Chava Redonnet is a priest of the poor and the migrant workers in Rochester, New York. . Here are her reflections on what it means to be church in a community of equals and some of the history/herstory of her church, St. Romero’s. When their 501c3 application is approved donations to this ministry will be tax deductible so we wish them well in this.
Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, November 10, 2013
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
We had a milestone moment at St Romero’s this week: Librada Paz, Lynne Hamilton, Marianne Timmons, attorney Mike Tobin and I gathered in my kitchen to sign the papers for our 501 (c )3 application.
Our little church began on September 19, 2010 with Mass in the dining room at St Joe’s. Three years later, we continue to celebrate Mass each Sunday at 11 am at St Joe’s. We also continue to be a little church! But whenever I ask God for a sign as to whether or not to keep going, a sign comes. Most recently that was Oct 27, when Wally Ruehle and Tim Sigrist turned up to help give thanks that Santiago and I are alive and reasonably well following our accident. It was such a lovely moment, the table surrounded by old friends, other St Joe’s community members and a man named James, who wanted to sing “Amazing Grace” for our final hymn, so we did.
The question I carried with me through seven years of seminary was, “What is the role of a priest in a community of equals?” It was such joy when in the fall of 2007 I encountered the Roman Catholic Womenpriests, and met an entire organization of woman asking the same question! If women become priests and simply enter the hierarchy as it now exists, we will become part of the problem. The church needs to be different than it has been, to be a place where people are empowered and encouraged to realize that they are the church, where the gifts of each person are given a chance to bloom, and the message is, You beautiful child of God, you are worthy, you are whole, you are loved, you are needed.
So how is one a leader in such a church? What does it mean to be a priest in a community of equals?
When we first began celebrating the Migrant Mass in June of 2011, it was a collaborative effort. Librada and I drove around, asking people if they would be interested in a weekly Mass, until finally we found people who not only said yes, but invited us to use their space. We negotiated the date and time until we found something that worked for all of us.
One of the gifts to me in the past three summers has been learning some new answers to that question. The question of how to lead a community of equals is not the sort of question with one right answer. It’s the sort you hold , carry with you, and answer in a myriad of ways. My Spanish has been an equalizer from the start, and continues to be.Today in the nursing home as I read from a Psalm in Spanish, half a dozen voices spoke up, correcting my pronunciation of “refugio.” They patiently repeated it until I got it right. (I’m told that in the migrant community, people sometimes sit around the dinner table asking each other, “What do YOU think she meant?”!)
At the last Migrant Mass of the season, we blessed the cars of those going to Florida. Because it was raining, we stood on the porch and held our hands out towards the row of cars parked in front of the house. “Which are the cars going to Florida?” I asked. “It doesn’t matter,” someone said. “We will bless them all.”
And so, my car was blessed along with the others. All of us blessed all of the cars, and three days later when the front end of my car was demolished by a drunk driver, Santiago and I made it through with bruising and minor cuts, but probably no lasting damage. I am in awe. In a community of equals, all bless, and all are blessed. That’s a wonderful thing.
When our little church began three years ago, it was not possible to know what the future would hold. One simply listens for the call and says yes, hanging on to God’s hand and putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, walking with God in trust and love. We will continue to do that at St Romero’s. May we listen, trust, and say yes, and see where God takes us. May this little church be a blessing!
Thank you for reading this bulletin. You, too, are a part of the life of this community. May all of us grow in ways we’ve never dreamed!
An update or two:
I have heard from our friends who were deported to Mexico in August. They are “mas o menos” which in English we would probably say, “okay.”
The friends who went to Florida for the winter arrived safely, and visited family on the way.
Santiago and I continue to heal. He is still in a lot of pain so his doctor told him to take five days off from work. I am happy to tell you that the farmer said, “Tell him to take the time he needs,” when I called. It means no pay, and forced inactivity which he does not like, but hopefully it will make the difference and he will feel better before long. I have good days and bad days, but on the whole am recovering. Driving is hard but I’m “back in the saddle” except for some long or complicated driving. One day at a time.
Congratulations to Patti La Rosa and Judy Pfoltzer who will be married in Ithaca on Saturday. Much joy to you both, Patti and Judy!
Life is good, God is good, and there is so much to be grateful for. Get out and enjoy those gorgeous leaves!
Blessings and love to all,
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620
Today, 11/5/13, twenty of our people gathered to worship, discuss the Scriptures and issues in living, share a meal, shop in our free store,talk with the Pastors and enjoy an afternoon of fellowship. Ellen and Jack McNally brought and served second helpings of a delicious lasagna dinner. Dwayne prayed to bless the meal and also blessed them. They received loud and hearty applause.
Many of our Tuesday church members and the McNallys and another guest today, Evelyn Efaw, have been with us since we had Good Shepherd Church in the Park- serving a hot meal and sharing worship in nearby Lion’s Park on a Friday night from 2007-2009, ( Come By Here: Making Church with the Poor is the book I wrote in 2010 to share that wonderfully blessed mutual ministry-PublishAmerica.com;Amazon.com;BandN.com,) In 2009 we began Good Shepherd church in the house, a home we bought to function as a church and a transitional residence for people making the transition from homelessness. Twenty-four people lived at our Joshua House and while we had to expand our church space and no longer have this residence, all except two of those present with us today now enjoy their own homes. The community of love and faith has existed over time and distances. It is with great joy that this group gathers on Tuesday.
The worship and discussion time is lively as we have a room full of preachers and teachers who have lived through major troubles and are experts in helping each other. The reading from the book of Wisdom assured us that God loves all that God has made. “God don’t make junk” Nathaniel said. “And God loves us no matter what we are or have become. God looks at our hearts and at what we can and will become” said Lauretta. She also pointed out that Wisdom was written before Jesus was born and God’s love is as old as time itself. As we sang “This is Holy Ground” before the Gospel reading, they touched their own hearts and their neighbor’s shoulder to affirm that “we” are holy ground.
The reading from Luke 19 on Zacchaeus the short tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus brought forth laughter about Zacchaeus climbing that tree and understanding of prejudice and difference and preconceptions of people that are painful and harmful. Many had experienced such prejudice and discrimination based on outward characteristics. Phyllis said “but God looks on the heart-it didn’t matter to Jesus that Zacchaeus was so short or even if he was a cheating tax collector.” “The point is he met Jesus and he changed his ways” Mary said. “Meeting Jesus changes us if we need changing” Tim said. The reflections on feeling lost were equally sharp and poignant. Gary concluded “it is so good to be found by God-and to know you really can’t get lost.” Evelyn, our volunteer who had been through a life threatening car accident shared her story and reflected how good it was to return to this loving and welcoming group. She too was warmly welcomed and applauded. Roger and Lauretta brought special donations and were also applauded. Octavia, Mary and Nelson and Darnell and David were welcomed back after an absence. Everyone was excited to be together again. The contagious joy of this congregation is how church can and should be. It is a healing balm.
Serving one another-The Mc Nallys, Nelson, Robert and Evelyn
The issues today included unemployment, disability and ability, new housing for some and homelessness and hope for others. Reconciliation with family and part time jobs for others brought a sense of accomplishment and encouragement. One woman asked me to talk and pray with her. She recently went through a traumatic event and was feeling vulnerable and frightened. Near to a breaking point she asked Pastor Judy B and I to take her to the Emergency Psychiatric Unit at the end of the day and after my negotiation with the admitting Psychiatrist she was able to be admitted. She was so thankful and relieved to feel safe and to be where she could get help. She said that she felt safe again as soon as she got to the church and knew the answer to her troubles would be with us. She was no longer lost but found by the Jesus who seeks the lost and hangs out with the sinners and outcast. Together we all belong. Together we are church.
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B.Lee
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community -Fort Myers, Florida
NOTE By Pastor Judy Lee: I like this poem by John Chuchman who is a great supporter of women priests and inclusion. His website is noted after the poem.
Being A Follower of Jesus
by John Chuchman
First, for me, being a follower of Jesus means being Radical.
It’s not for people who want to immerse themselves in selfish ambition
and only break from that consensus at the margins.
It is not for those comfortable with the status quo.
It demands more of me.
It demands an extraordinary commitment to Love:
not the fleeting emotion,
but the force that transforms lives
in both simple acts and by recreating the world in which I live.
It shapes everything from the way I interact with a waitress
to how I view church politics and injustice.
It leads me to find debilitating discrimination by church hierarchy
more offensive than missing Mass on Sunday.
It inspires me to be daring and swim against the tide.
There is always resistance.
A concern for everyone, including the weak and vulnerable,
always leads to the experience of pain and suffering.
Second, I find Jesus’ way and Joy deeply connected.
Being a follower of Jesus does not mean being dour or aloof.
The way of Christ brings meaning;
it incites Passion;
it generates Joy.
A life spent trying to run away from boredom is inevitably a life of drudgery.
I find true joy, not in material things,
but in my encounter and relations with others,
in relationships rooted in Inclusiveness, Understanding and Love.
When I experience loss, conflict or failure,
I don’t entirely escape sadness,
but faith opens the possibility of Restoration, Communion, and Transformation.
In a culture where people seem obsessed with happiness
yet are constantly lured away from that destination by false paths,
the true path to joy can only be found in Love.
Third, following Jesus is 24/7 year-round.
My commitment to Jesus should permeate all my actions.
It should define who I am.
It is not an activity to be fulfilled for an hour each Sunday.
I can’t be a part-time Christian.
Most see going to Mass each Sunday
as the pre-eminent responsibility of a Catholic.
It is important to let them know that this is simply not enough.
This is not the standard for being a follower of Jesus.
Going to church no more makes me a Christian
than standing in my garage makes me a car.
So many people have already turned away from organized religion
because of the obnoxious hypocrisy they have witnessed
by the hierarchy and
from those who spend every Sunday in the pews,
spending the rest of the week acting unethically,
seemingly without any compunction.
Following Christ means embracing Joy.
It means the radical embrace of countercultural values.
It places demands on my entire existence.
Religiosity and spirituality are fused together
and inseparable when pursued authentically.
This message is critical
because people do not need to be split
between those who are “spiritual but not religious”
and those who are “religious but not spiritual.”
Finally, I strive to keep it real.
It’s about setting aside the illusory and superficial.
The message is simple,
I am my authentic self.
I am an entirely unique person with immeasurable worth and value,
not some cardboard cutout.
My real identity is shaped by my character and core,
my authentic personality,
not all the superficial things that distract me
and take us away from who I am meant to be.
My life is not shaped by the expectations and judgments of others,
but my commitment to the values I rightly hold dear.
My relationships are as authentic as I am.
Our culture despises dependency and idolizes autonomy.
The cult of individualism
makes authentic relationships difficult to achieve and sustain.
Yet these relationships allow me to experience real joy and love,
a priceless treasure that many carelessly discard or ignore.
They make me vulnerable and exposed
because they reveal my core being.
But only in this state can I connect
in the most fundamental and intimate way.
Movin’ On http://www.sacredtorch.com/?page_id=727