Now Thank We All Our God: The Community Gathers In Thanksgiving with Pastor Judy and Pastor Marina Teresa, RC Women Priests
Members and friends of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida gathered on Saturday 11/17/2018 to give thanks to God and to bless one another with love and joy. This very special community is made up of formerly homeless, homeless and a variety of other members who are dedicated to compassion and justice for the poorest among us. The celebrants for the traditional Mass were Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP and Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia,RCWP. After a joyful worship service in which all join in consecration and all are welcomed to the Table, we also enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast prepared by Kathy Roddy and we celebrated several birthdays as well. As one member noted “the family is here together”. Twenty-three of us of all cultures and colors and life situations ranging in age from one year to 89 years with five young adults present as well were able to gather and also to pray for those who were not with us due to illness, death or other reasons. We prayed for the sick among us with a laying on of hands. We reflected that our dearly departed members including Co-Pastor Judy Beaumont, RCWP and Linda Maybin, Gary Knafla, Claire Powley,Mike Murray, Robert Swanson and several others were truly with us in spirit. And we welcomed Nancy Chism of Naples, Florida and “JG”,another newer member to our midst. We noted that several members from the 2007 Church in the Park and also from our Good Shepherd Church in the House were present and enjoying their homes and being together over the years. Some had come through life threatening illnesses and some were still battling cancer, brittle diabetes and other illnesses, some still struggled with how unbelievably hard loss is, and some struggled with how the future will be for them. But all expressed thanksgiving and hope.
The Readings for the day were Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 67; I Corinthians 13-9 and Luke 17: 11-19. In the Hebrew Scriptures we were reminded that it is our God who meets our needs and Who guides and sustains us through the wildernesses we face in life. There are many dangers in the wilderness, but God protects us from harm and fear and actually feeds and nurtures us in the hardest of times as well as in the best of times. Some of us are going through the hardest of times now. (We can think of our own lives and also of the people in the Caravan from Central America, and the people in the wild and all consuming fires in California). And we reflect on God with us through those hard times and we are thankful, even despite the difficulties and sometimes because of them, that we know that God still has our back. We are not alone and we can’t do it on our own. Yet, no matter how strong it seems, Evil will not prevail. God is still with us. Thanks be to God.
In I Corinthians 1 Paul tells the church in Corinth that he is thankful for them, for witnessing their considerable spiritual gifts in action. Pastor Judy reflected on how thankful she is for the good Shepherd church members who live the gospel and serve one another and others in great need. And like Paul, she noted “God will strengthen you until the end. God is faithful.”
Our Cook Kathy
And finally In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives us the parable of the ten lepers. All were healed when they asked Jesus to heal them, all were made whole. But nine went on their way while only one, a foreigner, a Samaritan, came back to say thank you. In fact, he could hardly contain his thanks and joy. Jesus said that this man’s faith had indeed saved him. And, our faith in the midst of strong troubles not only in times of smooth sailing, is what is healing us. We see that Jesus is touching all of us, and healing us- making us whole- even in the midst of trouble-we are made capable of love and joy on every level of our being. And the people said AMEN!
I only wish I could have captured the looks on the faces of those gathered as we sang “Thank you, God” together. It was from the bottom of our hearts and souls.
There was also a special joy in welcoming Phyllis’s newest grand child Derrick, almost one. And also in sharing the hopes of some of our younger members.
We closed our worship with a spirited variation of the hymn “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” with She’s got the whole world in Her hands- God, our loving Mother and Father, is carrying us and our world. And finally WE have the whole world in our hands-it is our job to care for the environment, for all God’s creatures,and for one another. And we are so thankful for the opportunity to make church together and to do this as a church community.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Here are two recent articles affirming change in the Roman Catholic Church in the direction of inclusion for all of the baptized who are prepared and called, specifically for women in the priesthood. While Australian Bishop Long recognizes that all of archaic clericalism needs to be changed before it can happen, he affirms the importance of women in the Roman Catholic priesthood. He applauds Pope Francis for bringing new wine to the church and considers women in the priesthood as another hope for new wine in the church even as the old wineskins of tradition and structure are also made new so they can hold the vital new wine.
This is from LifeSite News, lifesitenews.com, by Dorothy Cummings McClean, 10/23/18.
In the second article we get the viewpoint of a young female Husite Catholic Priest as she is seated as the only female at the Church’s World Congress for Youth. ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary’s comment is that hopefully next year RCWP Priests who are now over 264 strong throughout the world may be seated and contribute to this important Congress.
Clearly women RC Priests are already here! (This picture is illustrative and only a part of one section of Roman Catholic Women Priests International- the US Eastern region.)
The Holy spirit of our loving God will call whom She will-let no structures impede God’s call. Here’s to new wine in the Church!
Blessings, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
Leslie Frances Handy,60, and Celie Katovitch, 29, were ordained transitional Roman Catholic Deacons in a sacred and joyful traditional Ordination ceremony at the Stony Point Conference Center in Stony Point, New York by Bishop Andrea Johnson of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, Eastern Region on October 14, 2018. Each woman is well prepared for the diaconate by life,service, ministerial and educational experience and will serve into 2019 in their respective communities of Baltimore, Maryland and Rochester, New York.
Fran Handy, as she likes to be called, has led a life of service. She was a religious Sister for many years before returning to lay status and continuing to pursue opportunities to serve God’s people. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and is completing a Master’s Degree in Theology and Pastoral Service at Global Ministries University. She is a part of the Living Waters Inclusive Catholic Community in Maryland and will serve as Deacon with them. She is married to Mimi Giguere, works a full time job and lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her passion is to serve the poor, the outcast, children and families and the LGBTQ community.
Celie Katovitch of Syracuse, New York, has ministerial experience as an ordained Pastor in the Unitarian Universalist Church before returning to Roman Catholicism and membership in the Spiritus Christi Catholic Community in Rochester, New York. Her undergraduate degree is in Philosophy, Peace and Justice from Gettysburg University. She holds a Master’s of Divinity Degree from Harvard University Divinity School(2013) and is also a graduate in Spiritual Direction from the Haden Institute(2018). Her commitment is to serve the poor and disenfranchised.
We are truly blessed and happy to have Fran and Celie as Deacons in the Roman Catholic Women Priests, Eastern Region.
The first picture below is of Deacons Celie and Fran with Priest Jackie Clarys.
The second is all of the Eastern Region priests who were able to be in attendance at this joyful celebration.
The Ordination followed the Retreat of the Eastern Region’s clergy at the rustic and beautiful Stony Point Center from 10/12-14. On the first night we celebrated the lives of two of our priests who died this year: Judy Beaumont and Claire Gareau. Priest Gloria Carpeneto who had been Claire’s mentor told of her gentleness and service and her love of baseball. And I, at times tearfully, shared two poems about the life of unceasing compassion, prayer and service led by Judy. In a truly moving celebration of their lives we shared the grief of loss and the hope of lives lived entirely for and with Christ in love and service.
In the picture below our Colombian priests, Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, Judith Bautista Fajardo and Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez sit at the memory altar and consider the lives of Judy and Claire.
As Judy Beaumont and I went to Colombia four times to assist the priests there having our Colombian priests at this Memorial Celebration was particularly meaningful.
The topic of the Retreat was “Claiming Our Prophetic Voice and Witness” structured on the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus in John 4. Our retreat leader was Amy Wellborn who was amazing. We applied this truly exciting story to our individual lives and to our mission as Roman Catholic Women Priests. One of the questions we considered was: “We also pondered the questions; How do we speak to power? How do we read the signs of the times? How do we create bridges to the future? and How do we embody the gospel message?”. As Roman Catholic Women Priests we are wondering if witnessing and being a new model of church is our prophetic call?” We did not find all of the answers but generated energy to pursue these important questions by our work and caring interactions.
How blessed we were and how fitting it was to end this important retreat with the ordination of two new Deacons! Celie and Fran, Fran and Celie,Bienvenidos, Welcome! ANd Bendiciones, Blessings! You remain in our hearts and prayers as you continue to serve our loving God.
This is the quilt of our names made by our Priest Barbara Beadles. Our departed members lead us at the top of the quilt.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Humble St. Francis of Assisi whose Feast day is today is a Saint for our times. If there could be a Saint named to intercede for the Environment, for Sister Mother Earth, all of earth’s creatures, and for a rebuilt and renewed church, it would be Francis of Assisi. Probably Francis and all gentle saints both named and unnamed by the church are already praying for the preservation of God’s beautiful and boundless creation. Perhaps they are praying for each one of us to “do something” to save our planet and all residing in and on it, for action is needed now more than ever even as it was needed in Francis’ 12th Century world of Umbria and Assisi, and all around it. And, surely, they are praying for the conversion and return to God of a church where sexual abuse, inequity, and the abuse of money is becoming better known than the Gospel.
Francis, or Francesco as his well to do merchant father renamed him for his love of France, was a “highborn” and spoiled young man who won the favor of all he knew for his affable and party loving ways. He actively pursued dreams of being a warrior and nobility, not of being a holy saint.Yet, something happened to change Francesco. When he was 25 he had a dream in which he heard God’s voice telling him “it was all wrong” and asking him “Francis, repair my church”. church”. At first he thought God meant the dilapidated building where his village worshiped. So he did that only to learn that was not what the dream meant. This use of money angered his father and he had to pay it back and then he was disinherited. Francis was surprisingly relieved by this and, listening to his call from God,began a life of prayer and letting go of all material goods to share with the poor and infirm, and all of God’s creatures, whom he cared for with the same strong energy he used in dissipation in his former life. The hallmark of his actions was respect and love for all creatures great and small, for animals and birds, the infirm and beggars as well as the highborn and the pope. Equal love and respect. Wow! What a beautiful yet difficult lesson that is for us. Not all who follow the way of Francis will choose radical poverty as he did, but many can try to “give it all away”. And ,as for the conversion of the soul needed to live in simplicity and holiness as the poor and sick and all creatures are served, it can be a life long process. But to follow the Gospel in loving and showing respect to all, ALL- great and small- with equanimity is simply to live the Gospel as Jesus lived and preached it. It is that simple and that difficult. Most of all it is not an ascetic road, but one that demands actual action and hard work. Francis “got” what Jesus taught and lived: to love all of God’s creation and creatures, one must give one’s very self away. Francis ended his life chronically and terminally ill and blind and worn out from serving the poor, the sick and all of God’s creatures. He did not gain material comfort or ascend to nirvana or higher consciousness. He worked hard at serving his beloved God and all of creation until he died at 45. But for Francis, death was welcomed as freedom and unity with his beloved God and Christ.( For more about Francis one might see:
Francis wrote his famous Canticle of the Sun or Laudes Creaturarum- Canticle of Creatures when he was suffering his last illness and facing death. He says “Be praised, my Lord through….Brother Sun, Sister Moon, Brother Fire, Sister Water, Sister Mother Earth and all of God’s creatures,and finally through Sister Death.” He praised God through all life and through its natural ending- called the first death, but advised that the the “second death”, or life cut off from God after death, can not harm God’s beloved who love and serve God and all of creation and will be united with God in dying here. His is an action and love filled spirituality. He also said” it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and in dying that we live”. He urged us to “start by doing what is necessary;then do what is possible;and suddenly you are doing the impossible”. I think of Rev. Judy Beaumont who lived a life of service her entire life, serving and blessing others until the last few days of her life when she could do no more. Her life of selfless service and love was a Francis life although she served 35 of her years as a Benedictine Sister, and the last 6 years as a RC woman priest. And her surrendering finally to Sister Death into Life was what Francis was talking about.
And we need to do the “impossible” now, we are reminded that here and now our earth, our planet, is in peril; wars and conflict rage on; human poverty and senseless illness and death is on the increase; water and resources for life are destroyed; and there is cruelty and abuse to both children and animals that is on a scale that is hard to fathom. And,what should be a powerful vehicle for changing this, the church,is in crisis and shame in the realities of sexual abuse on such a wide scale while married men and women are still not able to “officially” be ordained priests to serve God’s precious people. We have a new Francis, our Pope, whose heart is in the right place to have an impact on all of this, but who is hampered by the realities of the Roman Church itself and its archaic structures and politics. But more than this, he is hampered by us. Each one of us needs to become aware of the threats to our planet and to God’s poor and all creatures, and we each need to “do something” about it, to have an impact on exercising the possible to do the impossible-change the directions tings are moving in. No one Francis , however powerful his or her role, can change anything. All of us need to become a Francis and assist.
Here is an example of a man, in fact a Jewish man, who made an important choice to live more like Francis. And I am not sure he would ever conceptualize it this way, but I was so impressed by him. He is my Doctor, Paul Yudelman and he has been a wise , compassionate and able Doctor who has saved my life in his discovery of a stomach cancer- now happily removed and giving no trouble for five years. He also ministered to our Judy Beaumont during her illness and passing with the greatest compassion and skill. His compassion made him different as a Doctor. He has reached retirement age and while I feel sad that he will no longer be my Doctor and we also had many great conversations, I am awed by his decision. He is giving up on making money in Medicine and says “he has enough”. He is moving to Washington State to be part of the Environmental Movement and will give his considerable energy, passion and compassion and wisdom to saving our earth. He challenges us and me in particular to do what I can here, where our water is full of red tide, dead fish and sea life and toxic blue green algae. Erin Brokovitch is now here to help local activists champion this cause. I can act politically with my vote and in other small ways to counter this.
I think too of those who serve the poor and homeless here as it seems an endless battle when there are no local or state taxes to assist with housing and finances. I think of the many churches, groups and individuals who share with the poor and help them attain what they need with dignity. I think of Tonya Van Scoy and her family and friends who continue their Saturday night feeding ministry in the park. They, like our Good Shepherd Ministry, have had to slow down some recently due to illness and many changes in their lives. But we have been doing what we could for eleven years. And we could do this because so many good Christ followers have helped us. I think of the faithfulness of Hank and Claire Tessandori and Judy Alves and Jim Pellstring and Rev. Judith McKloskey and Rvda Marina Sanchez and Pearl and Dr. Joe Cudjoe to our ministry and of many others. In our ministry Ellen and Jack McNally still make food for our community gatherings as does Kathy Roddy who knows what it is like to struggle, but more importantly to serve. And also many continue to give us material support that we share with the poorest although we have dissolved our tax exempt status. This is a pure act of love. And when we can no longer do this others replace us. I think of Joe and Cece Irvin and Boot straps Ministry. Fr. Joe is a married priest and we worked together in the Park from 2007-2010. Then we moved separate ways as our ministries evolved. Their Ministry is active now in North Fort Myers. And there are many others who serve, Grace Methodist Church downtown, and several small ministries like Pastor Mandy’s. And I think too of some of our formerly homeless and still poor folks like Brenda Cummings and Harry Gary who give their assistance and support to keep these street ministries alive for the poorest among us. And I think of Mercedes with HEAL who works tirelessly to help abandoned and abused pets to get a new lease on life and a home. I think of my friend Danielle Nisivoccia who cares for the feral cats near her home in Pennsylvania. She feeds them tasty mackerel and wet and dry food and builds them igloos and uses a renovated Green House for shelter for them in the hard winters. Another neighbor, Elaine, who is caring for her terminally ill mother also cares for many of the area’s feral cats. Danielle is also reaching time to retire from this hard work but can not envision selling that property because 2-3 old and weak cats still need her compassionate intervention. And with the help of Dr. Terry Sutton and her lovely Staff I still care for 19 cats here and several outside as does at least one other of her clients. It is hard work but her help makes the difference in so many ways.
And I think of our Roman Catholic women priests who give up the support of the church communities they loved to serve as priests and who serve the poorest and also animals. In this I think of Pastor Gabriela Velardi-Ward who has an Inclusive Catholic church in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village and who also feeds and cares for feral cats in her home in Staten Island, and, an architect,she works full time as well. I think of Rev. Marni who cares for the poor and for countless cats and dogs in Arizona where she builds homes for their shelter and comfort even as she struggles with health issues. And I remember our Franciscan Third Order Priest, Adele Decker Jones for her wisdom and love,and Rev. Tish Rawles for her love of God’s little creatures and applaud Rev. Elena Garcia who has spent a life caring for the poor. And there are many more women( and a few men) who do so in our over 260 validly but illicitly ordained priests and deacons world-wide.
And I think of countless ministers to the poor, both clergy and laity and Religious Sisters and Brothers who, like Francis give their whole lives to the poor both in the USA and abroad. All of this makes me feel that it is possible to join St. Francis of Assisi in his dream of “repairing the church” and loving and serving all of God’s creatures and Creation, our planet,-in doing the impossible. May each one of us try a little harder with God’s help.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,Pastor
Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida
On Saturday afternoon 9/15/18 twenty members of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers joyfully gathered to worship and also to celebrate our September and October Birthdays. They came by car and foot,bus and bike to Pastor Marina Sanchez’s home located in a central Fort Myers area. They ranged in age from 5-87 and everywhere in between, black, white, Hispanic, female and male, poor and well off, gay and straight, sick and well, heart broken and yet full of love, they came. After the passing of our beloved co-Pastor Judy Beaumont out of her suffering to wholeness and life forever with God, Pastor Judy Lee is slowly offering regular worship to the community once again. She continues to serve the Community on a daily basis but our worship will now possibly be every two months. We are especially thankful to Co-Pastor Marina Sanchez for offering her home for our gathering and for serving with us.
Celebrating Birthdays today were Brenda Jean Cummings, (and this was her birthdate!),Kathy Roddy (who also prepared today’s meal) and Quayschaun Crews and Jolinda Terrell. Quay was unable to stay for the whole celebration after bringing his Grandma Jolinda Harmon, and Jolinda Terrell and all of the Harmon grandchildren were unable to come as they had already planned their First Annual Kickball Game in the park in honor of their dear mother Linda Maybin who in the midst of life’s many struggles always gathered the whole family for a good kickball game. Linda had her “first birthday in heaven” after making her transition home to God last year on 9/14, a day after her 41st birthday. We lit a candle for our faithful member Linda today as well.
Our lessons for the day were for the 23rd Sunday in Ordianry time: Isaiah 50:5-9a read by our Deacon Hank Tessandori-In this reading Christ’s patient suffering and non-violent responses are foretold; Psalm 116 led by our elder Harry Lee Peter Gary- Response: I walk before you, Adonai, in the land of the living-our response to God who gives us life and protects the little ones is love; The Epistle-James 2-14-18 read by Maya Rismay- Faith without works is dead- work for justice, love beyond what is easy, serve one another. The Gospel Mark 8:27-35-“You are the Christ…” Deny yourself and take up your cross”-accept Christ’s suffering and if need be, your own. Peter misses the mark and insists on no suffering for Jesus. The Gospel was read in English by Pastor Judy Lee and in Spanish by Pastor Marina Sanchez who also summarized the readings and Pastor Judy’s homily in Spanish.
Our readings in Isaiah, James and Mark reflect on how we are to live our faith. With the suffering servant of Isaiah we are to respond to violence with non-violence-to give our backs to those who beat us(yet without having the message beaten out of us)-this speaks to our legacy of non-violent resistance in pursuit of peace and justice. Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and all here and everywhere who followed them, the Plowshares Movement including our Judy Beaumont in Plowshares Nein, showed us how to do this. And clearly those who use non-violent resistance and civil disobedience may also suffer before their ultimate victory. And there are places in the world today , like Syria, where Christians die for being Christians. And those of us who do not suffer bodily harm for following Christ still may suffer rebuke and retribution for living our call to serve- like our women RC priests, and those imprisoned for civil disobedience, and those of the LGBTQ community who suffer at the hands of some of organized religion just for being who we are and claiming Christ.
It is a disservice to God’s people who know better to be like Peter was in the Gospel, trying to convince Christ not to suffer, saying in effect, “you are God’s own , you will not suffer and die”. Peter tried to convince Christ of this out of love. He was not a bad guy just off the mark. Who wants a loved one to suffer? Instead we say, “no , it will not happen”. Yet often it does. In our church community we have lost many loved ones in the past two years. Several of us have suffered with cancer and other painful illnesses had to undergo chemo , radiation and other forms of treatment that also brought suffering. Fortunately this worked for some of us who sit with us today, but not for all. So, disciple Peter, when Jesus tells you “satanas”, (‘you missed the mark’ in Aramaic) or, in our English “you were bad minded”- suffering does exist and does touch us, sometimes even for good as in the death and resurrection of Christ. So friends, let us not deny suffering or think that it will miss God’s beloved children. It doesn’t,those sitting here and reading this know this too well, but when we do what James is asking us to do-live our faith, do works of mercy and love, and what Jesus tells us, “take up that cross”, let us do it with all the love we can muster for one another. Let us bear one another’s crosses. There are so many examples in this one community of the ways we do serve one another and all of God’s sometimes broken children. Ellen and Jack and Kathy ,Pearl and Judy A., Hank and Claire, provide food and wheels, guidance and love for the poorest among us. Grandma Harmon, even as she goes through chemo, cares for all of her grandchildren and family without complaint. Debbie and Mary and our younger members Maya and Joelle, prime examples, take time to visit and to care for their elders, including me. Pastor Marina cares for very sick people every day. What a serving community we are, and we are blessed to be together today. Pain and suffering can not be avoided, but God is there with us, and through us,and through it all and we are there for one another, making someone else’s cross a little bit lighter. That is the kind of faith we have. So let us not deny or minimize suffering, especially suffering for the kin-dom of God here and now and to come-let us instead live our faith and lean on God and lean on and love one another. And before we conclude let’s sing some verses of Lean on Me by Bill Withers. Maya plays the song on her i-phone and everyone sings along. I conclude with “we have a new sacred song’, continue to carry one another’s cross, and all respond a resounding AMEN!
Members pray for the sick,( laying hands on those who request prayer for illness),for the departed, for the world and the church in moving and specific terms. We sing “It’s me standin’ in the need of prayer” and we claim the ground as Holy Ground, including touching our own hearts and our neighbors’s hand as holy ground. As we celebrate the Holy Eucharist and share in Holy Communion, Pearl and Hank lead us in “Peace is flowing like a river..Love is flowing like a river…”. One of our newer guests, Jean, shared that this is the first time she received Holy Communion in more years than she can count. We are thankful. We sing “I’m so glad Jesus lifted me-when troubles got me bound, Jesus lifted me…”. And Deacon Hank sends us forth to serve. We conclude with “I have decided to follow Jesus” perhaps grasping together a bit more of what this means having come together as a community today.
Afterward we have our meal and Brenda cuts the first piece of the big birthday cake, bringing a piece to Kathy. Brenda, enjoys our after-party sharing “this is the first birthday party I ever had”. We applaud and begin reluctantly to part.
Our next Sunday worship and community gathering will be on November 17th.
With love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP