Celebrating St. Francis Feast Day October, 4th with Woman Priest Judy Lee- Saving and Blessing Animals
Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP and Brooklyn Big who joined the other cats and birds at her home from the streets over a year ago.
Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl,Inc., a 501c3 charitable organization, serves all of God’s creatures in the greater Fort Myers, area, prioritizing the poor, the homeless, the outcast and the most vulnerable. We have housed over seventy -five homeless people and their families with God’s grace. We have hot meals and a food pantry for God’s precious people on Tuesdays and after Sunday Mass-2 PM at our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community,2621 Central Ave,
Fort Myers, Fl, 33901.
Our St. Francis ministry helps feed, serve and find homes for homeless animals for we join St. Francis in his prayer:
“All praise to you, O God, for all these brother and sister creatures”.
St. Francis is the patron saint for animals and ecology as well as for the poor.
St. Francis, who gave up luxury to serve the poor and all of God’s creatures is one of our major inspirations. St. Claire is also our inspiration. In the “cause” made for St. Claire’s canonization her cat is included! St. Francis reminds us that love for God’s creatures and our pets draw us into the circle of life and towards our common relationship with our Creator. The love of our pets is as healing to us as it is to them. Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz (American Catholic.org) points out that the story of Noah’s ark means that we are all in the same boat with the animals. When God saved Noah, God made sure the animals were saved as well. The Covenant God made after the Flood was with all of God’s creatures, not just humans. God enjoyed the animals in Eden and wants for all creatures to be in paradise forever, a paradise that must begin now as we create it for one another and all of God’s creatures. Pets are a sign of God’s love for us. It is because of our ruptured relationship with God and creation that there are pets that are just thrown away, left to fend for themselves, or abused in hard times. Yet each one of us can do what we can to restore paradise for throw away people and throw away pets.
This is Lili, a member of our church. She does not have much money but we work together to rescue the throw away pets in her neighborhood. It is a poorer neighborhood and there are many. When she rescues a pet, our ministry pays for it to get shots and a Doctor’s visit with Dr. Terry Sutton of Three Oaks Animal Hospital who gives us the discount of her fee. Nevertheless the tests,neutering and shots and often the treatment needed is from $300-500 per pet. Recently Lili was able to save three pets. This is Smoky and he is 3 months old now. Lili’s daughter Marcella rescued him from a backyard when he was barely weaned.
This is Marcella and Smoky. They have two other rescued cats and Lili has also rescued a 3 month old puppy from a man in the neighborhood who gets them in payment for his services and then sells them at at high price while letting them run out in the busy street. Lili could not afford the price he wanted but was so upset at seeing the puppy in the street that she bartered her television for him. This is Little Spike, now a much loved puppy who is under the Vet’s care to get a good start.
This is a St. Francis Prayer of blessing for all animals. You can bless your own dear animals and all strays with it:
Blessed are you Our God, maker of all living creatures…
You inspired St. Francis to call all animals brothers and sisters.
We ask you to bless this animal, NAME,
By the power or your love, enable it to live according to your plan.
May we praise you always for all beauty in Creation.
Blessed are you, our God, in all your creatures. Amen.
You may also pray for all sick animals asking God to restore them to health and strength. We know that God knows when even a sparrow falls, so we pray in the confidence of God’s caring.
Losing a pet to death is as hard as losing a family member. We pray today for all those who have lost beloved pets, recently or in the past. I have my own litany of these. There is a wonderful book by Franciscan Friar Jack Wintz, OFM entitled “Will I see my Dog in Heaven?” You can get it through St. Anthony Messenger Press. He is convinced that God wants all of Creation restored and that our pets and other creatures included in the whole family of creation will live happily with God and us in the life to come.
This is Lili with Sunny. He came to her door in January of 2013. In August we learned that he had full blown AIDS and he left us in mid- September to live in the light with God. Sunny did bring sunshine into her life and into all lives he touched. We were so blessed to have him. Lili still grieves him, yet she has enough love to share with her new rescues. Thanks be to God.
And below is Gaspare, Lili’s young adult son who assists me in the care of my Aviary of 30 birds and in administering meds to one of our 13 cats. This gentle young man is helping to save this cat’s life. He aids his mother in her rescue work.
And finally below is “Farmer Joe” our last rescued cat who presented himself crying but refusing to eat at Lili’s door. She could not keep any more pets and he is a dominant male but we brought him to Dr. Sutton at Three Oaks Animal Hospital and are so happy that he is healthy and neutered now. Her wonderful Vet Tech, Joseph, is adopting him and he will live in a specially appointed barn on Joseph’s farm where he will have his own space near other cats and be able to go in and out and be fed regularly and well by Joseph’s wife.
Farmer Joe is enjoying a treat. Yesterday he went home with Joseph to meet his new family.
Blessings to Joseph and Lili and all who rescue cats and other animals. Dr. Sutton and Joseph also rescued a large flock of endangered Muscovy ducks from North Fort Myers and safely transplanted them to Joseph’s farm with County permission. Here I also think of a woman priest in Arizona, Marilyn Van Veersen who has rescued many dogs from the desert and who has about 15 rescued cats and kittens in housing that she builds and customizes for them. She recently transported two kittens to her friend Catherine in California who also helps support her work. And, I think of Dr. Danielle Nisivoccia who, along with a nearby friend, rescues many cats in Easton, Pennsylvania. Recently she was able to tame a beautiful Maine Coon cat and drove him 250 miles to his new home in New York. He is the joy of the older woman who has adopted him who reports on his antics regularly. We thank God for the gift of loving God’s creatures and going the second mile to find them loving homes or to support those who do this work.
Have a blessed St. Francis Day.
Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP
Let us hope that Pope Francis saw the light after this was done in his name in May, 2013, before his recent more inclusive statements. And, let us support this inclusive priest!
By Anne Lu | September 23, 2013 1:45 PM EST
Melbourne priest Greg Reynolds has not only been defrocked, but also excommunicated by the Catholic Church over his support for women priests and homosexuals. The order came directly from Vatican under the authority of Pope Francis, who just recently said that the Church focuses too much on gays and abortion.
Pope Francis (Reuters)
Mr Reynolds resigned as a parish priest in 2011, and has founded Inclusive Catholics in 2012. He said that although he was expecting to be laicised or defrocked for his views on ordination of women and homosexuality, he didn’t know he was to be excommunicated as well.
Excommunication is a form of medicinal penalty for members of the Catholic Church. Those who are excommunicated are barred from receiving the Eucharist and other Sacraments of the church.
“In times past excommunication was a huge thing, but today the hierarchy have lost such truth and respect,” he was quoted by The Age as saying.
“I’ve come to this position because I’ve followed my conscience on women’s ordination and gay marriage.
|The order, written in Latin, came from Vatican through the authority of Pope Francis, and gave no reason for the former priest’s excommunication.|
The letter was dated May 31, months before the Pope told his subjects to go easy on how they deal with gays, abortion, and contraception. Mr Reynolds continued to The Age that he wants the same thing as the Pope, adding that he believes that the Church is in need of reform and renewal.
“My motivation is trying to encourage reform and clear need for renewal in the church,” he said. “I still love the church and am committed to it, I’m just trying to bring about in my own little way to help highlight some of the failing and limitations.”
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, who made headlines in May after appearing at a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into a child sex abuse case of another priest, apparently was not the one who requested the order, “but someone else unknown has gone over his head and contacted the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith,” Mr Reynolds said.
Archbishop Hart explained that Mr Reynolds was excommunicated because he continued to celebrate the Eucharist publicly after his priestly faculties were withdrawn. He was also preaching contrary to the teachings of the church.
As per its official Web site, Inclusive Catholics is an evolving movement/community in Melbourne that has recognises the hierarchical nature of the Catholic Church, but opposes its views on homosexuality and the ordination of women.
Mr Reynolds said that his being excommunicated would not make a different to his ministry.
He was offered $5000 as a payout for his 32 years of service in the church when he resigned, though he claimed he should have received $48,000 as the usual payout figure is about $1500 per year.
To contact the editor, e-mail: email@example.com
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Inclusive Catholic Eucharistic Celebration in Milford, Connecticut on Sept. 22,2013
|ARCWP Dotty Shugrue greets gathering for Eucharistic Celebration|
|Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, Bishop co-presides at liturgy|
|Dotty Shugrue, ARCWP shares with gathered assembly|
The following is excerpted from an article on response to Pope Francis’ ‘revolutionary’ thinking( as written in America Magazine) published in the Friday Sept. 20,2013 Fort-Myers News-Press written by Jackie Winchester:
“His new statement about women seems to indicate he does not see women as inferior,” Beaumont said. “Perhaps he is realizing that God’s call to priesthood is not limited by gender and that God does call whom God calls and through a process of discernment women are now being validly ordained.”
Pope Francis also told the magazine that the dogmatic and the moral teachings of the church, which has 1.2 billion members worldwide, were not all equivalent.
“The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently,” he said. “We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”
Rather, he said, the Catholic Church must be like a “field hospital after battle,” healing the wounds of its faithful and going out to find those who have been hurt, excluded or have fallen away.
“Pope Francis brings a tremendous freshness and joy with him that permeates through the writings that are inspiring Catholics around the world,” Atwell said.
Lee and Beaumont said they support Pope Francis as a “pope of the poor and a pope of the outcast. We love what he does in terms of humility and giving a priority on service to the poor.”
Pope Francis is taking his case of transforming reclamation of the church to the people,and that is where it belongs.
And many who could not hear the church anymore are now listening again-carefully.
His is a breath of fresh air and we welcome and support his return to simplicity, the dignity of all of God’s children, loving not judging, a priority on the poor and outcast and his broadening of the church’s concerns. We welcome his words of respect for women. He speaks, though, of the need to develop a theology of women and it is important that we know women theologians have been sharing their theology of everything for many years. Elisabeth Johnson’s She Who Is remains my favorite treatise on the nature of God and ultimately the nature of women.
This is a populist pope whom we can love. He is wonderfully courageous, but does it extend to all of us? One thing remains of great concern. Pope Francis speaks of seeking places where women can share the authority of the church as if the priesthood is not the place where that authority rests in the church’s present structure. One day,we hope, the priesthood of all believers will become a reality in a structural way, but for now the ordination of women remains the key question for women in the church. As the article below points out there are already over 160 women validly ordained as priests and deacons in the Roman Catholic church through the Roman Catholic Women Priest world-wide movement. We are wondering if, eventually, Pope Francis will include his sisters in the reclamation of outcasts. Odds are that he may not take on an issue of this magnitude-but this Pope has already surprised us happily in many ways. We are open for another good surprise!
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Women Priests Respond to Pope Francis’ Interview with Anthony Spadaro, SJ in America/Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests,www.arcwp.org
As Pope Francis states in his interview, ” A Big Heart Open to God,”
“being prophets may sometimes imply making waves.”
Not only are there more than 160 ordained women contemporary prophets in the Roman Catholic Church serving inclusive communities in Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States, but in more and more places, the people of God are affirming the full equality of women as the voice of God in our times.
In response to the Pope’s concern with “female machismo,” our brothers at the Vatican must embrace gender justice, including women priests. Women’s human rights, including spiritual authority, is the elephant in the living room of the Roman Catholic Church! It is our pastoral responsibility to make the connections between oppression of women within the church and violence toward women and their children in the world.
The international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement is a prophetic new path where all are welcome to receive sacraments and which mirrors Gospel equality and the inclusiveness that Pope Francis is calling the church to live.
(Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests: Media Statement/ Janice Sevre-Duszynska firstname.lastname@example.org and Bridget Mary Meehan, email@example.com
Pope’s comments in Interview on Women in the Life of the Church
“And what about the role of women in the church? The pope has made reference to this issue
on several occasions. He took up the matter during the return trip from Rio de Janeiro,
claiming that the church still lacks a profound theology of women. I ask: “What should be
the role of women in the church? How do we make their role more visible today?”
We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the church.
He answers: “I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a
different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired byan ideology of machismo. Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The
church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the
church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not
confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of
women in the church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.
Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the
church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The
challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places wherethe authority of the church is exercised for various areas of the church.”
This homily will be in plain talk and say difficult things to hear as that is the talk of Jesus in the Gospels, especially in Luke. This Sunday’s Scriptures are ultimately about God’s response to poverty, greed, and responsibility. They are also about forgiveness. That is good, for most commentaries agree that the intent of Jesus’ words in Luke 16:13 where it says that we “cannot worship both God and Money” was to make us squirm, if the shoe fits- and on some level it fits all of us. The “shoe” here has to do specifically with our obligations and responsibilities to those who suffer materially. The Hebrew Torah has over 630 ‘laws’ guiding our relationships with God and with one another. Many of these are specifically about our responsibilities to the poor. We may not be breaking the “ten commandments” but we may not even let the intent of the law into our consciousness. That is why Jesus boiled the commandments down to two: loving God first and loving our neighbors as ourselves. For Jesus that specifically includes our neighbors who live in poverty and relative poverty.
Throughout the Scriptures, from the Law and prophets through the Gospels, God is concerned with our relationship with those who have little of this world’s goods, who are indeed our neighbors no matter where we may live. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) was quoted by Jesus when he spoke with the rich young man as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels in Matthew 19:18-21, Mark 10:17-27, and Luke 18:18-27. Jesus did indeed feel deeply for the poor, saying (Luke 6: 20) “blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Jesus lived without possessions or even his own home. Most of his followers were the poor of Galilee. Many of our homeless people identify with not having a place to lay your head. When Jesus blessed the poor in Luke, it is the blessing of economically poor folks, not humble folks although they may be humble too, materially poor, not the “poor in spirit” as recorded in Matthew 5:3. Luke consistently shows Jesus as concerned for the poor and upset with the rich (see for example the parable of “the rich fool” who hoarded his valuable crops when he could have fed the community Luke 12:13-21). Luke also shows that no matter how hard it is for the rich (those who have a good deal of the world’s goods) to be part of the kingdom of God “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 18:27). In today’s gospel, and throughout Luke, Jesus comments strongly on those who focus on accumulating money and goods and have money as a “superior”, a boss, a god, a reason for being, thereby rupturing the covenant relationship we have with God who asks that we put God and what God wants first: to love and treat our neighbors, especially those who have little, as ourselves.
The other strong theme in the Gospel of Luke is forgiveness and that is in today’s Gospel as well. The manager who mismanaged the landowner’s resources also lightened the debts of his debtors. For the wrong reasons, to save himself, he forgave debts and the landowner then forgave his debts. God forgives our mismanagement of resources, the very resources that could help others (and our planet) live, if we make any attempt at all. We can go so far as to say, God forgives even when we make no attempts at reparation, for that is God’s nature –to forgive. But if we say we love God and our neighbors would we not even try to show our love to the poor and God’s creation in actual material ways as well as in spiritual support?
Sunday’s Scriptures include good news for the poor and that is something poor folks desperately need. The readings in Amos, Psalm 113, and the Gospel clearly say that God is on the side of the poor, and God is not tolerant of greed and exploitation. How good it is to feel that God is on your side when everything else seems to be against you. We are blessed to be church with the poor so I will share some stories that may illuminate this homily.
Barry, 60, is a formerly homeless man with back injury who is now a beloved Elder in our church. Walking with us he was able to reconcile with his family and obtain subsidized housing and his disability income. He is now a role model for our young people, a God-parent to some of the newly baptized, a prayer leader and a friend and brother to all. When he is out ill, there is an emptiness that is palpable on Sunday. Barry needed a spinal treatment that was not covered by Medicaid and would cost about $4000. He was in tremendous pain. Church members who had adequate and better incomes and others made a good down payment on this treatment, the rest was put on our credit card. He agreed to pay half of it back to the church. He has been doing so, but it is difficult on his fixed income. Recently we received some donations and were able to forgive his debt completely. His health needs were met and his burden lifted because the people of God took up their responsibility toward the poorest. He could not believe it or accept it easily. He will be giving donations to the church as he can, but is relieved that the debt is gone. He asked: “that is what Jesus does with us, isn’t it?” And it is, even in today’s Gospel.
Yesterday co-pastor Judy Beaumont brought Sharon to sign the lease for her first affordable HUD subsidized apartment. These are all too rare here but she was finally able to get one. We helped her initiate this process over four years ago. We rejoiced as we saw her joy at seeing her own home and at finally being able to live on her own. She has profound deafness, few work skills, and was dependent on an abusive and possessive older male partner. With this new start, and her first home at almost fifty, she got a new lease on life. It was a miracle that she lived to see this day. There was no way she could have moved on without the support of rental assistance and pastoral and communal support. She thanked us for not giving up on her. We thanked God together for but for the grace of God we may have done so.
A woman named Kelly Sue spoke with me at the suggestion of a church member. She is a poor woman, older, living solely on a small Disability check and suffering with a broken spine and the pain of a difficult hip replacement. Her son lived with her and was a help in all ways until he became addicted to drugs. In the course of a few months he stopped working, stole her money and left. She was not able to pay the high rent without him was evicted. She cried as she told the story of her eviction: her things were thrown out into the street and the landlord appeared and cursed at her for not paying the rent. She was both homeless and humiliated. A dear friend brought her here so she could start again. As we talked and I gave her my understanding, encouragement and hope of affordable housing she blessed me for being God’s instrument of hope. She said that now she knew God was on her side. I could not have agreed more. The image of her landlord humiliating her reminded me of Sunday’s Scriptures.
The prophet Amos warns the Covenant people that God is tired of their greedy behavior, especially the exploitation and neglect of the poor (Amos 8:4-7). The people are complacent participants in systems that “trample on the heads of the poor…and deny justice to the oppressed” (2:7) and “live off the needy and oppress the poor people of the land” (8:4). Amos says that God “hates” the religious assemblies and hymn singing of the hypocritical who do not keep the law of justice and gratify themselves at the expense of others. Amos says “Let justice run down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:23-24). For Amos justice is not an abstract concept, it is justice for the poor and marginalized. Sharing, giving, mentoring, feeding, clothing, housing and loving the poor- and challenging those systems that keep people poor and fail to meet even basic needs. Without subsidized housing neither of these women can afford to have a home, a place to live of their own. Making this available is the worship that God loves and desires.
Superficially religious greedy folks have ruptured the Covenant relationship with God as God abhors injustice and asks in the Law that people “love their neighbors as themselves” (Lev. 19:18) emphasized by Jesus as part of the Greatest Commandment (Matt. 19:19). Later in the verses just after the Lukan Gospel of the day, in Luke 16:17-18, Jesus says to the “money-loving” Pharisees who are sneering at him and didn’t get his story about the dishonest steward that the Law with its obligations to the poor still holds: “not one stroke of the pen in the Law will pass away”. They are held to God’s standard of justice.
God does not like ugly-especially directed against God’s most vulnerable people. God does not like sweatshops in Bangladesh that burn and topple down as hundreds work at machines where brand names are turned out cheaply for our consumption. Why do we buy those products? God, who has no Party affiliation, does not like the ugliness of Congress that blocks legislation that could allow someone with no insurance to get medical treatment. This year in Florida the State Legislature turned away billions of free dollars for health care for poor people who only have the ER as their medical care, just to defeat “Obamacare”. Even some of my own medical providers are frightening me with what I will lose under Obamacare. I know enough to know that they are wrong. I can still get my CT scan if needed. But they stand to profit if things remain as they are and may or may not take in less profits if the poor are also included in health care. It is about the profit margin of rich providers.
Here is a point of information for those who think all poor folks are covered by Medicaid as I so often hear: it is not so. The working poor are not covered and there are many, and we serve them, who live way under Medicaid standards and are still not eligible for it. Our church member Milly works cleaning toilets at a large store and also cleans offices by night. She is working and poor and she has, and can presently afford, no medical coverage. She needs every penny for rent and food for her family. She goes to work with excruciating migraine headaches and back aches, but she has no medical assistance. She simply cannot afford it. That is sin. In Florida the numbers of uncovered individuals are staggering. Yet, the Federally offered money for the poor was turned down. That, in my estimation, is mismanagement of God’s affairs, that all the sick can be treated (ER’s are expensive to users and tax-payers and and do not offer follow-up), and that is, therefore, sin. Similarly, all of the subsidized housing lists here and in many places are frozen. This is a denial of people’s rights and needs to have a place to live. They live tripled up and in cars and on the streets. That too is mismanagement of God’s affairs. We have maintained about three thousand people who are homeless in the greater Fort Myers area for several years now. So, it is not only our personal response to our neighbors that matters, and it does matter, but our response to systemic evil and inadequacy.
The poor are beloved of God .Those who exploit or neglect the poor are chastised by God. From what I have seen, I wish it would do some good. But Jesus offers love to all, love and forgiveness. In today’s Gospel even though the “mis-manager” lightened the debts of others for selfish reasons, he was forgiven and challenged to manage better. And we are challenged to love God and not our material things-to manage better. The generosity of Jesus in including ALL in God’s grace was often a problem for the religious who sneered at him and ridiculed him. They didn’t get it, God loves and forgives ALL. Let us do the same.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, ARCWP—Co-Pastor of the Good Shepherd Community, Fort Myers, Fl.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Contemplate God’s Creation at Beautiful Monastery/Our Lady of Mount Caritas Monastery, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dotty went there, introduced herself, and they became friends. They had been denied the Eucharist in their chapel by the Roman Catholic diocese, so Dotty, a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, began to minister to them as their priest.
Our Lady of Mt. Caritas Monastery is surrounded by primitive woodlands where one can find solitude. Here, one can also celebrate the beauty of Creation and God’s creatures as well as the spirituality of God’s presence. It is a holy ground where the sisters nourish the land, each other and Creation. The echo of laughter reverberates throughout as these strong women find strength in each other, their neighbors and friends as well as their prayerful life in the midst of seclusion and beauty.