The Day of the Shepherd King: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Today we celebrate the reign of God in Jesus Christ-the Shepherd King- “the Solemnity of Christ the King”. The word “KING” is alienating to many and comforting to some. It speaks of God remaining in charge of this endless cosmos from time immemorial and present in our troubled world. It is reassuring to think that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet”! But “King” also brings images of opulence, subservience, paternal(istic) power, and, sometimes, arrogance.

Instead the readings of the day are about the humble good shepherd who makes sure not even one is lost, or sick and alone ,or hungry or unsheltered and our responsibility to make sure this is so. Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17; Matthew 25: 31-46.

In the Gospel (Matthew 25) Jesus says that those who ACT lovingly toward others actually provide care to Jesus. Those who feed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, welcome the stranger, clothe and shelter and care for those who need care, and visit the lonely and those in prison will inherit the “kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world”. Most importantly, this is not a far away kingdom-or kin-dom- it is what we co-create with God on earth here and NOW as well as what we anticipate throughout eternity. The Epistle of the day, I Corinthians 15: 20-28, assures us that all who die in Christ shall be brought to life again as Jesus who gives life now and forever even ” put death under his feet”. For many of us experiencing loss this Holiday time the prospect of becoming part of forever with our loved ones lifts our broken hearts. And serving those around us now brings new meaning and joy.

This giving of self and much needed material and spiritual goods brings God’s kin-dom “on earth as it is in heaven” and gives total meaning to our lives. We experienced a little of this yesterday as we made our Thanksgiving visits to community members.

Yesterday, 11/21/2020, with the help of groceries provided by Lamb Of God Lutheran Episcopal Church in Estero, Our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers team distributed food and funds and other items for Thanksgiving to 15 of our Good Shepherd families. Kathy Roddy and her friend Angie and Carol Schauf and I were honored to visit with our friends who warmed our hearts with their own deep thank- fulness to God for their lives, and homes and for our visit. The unbounded joy of each one with the exception of one family who was very sick and unable to come outside at the moment, fearing covid, filled our hearts. With them, I talked on the phone and through the door and as we left the door opened to receive the offerings we brought. I am encouraging them to go to the ER but they are afraid due to their immigration status. They do not believe strangers are really welcome here. Even my words of assurance are not enough. Please pray that they will get the help they need.

How good it was to share the faith and hopes of each one visited. Kris Nasi lifted our hearts with his hopes for a gentler and more caring USA when our new President takes office. His love of his cat Hootie, with him before he finally got the home they now share, also moved us.

When Kathy and Angie visited Mr. Gary, our Good Shepherd church Elder, they reported that despite having just been through painful surgery and coping with both isolation and a wheelchair, Mr. Gary exuberantly shared God’s love and goodness with them. When we visited Mary and Brenda (above) as well we were met with unswerving faith and hope despite illness and isolation.

We also think of the selfless self-giving of our Associate Pastor Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, a Nursing Assistant, who works regularly with Patients who have Covid19 on a Rehab ward at Gulf Coast Hospital. This week she was able to visit and anoint our beloved Good Shepherd supporter Jack McNally who can barely walk as Covid lingers on. No Priests are able to visit during Covid. Jack was not on her service but she got special permission to enter his room and serve him. He was so responsive and thankful as was his wife our CTA President Ellen McNally who is home in Covid quarantine and cannot visit him. Please keep them and all who have Covid and their selfless caretakers in your prayers.

We are so thankful to witness the kingdom/kin-dom of God on earth in the lives of our Good Shepherd Community members. We pray that each of us may experience the true “high” of God’s kin-dom on earth as we serve one another, and the Shepherd King, in love.

Happy Thanksgiving and be blessed!

Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP

Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee,

Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL and The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers

Thanks Be To God!

4thWorld Day of the Poor: Use it or Lose it- A RC Woman Priest Reflects

4th World day of the Poor-IV Jornada Mundial de los Pobres-4e Journee Mondiale des Pauvres- 4.Welttag der Armen

A day to stop and think, pray and DO-ACT!!!

Today in Roman Catholic religious observance we celebrate the Fourth World Day of the Poor. This is a day set aside by Pope Francis in 2017 for remembering to “stretch forth your hand to the poor” (Sirach 7:32) on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Yet, strangely, my Sunday Missal Readings in the otherwise very good Guide “Living With Christ”, made no mention of this day. And, as I attended morning Diocese of Venice (my SW Florida Diocese) TV Mass sent from a church in Bradenton the Priest made no mention of this day in his homily. Fortunately,I tuned into a TV Mass on EWTN at 12 O’Clock and it was the Pope’s celebration at St. Peter’s Basilica of this World Day of the Poor. His homily was magnificent as he rolled in all the readings of the day with the theme of this most important day of consciousness of the poor, materially and otherwise, abounding in our midst and our Christian obligation to “Stretch forth our hands”. His full homily and earlier ones on this theme dear to Pope Francis’ heart can be found on the Vatican website Vatican.va. The whole texts are imminintely worth reading. I will only comment on some of his thoughts today as I share my own.

The readings of the day are: Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Psalm 128:1-5; I Thessalonians 5:1-6 and Matthew 25:14-30. In Proverbs, the virtues of a good woman and wife who reveres God are extolled. She brings good to her spouse and the family and works hard “with loving hands” to do this. Yet we don’t often quote the following virtue listed in Proverbs 31 v. 20: ” She reaches out her hands to the poor;and extends her arms to the needy”. (In The Inclusive Bible this reads “She holds out a hand to the hungry,and opens her arms to the homeless”. Psalm 128, the response, says that those who revere God and walk in God’s ways will be blessed and surrounded with love. Thessalonians says that as children of light we will not be shaken by the disasters of the times but look beyond to seeing God at work in the darkest of times and stay alert for the coming of Christ in the midst of darkness. And the Gospel is what is often called “The Parable of the Talents“. A Talent was money in Jesus’ time but we can and do interpret this Gospel as speaking of more than money, of how we use or neglect our God-Given talents and gifts.

Simply,on one level, this Parable says regarding our gifts from God “If you don’t use it, you will lose it”. That makes a lot of sense-no matter what talents and gifts we are given, however great or small, if we fail to use them they shrivel up and die and us along with them. Yet, every time I read it I feel sorry for the one who received less because she or he had less abilities to begin with and who was so afraid of the Boss that the talent was buried in the ground for safe-keeping thus enraging the Boss who expected something back on the gift given. I didn’t like that the gifts given were uneven, and that giving back the gift was seen as an affront, rather than the act of a scared being. But as I reflect I must agree that that is the way of the world that Jesus was trying to capture here. The materially oriented world is unfair and uneven and capricious. And Jesus was conveying that each one of us has received gifts from God: free and wonderful gifts that we can share or hoard or bury.

What have your gifts been? What are they? No, don’t minimize anything- you CAN find your unique gifts. My Cousin Jackie has the gift of passion for a cause and her activities during this last election were unceasing and powerful. (And yes, we were so joyful when Biden, a man of faith and decency did win. Yet, we are also mindful to embrace everyone no matter who they voted for or why). A friend spoke to me the other day of her gift of music, and how she has not been able to use it of late. Suddenly, I wanted her play to her instrument again, and both of us would be lifted. Another friend spoke to me about how her sewing and quilt making grounds her and brings her joy in these times. She made masks for me and for many others, and a baby quilt for her new grand daughter and for my God-daughter’s newborn. The joy of giving filled her. Still another man, one of our Good Shepherd members, is a formerly homeless man who is not only homed in his own place, but is an Elder in our community, leading in worship and reaching out to others who are still homeless and others. He recently broke his leg above the ankle and had to stand an operation and living in a rehab when he was already stressed out by living in these difficult covid times. Yet his joy in God’s love and the gifts he has been given were never dampened. His niece helped him learn how to use Facebook since he can’t get out to share his joy in God’s love and he is writing beautiful messages for all to see.

I am overwhelmed as I look back on my life and realize all the gifts I have been given-gifts I can use, gifts I can share and gifts, especially of people and community, that make life worth living. I can empathize, I can love, I can write, I can speak, and I can outstretch my arms and serve others, especially the poor materially and in spirit. And if I do little or none of this, I am the poorer for it. This time of Covid shut-in has challenged me to keep using my gifts even in different ways. It has also challenged me not to become selfish or self-centered and not to pull in so far that I can’t reach out again. Like you, I am working on how to use and share my gifts in this difficult time. I am learning that a phone call or even a good message or a letter is another form of touch in a way I did not have to learn before.

Today Pope Francis reminded us that we are given such wealth to share. He noted that “those who do not live to serve serve for little in this life”. He noted that we have to take risks and not be overly cautious if we are to put our gifts to good use. We are not valued for what we save or keep for ourselves, but by the fruit we bear. We are not to seek “the good life” but the good we can do with our lives. We are to see those in needs, not focus on our own needs. We need hands outstretched, not grasping and clasping. In the parable, the first two given talents took risks and invested them. The third took no risks and buried the talent. Pope Francis suggested that we “hand over our life plans to the wind and serve. Those of us who only observe the rules and take care of ourselves take no risks. So we are mummified and our souls are mummies”. WOW!

He added that when we only “follow the rules” and fear making mistakes that fear can take over. The third person who received the one talent lacked initiative and creativity, and was full of fear. He did no wrong, but he did no good. He buried his gift. instead we are challenged to be generous, to conquer fear and passivity which becomes complicity. We are challenged to look fear in the face and let go of disinterest. For long term interest on our talent we are to “invest in the poor-the center of the Gospel”.

Pope Francis reminded us that the Gospel can not be understood without the poor. The poor among us often lack the very basics needed to live. Yet they are fully gifted beings loved of God who are symbols of Jesus. Jesus became one of the poor for us. He reached out to the poor, the outcast, the marginalized, the stranger, the profoundly ill and the despondent regardless of gender, culture, race,religion or anything else. He was so rich in love and gives us all that love. We can accept and use it or we can instead develop a poverty of love and become the poorest of all. In the end of our lives, what we have will not matter-success, power or money won’t mean a thing. Our lives will be measured by the love given away. That is our true riches. To serve Jesus in the poor, to bring water and food and shelter to those who do not have it, hope to the hopeless and love to those who feel unloved or unlovely, is to share the riches we have been given, and seeing those riches grow will bring us joy and peace, now and forever.

So, and I return to Pope Francis words here : “As we face Christmas we must not ask what can I have, what can I buy-but what can I give, like Jesus”.

AMEN!

Be blessed and give it away this holy day!

Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida

Rev. Dr. Judith A.B.Lee, DMin, DSW,MSW

11/15/2020

Roman Catholic Woman Priests: Prayers, Some Books To Share And…as for Politics Today

I am so glad to be back on my blog after a long hiatus of taking care of business during this time of “coronavirus” and the necessary staying home where I remain. I am ministering still mostly from home and “keepin’ on keepin on”.  I have been blessed to have the loving support of new friends and old during this time though family is far away. Support makes all the difference.

My prayers are with all who have been touched by the Covid19 virus who do not even know the long term effects. First I pray for all those who went home to God as a result of this siege, especially the many Religious communities  and members/residents of Nursing Homes whose whole communities were hit and diminished. The Felician Sisters of Pennsylvania where thirteen were lost at one time comes to mind, and we also lost a dear friend of Pastor Judy Beaumont’s, Sr. Johnette Sawyer O.S.B.  from St. Scholastica Priory in Chicago. I can see them laughing together in Heaven now and shepherding us too!

Two family members and two Good Shepherd Community members (to my knowledge) have been through it and all are well enough now after a frightening siege. At both ends of the age spectrum, Jack in his 90’s and Jakeriya, 19, a young mother, were hit hard, sent to the ER then quickly sent home to be treated and quarantined, and thanks be to God, they are well now. Yet our prayers and love remain with all touched by this scourge and their caretakers and loved ones. 

Please wear masks, use good sense, and observe distance until this plague passes. 

AN Important and Revolutionary NEW BOOK

I am delighted to share that the prominent Catholic Theologian John Wijngaards has a new book out about why women must be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. As he is a Scriptural scholar I can’t wait to read all of his arguments, they will be persuasive. the book is called “What They Don’t Teach You in Catholic College:  Women in the Priesthood And the Mind of Christ” (Acadian Press, 2020) 216 pages, $16.95. 

Here is an article announcing Wijngaard’s exciting new book from NCROnline by Hille Haker who teaches Theological Ethics at Loyola University of Chicago.  Here’s THE LINK: 

https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/scripture-scholar-john-wijngaards-lays-out-reasons-ordain-women

There is also another important book written this year (2020) by Jill Peterfeso published by Fordham University Press, New York. It is about our Roman Catholic WomanPriest Movement and it is aptly called :

“Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church” 

This book, like the now classic “Women Find A Way: The Movement and Stories Of Roman Catholic WomenPriests” edited by Elsie Hainz McGrath, Bridget Mary Meehan, and Ida Raming (2008,VirtualBookworm.cpm Publishing, Inc. ) tells the stories of many women who have been ordained as Roman Catholic Priests since the beginning of the Movement on the Danube river June 29th, 2002. While the edited book contains stories written by several of the ordained priests (including myself) Jill Peterfeso did extensive research and presents her findings with many quotes from priests.  There are nearly 300 ordained Roman Catholic women Priests and Deacons who reside all over the world now. 

Below are pictures from an Ordination (of Rev. Dianne Willman) in South Africa.  The presiding Bishop was our beloved Patricia Fresen, one of our RCWP founders. Fr. Roy Bourgeois is also in the picture. His unceasing support of women priests got him officially laicized but his priesthood is more powerful than ever as he continues to courageously stand for justice for all. 

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 Below Priests of the Eastern Region in the United States

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Eastern Region Oct. 14, 2018

Here (below) I am with our Priests from Columbia South America, Rev. Judith Bautista Fajardo and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and Rev. Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez. Below this are Pastor Marina Teresa and I with some members of our Good Shepherd Congregation

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And before closing on Books for now, I humbly but heartily encourage you to get my book about Rev. Judith Ann Beaumont as the story of her lifelong service and fight for justice and peace will give you much inspiration and greater detail of a life lived for Christ and culminating in the Priesthood.

The Courage To Love and Serve: The Life Story of Rev. Judith Ann Beaumont-A Roman Catholic Woman Priest And A Saint For Our Times by Judith A. B. Lee, (Outskirts Press, 2020) Here is the LINK:

https://www.amazon.com/author/judyleejudithablee

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FINALLY a few words for our unsettling times –I quote a sage on politically fomented discord:  

“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war

in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor,

for patriotism is indeed a double edged sword. 

It both emboldens the blood

just as it narrows the mind. 

And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch

and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed,

the leader will have no n eed in seizing the rights of the citizenry. 

Rather, the citizenry,

infused with fear and blinded with patriotism,

will offer up all of their rights unto the leader,

and gladly so. 

How do I know: 

For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar” 

This is attributed to Julius Caesar, and a word to the wise and those seeking peace and justice with love, is sufficient. 

PLEASE VOTE

Love and Peace, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Pastor, Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida 

10/2/2020

A Charge and A Promise of Presence: Good Shepherd Continues During Covid-19-Mass for Jesus’ Ascension

The life and Spirit of the church continues no matter what restrictions and challenges we face in this time of Covid-19. We continue God’s work. We worship alone and in small groups 6 feet apart and we pray together across the miles and beyond the masks. We provide connection and presence for one another no matter the distancing necessary. Filled with the Spirit and power of our loving God we continue on.
Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Pastor Judy Lee celebrated Mass with two Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community members on Thursday 5/21/2020. Kathy O. and Kathy L are a couple from Minnesota that have attended Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers seasonally for over 10 years. They usually leave for Minnesota by April but they were grounded due to the the difficulties of travel during the pandemic. When they visited on the Day of Ascension, Thursday the 21st we had a lovely Mass celebration together. The intentions for this Mass were for their health and safety on their impending travel home; and for all touched by Covid-19 as sufferers, caretakers, family and friends, those stuck at home,and especially for health care professionals. We also joined in prayer for our former Bishop, Bridget Mary Meehan of Sarasota ,Florida who faces cancer and has had a double surgery two weeks ago. And for our members Jolinda Harmon also facing cancer and her grandson Quay Crews, facing another chronic life threatening illness, and for two relatives of Kathy and Kathy also facing difficulty.

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The readings of the day are Acts 1:1-11-where Jesus’ appearances to the disciples and his time of leaving after providing many assurances are described and we are assured that “…You will receive power when the the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses….”
The Responsive Psalm is Psalm 47 where we are encouraged to shout for joy and blare the trumpets as our God reigns over the nations.
The Second Reading is Ephesians 1:17-23 where we see Christ taking his position as Head of the Church, his body-all of us who are called to follow.
The Gospel is Matthew 28:16-20 where Jesus charges the disciples to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Abba God, and of the Only Begotten, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!” TIB).

In our homiletic reflections we shared a writing by Harry McEvoy in Living With Christ where he reflects on trying to remember most of all that Christ is always with us, even though he is experiencing forgetting and mild cognitive impairment. We each reflected on God with us and the difference it makes in whatever we must go through. The sharing was personal and simple and profound. I added that the “being with us” is , in the context of these Ascension readings, not only for ourselves. Yes, we are to feel Presence and accompaniment on our journeys no matter how hard they are. YES. But we are also to witness to God’s presence and power to be with us and change lives to following the commandments of love and inclusivity so that all whose lives we touch may be touched by God’s deep love and conversion to Love.

The Ascension Reflections of 5/7/16 and 5/13/18 in these archives on the right of the page can also bring us deeper into why sometimes it is necessary to leave in order that our true spirit remains with those we love. As Kathy and Kathy leave our community to return to Minnesota, and the Community led by women priests there, we keep them in our hearts and prayers. And we pray that we can not only feel the ever abiding Spirit of God with us, but have the power to preach the gospel using words whenever necessary.

We also celebrate the 69th Birthday of our dear member Jolinda Harmon, 5/19/2020. And we bless Stella Odie-Ali for her continued loving support of Jolinda during this hard time.
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And we bless Claire Tessandori on her birthday, 5/24/2020
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And we thank and bless our member Carol Schauf for her continued support of our member Brenda Cummings which includes bringing her goodies and activities to do and provisions for her pets during her time “stuck at home”.

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We continue to pour our blessings on Maya and Lamar Cummings and their baby girl Kimora:
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And we continue to thank God for our beloved Good Shepherd church community that remains alive and well with the power of the Spirit.

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Be blessed and aware that “I am with you always until the end of the age”.

Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B. Lee

Don’t Lose Them-Ministry During Covid-19: A Roman Catholic Woman Priest Reflects

It is very hard for this Pastor not to be able to gather the flock, and to have limited contact with those who need her. We have found creative ways to be in contact and that is the good news I can share here.

Good Shepherd Ministries and Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers,Florida have been in existence from 2007 and 2008 respectively while the combined ministry I shared with Pastor Judy Beaumont as Good Shepherd Ministries in Fort Myers, actually began in 2003 when we housed a homeless family and then a woman with mental illness in a house we bought for the purpose as we served many of the poorest in East Fort Myers. We have had Church in the Park from 2007-2009; Church in the house we bought to use as a Church from 2008-2017, (we also used the Church House as a temporary residence for 55 people leaving homelessness, and those facing hard times from 2008-2016) And since Pastor Judy Beaumont’s return home to our loving God in January of 2018 we have had church about every 2 months in the condo of our Associate Pastor Marina Teresa in Central Fort Myers.(Below)
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It is amazing to us that from 30 to 40 people of a wonderful diverse group of God’s people gather each time we gathered since February 2018 and no one who attended regularly has been lost since 2007 although over 20 of our formerly homeless people went home to God in the last several years. We often joined Jesus in praying “And this is the will of Abba God who sent me,that I shall lose none of all that has been given me,but raise them up on the last day” (John 6:39) We pray not to lose those whom God has given us in loving ministry. We were blessed to walk some of the 20 or so who died home to God, and to minister to their grieving families as they were available. And the others still come and sometimes bring friends,and so we continue. A church of the poor and of the more well to do (economically), an inclusive church of all classes, races, statuses, cultures and sexual orientations, many formerly homeless and some sporadically homeless, continue on together even during this COVID-19 interlude of sickness and distance. We are amazingly blessed.

First,we keep contact in the old-fashioned way by phone calls and mailings. Few days pass that I don’t speak with one of our members. They call me to check on me as much as I call to check on them- and we have good talks and we pray together. We celebrated Easter and Mother’s Day with cards and gifts for many to help them through the hard times. Now that the Stimulus payments have reached most of them we call and write not to share need, but to share love. Love is truly what we share in any event. It is particularly sad to us that those who have nothing at all have no way to get stimulus payments. They do have Food Stamps, most of them, but nothing else except,for some, the subsidized housing we helped them get before all lists closed in Fort Myers, One man in particular, Joe, is quite ill, but was denied SSI before his current neurological illness although he could not work. He lost heart and did not follow up with a lawyer which he still needs to do. We have been paying by the visit for his Medical care and one of our other members,Roger, who lives in his complex takes him to the Doctor faithfully, but he cannot be seen until Covid-19 wanes and the Doctors who take poor folks can see him again. He has Food Stamps and is housed but he has nothing else so we are trying to subsidize him now. He and I talk on the phone and write and he responds to encouragement to follow up on medical help. Roger also takes Mary, also a cancer survivor, and other of our members to their necessary appointments. In the photo below taken after the funeral celebration of one of our members, Nate Chester, Roger is the man in black leaning on the cane. Joe and the Cudjoes and Brenda and Judy Alves are also in this picture.

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Other members come to see me and we visit 6 feet apart and outside wearing masks. One dear woman, Grandma Jolinda who is struggling with advanced cancer has been removed from her cancer treatments during this Covid-scare. She has asked me to speak with her Doctor and explain it all to her. The Doctor and I have developed a good relationship and I explain all of the Doctor’s reasoning to our dear member, who takes heart and is less frightened in understanding. She and I talk often and are very happy for our 6 feet apart visits. The family members she lives with bring her and we visit too. On Mother’s Day they came by with her and, thinking I was not home, left beautiful flowers for me on my front porch. I was so moved by this. Then we had an in person 6 foot visit this week so I could give her some gifts we had for her Mother’s Day. We long to hug, but are satisfied with being in the same out-door space.

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With another member,Gaspare, I went to see the newborn baby girl,Kimora, of our young couple, Maya and Lamar Cummings and we had 6 ft apart blessings outside their home. What a joyous visit that was. And they will be bringing her by in similar manner in the future.

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Gaspare and his mother Lili help me weekly and biweekly wearing masks and gloves in my care of my rescue Kitties and birds. I am so thankful to them and to my neighbor and sister in Christ, Rena Kopp, who assists me with a paralyzed kitty named Brooklyn. Like several others, I also walked Lili through how to get her benefits during her time of unemployment due to COVID. Here the Unemployment website did not work at all for weeks and people needed to make paper applications still not attended to by the State.

With other members we video-chat as well as message and talk on the phone. Brenda, who is living in a tiny studio apartment with her four pets and ,temporarily, another friend really felt “locked-in”. For her, video chats were a great joy. I also enjoy video-chats with Cyrillia Rismay-all the way to St. Lucia. Other members, like Judy Alves who calls our 90 year old Elder, Ann Palmer, and visits newly 18,Jakeriya and her baby Jamir, and twin brother Jakein, and Debbie Carey and her daughter Joelle and grand child Courtney,reach out to one another with calls and 6 feet visits and the love continues on.

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Our “snowbird” members from Minnesota, Kathy O and Kathy L have visited me at home with our 6 foot visits and drive-through meals from McDonalds. They will be here again next week before they return home to Minnesota. It is a joy to have them with us.

We do not use zoom meetings as most of our members do not have or use the technology. But many of our sister churches use this with great success.

This Saturday, May 16th we will celebrate the virtual Graduation of Dr. Efe Cudjoe from FSU Medical School. Efe Cudjoe and her family have been with us from the very beginning, before 2003 when Pastor Judy Beaumont and I worked with St. Peter Claver Community. Efe has been our youth leader all during her High School Years and is loved by all of our members for her thoughtful caring of others as well as her brilliance. She still makes home visits for me when she is home, and with her faithful parents, Dr. Joseph and Pearl Cudjoe! Her older sister, Nana Cudjoe has also become a Medical Doctor and has begun a Practice of Psychiatry. Efe will be in OB-GYN in a well earned and coveted University of Pittsburgh Residence and we are so happy to celebrate the outstanding achievements of both-even virtually and by phone. (Below Efe, on right is with Pastor Judy Beaumont and Keeondra Terrell on a Youth Outing).

And so our Good Shepherd Community continues on during the pandemic. None have been ill with the virus though some, like our Associate Pastor Marina Teresa, and Debbie Carey work in health care at various levels. We call, we message, we visit 6 feet apart and we continue the love. We pray for and with one another and for all those we love, including our former Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of Sarasota and Mary Mother of Jesus Community there who has just undergone serious surgery for cancer. We join in prayer for her recovery. We are so blessed to have one another in prayer and love.

To all who are homebound by Covid-19 we pray that you too will find ways to stay connected to your faith and love communities. We can not do this alone, we need one another as never before.

Be blessed,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP,Dmin,DSW,MSW

Alleluia He Lives! And She Lives! And We Live-Easter Sunday, A RC Woman Priest Shares Resurrection- 4/12/2020

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I am so thankful this year,especially as we experience COVID-19, the global Novel Coronavirus Pandemic, to welcome Easter-the day of Christ’s Resurrection from the dead! Alleluia! Easter is finally here-death came but it could not hold him-and He is risen from the grave. He has broken the bonds of death and brings with him our new life. We too can cast off the bonds that keep us less than fully alive in our everyday lives. We each have different bonds that can hold us back from the fullness of the life that Easter promises. In my life sadness and loneliness can do this, anger can do this, the exhaustion of the everyday chores of a serving life can do this,being up to my ears in the complex sometimes tragic lives of others can do this, and sometimes I even let some folks who are negative “get my goat” and bury their negativity under my skin. Yet, because of Easter, I pray and ask God to take the deadness out of me-to let me live the fullness of life and joy I know as a follower of Jesus and minister of the Gospel. To let me feel and live the Good News so I can touch other lives with the hem of his garment that I have a good hold on. And so it happens that I laugh and smile and sing and go out and serve again. I can be fully alive and for me that is a big WOW! A big EASTER WOW! And even more than that I am older now, and have known the loss of most I hold dear, and I look forward to the life beyond the grave with the Risen Christ of Easter, with our loving God, and with them. I deeply know that we can live now and forever- past the grave. And that is worth an AMEN and a Hallelujah!
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I have gone through so many emotions this Holy Week and I have recorded them, sometimes hidden in my reflections in my blogs for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. (Reading them is a good prelude to this. You just click on any of my blogs and go to the archives on the right and there they are.)Easter is the very best and happiest day of the year and you may enjoy my Reflections from two Easters past:

https://www.judyabl.blog/2017/04/16/jesus-is-risen-he-is-risen-indeed/

https://www.judyabl.blog/2018/04/01/he-lives-we-live-alleluia/

But here, for this blessed Easter, I want to share something very special with you. It is the last (18th)Chapter of my book about my beloved partner in life and ministry Rev. Judy Beaumont who is with us in a very real way this Easter.
The Courage To Love And Serve: The Life Story of Rev. Judith Ann Beaumont-A Roman Catholic Woman Priest and A Saint For our Times
(https://www.amazon.com/author/judyleejudithablee)
Perhaps it will inspire you to read the book about her amazing and unique life. But its message of life is way beyond what can be captured in a book as it affirms the reality of resurrection here and now.
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Here is Chapter 18-The Long Way Home-click on the words Chapter 18 below.

Chapter 18

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HE LIVES-SHE LIVES-WE LIVE!
A blessed Happy Easter to all,
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Holy, Holy Saturday A RC Woman Priest Reflects- April 11,2020

On this Holy Saturday we go with the women to the grave. We pray. We mourn. We do not yet experience hope or understand anything about resurrection. We are in darkness before the light dawns. For many fearing and experiencing the swift sword of the COVID-19 virus and the unexpected loss of our dearest ones it is Holy Saturday. World-wide in this pandemic, not just in our own spheres, it is Holy Saturday. We pray for them today, and all who serve them with love and care. For the many losing loved ones to the ravages of war and hunger and thirst throughout the world, we pray. For the many who lose loved ones to a realm of natural illnesses not yet vanquished by knowledge of prevention and cure, we pray. For all with cancer,Alzheimers’ disease,and other life altering and life threatening illnesses, we pray. For all who don’t know You and the Light and Healing You bring, we pray. For all who know no Easter, no rising from the dead, we pray.

In Pope Francis’ Holy Saturday Homily today he said that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb at dawn (Matthew 28:1-10) and the huge stone in front of the grave was so dramatically rolled back they were given a message of the greatest HOPE. First, they were told not to be afraid. That is a clear message for us today, here and now too-Do not be afraid. Then they were told that the crucified Jesus they were seeking was not there-“He has been raised just as he said”. By now they must have been in total shock and awe, but they were invited to “Come and see the place where He lay”. They were then told to hurry and go and tell the other disciples that he has been raised from the dead and goes before them to Galilee where they will see Him. And you know the women did RUN and they did become the first apostles telling the Good News that Jesus was raised from the dead! He also said that the fact that Jesus went to Galilee was so important. Galilee was not the heart of Jerusalem it was often called Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus was leading them to go tell EVERYONE, that Jesus rose and because He rose from the dead they too, no matter who they are, can live-now and forever! The message of the empty grave, of the cross and resurrection is a message of HOPE-death does NOT have the last word-Amen!

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For those for whom the cross, and its meaning as the gateway to life, remains covered we pray.
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With all who keep vigil today waiting for Easter, we pray.

For all who have gone to their Easter and live in Your Light and love forever, we pray. And we ask them now to pray for us.
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For our own Easter, our own rising from the bonds of death, now and forever, we pray.

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Here is a link to my earlier blog that tells about the beautiful Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Service and pictorially illustrates its sequences and meanings:

https://www.judyabl.blog/2018/03/31/holy-silent-saturday-until-fire-and-light-pierces-the-darkness/

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May the light and love of Easter break through for you this night.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Were You There? Good Friday 4/10/2020

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, oh!……………….
Sometimes it causes me to tremble,tremble, tremble,
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

I can still feel the strong baritone voice of Mr. Leopold Dyce, a Jamaican-American leader in our diverse Brooklyn,New York community and the Choir singing this African-American Spiritual in the church of my childhood and youth as we followed Jesus to the cross and heard the seven words from the cross. Mr. Dyce’s trained voice could literally tremble and cause us to tremble. As I sing it with my church members now, the quality of the voices may lack but the empathy and identification with the suffering of Christ is as strong as ever it was among those who know suffering. All who have suffered in any manner WERE there. Moreover, the good news is that the One who suffered on that day IS here with us now as we suffer. One Priest said Good Friday is the feast day of those who suffer-the humiliated,throughout the world. Another reminded us of the loneliness of Jesus on that day, and the loneliness of those who loved him when they thought he was lost to them, dead forever. The aloneness of that day is striking and perhaps some of us experience a small part of such loneliness now when we can not come together in person in our communities for worship, adoration and comfort on Good Friday despite virtual and social media ways of sharing.

In the midst of this coronavirus-COVID-19 pandemic so many are now suffering with the actual illness, others suffer as they lose loved ones, and watch them suffer from afar,others suffer as they selflessly serve and care for those with the illness-and many live in paralyzing anxiety about the illness. Our prayers today are for all those who experience this tragic illness and those who care for them medically or serve them in meeting basic needs. For the transit workers in New York City and elsewhere who keep the city rolling while they catch the virus, for all grocery store personnel and all essential workers and first responders who respond to us during this epidemic. For all who put self aside and reach out to others during this pandemic,may they feel the presence of God with them in healing and peace.

We could not do it this year in the presence of the epidemic but our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community followers sang this deeply moving African-American Spiritual yearly as we walked through the streets of Fort Myers following the Way of The Cross and praying at places of misery in our neighborhood. And we again sang this plaintive hymn during the Good Friday Service. These were the strong and moving voices of those who knew the pain of racism, social class/poverty, being LGBTQ,being different/other/on the margins in this country. Some also knew the crosses of homelessness,illness without medical coverage, and hunger. They knew suffering yet most of all they knew that Jesus was right there with them in their suffiering. You might listen to “Were You There?” on youtube during your Good Friday meditations.

But the words of another old hymn lift me up today…(From the 3rd verse of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus”
“Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in Prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in Prayer;
In His arms he’ll take and shield you;
You will find a solace there…
What a friend we have in Jesus….”

The theologian Bernard Cooke argues that friendship is the paradigm of our relationship with God. We have a Divine Friend who knows our pain and all of our humanity because he experienced it. God’s abiding friendship is exemplified in Jesus on Good Friday as he lays down his life to destroy death so that we may live forever- beyond our physical deaths. But we must wait for Easter to come. He died the torturous death of a revolutionary who offended all of the powers that be of his times with the simple truth of God-love. We too shall die, though perhaps more peacefully. Our beloved Friend has died in the greatest injustice of all times. And so dying he breaks the bonds of death for us.

“Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One,that whoever believes may not die,but have eternal life” (John 3:16-TIB).

“GREATER LOVE HAS NO ONE THAN THIS-
TO LAY DOWN ONE’S LIFE FOR ONE’S FRIENDS.
AND YOU ARE MY FRIENDS…
LOVE ONE ANOTHER….” John 15:13-17

Today we lose our best Friend and we deeply mourn- though Easter will come.
We will all have our Calvary-yet we are not nor will we be alone. Our Friend is right there beside us. Amen.

Here is a link to “being there” with the Good Shepherd Community in past years:

https://www.judyabl.blog/2018/03/30/at-the-foot-of-the-cross-good-friday/

Below is one of our early Good Shepherd members, Michael Murray who was Jesus for us as we walked the Way of The Cross in Lion’s Park in Fort Myers with members of our Good Shepherd Community. He was a homeless Veteran when we met him but was so thankful to be housed that he wanted to carry the cross for us for two years. He died with COPD after 9 years of living in his home and caring for his kitties in 2018. We were so thankful for his life and his friendship with Jesus and with us. As he carries the cross with members’ prayers nailed to it, our Deacon Hank Tessandori and Elder Harry Gary look on.

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A Blessed Good Friday,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP