Many struggle with the traditional church these days. Attendance is markedly down in the Roman Catholic Church in the USA and Ireland and in all of the major Christian denominations in the USA as well. Some of the key issues are issues of injustice- the sex abuse scandal especially in the Roman Catholic Church where until Pope Francis recent strong stands massive abuse was hidden and the offenders passed along from community to community; the denial of complete acceptance to the LGBTQ community in Catholicism and recently in the major decision by the Methodist Church where 53 percent of the clergy voted not to give full access and acceptance to the LGBTQ community members and to clergy who are in that community and the denial of ordination and clergy membership to women in Roman Catholicism and some of the other Christian denominations.
In a world already full of injustice, conflict and violence the church should stand , as Jesus most certainly did, for the acceptance and inclusion of all, including the outcast and the stranger. Thereby it should attract a variety of members, young as well as old, and of all social classes, races, cultures and orientations and identifications. On Ash Wednesday (this year Weds. March 6th) we are told to “turn away from sin and believe the Gospel”. ( I actually say “turn away from sin and believe and live the Gospel”. In the passage from the book of Joel (2:12) we are asked to return to God with all our hearts. The 40 days of lent are then an opportunity to take stock of ourselves, move away from preoccupations with self and give ourselves away to the poor, to those who are mourning and those in need of healing and to all those who need a word and act of love and compassion. That is we are to return to “increasing Christ within us” “living Jesus” (as the Salesians say). As part of this many need to take stock of how they feel about the traditional church and its subtle and not so subtle decisions to become an exclusive group. If we are to include all who are excluded as Jesus did, where and how can we best do that.
Some have decided to do that by leaving the RC church per se becoming a part of independent Catholic churches, or joining other Christian denominations,and some continue under the Roman Catholic rubric, following the best of the traditions and yet breaking the man-made laws that exclude. Roman Catholic WomenPriests are in this latter category. We like to say we are not leaving the church but are risking criticism and, yes, ostracism, to lead the church in a new era of true Christ-like inclusion at the Table and at the altar. Whatever you discover this Lent about the direction of your journey to the cross and to the resurrection,it is important to join with other believers as you journey for it is the community that brings the living Christ in our midst and forms the mystical body of Christ that lives and gives hope to our lives.
Here is a link to a NCRonline article written by NCR Staff (National Catholic Reporter) where several people including some women Roman Catholic priests give their thoughts on leaving the church. Leaving or leading- it is up to you to be Church. Blessings to you as you walk this Lenten journey.
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Pastor and Director Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida and
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Fl
On Saturday February 23rd The New York Times Opinion page had this excellent opinion by Alice McDermott, author, novelist and essayist: Why the Priesthood Needs Women.
Of course, I am in total agreement with Ms. McDermott but want to point out to Ms. McDermott and readers that we are already here since 2002 when highly prepared Roman Catholic women were ordained on the Danube river and in 2003 a bishop who is still fully in communion with the RC Church ordained women bishops- for the sake of the church- who have passed down the line of Peter validly although illicitly through the Roman Catholic WomenPriest Movement. This Bishop’s name name will only be revealed upon his death although our bishops know it and have met him. Perhaps the women priests of RCWP International (and ARCWP) are not mentioned as we have broken canon law stating that only men can be ordained. But as St. Augustine noted an unjust law needs to be broken. And it has been so that now there are over 265 ordained RC women in the priesthood throughout the world. Thanks be to God for this start , not only at justice but at creating a priesthood of women and men who live out their Holy Orders in shepherding the people of God, especially those who are sometimes left out by the institutional church- the divorced, the LGBTQ community, and many others on the margins who have not been welcomed to the table of Jesus by the traditional RC church which, a table he has spread for all.
Today, 2/2/2019 Rev. Dianne Willman, Roman Catholic Woman Priest has sent us a link to the youtube video of the highlights of her January 19th Ordination-you might want to get closer to the experience by viewing it. We thank Rev. Dianne and send blessings to her as she begins her priestly ministry in J’Burg ,South Africa.
On Saturday January 20th, 2019 Dianne Willman was ordained the first Roman Catholic Women Priest in Johannesburg, South Africa. She joins Mary Bernadette Ryan, RCWP and Elizabeth Ann Ralston, RCWP and Bishop Patricia Fresen, RCWP, all native South Africans, in the priesthood in South Africa, and over 265 ordained RC women world-wide. We published news of this Ordination on 1/21 and now will share pictures and more information from this amazing holy event.
This is the entrance to the Mass of Holy Orders, Bishop Patricia Fresen Presider and primary celebrant.
This is the moment Bishop Fresen begins the most holy moment of the laying on of hands.
Members of the clergy and those present are also invited to either extend hands or come forward and lay hands on the newly blessed priest.
Rabbi Julia Margolis, the first woman Jewish Rabbi in South Africa was also invited to participate in the ceremony. She wrote a beautiful letter of blessing and welcome of Dianne to the clergy and affirming inter- religious collaboration and support. Rabbi Margolis is the Chairperson of the South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity. Rabbi Sa’ar Shaked, Chair of the Rabbinic Council also wrote her a beautiful letter of blessing.
Also present at this historic Ordination was Fr. Roy Bourgeois, a former Maryknoll priest who had his faculties taken away by the Church and also removal from his beloved Maryknoll Community because of his outspoken support of women priests. His attendance along with Bishop Patricia Fresen’s return to South Africa after living in Germany for many years after she lost the support of her lifelong Dominican Community gave palpable and poignant reality to the risks women and men take to obey God’s call to obey conscience in the matter of women priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Rev. Caryl Conroy Johnson of Pennsylvania, an Eastern Region RCWP Priest and International Program Coordinator for RCWP, and Rev. Diane Dougherty, ARCWP of Georgia were also present to celebrate this joyful Ordination.
Once again we give our blessings and hearty congratulations to rev. Dianne willman, RCWP.
Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL
Yesterday our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers gathered to celebrate the Second Sunday in Ordinary time where the Gospel is the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11) but it was no ordinary celebration for many reasons. First, it is never ordinary when God’s people gather for worship and fellowship. Then,we were blessed with having our visiting Priest from Kansas City, Missouri, Rev. Judith McKloskey celebrating with Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and me.And it was also the the Sunday before the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees, both celebrations so relevant to ur community members. And, last but not least on this day of celebrating the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, we also celebrated the marriage of our member Maya Rismay to Lamar Cummings. They were married civilly after Lamar graduated from FGCU in December but wanted the blessing of the Church and the community of Christ which we were delighted to give. We also had five birthday blessings to give. What a joyful day of celebration for our community.
Thirty-seven people attended, ranging in age from 1 to 84, black, white, Hispanic, biracial,male, female, gay and straight, well and ill, and the economically poor, formerly homeless, well off and in those between. This included eight people whose families were recent immigrants and some fleeing from oppression from several countries. Fourteen of those attending were under the age of 25 and our hopes for the future of the church were revived. Hank Tessandori who acts as our Deacon said a prayer related to Martin Luther King’s dream. He acknowledged that the times we now live in are not embracing the dream of the unity of all and the dignity of each one, but to be here in this small space with our church helps us lift our hopes once again. Kathy and Bill Carpenter who visited from Cape Cod Mass said they were delighted to be with us and part of the diversity of our church. They attend RCWP priest, Rev. Marie David’s Community in Harwichport and Kathy is studying to be a priest in the Apostolic Catholic tradition.
The Hebrew Scripture text of the day shows our loving God “espousing” God’s people, calling them “My Delight” as young marrieds may call each other (Isaiah 62:1-5). The original Epistle reading (I Corinthians 12: 4-11) emphasizes that God gifts each of us and the gifts are to be shared in the community-not for self but for the community. Our Epistle was I Cor. 13 where the nature of love is beautifully described. In the Gospel Jesus begins his public ministry at a wedding where the wine runs out at his mother, Mary’s request. What he does is amazing, not only does he fill 6 huge jugs used for ritual cleansing with the best wine of the event, thereby saving the dignity of the bridegroom’s family, but he metaphorically substitutes plenty, abundance and joy for an emphasis on legalisms. He BECOMES the best wine that was saved for last. The love and compassion and outreach to the poor, the foreigner, the “unclean” and outcast that follows in his ministry and his challenging of rules that may cripple rather than free shows us what the people of God should do and be-living for love and justice so that we too are God’s delight like Jesus.
The blessing for Maya and Lamar Cummings fit naturally in after the Homily. The love of the young couple embraced all there.
And afterward we enjoyed a nutritious and delicious hot meal cooked by Kat6hy Roddy. And the bride and groom cut and served their cake. And a Birthday cake was served for the five who had birthdays as well. The love of this community was palpable and something we could each take home and savor.
Our next gathering for worship will be on March 2nd.
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
It is with great joy that we report that Dianne Willman, 44, was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest on 1/19/2019 in Klipkerk at Mosaiek, Fairland, Johannesburg, South Africa at 2PM South African time. Bishop Patricia Fresen of Roman Catholic WomenPriests (International RCWP) was the ordaining bishop.The sacred ordination following traditional form was attended by loved ones and supporters filled with the Spirit and happiness for her and for the Roman Catholic Church sorely in need of renewal and new servant leadership. Rev.Caryl Conroy Johnson of the USA, Eastern Region of RCWP also attended the holy Mass. The Mass of Holy Orders is essentially traditional except that the ordinand prostrates herself before the altar and not before the bishop.
Dianne’s ordination to the priesthood fulfills a call that Dianne first experienced as a child attending Catholic School near Durban, South Africa. Before university studies Dianne spent a year of discernment within a religious congregation, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. Although life with this Order drew her, her passion for social justice that is lived in the world was the stronger call. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Natal and her Masters Degree in Law at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently completing the final stages of a Masters degree in Philosophy/Theology/Spirituality and is undergoing training as a Spiritual Director.
She has worked for 20 years in various legal capacities. During 2012 she served for four months as legal aide to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. She participated in the UN Commission on the Status of Women dedicated ato the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality. This opportunity deepened her insights in the connections between religion and gender. Dianne is amember of Catholic reform groups like We Are All Church, South Africa. She is also a retreat facilitator and serves on the Board of an integrated spirituality Center known as Bohareng.
A defining moment regarding the priesthood came to Dianne while on a pilgrimage to Israel in 2004. As she walked where Jesus walked she affirmed her call to priesthood. She knew she would fulfill the call when the time was right and purchased her stole , chalice and paten in trust and anticipation. After completing the program of discernment and preparation with RCWP she was ready to answer the call with “with God’s help I am ready”. Her intimate love for Christ and God’s people will now include her continued fight for the dignity, respect and equality of all people and sacramental ministry. Her courage to do this contra legem but with valid Holy Orders guides her every action. Although the personal cost of answering the call is high, on a broader level Dianne strongly believes that the need for action to usher in a new era of the Spirit is higher, where it can be seen that women can represent the image of Christ and all are welcome at the Table. Having experienced life in a country that suffered under the oppressive laws of Apartheid, serving as a lawyer, and loving a church that forbid her priestly participation Dianne is willing to transgress Canon Law because, like the laws of Apartheid, it is unjust law. She believes that such law cannot in good conscience be justifiably obeyed. She stands willing and able to serve God’s holy people, all of them, as a Roman Catholic Priest.
Congratulations Reverend Dianne and thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Ministry of SW Florida, USA
Changing Times: Vermont Catholics Express Support for Married and Female Clergy and South Africa is About to Have Another Roman Catholic Woman Priest
On 1/11/19, in the wake of the pain and trauma of clergy misconduct and sexual abuse Bishop Coyne in Vermont held a town meeting style gathering for the input of parishioners in his diocese. According to vermontdigger.org in an article by Kevin O’Connor, over 75 people attended and were satisfied with a good dialogue from Bishop Coyne. Several people wondered if the Church could get at the causes of this kind of behavior and crime. One man asked if one of the causes might be that the Catholic church does not allow married or women priests. Bishop Coyne responded: ” I think you could make that argument”. Heartened, the man continued: “If a woman can conceive and give birth to a child of God, they(women) should be able to say Mass”. There was no direct answer noted to this, but my response is “Let the people say AMEN! ” and perhaps they did!
Here is a link to this good article:
I do not know if the Vermont group was aware but there ARE NOW over 265 Roman Catholic Women who have been validly ordained to the priesthood through the Movement of the Spirit called Roman Catholic WomenPriests. This Movement began on the Danube River in 2002 and continues strong today. To catch up on this news the reader might be interested in Women Find A Way edited by Ida Raming, Elsie McGrath and Bridget Mary Meehan 2008, AND look in the Archives in this blog and in Bridgetmarys.blog where there are many accounts of the history and activities of Roman Catholic Women Priests world-wide. There are also other books by individuals who are Roman Catholic Women Priests and many articles that google can send you.
One of the newest women on the path to priesthood is Dianne Willman of South Africa. She will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday January 19th by Bishop Patricia Fresen also of South Africa and a mentor to international priests and priests from the USA since 2003. We will tell Dianne’s story in this blog after her Ordination, and the story of her courage and faith is something to witness. This is Deacon Dianne Willman in South Africa.
And this is one of the groups in the USA: Some Members of The Eastern Region which includes Priests from South America:
To our friends in Vermont: check it out- there ARE Roman Catholic Women Priests! We are here!
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
The God-Bearer: In Memoriam Pastor Judy Beaumont, Roman Catholic Woman Priest, on the Feast of Mary, Holy Mother
It is altogether fitting that we remember the life and death of Rev. Judith Beaumont on this day,the chief of Marian feast days. On this day, January 1st, Mary is honored as Theotokos- God- bearer and we are challenged to be like Mary in our lives: God-bearers. On this day one year ago, Rev.Judy Beaumont left this world to unite with our loving God, and all the saints and angels. Holy, holy of days for a faithful God-bearer to go home. This is also the World Day of Peace, and Judy Beaumont’s life was dedicated to love, peace and justice.
Her activism spanned decades but was most prominent in Trident 9, a 1981 Plowshares Action in which the participants entered the Naval Base in Groton, Connecticut, rowed out to the Trident Submarine and splashed blood on it. Not only was the Trident a symbol of world destruction, but of injustice as the cost of even one Trident Sub could feed most of the hungry of the world. She spent 7 months in prison for this action and during that time she enacted women’s prison reform*.
Judy Beaumont’s life was devoted to acts of justice, compassion and peace. Her dedication to the homeless spanned over 35 years of service in homeless Shelters and serving the homeless here in Fort Myers, Florida as part of our Good Shepherd Ministries. Her patient and care-full work helped permanently house over a hundred homeless individuals and families who loved her dearly as she loved them. When this humble woman of compassion and courage became ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in January 2012 over 400 were at her Ordination, many of whom were the poor she served. She bore Christ to the least of God’s children and was rewarded with their love.
Today at noon on Catholic Television (EWTN) Pope Francis’ 2017 January 1st Marian Mass was aired again. His beautiful homily focussed on a few key phrases in the Gospel of Luke. The Scriptures of the day are:Numbers 6:22-27 when God blesses God’s people through Moses; Psalm 67 where we ask God to bless God’s people and the people of all nations to praise God who embraces all peoples; Galatians 4:4-7 where Paul notes that Jesus was born to ransom Israel and to adopt all of the peoples of the world.
The Gospel-Luke 2:16-21 shows the “lowly shepherds” finding the baby Jesus lying in a cow’s manger with Mary and Joseph hovering over him. The shepherds become the first apostles/ambassadors making known to everyone with great energy and praise of God, the presence of Jesus. And “All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Pope Francis said that we are called to be amazed-we must never lose the capacity to be amazed. In amazement we see a child lacking all abounded in love. Jesus’ life is a gift that gives us a chance to make a new start-even for the “lowest” amongst us. And, to focus on his mother Mary we are again amazed at God’s action in entering humanity-the baby was one with her and as she takes him in her arms,cuddles and feeds him we see a woman loving God and God’s loving oneness with humanity. God is not a distant creator of the cosmos, God is one with us through Jesus, hence through Mary who said “Yes” to God. Jesus rests in his mother’s lap who is also our mother now. ( From the Cross he gave her to his disciple John and also to all of his disciples).
Pope Francis notes that “God’s love is both maternal and paternal” and is always with us-never distant. (My response is that it is a small step here to embrace God as both Mother and Father!). Francis says that “God believes in humankind and becomes one of us in Jesus. Be amazed at the God of surprises! Remember the moment of your first belief, your first faith. Faith is an encounter not a religion”, says Pope Francis. And our faith includes a mother that gives birth to Jesus, and to all of us as God’s children. We must allow her selves to be gazed upon in love as Mary gazes upon Jesus. “Especially when our lives are entangled in the tightest of knots, Mary is gazing upon us in love seeing not sinners but children. The eyes of Mary reflect the beauty of God.” Mary gazes into Jesus’eyes and reflects his light. She says, “take heart I am your mother”. The maternal gaze instills confidence and faith, it is a bond formed with God that creates us as whole persons. Her gaze helps us to see ourselves as God’s children united as church moving beyond diversity to unity in Christ. We must be a church of loving tenderness and we cannot be lukewarm.
Mary never points to herself but only to Jesus and to God’s children. Our human family is built upon mothers. Maternal sentiment amazes us and this maternal love is especially lavished upon the poor and the “least” among us. We can pray for God to help us see as Mary did looking on the face of Jesus with such great love. Help us to see as You do. And help us to have the heart of Mary, the heart that treasured everything related to Jesus- starting with the shepherd’s praise.As we follow Mary in the gospels we see that she is present whenever she is needed-with her cousin EliZabeth, helping the newlyweds at the wedding at Cana (and perhaps helping Jesus too there- to start his public ministry) and finally at the Cross and grave. Pope francis continues: “Mary is the mother of consolation and words are not enough for consolation-presence is needed”. (I can certainly relate to this as I live my grief at the loss of Judy Beaumont yet embrace her in her new life- presence is all.) Francis says that we must allow ourselves to hold the hand that held Jesus’ hand with hope and sweetness. So let us allow ourselves to be taken by the hand and introduced to Life. Especially when we get lost and forget a mother’s affection, when we become angry and bitter and malicious. Let us renew ourselves in God’s Mother love.
Pastor Judy Beaumont never viewed people as sinners and she embraced even the most difficult among us as a child of God. Sher gazed upon each one with love. Her patience was often beyond what the best mother could offer and she would not hesitate to do the most difficult ordinary thing for her people- counting endless pills for those who would be sick because they could not manage their own medicines, sorting through piles of donated clothes to find the best things for each person, always offering them a choice. Making all the contacts needed for a hot meal to appear at every church gathering. And serving herself though exhausted on her feet. Filling out endless applications for services. Waiting with them at endless lines where dignity was at a premium, And listening as some raged on about their lives and real or imagined upsets. How like Mary she was reflecting the eyes of Jesus to all and offering God’s tenderness with her beautiful smile. I was so blessed to have her as my life and ministry partner. I rely on her spiritual presence to smile upon me with love and guidance. We were so blessed to have her as our co-Pastor at Good Shepherd-and now to have her as our saint and angel. When we meet on January 19th for Mass and our gathering we will light a candle for her in Memoriam, but we will not be surprised that she is there blessing us and praying for us.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida