Kathleen O’Connell Sauline was refused Holy Communion on July 8,2018 in St.Luke RC Church in Boardman, Ohio, a church where she raised her children. On July 1, she was ordained a deacon in ARCWP a part of the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement. NCR National Correspondent Heidi Schlumpf wrote her story on July 26, 2018 in NCR Online.
Blessings to Kathleen as she courageously and faithfully lives out her life of service in her transitional diaconate.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministry
Fort Myers, Florida
I have had some wonderful responses to my sharing that my anniversary for ten years as a RC Priest is this Friday, July 20,2018. Many are affirmations, public and private, some are reflective thoughts about me and our ministry and some are questions, stated or implied. I am so thankful for all responses and am drawn to share a little more on a more personal note. I also will still say “our ministry” for my partner in life and the love of God’s people, Rev. Judy Beaumont who developed Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Ministry with me completed almost six years as a priest and a whole life as a servant-leader of Love before she returned home to God on January first of this year.
What does it feel like to be a woman and a Roman Catholic Priest? Well,that is a good question but I can answer it only for this one woman-there are over 250 of us in the world now. It may seem to some to be a contradiction in terms as there are those who say that one can NOT be a woman and a RC Priest. They cite Jesus’ physicality and the names we have been given of his first twelve Apostles (none of whom were actually ordained at the Last Supper since Ordination appeared much much later in church history). They conveniently forget who was at the cross and the grave, all of the women named in Luke 4 and elsewhere in the epistles and that Mary of Magdala was sent to tell the Apostles the most important news and the essence of the Gospel: Jesus Lives! And though some may call his mother, Mary, Miriam, his first disciple they still say a woman can not be ordained. This also seems to imply that men are better suited to the priesthood than women and that there are significant differences in men and women as they approach, serve and understand God. I really do not know about that but we might say with the French, if so, Vive La Difference! That is, how wonderful it is to appreciate all the many ways we can serve God and share this with one another in love. Ah, the mention of love- and God is LOVE, brings me to the heart of the matter.
In response to Ten Years A Woman RC Priest I received this lovely poem from Patricia Byrne, a woman of great compassion and faith with advanced degrees in theology who became a part of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and presently also serves the poor with the St. Martin De Porres Ministry in Fort Myers. She adapted it from Hafiz the 14th Century Persian Sufi Master rendered by Daniel Ladinsky in (I Heard God Laughing Penguin Books, 2006, p. 36.) I include her adaptations but excerpt the poem:
How Does It Feel to Be a Heart?
Once a young woman asked me,
“How does it feel to be a woman.?”
I am not so sure”…..
I view gender
As a beautiful animal
that people often take for a walk….”
A better question for Pastor Judy
Would have been,
“How does it feel to be a heart?’
For all I know is Love,
And I find my heart Infinite
I am indebted to Patricia for such a poem and such a view of me and our Good Shepherd Ministry. She is right that we seek to live Love, but may not know how often I fall short. Despite falling short,God loves through each one of us, and through those of us audacious and humble enough to accept Holy Orders. Through us God loves the broken, and the proud, the high and the low, and especially those who are cast out by society and even by the church. And this is how I feel about loving the people God has given to us to shepherd and to love. that IS the commission: Love one another.
First, love is not easy to come by and we all need it. Without it we starve and barely take hold. With it all things are possible. Love can also break your heart as much as it can enliven it. Second, loving those who feel unloved or have actually not been loved is not easy. There are often behaviors that reject and at times attack before love takes hold. In Come By Here: Church with the Poor (2007, (Publishamerica-America Star Books) I describe the struggle I had with God about reaching out to the homeless and poorest again. I knew what I was getting into for this was a return mission not a new one for me. The new part would come in 2008 when I would do this as an ordained Priest but this would not necessarily make it any easier to reach those most hurt by society. Both Pastor Judy B. and I would always describe our “homeless ministry” as the greatest joy in our lives. And it was. Shepherding someone from the woods or the streets into housing was the most rewarding and totally joyful event experienced.
This is Pat who, thanks be to God, was able to leave the dangerous woods behind and establish a beautiful home for herself and her cat. She is with Pastor Marina Sanchez in the second picture, part of a team that helped Pat move into Senior Housing.
But this work was also the most time consuming, all consuming and most difficult thing in our lives. For me,it was really hard to break up fights of alcoholics especially in our Church in the Park and more rarely in our church building as well, and to tolerate the hatred one group of poor folks sometimes directed toward the other, whether this was expressed in terms of feelings of superiority toward others that were racial, gender, heterosexual or culturally based. With the grace of God we became a rainbow community. Many noted that it was the first church in Fort Myers(an area that had segregated schools officially until 1969 and in actuality for many years after that and in some areas in the present as well) where there was a good proportion of blacks and whites together as well as people of different cultures and economic backgrounds and gays as well as straight people who worshiped and served together. While we received a good deal of love in return from the vast majority of those we reached out to love, there were those who not only despised each other but who could not accept us as women, and loved also to spread rumors about lesbian behavior they never got the chance to witness. How could they-?- we were too busy loving them. There were times we felt like Jesus trying to get in the boat to get away a bit only to find the people still there on the other side. The demand would seem unending.
When we had Joshua House, our transitional living residence for those leaving homelessness we were delighted at seeing the progress people could make with a decent place to live and support. Yet, there was occasion to have to eject people actively involved with drugs and/or off needed psychotropic meds and all this could bring to the otherwise peaceful house. It was wonderful to see so many people take a new hold on life and maintain their housing. Yet every time one person went off their meds or back on drugs the whole community was hurt by it. Standing by each one through the hard times was a challenge to deal with. And at the same time the key to establishing a loving community was seeing the face of Christ in each one. Not only in the sad and the lonely, the sick and the meek but in the rough and the angry and the hurt and damaged and even the privileged. This was our challenge and with God’s grace it was our reward to see Christ everywhere among us. And so we truly learned to love one another and how beautiful that is.
Another very difficult aspect of loving our people is facing illness and death with them. When one serves an elderly congregation this is difficult but expected but our median ages would be in the forties considering the many children and young people we served as well as those of all ages and states of health. As noted in a recent blog we had over ten deaths in the last two years and in the ten years of my priesthood that would easily double or even triple. In fact, it may seem harsh but it is necessary, when working with some of our people who have suffered a variety of addictions, that I will say gently but strongly: “You need to stop that or stay straight with the help of God, prayer, AA,NA, Doctors, support groups, etc. because I do not want to bury you.” Now, as I look back I sadly see that was not an overstatement. While with a few, death was a relief from suffering,they died younger than it would seem need be. This brought a sense of deep pain and wishes that we could have done more to help while they were alive. Helping families with the loss of a loved one is helping with a mass of complicated feelings. Sometimes family members had not heard from the loved one in many years and we were links to that person. Sometimes families were overwhelmed with grief and regrets. Sometimes a time of grief opened a window -a time to find a loving God. What a complex challenge to be priest and pastor in someone’s life at times of profound grief and loss. All of this speaks to the need for priestly preparation in counselling and understanding how to be there both pastorally and Sacramentally with people. The comforting words of the Scriptures and of the Church ritual on eternal life and resurrection are often all they have to hang on to, that is, in addition to the person of the priest/pastor and other members of the congregation. Being but one part of the Body of Christ with a special set of roles in a network of help and love is being a part of the true church. What a beautiful experience!
The pictures above and the last picture in the set before is of our community members celebrating with the newly ordained Priest Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez of Cali, Colombia. One of the most wonderful things our community did was to participate in the ordinations of women priests. Our children often led the Liturgical Procession in Sarasota with Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan presiding. They were joyful leaders with drums, dance and song. Reverenda Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez was ordained by Bishop Andrea Johnson in our own Fort Myers church in February of 2017. When we sang our hymn “We’re standing on Holy Ground” we were so happy to share our humble church for this holy event. Our people formed a bond with several priests especially those from Colombia where part of my ministry within RCWP since 2009 (and with ARCWP from 2010-2014)was to mentor and be the “Program Coordinator” for priests from Colombia discerning their calls to priesthood. While I have been honored to mentor five Colombian Priests (four of whom visited Good shepherd Church) I have a special love for all of the Colombian priests. Pastor Judy Beaumont and I were welcomed to their beautiful land four times. I have learned so much from them especially from those lives led in the deep understanding of liberation theology. This was a special joy in our ministry and helped our Good Shepherd Community to be even more international.
The pictures below are part of our ministry to the sick and the grieving.
So, learning to be God’s heart in the form of a priest and pastor is at once the most wonderful and the most difficult thing I will ever do. Perhaps it was the work with the children and youth that brought me the greatest joy. These are young people who had almost no religious teaching, church attendance or “God concepts”. To see them grow to know and love Christ and one another,even across the racial and class lines they already grew up with was both moving and amazing. Yes, there were moments when this did not happen, when a Haitian boy was ridiculed or the black kids would stay together with the white and mixed on the other side of a game, but a beginning was there that was not there before. And we helped to open the world of nature and diversity to the children and young people. How thankful we are for this.
In my last discussion of these ten years I shared how much we loved sharing the Sacraments with our people- the many baptisms, First Holy Communions, confirmations, holy anointings, and witnessing marriages were such special moments revealing God’s love in the community. And with each Reconciliation celebrated with individuals or with the community as a whole I felt both the power of sin as very real and destructive in lives, causing much pain and the power of God’s love to take away this pain and its sources. These days confession is sometimes seen as not necessary, but I have learned in all ways possible that it is good for the soul, and for the community. What a beautiful Sacrament.
But it was at each Mass that we shared the Body and Blood of Christ at an open Table where all were invited that truly characterized the love of God in Christ in this ministry. Judy B’s wonderful knowledge of liturgy combined with my preaching and her presiding at Eucharist and the assistance of Hank Tessandori as our Deacon and Mr. Harry Gary as our lay leader with Efe Cudjoe first, then Natasha Terrell as Lectors and all the people participating in the consecration and blessing brought life and love and the fullness of Christ to the Mass each week. The hot meal afterward lovingly prepared by many hands was but an extension of that Table. It is this Body, this life and love that continues to enliven this woman priest. How does it feel? It feels like love.
And in summation Isaiah 26:12 speaks to us:
“O God, you mete out peace to us, for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.”
Thanks be to our loving God who has called both women and men to be Priests and enlivens the priesthood of all believers.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
The The Gospel readings for this Sunday, and indeed the Roman Catholic Sunday readings for the whole month of July this year, are about God’s call. I will reflect on my call to the priesthood here for ten years have quickly come and gone since I was ordained on July 20,2008. For me that particular call is another part of my lifelong call to serve God and and be in solidarity with the poor and outcast of society. I am deeply thankful for this opportunity to serve. I write in gratitude.
This Sunday we read from Mark 6:7-13 that Jesus gave the disciples authority and sent them out two by two, mindful of their need for companionship on the journey. They preach repentance (turning your life around when it is off God’s track) and they anoint and heal. Luke 8:1-3 also shows and names many women who clearly followed Jesus along with “the twelve”. God calls all of us according to our gifts and talents and presses us into service in many ways for the kin-dom/ reign of God, the reign of justice and peace, to appear on this earth.
Throughout history God has called women to servant leadership in the Church and to the priesthood,the diaconate and the Episcopate. (See for example Gary Macy, The Hidden History of Women’s Ordination). Historical evidence of this is crystal clear but so often written out of the history books by the male hierarchy in the Church who indeed continue to take it upon themselves to decide whom God can call to the priesthood-only men according to Canon Law. So, validly ordained RC women priests are illicit and even “excommunicated” (on the same page as pedophiles and rapists though many of the latter were not given this sentence). We reject this so called “excommunication” for while some of us have received warning letters from bishops none of us has received such ” official papers” and we strongly hold that nothing can separate us from our baptisms and from the love of and communion with Christ and Christ’s people. We are not a priesthood coming in the future, we are here, we exist, through the courage and wisdom of the Roman Catholic Womenpriest Movement started on the Danube in Germany in 2002 when a validly ordained Bishop in a line of full Apostolic Succession ordained well prepared women to the priesthood “for the sake of the Church”. This Bishop ordained our earliest Bishops and is known to our bishops and his name will be revealed only upon his death-hence he remains in good standing with the Vatican.
(For this history/herstory and stories of several priests, including me please see Women Find A Way edited by Elsie Hainz McGrath, Bridget Mary Meehan and Ida Raming,VBW Publishing, 2008).
On Sunday July 20th, 2008 I and two other women, Gloria Ray Carpeneto of Maryland and Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York responded to God’s call to the priesthood. We were validly ordained to the Roman Catholic Priesthood in Boston, Massachussetts with Bishop Dana Reynolds presiding assisted by Bishop Ida Raming of Germany while Mary Ann Schoettly of New Jersey (now passed on to her eternal life with our loving God) was ordained to the transitional RC Diaconate, later to become a Priest. All of us have developed churches individually and with other women priests and we have done our best with God’s help and grace to serve as Priests. We were among the first 49 women ordained in the Movement that has over 250 ordained priests world-wide today,and we are happily growing.
As I Look Back on Ten Years
From the beginning I felt the enormity of the charge of becoming a Priest and that only by God’s grace and support could I ever do it. I am often reminded of the words and sentiments of Amos in this Sundays reading:”I was no prophet,nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and dresser of sycamores” Amos 7:12-15). One can translate shepherd and tree tender in my case to a social worker and professor of Social Work and writer-most certainly not a priest or prophet.) I can identify with the prophets as all women who accept the call to priesthood when the Church says it is not possible are prophetic. Like Ezekiel in last Sunday’s reading(Ezekiel 2:2-5) “As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet…Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist-for they are a rebellious house-they shall know that a prophet has been among them”. Indeed, to take the step of Ordination I had to be “set on my feet” because it is more weakness than boldness that I felt in beginning this journey. Yet I was , and am, reminded of the words of Paul from last Sunday’s Epistle: 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10. Paul is complaining of the weakness of his flesh and spirit and hears: My grace is sufficient for you,for power is made perfect in weakness….therefore I am content with weaknesses,insults,hardships,persecutions,and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” There is hardly a better description of the obstacles facing women who are ordained Roman Catholic Priests and it is in our weakness that God’s power is revealed. Thanks be to God!
Well, to whom am I sent? To the poor and those on the margins, that is where I have long been called and working-but also to the whole Church, those solidly within the traditions and those barely on the margins as well as to those who define it, and I believe it is the latter in its Magisterium that can be described as “hard of face and obstinate of heart”. Not the poor and outcast- though any individual can sometimes be hard of heart. I am called more to the broken of heart, and I have been there, indeed I am now there with the January 2018 death of my life and ministry companion, Pastor Judy Beaumont (ordained 1/21/12). And yet ten years ago,no,many more years ago than that, and now I am “called by the Spirit of God, and anointed to ‘preach good news to the poor… (to bind up the broken-hearted…)to release the oppressed…” Luke 4: 16-20 and Isaiah 61:1-2). And, since I am now also called to do this as a Priest, I am called to speak truth to power, even the power of the Church.
In 1981 I was teaching Social Work at NYU School of Social Work. I loved teaching and was seen by the students to be good at it. Yet, as I walked across Washington Square Park every day on my way to the School I was struck by and drawn to the diverse people who seemed to be actually living in the Park. Since my youth I was aware of the call to serve Christ and this was made easy because people were able to be open to me. One of my Pastors and youth leaders in my inner city Brooklyn church, Rev. Mel G. Williams, was a social worker and a Pastor. I learned so much from him and in a way he helped me to recognize my first call and showed me how to minister, as did my devoutly caring Grandmother and many others. So when people in the Park reached out to me in my daily walks I realized that it was God’s Spirit drawing us together.
I was increasingly troubled. One night after planning my classes, I opened my Bible and read and prayed all night. Through Isaiah 61 and Luke 4 God’s spirit spoke to me. By the morning I had a proposal for my colleagues at NYU regarding how we could work with the area’s homeless who were right in front of our School. Despite the help of friends I didn’t change the school’s focus right away but I did enter two women’s Shelters with top level City Approval and begin my work. Some of the policy changes I recommended took place years after I left New York but more important were the several women that I helped in groups and individually. And, they taught me that social work help was not enough- they asked me to pray with them. And so, on my own time, my Isaiah 61 and Luke 4 ministry began. It continued when I moved to Connecticut in 1984 to join the UConn SSW Faculty and in 1988 met my ministry and life partner Judy Beaumont. She was then a Sister of St. Benedict and lived a life of prophetic peace and justice witness. She directed My Sisters’ Place, a shelter for women and children and later we developed residences and programs for men and women with mental illness in Hartford. She truly taught me how to serve and brought me back into the life of the Church as well. Now, with the companionship of each other we could enact the Gospel with the poor. When we moved to Fort Myers Florida in 1998 we found ways to continue this work. How blessed we were to have love and companionship as we served together and separately, her in the church and me in the community then also in the church, our own parish and a Mission parish.
By 2007 I retired (again) with early retirement, from Social Work education and practice here and was looking for a way to pursue more full time ministry and perhaps Seminary training. I felt a strong call to become a Pastor like those who moved and guided me so- Pastors David and Mel and Al and Angelo. Yet,that seemed a mere contradiction in the RC Church- the road for a woman in accepting this call was not at all clear. It was then that we were invited to a house Mass led by a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Rev. Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan, Ordained in 2006. My eyes and consciousness were opened and the path led to my preparation and the Ordination in 2008. By then Judy and I had developed Church in the Park with the homeless and poor (in February of 2007) and Good Shepherd Ministries a continuation of a housing ministry we began in 2003. By 2009 we bought a house in the middle of Fort Myers and dedicated it as a Church (Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community) where well- to- do and poor and all types of people -all races and cultures, gay and straight and all who felt left out of churches for many reasons could come together to serve and worship, and a transitional residence for people leaving homelessness. Fifty-five men, women and children passed through there to permanent housing and over a 100 were helped to affordable housing as Judy Beaumont and I worked together to serve the poor and homeless. We both found that the Sacramental services we could offer as Priests were life changing and life saving. We did over 30 baptisms and had over 25 Confirmed in faith. We prayed for and anointed countless sick and dying and found that the homeless and formerly homeless and the poor of this area are often sick and die young. So we also buried the dead. This ministry continued full force until her fourth cancer in 2016 made us slow down and offer less. I continue now with our ministry, but not anywhere as fully as we both could do. Yet the grace and call of God bids me go on and gives me the strength to do it.
I am totally humbled by and still awed every minute by being called to priesthood. Now, perhaps in dealing with profound loss and getting older I am not as strong as I grew to be. Yet, Paul’s words ring true: “…When I am weak, then I am strong”. God’s power is made perfect in weakness. I can understand that now. And so as I continue past ten years in my priesthood, I ask you to join me in prayer for the next steps.
With love and thanksgiving,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
The NCR (National Catholic Reporter) Online has a brief article with clear directions and “click-ons” to facilitate your joining in the petition to reinstate former Maryknoll Priest Fr. Roy Bourgeois who lost both Maryknoll and his faculties as a priest according to the church for his support of women priests. This is truly unconscionable and I urge you to support his reinstatement.
Once again,thank you for your conviction ,acts of conscience and courage, Fr. Roy,
Rev. Judy Lee, RCWP
Roman Catholic woman priest Jane Kryzanowski will be the first woman Roman Catholic bishop ordained on Canadian soil on July 21,2018. Present Roman Catholic Bishop Marie Bouclin will retire and become Bishop Emerita. CBC News writer Chelsea Lashowski wrote this story about Bishop- to- be Jane and Bishop Marie on July 8, 2018:
The reader might also see:
We of RCWP East in the US and all RC Womanpriests world wide eagerly await this Ordination and celebrate our shepherds and sister priests in Canada,
Love,prayers and blessings,
Rev. Dr.Judy Lee, RCWP
“Blessed are you, Lord God, maker of all living creatures. You called forth fish in the sea, birds in the air, and animals on the land. You inspired St. Francis to call all of them his brothers and sisters. We ask you to bless this pet. By the power of your love, enable it to live according to your plan. May we always praise you for all your beauty in creation. Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures!” Amen. (Prayer shared by the National Humane Education Society).
Below is Sweetie Pie, the newest member of the kitty family.
Here is a picture story of my recent St. Francis Ministry including kitty rescue. This ministry began shortly after our move to Florida as there is a woods across a small lake connected to the land behind my house where a multitude of cats are dumped and multiply. Some are kittens but most are full grown and various ages and states of health. I give all I befriend a health exam, shots and spaying and neutering. As noted on the cover, I have placed several more in loving homes than I have had to keep, but there are twenty here now. I was so blessed to have my beloved partner Judy Beaumont to help me with this. It was a “branch” of our Good Shepherd Ministry with the poor and many of the cats, and dogs ( who are all over “the rainbow bridge” with Judy B now),also came to us from the homeless and poor people that we served. She loved our little dogs, especially little Cody who came from a homeless man, and grew to love the cats Maurus and Skye and Timmy very much although she left most of the kitty work up to me. While she did other important ministry work for so many people,she fully assisted me in this and it is much harder now. I am thankful for the adoptive kitty parents, including Sonja Miller, Doris Broughton, Jane and Eric Salna, Ginger Delerme, Pat and Joe Beausoleil, and Kathy Overby and Kathy Lauwagie who have Ebony and Pat Scorsone and my cousin Jackie Marion who have Dixie and Trixie (the last three are the more recent placements). I do have the able help of Gaspare Randazzo (pictured at the end) for whom I am so thankful. And I am most thankful for Dr. Terry Sutton and her staff including Autumn and April, June, Janice, and Marlon. Dr. Terry literally brings some of them back from near death and cares tenderly and expertly for them all, as does her Staff.
Please note that you need to click the next two links and you will be connected to the stories. They did not print here. One link is one cover page. The other is several pages with stories and pictures and you need to scroll down when you see blanks. It is the story of twenty plus cats.
May God continue to bless and care for all the precious creatures and those who love and care for them.
Pastor Judy Lee
Corpus.org has organized a petition for the reinstatement of Fr. Roy Bourgeois who was stripped of his priestly facilities because of his support of women priests. Please see this link:
Thanks be to God for Priests like Fr. Roy Bourgeois
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP