Jesus Is Near: An Inspiring Visit To A Church Served By Roman Catholic Woman Priests in Thurmont, Maryland

On Sunday November 14, 2021 I was privileged to visit and provide the homily at a church served by Rev. Dr. Marilyn Rondeau, RCWP and other woman priests of the Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community in Thurmont, Maryland. This is one of the satellite churches of the Living Water Community in Baltimore, Maryland. It was formed with the catalyst of a faithful and amazing LIving Water member, Mary Hollomon who continues to support and sustain the Thurmont worship community with her selfless service. This satellite church and its core worship group meets in person while the larger “main church group” of Living Water served by several RCWP woman priests meets on Zoom during this Covid Pandemic. While not all Roman Catholic Women Priests have developed worship communities, The Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community stands out in developing and planting enlivened churches.

I was moved by the zeal and Christ-filled love of the Thurmont Living Water congregation that meets in Harriet Chapel, a beautiful historic Anglican Church set in the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains resplendent with Autumn’s gold, rust and red colors. The Chapel was built in 1828 and three Presidents of the United States also worshipped there: Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Lyndon B. Johnson. As the gifted Music Minister, Teresa Ichniowski, led us in the processional hymn All Are Welcome, the communal energy of this diverse group of members was palpable. It was matched only by the uplifting spiritual energy of Rev. Marilyn whose love for the people gathered was expressed in her voice and welcoming comments.

In the picture above Rev. Marilyn Rondeau gathers with core members after church. Rev. Jackie Clarys, RCWP and I are in the back row and Lay Leader and Eucharistic Minister Mary Holloman is on the left rear.

The readings for the day were what have been called end times or apocalyptic readings essentially saying: God is in charge and all shall be well. Daniel 12:1-3;Psalm 16:5,8-11; Hebrews 10:11-14,18; and the Gospel-Mark 13:24-32. The Gospel assures us that when we face times that are devastating, and feel like the end, Jesus is near, at the door. The theme for the day therefore was in times of trouble, on any scale, local or global, from personal to catastrophic “Jesus is Near” and to claim the fullness of life in such times, open the door and welcome, flee into the arms of, the presence of our loving God. It changes everything.

Interestingly, this Sunday, November 21, 2021 is the day of Christ the King of the Universe/Cosmos, when we celebrate the reign of Christ in this world. The apocalyptic readings are again in Daniel (7:13-14), and in Revelation(1:5-8) where we now see that at the last, bottom line, Christ reigns. In the Gospel (John 18:33b-37) Jesus clarifies that his kingdom/kindom is not of this world and that he came to testify to God’s truth. Indeed, in all he said and did he showed us God’s truth is LOVE. In the TV Mass of the Diocese of Venice, Florida today on EWTN, a young Priest from St. Agnes Parish in Naples ,Rev. Krystof Piotrowski, urged us to dream of the world where Christ would lead. He acknowledged that it is sometimes difficult to see that Christ is in charge when there are so many atrocities of injustice and violence, especially toward the poor, minorities of color and marginalized. Ultimately it is up to us who are the hands and feet of Christ now, the Church, the Body of Christ to work hard on establishing this world of love and justice. Pope Francis describes this world of love and justice and our jobs so well in Fratelli Tutti , his 2020 encyclical describing social friendship and how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ no matter religion, color, income, culture, caste, gender, sexual orientation or any other area of difference. I urge you to read this deep and marvelous statement of gospel truth.

I will now include my homily: Jesus is Near. Just click on the link.

In the group picture of the Thurman Community above my beloved cousin Jackie Weinmann Marion is in front of me. She is also a member of The Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community and they sang a rousing Happy Birthday to her. Below are Jackie and I are celebrating her Birthday together.

A Blessed Birthday Cousin Jackie, and many many more!.

And once again I thank the wonderful church at Thurmont for inviting me to worship with them. In the picture below Rev. Marilyn and I stand at the altar after the Mass.

Bless each one of you this Sunday when Christs reigns throughout the Universe,

Let us to the work to make this happen,

Love and blessings,

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic COmmunity of Fort Myers, Florida

God Loves and Sustains Women-As for the world….Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest Sunday November 7, 2021

After Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church in May 2021 several women and their families gather to honor Grandma Jolinda Harmon with
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

The Scriptures for today, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, are some of my favorite holy readings clearly proclaiming God’s love for women, and for children. In the Hebrew Scriptures, I Kings 17:10-16 we hear about the widow at Zarephath and the prophet Elijah. The context of the story is the prophet Elijah’s utter dependence upon God for his existence and the obedient faith of both Elijah and the woman. In the midst of a complete and devastating drought and famine in the area Elijah was sent to a widow to sustain him, in turn, he called upon God to sustain the woman and her son. Elijah met the widowed woman as she gathered kindling wood for a fire. He asked her for a cup of water and a piece of bread. She let him know that she had only a handful of flour left and that after she cooks it and she and her son ate it they would die. Elijah continued to ask for the bread but told her that she would have enough left for her and her son and that the flour and oil jars would remain filled. She and her child would not die. Indeed, that is exactly what happened. The woman made him his bread and she was sustained with flour and oil, and also had the assistance of Elijah who lived with her for a time. The obedient faith of the prophet and the widow yielded what they needed to survive.

Usually this reading is used to underline our dependence on God and the need to be faithful and obedient to God as Elijah was. Indeed that is a point in the story. But let us look at this widow. In ancient Israel widows often had no means to sustain their lives. They did not go out and work and if there were no adult males in their lives to support them they could easily die. Yet God provided for this woman and her son through Elijah who also needed the woman’s assistance to survive as a prophet. Clearly God loved and cared about this woman and her child.

It was built into the Law in Judaism that widows and children must be cared for. For Jews that faithfully followed the Torah, there was in fact an obligation to care for the widows and the children. It was not up to them whether or not they gave to assist the widows, it was obligatory. ( The Jewish Social Work Forum, 1990, Erich Levine, The Ethical-Ritual in Judaism: A Review of Sources on Torah Study and Social Action). The sum set aside was not large but if all gave it the widows and orphaned children of the group would be cared for. It was a job of the prophet to let the King and the faithful know clearly when they were not obeying the Law, not caring for the poor and widowed and orphaned and that God was not pleased with this. Hence the prophets were often killed. Elijah was one of the last prophets still alive under treacherous King Ahab and later under his son Ahaziah who was worse than his father.

This lovely example of God sustaining the widow and the prophet, or women and children as well as the prophets, emphasizes that God deeply cared for women and children, and the presence of the prophet assures us that God was displeased with behaviors that were about greed and profit and self aggrandizement when those in power and those who follow them do not care for the poor, women and children.

Additionally the Psalm of the day, Psalm 146:7-10 assures us that our God “secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry….raises up those who were bowed down, loves the just, protects strangers and the fatherless and the widow God sustains…” How wonderful is this news. This is Who our God is! Sadly it is not who people, including those who say they follow God’s ways, always are. The reading from the book of Hebrews tells us that Christ died to take away the sins of the people, and will bring salvation to those who eagerly await him. ( Heb 9:24-28). We minimize the meaning of “sin” and what Jesus the Christ did when we think of sin in narrow moralistic personal terms, like the salacious sins on the afternoon soap operas or movies or in the News. Sin is when nations and those in power and those who support those in power make no provision or totally inadequate provision to care for the weakest among us, for those who cannot earn equally and “take care of themselves” on par with others. Sin is in omission as well as commission and sin is when a whole half of the human race is treated as less than the other half. One of the greatest sins throughout history is the lesser treatment of women in every culture. From Ancient times, to Jesus’ times, to our time, we woefully and willingly sin against women and children and others not able to become economically and socially independent. This is in part because we do not think of “the other half”, we do not have a raised consciousness about poverty and who is poor and why. And in part because we, like the priests Jesus admonishes in the gospel, are full of self interest instead of genuine, caritas, interest in others who may “beg at our doors ” or silently bear their lots. And when their lots are not borne silently we are even angry that they may protest to let us know what is happening. I would say that Jesus called it well in the Gospel of the day.

In the Gospel today (Mark 12:38-44) Jesus strongly admonishes the scribes, the priests, who enjoy importance in the community but “devour the houses of widows”. Wow! Yes, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day stole from the poor and Jesus called them on it. And Jesus would say the same to church and other religious leaders of this day who parade about wanting attention and honor but do little to attend to the poorest among us. And Jesus would say the same to us as individuals who do not attend to the needs of our neighbors who are in need whether these neighbors are right down the street, or in other countries and cultures. Whether they be neighbors who cannot pay their water and electric bills, and school children who are hungry and thirsty, or neighbors who do not have a community well or source of water or enough food to eat. Whether we look globally or locally we can find those who not only ignore but do violence to the widows and orphans and the poorest among us. I love Jesus especially when he does not mince words, and this passage is one in which he is very clear about the violence done to the poor and women by even the religious authorities and those who claim to be religious. Can you hear what Jesus would say to those of us whose action and inaction hold women, who are the majority of the worlds poor,g in “their place”.

One has only to use a search engine or google the U.S. Census Bureau and poverty adding women, children, minorities of color and culture-African-American women, Latinas/os, Asian Pacific, Alaskan and Native American women, and the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities, to see that all of these groups are the poorest among us even in this land of plenty. In an article entitled The Basic Facts About Women in Poverty (2020) by Robin Bleiweiss, Alexandra Cawthorne Gaines and Dana Boesch, (https://www.americanprogress.org) we learn that globally and in the USA women are much more likely to live in deep and abject poverty than men, and women of color, Latina and or Alaskan and Native American women and African American women, and disabled women and Lesbian or LBGTQ women are more likely to live in poverty than men of their own groups and majority women and men. OXFAM points out that the majority of the world’s poor are women and that in no country in the world is there economic equality for men and women. (oxfam.org/en/why-majority-worlds-poor-are-women/). Women make only a portion of the dollar men make in the USA, for example ( Bleiweiss,Gaines and Boesch, 2020). Majority women make 82 cents on the dollar, Latina women make 54 cents on the dollar, Native American and Alaskan women make 57 cents on the dollar and Black women make 62 cents on the dollar. Additionally women with disabilities and LBGTQ women have much higher rates of poverty than their male counterparts. Reasons for this are related to the entrenched gender bias in the culture and in occupational segregation, low paying jobs, unpaid caretaking roles of women, homophobia, and lack of support for women in the workforce, among other things. Structural gender bias and structural racism and sexism depress wages and limit opportunities for women of all sorts. Yes, some of all groups break the glass ceiling and do very well in post-industrialized countries but the facts of women’s place in even the most progressive nations attests to the increased poverty of women over men. And globally in many places women and children are suffering most from the lack of basic needs like food and water and shelter. The Jesus who admonished the Scribes would have a lot to say about all of this, but how often do we hear preaching on it? Perhaps women are in a sense an invisible minority throughout the world and in religious structures that also may deny women the priesthood, as in our Roman Catholic church today.

Three Roman Catholic woman Priests, Revs. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, Marilyn E. Rondeau and Judith Lee, RCWP

Pastor Sarah Faulkner, Abundant Grace Fellowship Church, Pastor Judith McKloskey,RCWP with Pastors Judy and Marina of Good Shepherd

And, finally, in the second part of the Gospel today (Mark 12: 41-43) we have Jesus praising the extremely poor widow who put all she had in the treasury. So often we take away that we should give until it hurts and not only from our abundance, and that is true and consistent with what Jesus asks of His Followers-to give it all. But, he is also lifting up a woman, a very poor woman and saying that she is in high honor as a part of the kingdom of heaven that he is bringing to us. Yes, we note with admiration that she gave it all away. And we can try to emulate that , whatever it takes from each and all of us, and from the church that seems to hold onto wealth very closely. But let us not miss that the heroine of the story for Christ is a poor woman. And so we can look to women, and to the poorest of women tor guidance as to how to live our lives as Christ followers and as decent human beings. I can remember as I grew up in a household headed by women and we were, by this world’s standards, poor. Yet there were riches there that are hard to find now. In my home and in my highly integrated poor and working class neighborhood and in my church, women were leaders and women were strong. Women showed us how to love and how to care for the least among us, and yes, women gave it all. And I know it now as well through my Good Shepherd Church community. Poor women are among those most generous and most giving of our group. Let us learn this day to do what Jesus did, and praise the women among us, including and especially those who have the least economically, who give it all away. Amen.

Some of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Members at their Confirmation

God Bless all women and all of you,

Love and Blessings to you all,

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,

Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community , Fort Myers, Florida

November 7, 2021

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

Joy Comes in the Morning-Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

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

withering grief

 just going through the

motions of daily life

meeting responsibilities

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:

Woman, woman                                              

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,

and yet

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.    

 SELAH, AMEN!

********************************************************************************************

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

Here’s To Friendship: In Memoriam Jean Tracy Forman- Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Jean and Judy- from age 7 through the 70s

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.

Donna reads St. Francis’ Prayer
Her son Joey reads a Scripture
Here Diana and I are listening to someone speaking from the floor about Jean’s adventures
Here I am sharing a collage of Jean and telling how she lived the Gospel of love and service to the neediest among us
Here we are commending Jean for eternal life and committing Jean to the earth and also the ashes of her beloved Lee Wilson
Jean at her 78th Birthday in December 2020.

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

God’s Loving Touch: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

The Healing Touch at Good Shepherd Ministries

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.

https://bridgetmarys.blogspot.com/2021/06/a-beautiful-healing-song-for-all-who.html/

Be blessed,

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Ministry

Fort Myers, Florida

Sent To Love and Unite-Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest-7th Sunday of Easter-3/16/2021

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.

Some of our members gathered after worship with Pastor Judy Lee. Grandma Jolinda Harmon is honored for her Seventieth Birthday this coming week and Jakeriya is sent on her way to a healthy birth of her baby. Stella Odie-Ali is in the foreground.

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.

Here, above, is Mr. Harry L Gary, our Church Elder, Jakeriya Maybin and Jamir and Grandma Harmon with her granddaughter Keeondra.

And here, Ayana joins us for the Birthday Party, and below her picture with her mother Awsha Sanders.

Pastor Marina talks with the ladies as Ayana joins the Birthday Party.

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!

Thanks be to God!

Love and blessings from Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,

Rev. Dr. Judith AB Lee

The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida