A Woman Called By God: Ten Years a Roman Catholic Priest

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.
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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.

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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,
Pastor Judy
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Petitions For Reinstatement of Fr. Roy Bourgeois

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.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/people/group-petitions-reinstatement-former-maryknoll-priest-roy-bourgeois

Once again,thank you for your conviction ,acts of conscience and courage, Fr. Roy,

Rev. Judy Lee, RCWP
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Woman to be Ordained a Roman Catholic Bishop in Canada: Breaking News

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:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/regina-woman-bishop-roman-catholic-womenpriests-1.4738677

The reader might also see:
https://bridgetmarys.blogspot.com/2018/07/rcwp-canada-prepares-to-ordain-new.html.

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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

For Those with St. Francis’ Heart

“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.
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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.

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The Kitty Family Of Judy Lee

May God continue to bless and care for all the precious creatures and those who love and care for them.

Pastor Judy Lee

Petition for Fr. Roy Bourgeois-Supporter of Women Priests and Activist

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:

https://www.corpus.org/index.php/featured-articles/547-petition-for-fr-roy-bourgeois

Thanks be to God for Priests like Fr. Roy Bourgeois
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP

Seeds of Love: Memorial Mass with RC Women Priests- 6/16/18

On Saturday June 16th twenty-nine people gathered to celebrate the lives of their beloved Pastor Judy Beaumont, RCWP, Co-Pastor of Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and ten other dear members who passed within the last 2-3 years. This includes Gary Knafla,72, who was tragically killed while crossing the road here in Fort Myers on Wednesday June 13th,2018. Eleven members of the family of Linda Denise Maybin,42 at time of passing last September,attended. Many were wearing tee Shirts with her beautiful picture on them. Also celebrated were: Dr. Teresa Sievers whose generous service enabled 35 people to get housing, Michael Murray, Ben Walden, Robert Swanson, Lynn Brown,Kathleen Vanderwarf, Ruby Tuesday(Stacie Joy Pearce),and Pastor Judy Lee’s beloved Cousin Barbara Mueller Robinson who made her transition home to our loving God on Wednesday 6/16/18.

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We began with the prayer ” All-loving God, whose mercy is never withheld from those who call upon you in hope,look kindly on your servants (name of each one) who departed this life confessing your name and number them among your saints forever….” AMEN
Then loved ones and friends lighted a candle for each one. Quayschaun Crews, Linda Maybin’s eldest son lit her candle with his Grandmother’s blessings. Kathy Roddy lit a candle for her neighbor, Ruby Tuesday. Brenda Cummings lit a candle for Mike Murray and Lauretta Rasmussen lit a candle for Ben Walden. Harry Gary lit a candle for Gary Knafla and I read a verse from a song “Carry on Wayward Son” by the group Kansas that his loving family asked for me to share as his candle was light. it was noted that Gary has a Mother, Elaine Danielson who is 92 and three sisters, Peggy, Kathy and Kristy and two sons, Kelly and Aron who mourn his passing as well as his friends. “Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done,lay your weary head to rest,don’t you cry no more, no!…Now your life’s no longer empty, surely heaven waits for you”. The assembled were moved by the love of Gary’s family sent to us with this song.

And so it went. Pastor Marina lit the candle for Dr. Teresa Sievers noting that I was with her in Colombia when Teresa was killed. And I lit the candle for my beloved cousin Barbara Mueller Robinson whose love illuminated a large and extended loving family and everywhere they touched. At the end we all prayerfully thought about loved ones whose names we had not called today and lit a candle for those persons. And Debbie Carey then assisted her grand daughter,Courtney,5, the youngest baptized by Pastor Judy B and myself to light a candle for Pastor Judy B. to carry on her legacy of love. Looking at the twelve lit candles we prayed and took their light into ourselves to shine forth with their love.

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Maya Rismay, read the Hebrew Scriptures (Ezekiel 17:22-24-God is in charge of growth and makes even the driest tree bloom, and Natasha Terrell ,Linda’s eldest daughter,read the Epistle, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10-we live by faith. Mr. Harry Gary led us in the Psalm “O, God it is good to give You thanks.” The co-Pastors, Judy Lee and Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia read the Gospel in English and Spanish-Mark (San Marcos) 4; 26-34-The reign of God is like the tiniest seed that grows a huge shade tree. The tiniest seeds can be the acts of love we share-even the tiniest act of love can grow fruit for the kin-dom. And love is also the basis for the growth of justice, especially toward the poor and all “minorities” and those living on the margins. Pastor Marina then translated a short version of Pastor Judy’s homily reflecting on the seeds of love sown and flourishing in the lives of our dear departed and, from them, seeds of love and justice growing in our own lives.
And from the Ezekiel reading we also noted that God makes even the driest branch flourish. We talked about grief and how holding on to it too long can dry us up as people and as Christians, yet God can take our dryness and make even it bloom and flourish. We prayed to flourish with the legacy of love we have received. We focused especially on the Life of Linda Denise Maybin whose family gathered with her mother, Jolinda Harmon and sister, Yolanda, five of her seven children and four of her nieces to celebrate and carry on her loving life today.

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We included two more prayers for the departed and also laid hands together on those present suffering from cancer and other serious illnesses. Patricia Byrne then said a prayer for the world, especially immigrants and those separated from their children, and we prayed too for God to bring to fruit the dry branches in the church.

At the end of our Mass we included the prayer for mourners with out mutual blessing of one another: “…Loving God, comfort your family in their loss and sorrow. Be our refuge and our strength, O God, and lift us from the depths of grief into the peace and light of your presence”. Extending our hands to bless each other we said “May our loving God bless all gathered here….as we minister to one another as the people of God”. Harry Gary said “Go in the peace of Christ. Let our service continue! And we enthusiastically sang I Have Decided to Follow Jesus as we parted and made ready for our Sunday meal lovingly prepared by Kathy Roddy, Ellen McNally and Pearl Cudjoe.

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Above is Gary Knafla working at the church in 2009 to help make it ready as a transitional residence. In the group picture we have Gary Knafla and Mike Murray and Pastor Judy Beaumont, our angels now.

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Thanks be to God for each of these precious lives and their legacy of love and justice.

Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida

Announcement: Two RC Woman Priests, Good Shepherd Pastors, Will be Celebrating A Memorial Mass For Ten on Sat June 16th,2018

Even as we prepared to light our candles and say prayers for eight beloved friends two more left difficult journeys behind and went home to our loving God. My beloved cousin Barbara Robinson whose life and legacy of love we sang in the last paragraphs of this blog went home to join the company of angels and saints in the wee hours of Wednesday June 13th. She leaves a loving family and host of friends here as noted below. Her funeral will be this Saturday at 9 AM in ST. Rose of Lima church in Massapequa, New York and we will pray for her and her beloved family in our 2PM Mass as well. And we will pray for Gary Knafla,72, An early member of Good Shepherd ministries who was killed by a car while crossing the street on Wednesday as well. Gary leaves a mother, three sisters and two sons in Colorado and many friends here. He was a Veteran and a successful business owner in Colorado before living in Fort Myers and becoming very ill. He loved animals and his friends despite his advancing disability. He is remembered for his kindness.
In the past two years the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers,Florida has witnessed its beloved co-Pastor Judy Beaumont and eight of the members going home to our loving God. The last one was Michael G. Murray whose life we have celebrated here last month, and Ruby Tuesday(Stacie Pearce)died in February of this year and was also memorialized in this blog. The others recently deceased are Linda Maybin,Ben Walden,Robert Swanson and Kathleen Vanderwarf. Our church member and Doctor Teresa Sievers was taken from us in a tragic murder in 2015. Each one had different gifts and was a precious part of the life of our church and ministry to the homeless and formerly homeless.
All are welcome to attend. It will be at a home in Fort Myers and to protect privacy the address is not given here but those interested may write me an email at judyabl@embarqmail.com. Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and I will preside.

I have spoken of Michael Murray and Ruby Tuesday(Stacie Pearce) in recent blogs. Ben Walden was a wonderful craftsman who made model ships and other small treasures. After he was able to have a home in Goodwill Housing he reconciled with his family and traveled to Colorado for a reunion. Kathleen Vanderwarf was mother to Timothy and they both attended church and functions as they could. They also faithfully attended St. Francis RC parish. Linda Maybin was baptized and confirmed in our church. She was a beloved mother of seven and grandmother of one, and Aunt to many as well as a teacher of our little children. She and her mother, Jolinda Harmon brought over twenty young people regularly to our church. Robert Swanson lived at and was caretaker of the church for two years. He was also baptized and confirmed at Good Shepherd. He loved his family and his little terrier.
Dr. Teresa Sievers attended church with us and also saw over 35 homeless people pro bono to help them with health needs and to qualify for housing. Her selfless generosity in this was a mark of her Christian faith. Her beloved daughters and mother also attended our church on occasion.

The Gospel for next Sunday is Mark 4:26-34 about the Christ followers’ job of sowing seeds for the kin(g)dom-seeds of love and justice- so that the reign of God can spread throughout this earth where there is so much recent violence and conflict. Jesus says that it is the smallest seed that grows the most magnificent shade trees where the birds of the air can rest. I see the smallest seeds as the small acts of love we each do. And those who have had much faith shown in endless small acts of love have left a legacy of hope that will spread through the generations. We hope to celebrate that love together on the Sixteenth of June.

This quotation of theologian Henri Nouwen from his book Bread For The Journey , (copyright 1997,Harper, San Francisco) speaks to the seeds of the kin(g)dom and what is eternal in life. They speak comfort to the mourning but also hope for the world.

“Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. When we die,we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us. It is the divine,indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation.

When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer you consolation and comfort. ” Henri Nouwen

As I write this I am also aware of the transitioning to God, the last days and moments, of my dear Cousin Bob’s beloved wife, Barbara Robinson. Barbara is such a strong woman of faith whose voice led the Choir in her St. Rose of Lima’s RC Church in Long Island, and it also brightened all of our family gatherings. Joy and warmth characterized her way in the world and all felt welcome and accepted in her presence. Her husband Bob of nearly 61 years,and her children Kathy and Ken and their spouses George and Lisa and all of their children and grandchildren and all of our extended family rise up every day and call her blessed. She and Bob created family as a bastion of love and support as families should be and are so often not, and love flows from them through the generations.Barbara Robinson’s life is a beautiful example of sowing the seeds of love that reverberate throughout time. And so as she joins the company of saints and angels we want her and her family to know that her love will remain forever. And she will be remembered and loved forever as will those who have departed from our Good Shepherd Community.

Love and Blessings to all who mourn and to all who love,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers Florida

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In this picture are Michael Murray, Ben walden and Pastor Judy Beaumont, now in the company of Saints and Angels.

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Above Ruby Tuesday/Stacie Pearce-Advocate for the Homeless.

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Above-Robert, Kathleen and Linda and Pastor Judy Beaumont are in this picture.

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Here Linda (middle) is standing with her mother Jolinda, sponsors, as her son Quayschaun is baptized. And below, Linda is standing with her “little lambs” class in the church.

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Below is Robert with his family on the day of his baptism and Confirmation
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Above, Dr. Teresa Sievers and Kathleen Vanderwarf and Linda Maybin are in this Christmas picture.

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Above is Barbara Mueller Robinson next to husband Bob and with Judy Beaumont and myself and her niece Lori Whitlatch Post and son Kenneth Robinson, and our Shotwell Cousins Patty King and Dorothy Stewart at a Family Reunion. Barbara was a beloved mother to Ken and to Kathy Robinson Knoppert and several loving grandchildren and great grands and a large loving extended family.

LOVE IS ETERNAL THANKS BE TO GOD!

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