask here with Mary, Gary, Pearl, Brenda and Kathy. And below are the three Pastors of the day together after we concluded with a mutual blessing and Mr. Gary sent us forth to continue our service.
May you be blessed as we celebrate All Souls and All Saints day this year. May you realize the fullness of your life and service to our loving God and others every day and live in the hope of the resurrection as you remember and celebrate the life of your loved ones.
In The Risen and Living Christ,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
My friends, It has been a long time since I wrote in these pages. No, I didn’t have a writer’s block. I had a very long night. I cannot count the number of funerals and Memorials I have done since my beloved life partner and co-Pastor Judy Beaumont went home to our loving God after a battle with Leukemia, her fourth cancer, in January of 2018. Her loss left me depleted, sad and empty and lonely. And that feeling increased with the years. And many of our Good Shepherd members whom I loved dearly as well joined her in those almost four years since her passing. They were not particularly old, but they had suffered the ravages of homelessness, and poverty, and sometimes serious physical illness, mental illness and or addiction to alcohol or substances. This year alone I presided at three funerals, and I have been there for the consolation of those remaining and of others in mourning, at their sides, where I was asked to be, and where I wanted and needed to be. It seemed to me that I was surrounded with death and loss. The words of Jesus challenged me to be part of the consolation in Matthew 5:4 NIV ” Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted”. Or “Blessed are those who are mourning: they will be consoled” (TIB). The Presence of our loving God was there in the night and did console me. It kept me going when I could have given up. But somehow, the nights and even the days were hard. Sometimes long and hard. Yes, even Pastors and Priests, and maybe especially Pastors and Priests, have times when nothing flows freely and it is like night. Oh we may still do all that is expected of us, but something is missing-it is the joy of life and the joy of salvation. And it is the absence, partial or full, of the essence of life- of love- that gives us cause for joy.
The Scriptures give us words for it: in my Grandmother’s Bible, the KJV, I read Psalm 30:5c: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning”…and in the Peshitta translated from the original Aramaic of Jesus: “weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning”. And in the NAB- Psalm 30:6b “At nightfall, weeping enters in, but with the dawn, rejoicing”. And continuing in the NAB, verses 12-13: “You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.” Or The Inclusive Bible by the Priests For Equality: “Then you changed my despair into a dance–you stripped me of my death shroud and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:11).
The promise is true: God will provide whatever is needed to turn that despair into dancing. But first we must trust that will happen, and then we must have patience, for it is in God’s time, not always ours, and we must remain in communication with God who is Love and let Love know how we feel. Whether it is sadness or anger or fear, or just emptiness share it with God. Sometimes I did not even have the words for it, and that is from a wordsmith who likes words, but I sat before God without words and God heard my heart. I believe God is listening to your heart too, especially if you are mourning or feel that it is night.
In reflecting on mourning and loss, time may not heal all, but it is a factor. It took me more than three years to open my heart to enjoying the company of others, and more than that to realize that maybe I could love again…and more…maybe I could be loved again. I continued to love and be loved by my Good Shepherd Community and my extended family and that had gotten me through the worst of loss. But something was still missing, something I did not dare even name. And for me, it was then that the miracle happened. There she was, someone to love and be loved by. Now, I was speechless- I am past my mid seventies, and I have been through the best and the worst that Life has to offer. I never even dared think I could begin again. But suddenly I was surrounded by new life, by hope, by someone loving me. And after getting over the sheer shock of it, I embraced it and her with all of my being. And so now I say, thank you God for the miracle of love entering my life when I least expected it. Thank you God for your abiding love. And, dear God, teach me how to love again, better than I have ever done before.
It may come for you in a different way, with the love of family, or friends, a new life born, or new friends or new work, or new experiences, or in a similar way, in the presence of a beloved person, but when it comes you will know it and you can say with the Psalmist: JOY COMES IN THE MORNING-THANKS BE TO GOD! And you will throw off those death clothes and you will be dancing!
This is a poem I wrote for my love about where I was:
In deafening silence
In endless aloneness
As life ebbed away
Toward another shore
From sheer loneliness and
just going through the
motions of daily life
and dying inside with each
day’s chores and emptiness
caring for the cats,
and the ducks and birds,
the little moorhens, the
big turtles and muscovys,
smiling at them sometimes,
the little joy I had,
the little secrets of creation
still shared with our Loving God,
caring for the people
given me to serve, so,
like Jesus I didn’t lose any one,
using the last drops of fuel to
reach out to the broken,
reaching out to be with friends
scarce as cool days in Florida,
not giving up, determined to hold on,
barely, barely, by my fingertips, and
laughing at the daily messages about
buying burial insurance and graves,
I carried on,
broken now myself,
yet still feeling the calming
Presence of God,
Who heard the prayers
I could not pray for lack
Of words, who heard my heart,
And still somewhere inside alive,
And needing flesh and blood,
And love, and love,
I pushed along,
Running on empty,
Until you came.
And this is for her:
Beautiful, strong woman,
Woman loving woman,
Woman like me,
Woman loving me,
woman of faith,
woman of intellect,
woman who dares to hope,
who dares to love, to live,
who loves me….loves me,
by an indescribable
miracle of our loving God,
a miracle of indirection and
longing and yearning,
and faintest hope,
you were there. A miracle-
We heard God speaking- we heard Her voice,
Our voices then matched in tone
In sheer quiet intensity,
With fear and hesitance underneath,
with so few words, and signs,
you took the leap, we took the leap,
you took a chance, we took a chance,
and in the midst of some chaos,
the kind we both produced in our lives
while hoping for more, hoping for love,
You broke through the silence,
You pierced through the emptiness
And you reached my very heart and soul.
Matched by a Loving God wiser than us,
We are matched in soul, in calling,
In thinking, in service, in values, and
In the need to join ourselves in complete
and glorious union of body and soul,
before we leave this earth.
My beloved woman, how perfectly we fit,
How easily we complete each other,
and how that love spills out
to grow the kin-dom of God on earth.
Oh how blessed we are,
I love you so,
How amazing this is,
And oh, how long we have waited.
Oh, thanks be to God, and to you
You are God’s perfect gift
to make us fully alive.
OH Thank you God, You turned my despair into dancing!
So do not despair if you too are mourning, or in a holding pattern, open your heart to our Loving God and wait for the morning when JOY comes again. Then, dance with me.
With Love and Blessings and Hope,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL
Jean Tracy (Forman) was born in Pennsylvania in 1942 but her family, her mother and father and two much older sisters, Helene and Eleanore, and a younger brother, Tommy, moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was a toddler so her Dad, Tom, could work in the Shipyards. They lived on Troy Avenue near Dean street right near PS 83 until Jean was in Junior High School 210, then they moved to Bedford Avenue-a big step up in housing. Jean and I were close friends from the second grade through High School and into young adulthood before our paths diverged. She married the maybe 7 year older Joseph Terdoslavich shortly before her graduation from Prospect Heights High School and had four sons, Vinnie, Joey, Daniel and later, Jamie. She would also divorce and marry Frank Forman and have a lovely and beloved daughter, Diana.
While there were problems to face, Jean was in love with all of her children and tried hard to be a good young mother. I dearly remember Vinnie and Joey as precocious and very cute preschoolers. Daniel had Downs Syndrome and had to be placed in Willowbrook State School where Jean visited regularly always. This was very hard on her. Through marriage and remarriage and marriage again, Jean sought and gave love especially when she found her “soul-mate” Lee Wilson, who could not stay in one place. She was a woman who was honest and true to herself and the choices she made were never easy, but she followed her own star and made them. And she loved all of her family and friends with all her heart.
Friendship is a most special relationship and, wonder-fully, it can be formed in childhood and be life-long. Jean Tracy and I first met when we were 7 years old in the second grade in PS 83 in Brooklyn, New York. Maybe Miss Rothstein lined us up by height and Jean and I were both short though I was a little taller. Or maybe we both sensed gentle, bright, souls that loved easily and loved art work, animals and trees. Whatever it was, we “clicked”. While we walked home in different directions, soon Jean accompanied me home for lunch and after school and my Grandma would give her big hugs and make her favorite meals if she could. Jean did not like oatmeal but sometimes that is what we had as it was available. It did not matter as we soon were playing with our paper Indians on the floor or climbing the “trees that grew in Brooklyn”, the trees of Heaven, (Ailanthus Altissima) that grew tall, smelled almost like peanut butter, and bent in the wind. On holidays like the 4th of July my mother would take both of us to Coney Island where we played in the sea and had fun in both the Steeple Chase Pool and Amusement Park and even in the bath house where we would run and hide from my mother, who was amazingly patient with us.
I was an only child and Jean’s sisters were much older. We became like sisters. We did everything together and had such fun, laughing all the time. In Junior High 210 we were no longer in the same classes but were forbidden from sitting near each other in Assemblies as we would laugh at almost anything and disrupt the Assembly. As we loved Native American culture, history, and crafts, we also researched and did a presentation on Navajo Indians together for our respective Social Studies Classes.
By the Fifth grade we were inseparable and still in the same class. We loved our teacher, Mr. Chisari, but he was not tolerant of her mischievous “cutting up” while I liked the laughter it caused. We explored the whole neighborhood looking for trees to climb, or animals, especially kittens, to rescue. We did save some from an apartment house basement, and one was missing an eye. I kept him for both of us and we shared Tiny Tim. She had a dog but was not allowed a cat. We loved playing in the snow with my dog, Brownie, pulling us on the sled. When there was major excavation to build the St. John’s Park and Recreation Center there were mountains to climb. This was inner-city Brooklyn, and we were mountain climbers! When the park was completed, we played softball there with the boys. We were proud to be chosen for teams. Jean was a great hitter. I could pitch. We roller skated in the streets, but safely in the park as well. We loved growing up and being “tom-boys” in our working class and very diverse Brooklyn neighborhood and made other friends to join us in our adventures. But, mostly, we explored our world together and loved every minute of it.
When Jean was thirteen or so she matured quickly. I less so. We grew apart some as she moved to Bedford Ave. which was a long walk away and she discovered boys, not as buddies but as objects of her affections. There was a part of her life I did not yet understand and it increasingly demanded her time and energy. So we continued to be friends through High School, but hung out in different groups. I was also active in my church youth group and she liked coming to events but was not allowed to come on a Sunday night. My close friends were then in that youth group. So our paths diverged but did not part. By sixteen she dropped out of High School and was married and a mother at seventeen. I was going steady with the church organist, and former youth group President at 17 in my first year of college and I married at 20. John and I would visit her and her family and she was the Matron-of-Honor at our wedding. We still felt like sisters. But after a few years she moved to Long Island and we lost track of each other.
We often thought of one another, but it was not until this age of technology that her niece helped her to go on Classmates.com and she found that we were searching for each other. About five years ago, with both of us in our 70’s she called me and we were happily reunited here in Florida. Miracle of miracles, she too had lived in Fort Myers, and was now only an hour and a half away in Sarasota. We picked up our friendship as if we had only been separated for a few days not over almost fifty years. We visited each other and called frequently and enjoyed each minute of our reunion. We were both so thankful for this re-union.
Jean had completed her GED and later went to Edison College in Fort Myers (now FSW University) to complete her Nursing Degree. This was a major achievement in her busy life and she loved working as a Nurse in the mental hospital here in Fort Myers, When it closed she went to work in jails and prisons. She had such empathy for those who got into trouble and those who were outcast or different. When I met her again five years ago, she had been sober for well over thirty years and still active in AA, offering herself to help others. She truly lived the Gospel, to feed the hungry and visit those who were sick or in prison both professionally and in her every day life. She was accepting of all people and loved by many. She continued her love for animals and took in an older dog whose owner died that the family asked me to place, and also a kitty that I rescued. Below she is with her beloved little dog Cricket. Truly Jean had a heart of gold, and she lived the Golden Rule.
The Memorial Service Saturday June 26, 2021
Jean left this life on May 22, 2021 of an apparent heart-attack as she was swimming at a Cape Coral Beach with her date Sam, a friend of her niece, Laura. Jean embraced life fully until the end. While she had some of the ills of older years, she would not let them slow her down. While her sudden departure was a shock to all who love her, myself included, her daughter Diana expressed it well: she died doing what she liked doing, being in nature and on a date. But oh, the difference to us who remain. I was talking to her friend Donna from Brooklyn and Fort Myers, who expects to hear her voice on the phone, and I do too. We will hear it in our hearts now. And we will miss her always.
I spent my life as a social worker, social work educator and later, since 2008, as a Roman Catholic woman priest and pastor of Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers. ( There are about 300 in our RCWP International Movement and over 200 validly but illicitly ordained women priests world wide). Jean attended church with us at Good Shepherd before Covid 19 and also we had Holy Communion together when visiting my beach timeshare condo and at my home. Jean shared her struggles with “religion” and Christianity with me and also we spoke at length of forgiveness to be given and received. She was working on forgiveness and seeking and, yes, she thought, finding a loving God in Christ once again before she died. Maybe in God’s provision that is one of the reasons we found each other again. The other was that our friendship would continue to bring much love and understanding into our lives at a time when it was most needed. Our reunion was such a source of joy for both of us.
I presided at her Memorial Service at the large and beautiful home of her daughter Diana Friedman and it was attended by maybe forty people who loved her from various parts of her life. In the last year and a half Jean lived with her beloved pets in a smaller house on her daughter’s property and she so enjoyed seeing Diana and her family every day. This was such a blessing to her that it was right that the Memorial Service and Interment should be there where she loved and found love. Family members and friends read Scripture readings from Genesis, where God asks us to be responsible for God’s creation including the animals, Jean’s gift always; From Isaiah where God promised to wipe every tear from our eyes; from I Corinthians 13 where love like Jean loved is described; and the Prayer of St. Francis. The Gospel acclamation was “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it is only a tiny hard seed, but when it dies it produces much fruit”, and the Gospel was Matthew 25 where we are told to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison and when we do it is as if we did this to Christ, to our loving God. Indeed my homily was to show how Jean lived these Scriptures and fulfilled this Gospel with her life. And this was easy to do.
Then many members of Jean’s family and friends came forth and shared their love for her. Two highlights were when her beloved grand daughter, Hannah Friedman sang an old song “La Vie En Rose” that she and Jean had worked on together. Hannah’s love for Jean was overflowing. And little Tyler, her great grandson also told moving and funny stories about his dear Grandma. The pictures below are some of those who read and spoke. And here, I note that it was not easy for me to preside at my beloved friend’s funeral. I thank her family for having me do this, and I thank my friend, Carol Schauf for accompanying me and assisting me in this. I also thank her for the pictures as she truly captured the day.
Farewell our beloved Jean, we will see you on the other side where you live in love and joy with God forever.
with love and blessings to all her dear family and friends,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community , Fort Myers, Florida
Today’s Gospel reading ( Sunday 6/27/2021)is one of my favorite gospels. It tells the good news of Jesus healing a woman and then a girl (Mark 5:21-43). The woman had suffered hemorrhaging for twelve years and reaches out to Jesus in a crowd and connects with his garment. He knows she has touched him and when she approaches him “in fear and trembling” He says “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” Now her affliction was an issue of unceasing blood that also left her “unclean ” in her culture. Women, and she in particular, were not unclean for Jesus whose law of love was greater than the many laws the people followed. Not only did Jesus accept her touch, he called her “daughter” and healed her of this awful affliction. Can you imagine her relief and great joy? And for all of the women listening to this story there was also relief and great joy. We are not ever unclean, we are the daughters of our loving God. This courageous woman’s name was not recorded by the author of Mark but I will call her Alegra or JOY!
At the same time a Synagogue Official named Jairus had asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter. “Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live”. Jesus was on his way to do this when the woman with the hemorrhage approached him. The “laying on” of Jesus’ hands was already known to bring health and healing. This weeks several of our Gospel accounts were of Jesus’ healing touch. On Friday, 6/25 we had Jesus stretching out his hand and touching a leper who asked to be made clean. Jesus “stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean”. His leprosy was cleansed immediately” (Matthew 8:1-4.) In Jesus’ great love no one is unclean and all are worthy of his touch. That includes all of the lepers of our time, people whom we shun and deem unclean., unworthy of sitting at God’s Table of Plenty, and undesirable as members of our church or place of worship. No one is unclean. Like Jesus, we are to extend loving touch to EVERYONE.
And in Saturday’s Gospel readings( Matthew 8:5-17) we have Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant by speaking words of healing, and healing Peter’s mother-in-law who was very ill with fever, by simply touching her hand. Again his touch healed. We too can speak words of healing for others whom we can not be with in person: it is called praying and we can freely and fully offer that to all who need it. The Centurion believed in Jesus but was not of his faith, and that did not matter one bit to Jesus. We can touch and pray for any and everyone there are no means tests for our prayers or our loving touches. Like Jesus, we can touch the hand or the feverish brow of those suffering with great illness. Touch is so healing.
I remember a popular song by the group The Who of many years ago: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”. How many long for simple human touch? We saw this at the height of Covid 19 restrictions where people would stand in a window and touch the glass where a loved one was touching to imagine loving touch. Or in jail visits where touch is not permitted hands are placed on walls and glass enclosures or the bars of cells to get as near to human touch as possible. Touch is essential and touch heals.
In today’s Gospel the crowd informs Jesus that his time with the woman was, in effect, too long and Jairus’ daughter has died. “Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith”. Then he went inside with three of the disciples and found the household wailing and weeping. He told them the child was asleep and they ridiculed him. He brought the parents and his disciples into the little girl’s room and “took the child by the hand and said to her “Talitha koum” which means, “Little girl, I say to you arise” The twelve year old girl arose immediately and walked around….and they were astonished”. Again Jesus took her by the hand and she was enlivened and healed. Who can we take by the hand? To whom can we extend our hands full of healing and love? Can our hands bring life as Jesus’ hands did. The answer is YES!
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP is a very popular blogger and a caring, strong and wise leader in the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement, and I am blessed that she is also my dear friend. She, and members of her beloved congregation, Mary Mother Of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida have recently faced, and are facing, much serious illness. We were to join in prayer about this. Yet she reached out with love and understanding as Carol Schauf and I visited with her last night after I presided at the funeral of a beloved friend from my childhood, Jean Tracy Forman. Jean who was one of the most caring and gentle people I have ever known, loved all of creation, especially God’s little creatures both animal and human, died on May 22nd from drowning while at the beach. While I was lifted by the Holy Spirit to minister to the large group who gathered, I needed the support of my friend Carol who accompanied me and assisted me at the funeral and of Bridget Mary who understood what such pastoring can take out of you. As Jesus knew when the woman touched his garment- “the power has gone out”. I was full of love for those who mourned and all of their complex feelings, I was guided where to reach out, and I was depleted. Our visit in the midst of the powerful thunderstorm that started a second after the burial, gave me the lift and perspective I needed to continue on. Indeed, in addition to the healing prayers and words, touch had been a big part of the healing of the day. I embraced the daughter and sons and touched friend’s shoulders or arms lightly. And, now, indeed it was the hugs and touch of my friends that brought me back to life.
Here I am giving the link to Bridgetmarys blog where she has the most beautiful video of the song “Lay your hands” by Carey Landry. Take time with this lovely song and video and look into your worlds, and into our often fractured and divided world to see where loving touch is needed. Then reach out and gently share your touch through which our loving God can heal.
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Ministry
Fort Myers, Florida
Yesterday afternoon, 3/15/21, the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers eagerly assembled for worship and later to celebrate special occasions in the life of the community. The message on this seventh Sunday of Easter was on the twofold charge of accepting God’s great love for us, and being sent to share that love, everywhere and with everyone, no exceptions.
After our worship, we would celebrate the 70th Birthday of our matriarch, Jolinda Harmon, the very near pending birth of a new great grandson to her grand daughter Jakeriya, and a belated Mother’s day for Phyllis who was there with three of her grandsons, Brenda, and Mary, and also Awsha who brought her 7 year old daughter Ayana to celebrate with us. We also celebrate our Elder Harry Lee Peter Gary’s return from surgery and rehab able to walk again. We would also honor Abundant Grace Fellowship Pastor Sarah Faulkner who joins us in united worship and who is moving home to Georgia next month. And Stella Odie-Ali and Ellen McNally brought useful things to share with the people while Pearl Cudjoe made sure that we had a wonderful Birthday cake and KFC boxes and tea or water for all. And so we saw love enacted before us in every way.
Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and I led the congregation in joyful praise and reflection and thankful celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Pastor Marina read the Epistle ,I John 4:11-16 and commented briefly on God’s love. Pastor Sarah read the Gospel and after my homily sang a beautiful rendition of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus ” for us. This was not an easy feat in the middle of the parking lot where we met. Outdoor services can be difficult but the eaves of the houses provided shade for most but not all of our congregation. it was a beautiful but hot day here in Florida. Humidity was unusually low which was a saving grace and there was a little breeze, but the sun was unrelenting for those of us not under the eaves, even though some used umbrellas for shade. Because of our unusual configuration along a wall, then outward to the altar, I had to raise my voice loud, read shout, to be heard well. My heart was moved and filled with love for the people who so faithfully and hopefully gathered and I believe they heard me almost whisper God’s love to them though I was often shouting. I did encourage the whole congregation to get the Covid Vaccinations so we could meet indoors once again. I am not sure this will happen.
Loved, Chosen and Sent-To Be One
I began my homily sharing the interrelated themes of the several weeks of Easter readings: God’s great LOVE for us, the Commandment to love, which is what we are Chosen for and SENT to proclaim. A sub-theme is the joy that Christ wants for us, a joy that is found through loving the way Christ loves. We began and ended the homily together saying/veritably shouting, these words aloud: WE ARE LOVED,WE ARE CHOSEN,WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE,AND WE ARE SENT TO LOVE,AND THIS BRINGS US JOY. At the end of the Mass we added another sentence from the day’s Gospel, John 17:11-19, where Jesus prays for “us to be one even as he and the Father are one.” We considered what it is to be truly united with all of creation including those we usually don’t like or have prejudices against. We considered what it is to be a friend of Jesus with the responsibility and opportunity to love as he loves. We concluded: We are loved, chosen, sent and ONE in Christ-and so we are joyful!
This is the link to my homily:
Above is our church matriarch Grandma Harmon who brought at least 20 members of her family who became part of our congregation. Here our lovely Jolinda Harmon is with her Grandson Quayschaun Crews celebrating her 70th Birthday. She is also fighting cancer yet her spirit is not dampened by this and her heart is always praying for others.
And here, Ayana joins us for the Birthday Party, and below her picture with her mother Awsha Sanders.
Here is Ayana with her mother who has been a part of our ministry since before Ayana was born. And Pastor Sarah is pulling a suitcase from Ellen McNally to give to Roger for his trips to see his family on the East Coast.
We send you blessings for this last Sunday in Easter as we look forward to Pentecost when the Spirit of God fills us with life and purpose in a new way: “Send forth your Spirit oh, God, and renew the face of the earth”! “This day God has poured out the Spirit of Jesus on those gathered in Christ’s name. The Holy Spirit inflamed the hearts of believers who boldly went forth to proclaim God’s word. Alleluia, Alleluia!”
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on us, rain down your gifts on our parched spirits. ”
And, indeed, our congregation was renewed by Christ’s Spirit of Love on this very day!
Love and blessings from Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,
Rev. Dr. Judith AB Lee
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
Let your hearts be full of joy and hope. Easter is here! The tomb is empty. We can look in and even enter it. We can see with Mary of Magdala and John and Peter that he is not there. The grave clothes are neatly folded, no grave robbers would do that. (John 20:1`-9). He has risen and will soon meet us on the road to Galilee. (Mark 16:1-7) Jesus can meet us any place-even where we first met him-where we first loved him as he first loved us. And we can begin again . Like Mary of Magdala we can encounter the risen Christ because He lives and wants to give us life now and forever. We can hear him call our name softly as he called “Mary” when she met him in the garden. (John 20 :10-18). We can welcome him in our locked rooms when we are frightened and thinking all hope is gone, like the disciples did. (John 20:19-21). We can hear him call us again to go into all the world and share the good news of God’s love and the gift of life-life eternal. Life bigger than death. Life that gives us another today and tomorrow. We can celebrate!
“He is Risen”
“He is risen, indeed!”
And so we rise,
Nothing or no one can hold you back.
“And still I rise”, as the poet Laureate Maya Angelou wrote. “And still I rise”.
As Kool & the Gang sing: “Celebrate good times, come on!/(Let’s celebrate)/Celebrate good times, come on! (It’s a celebration)” Because of Easter, life is a celebration-no matter what. I know it can be easier to sing than to really do, for we too have borne the crosses and felt the pain of Good Friday, but once we let in that death’s finality is off the table, it is only a stop on the way to forever, no matter how difficult the transition may be. Once we let that in, the heavy load is lifted and we can “let the good times roll”. We are so thankful for what Christ Jesus has done! And so we can sing “Thank you ,God, Thank you God…You been my friend.” You did this for me, brought me to new life and I am so thankful. You did this because You love the whole world, in all of its darkness and radiant light! And now I can help you reach the world with Your message of such love and justice. With Your help I can do it! And most of all, while I may only be able to brighten this corner, I know that Your Easter people are throughout the world carrying Your message of LOVE.
He LIVES, we LIVE! I hope that you can feel it this Easter. This Easter when the pandemic is still here, though we see the light at the end of the tunnel. This Easter when 2020 was full of fear and loss. This very Easter-we can sing “Christ ,the Lord is risen today-ALLELUIA!. Oh, thank God for Easter, yes Alleluia, yes CELEBRATE. Every day of life is cause for celebration. Celebrate for Love and Life have triumphed-find the joy today. In the look or voice of a loved one. Even in the written messages of loved ones whom we can not see in person or hold or touch. In virtual visits, and in real visits finally. In the beauty of Creation, mountains, the sea, the little creatures, and new life all around. Thank you God! We celebrate!
This is a link to the blog I wrote last year and because my heart is still full with those sentiments I share it here:
Appended with a link in that blog is the 18th Chapter of my book on the life of Rev. Judy Beaumont, my beloved partner in life and ministry for almost 29 years who made her transition home to our loving God on January 1, 2018. A dynamo in our Good Shepherd Ministries serving the homeless since 2003 in Fort Myers, and since 1981 in Connecticut. She was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in 2012 and was also a peace activist who was imprisoned for her actions with Plowshares and for her convictions, and a Benedictine Sister of almost 35 years. She loved and lived and served every minute of her life. The 18th Chapter is the final Chapter in the book. It is out of order and not the best way to read a book from end to beginning so I do hope you will get the book from Amazon.com as an e-book or paperback and immerse yourself in the life of a humble and courageous saint. Some of the Chapters were written by her, initially for other purposes and the rest is from my recall-but it is an account of such an unusual life, a life that always celebrated resurrection-no matter what! I give the link to the last chapter because in this chapter I share my experience of seeing her fully alive and at her peak during an Ordination ten months after her death. What a gift to me, and now I share it with you. She Lives because He lives! Celebrate!
CELEBRATE– EASTER IS HERE ! Grab your life with both hands and LIVE!
May God Bless you this Easter and Always,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee
Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL
Today is called both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday in Christian worship. It opens both Jesus’ short lived triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his and our own entry into the events of the most holy week of the year, the last week of his life before crucifixion, the week of Jesus’ passion, culminating in crucifixion and finally, oh finally, in his rising. Let us begin this journey together. Let us take up our palms and wave them.
Palm Sunday celebrates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on a donkey in fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9-the people rejoice as their King and Savior was to come riding on a young donkey) where he was greeted with a cheering crowd of followers and others, the ordinary people, the people Jesus cared for always, probably not many of the religious or political leadership. The people shouted and waved palm branches (in recognition of God’s provision for the Light to finally shine -Psalm 118:27) and threw leafy branches and their garments on the ground where he rode on the back of a young donkey, also covered with their garments. They exclaimed “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of our God!” “Hosanna” is an expression of praise that literally meant “Save” in Hebrew. The people were praising God for Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah who was promised, the one who healed them, taught them, loved them and included even the outcasts and strangers among them and brought hope to them. This was a day of triumph for Jesus and for the people who loved him, the poor and ordinary folks, not primarily the big shots who would soon get their way with him, but the ordinary people.
The poet Mary Oliver, in her book Devotions, in her deep understanding of all of Creation from leaves of grass to animals to people, ponders on the donkey. She says:
“On the outskirts of Jerusalem/the donkey waited./Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,/he stood and waited…./he let himself be led away./Then he let the stranger mount./Never had he seen such crowds!….Still he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient./I hope, finally, he felt brave, I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly on him,/as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to forward”.
Indeed both Jesus and the little donkey had nowhere to go but forward on that ride. How blessed was that little donkey for carrying him, and how blessed are we if we too can carry him forward as we are chosen and called to do that.
In some Christian churches Palm Sunday is celebrated without the forward look to the passion of Holy Week that takes place in the RC Church in the same Mass or Service. This can be very good, to allow Jesus and all of us to savor the triumph, the victory of his teachings, his ministry and his work among the people who returned his love. While he knew what was ahead, this same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem, and at the death of Lazarus and grief of his friends Mary and Martha, also must have cherished this moment of acceptance. Perhaps he wept silently within his heart for both sadness and joy, or perhaps for a few moments, his heart was glad. I hope so. For me Palm Sunday is a challenge of living in the moment. Of accepting and enjoying the joys there are, even while knowing suffering is inevitable in all lives. A moment of thanking God for all of the good in our lives, of knowing good will ultimately reign. Of knowing that life is the victor not death. That is not to diminish the pain life entails, but it is to put it in perspective. That even the worse pain of death and loss will give way to life again because of Christ who went through such loss, grief, rejection, betrayal, belittling, injustice, and physical misery of the greatest order. And, I think the latter is the reason that in the RC church an in depth Passion of Christ account is given in the same Mass. This year the Passion is from Mark’s gospel-Mark 14:1-15:47. Reading the Passion account together as a congregation with roles for all of us, also gives us a chance to have an overview of the week ahead that ultimately will end not on the cross, or in the grave, but in the resurrection. This week will end in Life but we still have to get through it.
Perhaps the actions and words from the cross are the most important words and acts we have from Jesus. Both the cross and the empty tomb, the resurrection, are the heart and center of our Christian faith. It is not possible to have rising from the dead without death. We can never minimize the cross. Nor should we enshroud it and forget about the resurrection. Rising again is what Jesus was all about and the hope of our lives.
On the cross we see Jesus, after extreme torture, hanging in great pain with two men, one on each side. In various translations of the Bible, these men are described as criminals, robbers, thieves, rebels and revolutionaries. Perhaps they were all of those things. At least if they were rebels or revolutionaries, Jesus was in like company. For indeed, his life and teachings were absolutely revolutionary. While he taught and embodied all that the Law gave and asked of people, he also put it in perspective as he put loving one’s neighbor even above sabbath law and other laws. And he put ordinary, poor, foreign and outcast people, most especially including women, above the religious and political structures that, after all, left such people out. What a revolutionary he was! What a revolutionary religion true Christianity is and should be. That is Christianity that is lived, not only spoken or quoted. And so there he was on the cross, in that day intended to be the most shameful death, and in Luke 23:34 he says “Father/Abba, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. Wow! Pause and think that over. Focus on his love. Focus on the love of God in the gift of Jesus. Focus on Christ’s loving all of us. No exceptions.
In both Mark 15: 34 and Matthew 27:46. Jesus cried out in a loud voice “Eloi/Eli, Eloi lama sabachthani-“which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”” All three of the synoptic Gospels have Jesus crying out in a loud voice at the end, Matthew and Mark without a description of words he may have said-just loud crying out. Luke (23:46) has Jesus calling out in a loud voice “Father/Abba into your hands I commit my spirit”. John(19:30) captures just the end of that and says, after being given vinegar/cheap wine for his thirst, “It is finished; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The agony of the cross is conveyed in the terrible thirst and the loud cries but the words of feeling abandoned, forsaken, finishing the job Jesus came to do and committing his spirit to his Abba’s(Daddy’s) hands, say more and deserve a closer look.
The quotes given above are from current translations of the Bible (NAB,TIB,NKJV,KJV,NIV) used in Catholic and Protestant churches today derived from ancient Greek and Latin and Hebrew. But there is also a translation from the authorized Bible of the Church Of the East, the Peshitta which is translated from the ancient Aramaic which Jesus actually spoke. It is interesting and important to note that the “Eli, Eli” quote which has Jesus feeling abandoned by God, and which is taken by Jesus from Psalm 22:1, has a different meaning in the Aramaic. Psalm 22 does indeed have a feeling of both the Psalm’s writer, David, and the Messiah of prophesy, being forsaken but it also concludes with praise to God for caring for the poor and for God’s people, both Jews and Gentiles, of all nations, and, basically- for always coming through. I do not doubt that Jesus could feel forsaken on the cross when others taunted him saying “if you are the one, let God deliver you now”, or “come down from the cross.” Yet, I also believe that he deeply knew that he was not abandoned and that however we may feel, God does not abandon us either-ever. Psalm 22:1 in the Western Christian translations is “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. But the Aramaic translation is : “My God, my God, why have you let me live? and yet you delayed my salvation from me…. (v.11) Be not far from me…”.” It is a prayer for God to be close. Or maybe to feel God’s closeness in the midst of the worst things one can go through. And , Matthew 27:4 and Mark 15:34 which reads forsaken in the Western translations reads “…Eli, Eli, lemana shabakthani! My God, My God, for this I was spared!” It is more like the “It is finished” of John 19 but even more is in it- like, “I did it” -this is why I was alive, this is why I lived, this was my purpose, and I have completed it. No matter how hard, I did what I came to do in loving you! And there is a satisfaction in this, a release in this so that Jesus could commit his spirit back to his beloved Father/Dad. “For this I was spared”…. Amen!
Now, “I was spared” is also older English usage- where one might say-“I was spared from…from what? from a terrible fate, for example. Or from an empty life, or from a foolish choice I may have made, or from a bad relationship that I managed to avoid, or , or ??? OR “I was spared for…the work that God had for me, for the good relationship, for the life and future God had for me…”. This latter seems to be close to the meaning of “For this I was spared”…what Jesus was spared from since he went through so much is not clear, but what he was spared for was humankind and this included the cross. Indeed, his whole life of love and including all in God’s love, his teachings and ministry and, finally, the cross were what he came to do. The cross was not all he came to do, but because of the politics and religiosity of the times, it became inevitable. So he had to include it as the final act of what he came to do. Yes, his crucifixion, horrible as it was, brought him and also us an at-one-ment with God. Within the context of the Judaism of his time he became an expiation for the sins of the world but what if he had been well received instead of a threat to the powers that be-his job may have been completed without such a death. Yet it remained to conquer death in its finality. Death would be conquered in three days as the account ends with his rising again and vanquishing death’s finality himself and for humankind. And it is for this that he was spared….Thanks to Jesus, the Christ, death ends in resurrection but that is yet to come. First we must go through the events of the Passion, the events of Holy week.
For what has my life been spared? For what has your life been spared? What is God asking of us to do with, as Mary Oliver says, our “one precious life”? Perhaps we can contemplate this as we go through Holy Week, the Passion, with Jesus. The answer will include that we are spared not to avoid pain and suffering-but to have the courage to go through it and come out on the other side. To rise again and to help others to throw off the shackles of injustice and to live Love fully- now and forever.
In his Palm Sunday homily today, Pope Francis encouraged us to preserve our sense of amazement and astonishment without which everything is dull and tasteless. As you go through this Holy Week, be amazed and be astonished at what God endured for the love of us. And then love as Jesus did.
Above, Michael Murray, a formerly homeless Veteran who found a home and a renewed relationship with God and the love of Jesus. Also in the pictures are our Deacon Hank Tessandori and Elder Harry Gary. Michael who was with our Good Shepherd Ministry since 2007, carries the cross on which our petitions are nailed for our Stations of the Cross in Fort Myers in 2014. Here we are in front of Lions Park where our ministry began and where many homeless were recently evicted from a tent city. Hopefully they were helped to real homes and not just pushed aside. Michael lived in his home happily and with peace, loving his neighbors and his cats for nine years, until his death in 2017. Continue to Rest in Peace, Mike. We miss you but know you are with our loving God living forever.
We wish you a most Blessed Holy week.
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B.Lee
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church, Fort Myers, Florida