Archive | April 2015

We, Roman Catholic Women Priests Are Here To Stay: Pope Francis,Please Open The Door!

Here are two landmark articles and a link to a third that continue the discourse on women ordained as Roman Catholic Priests.

By Kevin Coughlin From

It was the Lord’s Prayer… but with an updated introduction:

“God, our mother and father … “

And there were a few other little changes in Saturday’s Catholic Mass in Morristown.

For starters, the priests were women.

Which is why the service was celebrated in the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, not a Catholic sanctuary.

An organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordained seven women, who invited excommunication by defying centuries of canon law from the Vatican.

Priests from the Roman Catholic Womenpriests, a dissident group, after ordinations in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Pope Francis has been emphatic on the question of women priests, declaring in 2013: “The church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

“It’s a man-made law from the middle-Middle Ages that does not ring true to what we know about men and women and who we are as human beings. We have a very different view of humanity today than we did at that time,” countered RCWP Bishop Andrea Johnson, who traveled from Annapolis, MD, to preside over the ordinations.

Johnson said she anticipates women priests eventually will become part of Catholic orthodoxy–because people will demand it.

Sex abuse scandals — which have cost the U.S. Catholic Church nearly $3 billion since 2004, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — could have been averted if women served alongside men as priests, Johnson said.

“I think we would have had a much different scene,” the bishop said. “Investigations would have been immediate and very straightforward.”

Established in Germany in 2002, RCWP now counts about 200 women priests in Europe and North- and South America; the majority are in the United States.

The Rev. Susan Schessel, newly ordained by the Roman catholic Womenpriests, gives wine at communion in Morristown. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“We are committed to a ministry that is all-inclusive, and we believe that the law of the church that prohibits women from being ordained is an unjust law,” said the Rev. Susan Schessler, a former nun from High Bridge who was ordained into the RCWP priesthood on Saturday.

When the Archdiocese of Newark — unjustly, in her opinion–fired some priests who were her friends, Schessler said she resolved to press for changes by pursuing ordination.

“Enough is enough,” she said.

Asked why she did not convert to the Episcopalian faith, which welcomes female clergy, Schessler said she loves the Catholic church and wishes to help bring reforms.

“We are prophetic people, believing that the Catholic Church needs reformation in terms of its work in dealing with women, and others as well in the human race,” said Schessler, a nun for 32 years who now volunteers with a Newark group that advocates for the disadvantaged.  She plans to establish a ministry in Bergen County.

The other new priests hail from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland.

They were installed during a service that ran more than two hours, in front of pews packed with friends and family who applauded and cheered at the event’s conclusion. The ceremony included a ritual in which the initiates prostrated themselves on the church floor.

Traditional hymns were punctuated with liturgical dancing by The Rwandan Women in Diaspora.Communion was offered to everyone. The communion wafer, symbolizing the body of Jesus Christ, was gluten-free. The wine, representing the blood of Christ, was alcohol-free.  The women priests received communion after everyone else.

The Rev. Cynthia Black, pastor of Redeemer, said her church was thrilled to host the service.

“It’s part of our DNA to support and be hospitable to women in this way, especially to our Roman sisters,” she said.

Bishop Johnson’s closing blessing was delivered “in the name of our Mother and Father, God.”

Rev. Judy’s explanation of Mother/Father God: 

Indeed, the early feminist theologian Mary Daly said it well: “If God is male then male is God”. Clearly throughout the Scriptures there are feminine images of God: in Hebrew:  Shekeinah-the breasted one, El Shaddai-Sophia Wisdom, Ruah. Jesus used the Aramaic word Abwoon in his prayer for the disciples and it means Birther God. What is masculine about that? Jesus chose feminine imagery when he said of Jerusalem: “I have longed to gather your children together ,as a hen gathers her children under her wings…(Matthew 23:37”  In another place the fierce love and  protection of God is likened to a bear protecting her cubs. As Jeanette Clancy says “God is not three men on a cloud , two with beards”. God is Spirit and we are all made in the image of God, all- the male and female of us. hence we pray God, our Mother/Father. 

In the second article below we see that Pope Francis is passionate and courageous in calling for equal pay for women. Yet,women who are ordained Roman Catholic Priests support themselves, and sometimes their churches when they work primarily with the very poor. It is disheartening to see Pope Francis “holding the line” that the door to the priesthood is closed to women when In 1974 the Pontifical Biblical Commission said that there was nothing in Scripture to prevent women’s ordination. It is only man-made tradition that developed canon law and negated( after the twelfth century) the presence of women priests, deacons and bishops in the early church. Most likely one man, even the Pontiff, could not change this  cannon law/tradition made in a paternalistic era long gone by without great difficulty and risk, if at all. But Pope Francis is prophetic in so many other ways that his leadership in this would  crack the door open a little letting light in. We call upon Pope Francis to let his light shine on women’s ordination. He has to know that we are validly but illicitly ordained. The validity of the ordination through a male bishop in good standing whose name will be revealed upon his death will not be questioned. We are in prophetic obedience to break the unjust canon law 1024 in order to bring in a new era of justice and accountability in the church. There are over two hundred of us in the world and the number is increasing rapidly. We are not going away and joining or forming other churches. We are in the best prophetic traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. We are concerned with the recognition that God can call whomever God calls to be priests. We will serve without pontifical or curia affirmation, God has called. We have answered-no matter what penalties men impose. Some courageous male priests have risked everything to stand with us-Fr. Roy Bourgeois and Fr.Bill Brennan among them. Many other male priests  stand in silent assent. How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of the messengers of God.

This is the link to an article that includes Fr. Brennan’s sacrificial support of women’s ordination.

 The second article is from RT.COM

Pure scandal’: Pope Francis slams pay disparity between men & women

Published time: April 29, 2015 17:08

Pope Francis (Reuters / Max Rossi)

Pope Francis (Reuters / Max Rossi)

Pope Francis in a highly emotional appeal called for equal pay for men and women during his weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square, Rome.

“Why is it taken for granted that women must earn less than men? No! They have the same rights. The discrepancy is a pure scandal,” he said as cited by Reuters.

According to statistics from Eurostat, women in the EU were paid 16.4 percent less than men in 2013, while in the US a women earns 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid.

The pontiff called on Christians not to accept disparity between men and women.

“As Christians, we must become more demanding in this regard: for example, [by] supporting the right to equal retribution for equal work,” he said.

Francis said he wants women to have a greater role in the Catholic Church, but yet despite his forceful remarks on the status of women to date he still says the “door is closed” for women to become priests.

Advocates of female priesthood say the view of the Roman Catholic Church is outdated. Women priests have been ordained into the Anglican Church in relatively high numbers since the 1970’s but some provinces still only ordain men.”


Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Where Pope Francis Stands When It Comes To Women-Five Strikes But Not Out

Here is a good article by Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese that appeared first in ncronline and now in the printed National Catholic Reporter version from April 24-May 7. While some of it is cute and maybe lighthearted it is really quite serious and there are pearls of wisdom here-especially regarding women’s ordination.

Do check it out,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Thomas Reese

When it comes to women, Pope Francis has five strikes against him, but he also has some good points.First strike: He is male. Any man who thinks he has something to say about women to women needs his head examined. The smartest thing men can do when it comes to women’s topics is shut up and listen.Second, he is celibate. Not having sex is not what makes celibates ignorant of women; it is not having a wife to set you straight when you say something dumb.Not having daughters is also a problem. “Get real, Dad!” is not something celibate males hear, but they should. Nor is there anything like cheering on your daughter’s soccer team to turn an otherwise Neanderthal male into a feminist.

Presidents of Jesuit high schools and colleges got scores of complaints from alumni when their institutions first went co-ed. A few years later, these same alumni were trying to get their daughters into Jesuit schools. Having a daughter makes a man more sympathetic to the rights of women.

Pardon the stereotyping, but the third strike against Francis is that he is Latin American. Latin American culture is patriarchal and paternalistic. Times are changing, but being “macho” is part of the Latin American male’s DNA.

The fourth strike against Francis is that he has no experience of first-world feminism. In the U.S., we have had decades to learn and absorb feminist views. It has been impossible to get a college education or watch television without being confronted with feminist perspectives. You may love it or hate it, but you can’t ignore it.

Pope Francis does not know the language of first-world feminism, so he often gets in trouble even when he is trying to say something nice about women. He falls back on the language of John Paul II and uses phrases like “complementarity” or “feminine genius.” Then, when he lists the special virtues of women (tender, patient, sensitive), the response is: “Shouldn’t men have these virtues? What about intelligence, courage, creativity?”

The fifth strike against him is his opposition to women’s ordination. Many women (and men) see this as the stained-glass ceiling in the church. As long as authority is linked to priesthood, women will have only an advisory role in the church and no real power. Why only men can preside at the Eucharist and other sacraments is not understandable to women who have seen almost all roles opened to them in society and culture.

Five strikes would normally more than put you out of the game, but Francis is no ordinary player. Most women still love Francis and can forgive him these failings because they love so many other things about him: his simplicity, his concern for the poor, his authenticity, his stress on compassion, etc.

But even on women’s issues, he is not a complete ignoramus. After all, he lived in the country of Eva Peron, who was one of the most powerful Argentines of the 20th century. As a young man, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was a Peronista. And his country had a woman president long before the United States. True, he has had a rocky relationship with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, but he had the same problems with her husband when he was president.

So the first point is: He is used to seeing women in powerful political roles.

Second, although he may not have experience with first-world feminism, he did learn about women’s issues by listening to the concerns of women in the slums of Buenos Aires.

As archbishop, Bergoglio sat in the homes of scores of poor women, drinking mate and listening to their stories. They told him of the crushing burden of poverty and the need for jobs for both themselves and their husbands. This made him a strong critic of capitalism and globalization and a strong advocate of the government’s role in creating jobs. These women were not complaining about not becoming a CEO; they were afraid they could not put food on the table.

He also heard mothers worry about their daughters being kidnapped and forced into prostitution. The authorities would not care about a teenage girl who did not return to her home in the slums. Slum kids are not a priority. Even in the United States, have you noticed that most of the missing children who make the news are blonde and blue-eyed?

But Bergoglio cared, and he became a leader in the anti-trafficking movement in Argentina. For third-world girls and women, this is a huge issue.

In fighting human trafficking, Bergoglio teamed up with a female lawyer in Argentina. I met her in Washington and asked her, “What was it like working with Bergoglio?”

“It was wonderful,” she responded. “He did whatever I told him.”

And this is the third point: Bergoglio is not afraid of smart women. He is not afraid of women with power. He has no problem working for a woman. In fact, in the first job he had as a young chemist, he had a female boss who mentored him. He was always grateful to her for her guidance, and they became close friends for life. She was a Communist, and he tried to protect her and her family from the military government.

Perhaps the most hopeful thing Pope Francis has said about women is that the church needs a new theology of women in the church. Some feminists do not even like this language. What is needed, they would say, is a new theology of person — women should not be singled out. But let me put that objection aside for the moment.

The important point here is that the pope has admitted that we don’t have an adequate theology on women. This is an extraordinary statement from the official who used to be presented as the man who had an answer for everything. Certainly, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI could never have said this. John Paul surely thought his theology of the human person included a wonderful theology of women.

By saying that we need a better theology of women, Pope Francis threw John Paul’s theology of women under the bus.

By saying that the church does not have an adequate theology of women, the pope is inviting all the church (women and men, theologians and bishops), into a conversation about women.

In the long run, having this conversation in the church is probably more important than the pope simply mouthing some statements that feminists like. An ecclesial conversation on women’s issues would be good for the church, of which women make up at least half of the membership.

Feminists are not going to be happy with everything the pope will say, but no thinking person should ever expect to agree with everything another person says. What we can hope for is mutual respect and dialogue. I think the pope is ready for that.

Wait a minute. Didn’t I say that celibate males should shut up and listen? Whoops. Please ignore everything I just said.

[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Pope Francis Exhorts Newly Ordained Priests on the Sacrament of Baptism-Refuse No One

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On Sunday 4/26/15 Pope Francis exhorted newly ordained priests to, I paraphrase the words of author Susan Ross, generously break open the alabaster box of the sacraments, speaking of baptism, he said “refuse no one”. We, Roman Catholic women priests are with you in freely giving the sacraments, Pope Francis. We pour the sacraments out extravagantly, as Jesus did, on all who ask.  We are pleased to hear your guidance to all priests on this sacrament of welcome and initiation into the body of Christ. I say in all humility, remember, too, Pope Francis, that through Christ and God’s mercy all of the sacraments are for all including the seven women ordained through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, on Saturday 4/25 and all Roman Catholic women priests who bestow sacraments on the people of God in the spirit you embrace in this homily.  We pray for you and for all the church as we ask God’s grace to pastor and not to manage as we serve,and are one with, the People of God.


with love and prayers,

Rev.Dr. Judy Lee, Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Ordained 2008, Boston


Francis: Priests should never refuse baptism to one who asks

  • Pope Francis and two newly ordained priests give a blessing Sunday during the “Regina Coeli” led from the window of the pope’s studio at the Vatican. The priests and 17 others were ordained by the pope during a liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica that morning. (CNS/Paul Haring)
 |  The Francis Chronicles

In words that may be interpreted to rebut Catholic priests who refuse to baptize children of same-sex couples, Pope Francis has said that priests should not refuse baptism to anyone who asks for the sacrament.

Speaking in a homily Sunday for the ordination of 19 new priests for the diocese of Rome, Francis told the new ministers: “With baptism, you unite the new faithful to the People of God. It is never necessary to refuse baptism to someone who asks for it!”

The pontiff also in the homily personally pleaded that all priests be merciful when hearing confessions.

“With the sacrament of penance you forgive sins in the name of Christ and of the church,” the pope told the new priests. “And I, in name of Jesus Christ, the Lord, and of his spouse, the Holy Church, ask you to not tire of being merciful.”

“In the confessional, you will be there to forgive, not to condemn!” Francis exhorted. “Imitate the father that never tires of forgiving.”

The pope was speaking Sunday during the ordination Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Later in the day, Francis again called on priests and bishops around the world to think only of tending to Catholics in their care and to have no other ambitions or interests.

During remarks before the weekly noontime Sunday prayer in St. Peter’s Square, the pope said those given leadership in the church are not called to be managers but servants that imitate a Jesus who deprived himself of everything and “saved us with his mercy.”

Francis tied together his message by meditating on the role of Jesus as the “Good Pastor,” which Catholics around the world celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Easter.

“The bad pastor thinks of himself and takes advantage of the sheep,” the pope said, giving definition to what a priest does. “The good pastor thinks of the sheep and gives of himself.”

Continuing, the pontiff said: “Unlike the corrupt, Christ the pastor is a thoughtful guide that participates in the life of his flock, not searching for other interests, not having other ambitions than those of guiding, feeding, protecting his sheep.”

“And all this to the highest price, that of the sacrifice of life,” said Francis.

Two of the new priests Francis ordained Sunday morning joined him at the window of the apostolic palace for the noontime Regina Coeli prayer, blessing the crowd with the pontiff.

Reflecting later during the prayer on the love of God, Francis that God’s love is the “highest and purest” because “it is not motivated from any necessity, it is not conditioned from any calculus, it is not attracted by any desire of exchange.”

But contemplating and giving thanks for that love, the pope said, is not enough.

“You need also to follow the Good Pastor,” he continued. “In particular, those who have the mission of guiding in the church — priests, bishops, popes — are called to assume not the mentality of the manager, but that of the servant in imitation of Jesus who depriving himself has saved us with his mercy.”

Later in the noontime prayer, Francis expressed his closeness to the people in Nepal who suffered a massive earthquake Saturday and then several substantial aftershocks Sunday.

At least 2,200 have been reported dead from the tremors in the Asian country.

“I wish to assure my closeness to the peoples stricken from a strong earthquake in Nepal and the bordering countries,” the pope said. “I pray for the victims, the wounded, and all those that suffer from this calamity.”

The pope expressed hope that the victims “have the support of fraternal solidarity” before leading people in the Square in recitation of the Hail Mary for all those affected.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

Seven Women Ordained Roman Catholic Priests in Morristown, New Jersey on April 25,2015

On Saturday April 24th in Morristown ,New Jersey, seven well prepared women were ordained Roman Catholic priests with Andrea Johnson, Bishop of the Eastern Region of Roman Catholic Women Priests-USA presiding. The women were Barbara Ann Beadles,  Norma Harrington, Patricia Shannon Jones, Susan Marie Schessler, Kathleen Gibbons Schuck, Ann Therese Searing and Mary Steinmetz.  The women had been deacons with RCWP- East since 2013 or 2014 and completed the Program of Preparation and mentoring as they continued to discern their call to serve as priests and developed their own ministries and churches. They hail from Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The holy and auspicious event was hosted by the Church of The Redeemer, an Episcopal church welcoming all within its doors. RCWP is indebted to the generous hospitality of this church and its Rector,Rev. Cynthia Black.  Rev. Black wrote the following about hosting the RCWP Ordinations:

“The Roman Catholic Womenpriests is a renewal movement that began in Germany with the ordination of seven women on the Danube River, in international waters, in 2002. They were ordained by three bishops in Apostolic succession (the names of two of them will only be released upon their death, but all details, including photographs, have been deposited in a safe deposit box until that time, so that no harm comes to these individuals). Subsequently, several womenbishops (their terminology) have also been ordained. We are excited about hosting this historic event…”

It was attended by over two hundred joyful supporters.

east ord2

The following is an article about the Ordinations from the Rev. Marellen Mayers,RCWP is currently the Administrator/Circle Leader of RCWP-USA Eastern Region and is also the President of the Board for RCWP-USA.

Catholic dissident group to ordain women priests in Morristown, April 25

April 25, 2015 by Kevin Coughlin 

Catholics who thought they never would live to see the ordination of women priests can witness it right here in Morristown, on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

A dissident organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests will ordain seven women at 2 pm, at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.

The Vatican does not recognize females as priests, and has warned women that the ritual amounts to automatic excommunication, according to the Rev.Marellen Mayers, who has traveled from Baltimore for Saturday’s ceremony.

“Jesus calls both men and women,” Mayers countered.

Established in Germany in 2002, Roman Catholic Womenpriests now numbers about 200 women priests, mostly in the U.S., Mayers said.  They have staked a claim to “apostolic succession” — theological  legitimacy — based on ordinations they say were performed by Catholic bishops who they decline to name.

Asked in 2013 about the ordination of women, Pope Francis declared: “The church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

Wouldn’t it be easier for women to switch to the Episcopal Church, where they would be welcomed into the priesthood?

“I’m born and raised a Roman Catholic,” Mayers said. “As much as I appreciate the Episcopal Church and all they have done to further social justice, I’m Roman Catholic and want to further change in my church.”

One of the seven women to be ordained, Susan Schessler, is a retired school administrator from High Bridge, Mayers said. The others hail from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland.

About 200 people, including 25 priests from the sect, are anticipated to attend the two-hour service.

Morristown was chosen because it’s central to the ministry’s eastern region, which extends from Nova Scotia to Florida, and because it’s near where the Rev. Mary Ann Schoettly  preached until her death last year, Mayers said.

The Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community worships in Harding and Sparta.

Services celebrated by the Roman Catholic Womenpriests differ from traditional Catholic masses in more than priestly gender.  Anyone can take communion. And the liturgical language is more “inclusive,” Mayers said.

Instead of parishes or congregations, these women priests lead “inclusive communities,” which gather in rented halls or homes, as early Christians did, Mayers said.

There are no seminaries for these women.  Requirements for the priesthood generally include a master’s degree in divinity/ theology, parish experience, and psychological screening, Mayers said.

Many of the candidates are former nuns, Mayers said. Others are retirees or work day jobs, because they are not paid for their ministries.  Mayers works as a preschool administrator; she had to forego her career as a Catholic school theology teacher when she pursued the priesthood.

“That’s how strong the calling is,” she said. “It gets to the point where that’s what you’re being called to do.”

The Vatican’s insistence on celibate male priests, stretching back centuries, is rooted not in theology, but rather in protecting church property from being handed down to heirs of clergy, Mayers said.

Yet she contends the modern church would have saved enormous sums — and spared many children from trauma — by ordaining women.

“If men and women were in the ministry all along, the pedophile scandal never would have happened,” Mayers said. “Women would have held men accountable.”

Copyright 2015 Morristown Green

CONGRATULATIONS to the New Priests!

with love and blessings,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

I Have Other Sheep: Rev. Judy’s Homily 4th Sunday of Easter 4/26/2015


Collect: Our Loving God, Our Parent and Eternal Shepherd,

We thank you for Jesus the risen Christ who lives and still shepherds us. When we get lost you seek us out,you protect us and guide us. You know us and call us by name. You suffered as Jesus died unjustly and you raised him up. He freely gave his life for us, and for the whole world. Help us to pour out our lives for one another and for all of your children everywhere, leaving none out. Grant this in the name of Jesus, the Christ who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forevermore. Amen

Liturgy of the Word

Acts 4:8-12 Peter and John heal a crippled man in Jesus name. ( In Jesus Aramaic language,”in Jesus Name” means in Jesus’ way and  with the same understanding of God as Jesus had-not just saying his name).

Psalm 118 R It was the stone rejected by the builders that has proved to be the keystone

I John 3:1-2 Abba God, We are the children of Abwoon/of our God the universal parent

Gospel: John 10: 11-18 I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and mine know me….

Homily Although we are in a time away and I will not be preaching at our church of the Good Shepherd in Fort Myers this week my heart remains with each one of our “sheep”. While most of our people have never seen sheep except at the petting farm we take our kids to in North Fort Myers, I am comfortable with the comparison-for myself and for our people.  We all are God’s creatures and in need of God’s loving guidance.  When away I  remember each one- their joys and pain, their triumphs and fears and failures, their struggles and needs. They are always with me as indeed we are always with Christ, our Good Shepherd.  As I also use this media to reach out to the other sheep who will not be able to join us at Good Shepherd one of my great joys is seeing this blog sail throughout the world to places I will never be able to go. It gives a whole new dimension to shepherding. I am humbled by this opportunity to reach sheep who Jesus describes as “not of this fold’. And I am pleased also to be shepherded in turn by those who are not here with me in this location, but are here in other ways and in spirit.

Today our Scriptures show us the love of the Shepherd for all sheep and Jesus’ claims to be the good shepherd,indeed he often spoke of his sheep in the gospels. The reading from Acts shows us as well what can be done in Jesus’ name. But let’s stop a moment and consider what that may mean. In Aramaic “Eshoo” (Yeshua/Joshua in Hebrew, Jesus in Greek) was a popular name of the times. It is surely not magic to pray and utter Eshoo. The power is not in just saying the name but in knowing God as Jesus did, as ourParent, our Abba/Amma Mommy/ Daddy, if  we understand Jesus’ words. The power to heal and be a healing force as Jesus was is in our relationship to God. We must fill ourselves with God awareness and God knowledge and knowledge of the whole human family as Jesus did, with the help of Christ’s living spirit within us. How else would we be able to offer our lives for the sheep, to pour ourselves out when we are not even sure at times that there is anything left to pour!

The gospel tells us that Jesus, our Shepherd, knows us even as Abba God knows him and he knows Abba God.  Through Christ we are to know God that way too and, like Jesus, shepherd one another and sheep not of the fold. Jesus was on familiar terms with his Parent God. In Aramaic “Abba”, “Ab-ba” comes from the root AB meaning all fruit proceeding from the source of Unity. Abwoon, a derivative used in Jesus prayer, has no gender and can be translated Divine Parent and it refers to a cosmic birthing process, giving birth to the universe and beyond.  What Jesus is saying in John 10:16 when he speaks of the sheep that are not of this fold is that our loving Parent God has birthed all of the people in the world and all are to be united under our birthing God, Alaha.  Abwoon d’bwashmaya ,the first words of Jesus prayer usually translated “Our Father….” is more adequately translated Birther God, Name of Names, Father/Mother of the cosmos and all within it, Source of all good.  Jesus came to unite ALL to our Birther God, and to show us how to do just that-by growing in grace to be able to lay down our lives, to pour ourselves out, for the sheep, any of them, all of them.


Yet we reflect-how hard it is to give ourselves away as Jesus did. While some lambs are cute and cuddly some are rebellious, old,desperate, stubborn and frightened. How hard it is to literally and otherwise go out on a limb for those who may be hanging off of the cliff and not very appealing. To risk oneself for those who are angry and bitter, hurt and hurting others, and labor intensive. Those whose ways and cultures and languages are different. What do we need to learn to do and to appreciate to embrace sheep not of this fold, our brothers and sisters of difference?  How can we turn to the Shepherd to empower us in knowing and loving and  and reclaiming for Birther God. For each one of us there is a different answer to how do we draw close to our loving and living God so that we can renew ourselves and shepherd one another. Based on the 23rd Psalm the hymn by Marty Haugen  may guide us: “Shepherd me oh God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life”.  Let us also remember that to the original Christ followers, the first Christians who were Jewish followers of Jesus, we ARE the other sheep.

love and blessings,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP,

Pastor the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

Fort Myers, Florida

Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Rev. Dr. Adele Jones Has Gone Home to Love

IMG_0085                                                                                                                              Rev. Dr. Adele Decker Jones April 20, 1927- April 22,2015IMG_0070A truly holy and courageous woman gently and peacefully made her passage home to our loving God in the wee hours of this morning. I am sure that the welcome for her included the New Orleans jazz trumpet( that she also played)sounding the joyful “When the Saints Go Marching In” for to us she was a saint. She was an inspiration in love and courage, especially the courage of taking on the religious establishment at so many levels as the story told below will show. She was also our mentor and precious friend and counselor hearing the troubles of others, including our own, until the end. Her beloved son, Derek H. (Rick) Jones, a prominent Doctor living in California and his partner, Bart, had visited with her this past weekend for her 88th Birthday. When he called to share her parting he told us that she had been waiting for our visit (made the week before (April 13-15) and his visit before she could let go and meet her loving Sophia face to face. Indeed she had rallied, embracing all of us, her family, Rick and Bart, Randy and his children and grandchildren who visited on Easter, her friends Jane and Alex and Roger and Bridget Mary and Dotty, and Pedro, Michel and all of the Staff and Judy and I in her loving arms. Jane and I spoke and cried together as we shared how much we will miss her. And yet we all agreed that she will be our angel. Judy  B added that our Litany of Saints should include “Adele Decker Jones, pray for us”.

The Memorial Service for Rev. Dr. Adele Decker Jones will be  on Saturday May 9th in Villa San Antonio Chapel,  Villa San Antonio Retirement Community, 8103 North Hollow, San Antonio ,Texas 78240 starting at 11AM.  Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP will be presiding. The family asks that any Memorial donations be given to Roman Catholic Women Priests.

The following story of Adele’s unique and blessed life started this blog in July of 2013.  It is also befitting as a Eulogy for a life well lived in the service of Christ.


Rev. Dr. Adele Decker Jones is no usual octogenarian.  On 9/10/11 at age 84 she was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.  Her ordination is valid as it is in a line of apostolic succession continued when a male bishop in good standing with the Pope ordained women bishops in Europe in 2003  to ordain other women.  The name of this male bishop is known and will be revealed upon his death. But in accepting Holy Orders Adele is breaking Canon Law 1024 that states only males can be ordained. The penalty is “automatic excommunication ” from the Roman Church,the church she has loved since early childhood. Rev. Dr. Jones, like other women priests, does not accept that anything or anyone can separate her from the love of Christ but this does not make the penalties of ostracism any the less difficult.

What kind of “elderly woman” chooses such a difficult road? Where does she get her conviction and her courage?  Where does she get her strength? At a time of life when many of her Catholic peers are picking out peaceful plots in sacred ground, a Roman Catholic Cemetery, Adele is finding joy in prophetic obedience to the God she has served all of her long life.  She is finding a way to bloom where she is planted now,in a retirement home in San Antonio, Texas where she has lived since 2009. She is a quiet presence, sought out without any level of self advertisement as she does not want to offend anyone. A tall and beautiful woman who looks younger than her 86 years with silver white hair that reflects like a halo, staff members and residents alike call her Dr. Jones and seek her counsel and prayers for their lives. Her unassuming but clear priestly presence makes a difference to all who know her.

She risked the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church when in 2008 the church compared women’s ordination to pedophilia, as the same genre of mortal sin.  When she learned of this comparison she was incensed and decided to find the women priests that the church now condemned and find out if she could become one of them.

When she found the website at and called Bridget Mary Meehan,  the ARCWP Bishop, she found that there was no upper age limit.   What was important was her call to serve as a priest and her preparation. Adele is extraordinarily well prepared.  She has had a full career as a psychiatric nurse and counselor.  She has a Masters in Theological Studies earned in 1988 at the Oblate School of Theology in Texas. She also has a MDiv from the Oblate School earned in 1991. At that time Protestant denominations encouraged her to become ordained with them, but she wanted to remain a Roman Catholic. She reflects that it was very hard to get into the MDiv program as the archbishop had to approve. She refused to promise him that she would never seek ordination, but said that she could never agree to the Archbishop running every aspect of her life at any rate! They agreed that it was unlikely that she would be able to become a priest in her lifetime. With that understanding, having excelled on her entrance exams, she was admitted to study and was the fourth woman who graduated from the Oblate School of Theology in 90 years with a MDiv degree. In 1997 she graduated from Garret  Theological School of Northwestern University with a Doctor of Ministry Degree.  This completed her professional preparation for pastoral counseling and for the priesthood as the MDiv is the same as the preparation taken by the male priests. Many young Franciscans were in the MDiv program with her and it was then she realized her own bent toward Franciscan spirituality. She became a Third Order Franciscan and entered the Fraternity with her male Seminarian friends. They also assured her that they welcomed women’s ordination in the Church.   She describes this experience with the Franciscans as an experience of grace.

She notes that St. Francis’ charism was joy. As she looks back on her life she realized that there were many times in her life when grief and sadness might have overwhelmed her: but she chose joy instead. While she was in utero her mother experienced the death of her mother, Adele’s grandmother. Adele was aware of her mother’s deep grief, yet her mother, also a Nurse and a devout Catholic worked hard so that Adele would experience the joy of her family and the strength of the women who were her legacy. The family also struggled with the Great Depression and economic hardship as they struggled to put grief in its place and find the joy in life.

Adele loved her father, a policeman, very much but was challenged by her parents’ divorce and her mother’s burden as a single Mom. She was also deeply effected by the death of her father when she was fifteen. Yet she chose to hold on to the joy that her father brought into the lives of herself and her younger brother. With help from her Aunts she was able to attend Catholic School from grade school through high school.  There she loved the nuns who shaped her life spiritually, first the Dominicans, then the Sisters of St. Vincent De Paul.  She learned to play the trumpet and earned a music scholarship to the Catholic High School.  There she learned to discern her calling. On her seventeenth birthday she entered nursing school perceiving service to the sick as her calling.

In 1947 she became a psychiatric nurse and also met and later married her husband Lloyd. In 1952 and 1965 her sons were born, Randy and Rick. They were and are the joy of her life, as are Randy’s children and grandchildren. Yet learning for Adele was also a great joy and she completed her AA in 1963 and her BA in 1976 at the University of Texas Victoria Campus.  The additional degrees were helpful as she faced a divorce,also in 1976 after almost 30 years of marriage. This caused much grief, but she was also able to move on alone and to choose joy once again.  In 1980 she moved to San Antonio and worked for the Chancery also hosting a program on Catholic Television.

As Adele faces the many adjustments of aging and health she does so without complaint or depression. Once again, she faces the inevitable set backs of life with prayer and with joy. She reflects that she identified with her Aunt Katy who was a red head with keen wit and a wonderful sense of humor. In her own life and in her career as a nurse and pastoral counselor she has been faced with both tragedy and comedy. It is a grace that she saw comedy where others could only see pain. Never once did she minimize the pain of others, but she sought to help them find ways to adapt and cope even in the midst of tragedy. And, she taught them to laugh wherever this was possible.

It is one who seeks joy where there is disappointment and grief that has the courage to choose to become a woman priest.  Adele notes that God has worked in dramatic ways in her life.  Opening the door to the priesthood to women in the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement is one of those dramatic occurences. Rev. Dr. Jones says that all of the preparation she had academically and experientially came to a fulfillment in the unexpected grace of her ordination. Every moment of her life has led to this and every moment that she has left will be dedicated to serving quietly and modestly as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest . Another Priest, Judy Beaumont and I went to San Antonio to minister to Adele,our older sister priest. Instead she ministered to us and we came away immeasurably enriched, knowing that we had been in the holy presence of a woman of great wisdom, and joy.

Rev. Dr. Adele Decker Jones, ARCWP

Story as told to:

Rev. Dr. Judith Lee,

Co-Pastor with Judith Beaumont of

The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in

Fort Myers, Florida


Rev. Dr. Adele D. Jones, Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Pray for us.


IMG_01206de57-adelechristmas2IMG_0069IMG_0070Joy comes in the morning.The Circle is unbroken for she is with us and waiting for us still. 

with love and prayers and gratitude for the life of Roman Catholic Woman Priest Rev. Dr. Adele Decker Jones,

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Five Months in the Life of Good Shepherd Ministry with Roman Catholic Women Priests Judy Lee and Judy Beaumont

Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl, Inc.  12/3/14-4/21/15

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee

Here  we present a retrospective on five months of our Good Shepherd ministry in Fort Myers, Florida. During this period we celebrated a bountiful Christmas with our community and moved into a new year with joy and determination to continuing to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Attendance and participation at all events remained consistent and many new people were served. The relationships we have with our people, volunteer assistance, and the mutual aid approach to empowerment and the whole person, remain the most important factors in the success of our work to help people out of poverty and into work, incomes, education and housing.   We continued to assist people in maintaining and obtaining affordable housing and worked with our parents and youth in school retention and success.  We now approach the ending of the school year and planning for summer. We will be exploring program designs and possibly grants and donations for this summer program.

Christmas 2014 

Due to the generosity of The local Orioles Club(pictured below), the Lamb of God Church, Gini Beecroft and the Breckinridge Community and several individual donors we were able to give Christmas gifts to thirty-five children and youth, several large families and special needs adults. These included gift cards for the older youth and donations to help families. Books and clothing were part of the gifts and Supermarket cards were also given for food for the families .  We had a great Christmas party and Hank Tessandori was Santa Claus to the children’s great delight. Yet, in a way, Christmas is every day for us as we celebrate birthdays and special occasions throughout the year and rejoice in the gift of loving community.  ( In the picture below Donnie is celebrating her 60th birthday with her friend Lauretta hugging her and Pearl Cudjoe, one of our faithful leaders, in the background).




Hot Meals and Food And Clothing Programs
With the December 2014 tally of 102 meals, we served 1474 hot meals in 2014(not counting seconds and take home). To date in 2015 we have served 498 meals on Sundays and for Holy Week gatherings and 70 meals on Tuesdays for a total of 568 hot meals as of 4/21. We continue to thank our volunteers including the McNallys, CTA and Country Creek, Gini Beecroft and Breckinridge,  Sally and Rob Patterson, Chris Miller and Rick Judy and Lisa Munklewitz, Evelyn Touhsaent and Cliff Woods and several Lamb of God members and our own Judy Alves and Pearl Cudjoe  who have remained constant in cooking and serving for us.   Margaret Sousa, the Manager at Palm Harbor Church Residences continues to share canned goods with us and we reciprocate by assisting some of their new residents at move in.  Others donate food from time to time. The LOG, Pope John 23rd and St. Columbkille Thrift Stores continue to help us with clothing and furniture and other items to establish households at reduced prices. Birthday celebrations are a regular part of our weekly celebrations as well.


Supporting Education and Teaching Service

In January 2015 we were able to pay $1500 on the Student Loans of our Freshman at FGCU due to accumulated educational donations earmarked for this.  We also visited schools and had parent conferences on the school progress of several other children. Both Pastors and some of our members and Board Members like Judy Alves also mentored children and youth in specific subjects and helped them to develop other competencies. Weekly we are able to reward youth with small stipends of 3-5 dollars for completing their Sunday school lessons successfully using Urban Ministries materials that are quite good. Five – seven youth 13 and over participate regularly. This is not only to get them into the content but to improve reading, comprehension, critical thinking and writing skills.  Additionally we ask our youth and parents to give back by assisting people to move into housing in a variety of ways.



Joshua House Hospitality

Thirty-five individuals including two families and several pets have resided in Joshua House and then moved on to affordable housing, ten have lived there since we have turned it into a hospitality house. A family of seven continues to reside there since Nov. 30th but they have saved enough to move out in May of 2015. People unable to afford market housing temporarily and who are not substance addicted or uncompliant with medications are eligible for this program after we get to know them and assess the situation. Several in this picture once lived in Joshua House.


Permanent Housing

We are blessed to say that since 2008 there are over one hundred people whom we have assisted into affordable housing with emotional, spiritual and material support. During this period of time( 12/14-4/15) we assisted five families to move into permanent housing. Two of these women we have known for many years and it is again the quality of our relationships and consistency in their lives that gave the support needed to finally make good choices and follow through. This supportive approach helped Awsha, a mother in her thirties to reunite with her seven month old daughter and we also paid for Security and furniture as well as bus passes to work. Brenda, now fifty, returned to Fort Myers after several years living from place to place north of here. She returned to us broken, sick and crying and thankful “to be home” but in need of help to become housed again and connected to medical services. She had lost both of her parents within the last month and was bereft.  She sees us as her remaining family.  We placed her in a Motel as we sought housing with her. (Another woman living in her car also spent a night in this Motel). We actually have had to move Brenda and her little dog, Scrappy, three times in six weeks as various problems with the apartments attended her first two moves.  We also moved two Seniors, one from the East Coast with three large birds, into affordable HUD assisted housing at Palm Harbor. For that we had the help of Rev. Miriam Picconi a RC woman priest from the Palm Coast and her generous helper David. A couple with five boys under the age of nine, and an older girl still to join them, was also assisted with furniture, food, clothing and other basic needs.  The boys are now attending our Sunday school and are a pleasure to know.  They are pictured below, also are Awsha and her baby and  Brenda and Snappy, now housed. Brenda is such a woman of faith and joy that it is a pleasure to have her back in the community as well.


Each of these moves cost us from minimal amounts up to thousands of dollars. These costs include Security, Utilities down payments, furniture and household goods and other costs. We are in continual need of donations to assist people in moving out of homelessness and inadequate housing.

Other Needs

We also minister to those in need of medical and mental hospitalization, those in hospice and those sick at home. In the last two months we walked with one of our men as he dealt with new psychiatric and diabetes medications. He began passing out in the streets and becoming psychotic and it took three hospitalizations in two hospitals to get him back on his feet again. Another of our members is in hospice and we attend to her and her family where some reconciliation was needed. Another family is experiencing gang violence and drive-by shootings and we are challenged to help the family through this. We were also pleased to baptize one of our twelve year olds on Easter. It is a joy to see her grow in her understanding and actions. Our children and youth continue to be a source of joy to the whole community.

Most of all it remains a joy to witness the love among the members of our Tuesday (formerly homeless and homeless) and Sunday communities(that do overlap) where all are welcome at the Table of Christ and at our hot meals and continual fellowship.  Co-Pastor Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP, and I say a heartfelt thanks be to God for this blessed Community and for all who help us to serve.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP and Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP

Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl, Inc. (a 501c3 non-profit tax exempt organization)

Mailing Address: 18520 Eastshore Drive, Fort Myers, Florida, 33967

April 21, 2015

Touch and See The Living Christ: Rev. Judy’s Homily for 4-19-15, Third Sunday of Easter

I was traveling last Sunday to see very new and very old beings, the expressions of vibrant life at the beginning and toward the end of life as we know it. I will comment on that journey later in this homily,because of it I could not comment here on the second week of Easter readings.  The Gospel  last week (John 20:19-31) was about Thomas who needed to literally, physically, touch Jesus to believe in the resurrection. Those of us who believe without this additional “proof” were,and are, blessed by Jesus. We are also exhorted in I John 5:1-7 to keep God’s commandments and love God, God’s Christ, and all of God’s children. This week the series of “eye witness accounts” to the Resurrection and the living Christ continue with the Gospel of Luke ( (Luke 24: 35-48) where Jesus appeared in the midst of the disciples as they were talking about those who knew Jesus, the Christ, through the breaking of the bread after meeting him but not knowing him on the road to Emmaus.  Once again here he invites them to “touch and see” that it is really him, and he eats something to show he is physically as well as spiritually present to them. Once again, as on the road to Emmaus he expounded on the meanings in the Scriptures about his living, dying and rising and gives the commission to preach the forgiveness of sins to all nations starting at Jerusalem. He sums it up saying: “You are witnesses of all this”.

The book of Acts is a “continuation” of the book of Luke (written,like the Gospel, in the last third of the first century) by the author of Luke documenting the history and emergence of the early church. (The author of Luke may be Luke, a physician and associate of the apostle Paul, or another author of that time writing to both Gentiles and Jews, or even by a woman disciple/Apostle given the feminine influence clearly evidenced in the Gospel of Luke, according to Loretta Dornisch,OP,Phd, A Woman Reads The Gospel of Luke ). ACTS is subtitled The Acts of The Apostles but could also be subtitled the Acts of the Holy Spirit in forming the early church.  In Acts 3:13-19 we read that Peter is preaching that God raised Jesus from the dead and that the disciples/followers are witnesses to the “disowning” and crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Talking to the Israelites who gathered at the Temple after the healing of a lame man by Peter and John, Peter says: “You put to death the Author of Life,whom God raised from the dead-a fact to which we are witnesses “. Indeed the crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Romans and the will of the Temple leaders and establishment, and the “crowd”  is a fact known and documented historically in the Gospels and in other historical works of the times.  It is easy to prove that someone was executed, but not so easy to prove that against all odds of rationality and nature, that he also rose from the dead in three days as predicted.

While the author of Luke is not an eyewitness to the events and initial narrative accounts, the author speaks of careful documentation of these accounts handed on to them by “eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1: 1-4). The “longer section” of the Gospel of Mark is also concerned with eyewitness documentation  of post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. In Mark 9-19 we see Mary of Magdala (also in Matthew 28:1-7) as the first eye witness to the Resurrection.  The male disciples are said in Mark not to believe her (and “the other Mary”) , nor did they did later believe the accounts of the two walking on the road, but when Jesus appeared to the disciples and upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, they did overcome fear and doubt and believe in the living Christ and accept Christ’s commissioning to go and proclaim the good news to all creation.

Eye witness accounts are clearly important to the Gospel writers and they convey that the disciples had to actually, and not so metaphorically, see the risen Jesus  for themselves. They had to literally “touch and see” and they did. Some scholars today( some twenty centuries later) say unequivocally that there was no physical resurrection but an appearing of Christ in visions and dreams and memory, and that the first church did not believe in actual raising from the dead.  Even with some understanding of the language and culture of those times and of science as it is understood today, how can any scholar say unequivocally that there was no resurrection and people of Jesus’time(as if there were one ‘people’) did not experience a physical resurrection or believe that they would-especially in light of Gospel writings told orally, written and understood so much closer to that time-some in the same century. Would it not be better to say this is some of the current thinking, but we cannot surely know what happened so long ago-we only know that what happened then, and however the many ways it was interpreted,  was strong enough to inspire the proliferation of Christ followers/Christians for over 2000 years? There is a surety based on today’s science that is a slippery slope, as if all is now known.  It cannot be, and we can not know the past in this way. As we have deconstructed many of the constructions of Christianity that we have stood upon, we look now for the solid ground of faith. Faith itself is not solid ground yet once it is established, the sky is the limit! Or should I say the cosmos now? The Gospel writers and perhaps their redactors/editors were sure of the opposite: The writer of Luke says “…they thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus said to them,”Why are you disturbed: Why do such ideas cross your mind? Look at my hands and feet, it is I, really. Touch(feel)  me and see me.  A ghost (spirit) does not have flesh and bones as I do….they gave him a portion of fish (and a honeycomb)…and he ate it before their eyes” (Luke 24-36-43). (For those who consider well the evidence that Jesus was a vegetarian please know that the word honeycomb is in the Aramaic translation, The Peshitta, and the word for honeycomb is similar to the word for fish perhaps causing both words to be there and resultant confusion.  Also I have included “feel me” and “spirit” from the Aramaic translation).  While we can perhaps touch and feel someone emotionally or spiritually without physical contact,  tangible food is clearly not  eaten by spirits or ghosts. The physicality of the point of total resurrection in this passage is clear. The spirituality and metaphorical level of resurrection is also clear for most believers, and assumed.

So the questions for today’s believers are: how do we know and witness to the risen Christ? We can no longer literally touch and see ,or can we?   And how did a movement as small as the Jesus movement made up of the first Jewish Christ followers, a polyglot of poor folks, and later a host of non-Jewish believers, Roman endorsement notwithstanding, ever spread throughout the world if there was only metaphoric or solely spiritual reality to the resurrection? After all, the message, the Good News of Christ, contained the life ,teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, as central features of the Good News that people embraced with a passion so strong that the blood of martyrs followed the blood of Jesus in making fertile ground for the growth of the kindom of God and of Christianity. Resurrection to new life, now and forever is central to Christianity. And, it seems to me that this generation needs more than ever to embrace that which is life giving and turn away from all that deadens the soul, spirit and body.

Witnesses are those who see, experience and tell. Even as Mary of Magdala, the other Mary and the other disciples saw Jesus, and as Jesus opened the minds of the early disciples, all of them, to touch and see and tell, an encounter with the living Christ today will compel us to understanding and action.

How do we see the face of Christ today? We are usually eager to know and embrace small children and toddlers. It was our pleasure recently to get to know Pastor JudyB’s great nephew Sammy who was visiting from England. Pastor Judy B gave him his first Book of Prayers and he was eager to see it. There is so much hope that the young will learn love early and spread it throughout the world. Their joy is almost infectious. We can surely see Christ in faces of joy of all ages. But what of those who experience anything but joy and reflect what they feel and experience? How eager are we to seek out those who are very sick, those who are dying and grieving and those who are truly poor ,homeless, addicted, mentally ill, so depressed that everything is dark and have just plain given up?



In the last two weeks we have visited two beloved people now living in Hospice. When we went to see our sister Priest, Adele, she was in a Hospice bed in a Rehab and Nursing Facility. It was new and beautiful and the mixture of people trying to get better and those letting go was a good one. We enjoyed smiles and greetings with many residents. Our Adele, who has chosen joy throughout her life, was coming through a dark night of the soul as it faces the ending of life as we know it . She felt more than ready to meet her loving God.  Yet, rather than lay down and wait and hasten death she had taken hold of life again and was sharing her ministry with all who came into contact with her. She is looking forward to her eighty-eighth birthday next week and the visit of her son. Her light is steady and clear and no one can set aside or shelve this elder who is in Hospice care. She was able to go outside with us for the first time in several months.



As we traveled through the facility together,the atmosphere did not encourage waiting to die and that was so good for her spirit.  We celebrated the Eucharist outside with her friend Jane and she gave Jane the instruction that we consecrate together. Rev. Adele Jones was and is an inspiration to all whose lives she touches. If we accompany in the dark night the dawn will come.


In the hospice house where our dear church member Claire was we walked through the totally quiet halls seeking her room. We passed open doors sometimes revealing those in the last stages of dying and, on occasion, their loved ones. At some points even we needed to avert our eyes and not see. We said a prayer of blessing and guidance for all there and especially for those who see and care for the dying every day, that they do so with love and kindness and that they truly see and touch the persons before them. Some we knew had not experienced touch in a long time. We embraced our sister Claire who is so thin and almost brittle now. She indirectly asked us if we could put some cream on her feet and we were blessed to do so. The visitors she had early on in her stay were very few now. There is something in us that does not want to touch and see the very ill and dying.  And so we miss the opportunity to minister to a suffering Christ. On an occasion when we had several members in hospitals I asked church members “who would go and see “so and so” for us”?  A few said yes easily,but several said “I don’t do hospitals”. Eventually they did and thanked us for asking them to go.  Touch and see.

In our ministry at the Church of the Good Shepherd serving the homeless and poor in Fort Myers seeing, touching, feeling and experiencing and telling about the poorest among us, and those with most stigma and assumed disability is an experience of seeing and telling about the risen Christ. There should not be homelessness or low income housing lists that have been closed for years in this generally affluent area.  In 1986 the US Bishops wrote Economic Justice for All in which they said that “the example of Jesus…most radically calls for an emptying of the self, both individually AND corporately, that allows the Church to experience the power of God in the midst of poverty and powerlessness.” Pope Francis has now spoken and set examples of this type of emptying(including of the pockets of the well to do) and humility. Yet even he, and the other bishops continue to deny women and married men and openly gay priests the recognition of their calls to be priests and servant leaders in the church. Nor are a host of people welcome at the Table of Christ. In the call for justice for all, some are still left behind. This places a shadow over and  obscures the face of Christ. Only welcoming the full dignity of each and every human being opens the light of Christ for all the world to see.

When we first brought our outdoor (in the local park) feeding and worship  ministry inside to the house we bought and converted to both a church and a homeless housing facility in 2008 we included neighborhood residents and a range of others from varied backgrounds in one congregation. Early on, as I met with the teens in Sunday School after church they thought it perfectly acceptable to laugh about the smells and dress and behaviors of some of the homeless members. They soon learned that it was fine to share feelings about this with me or in class, but it was not acceptable to ridicule. For ridicule was their first response to people who looked unwashed and may be loud or different. Now our young people can be called upon to assist when we move homeless or mentally or physically ill people into housing. This is two of our young adults. Rashawn and Quayschaun with RC Pastor Miriam from the Palm Coast and her generous helper David as we all moved an elderly and ill woman into subsidized Senior Housing from the East Coast to our West Coast of Florida.


Ours is also one of the only fully integrated churches in the area. For many holding hands during Jesus’ prayer and touching during the sign of peace with people of different races and classes and mental and physical conditions was a new experience.  Yet now, this is a cherished experience. The love that has grown and flourished is wonderful and all who come even for a visit celebrate the faces of Christ all around them. (There are some who may come once and never return, but that is unusual-the spirit of love is so strong). As we all learn to serve the “least among us” we learn to see and serve Christ who appears at each and every Mass, Service, and gathering of the faithful in so many ways. As we embrace those who are de-formed by life and society we are truly re-formed and transformed. We share the one bread and drink from the same cup, and we are one with Christ. Yes, touch and see, touch and see.


Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor, The Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida

We Are An Easter People: Holy Week with The Good Shepherd Community

Today, this glorious Easter Sunday, was the culmination of our Holy Week devotion as forty-three members of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida including their two Roman Catholic women Priests, Pastor Judy Lee and Pastor Judy Beaumont followed Jesus from his entry to Jerusalem, to the farewell meal with his friends and probably his family where he taught us how to serve, through the streets and through the courts on his way to Calvary and to the empty grave. Not everyone made it all four times but many did. The devotion was so remarkable with this people who identify completely with the suffering and the victory of Jesus, the Christ.  It was such a joy to gather together today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our new life. Today we remembered our own baptisms and also had the pleasure of baptizing Aleigha Skye Elizabeth Longstreth a twelve year old who requested baptism after many months of preparation with the approval of her family and her faith community.

Here is part our community as we gathered before our Easter Celebration:


From Palm Sunday to Easter the faithful gathered to walk with Jesus from Hosanna, to crucify him!, to Alleluia He is risen!

On Palm Sunday we met outside and blessed the palms then proceeded into the church where we enacted and lived the Passion.  IMG_0178

In the interactive part of the homily we reflected on how many of our people have been abandoned by family and community when trouble hit and how Christ remained for them the Presence they could turn to and count on who was always there. they also reflected on how we are always there for each other as a church community, and how we also need to continue to reach out to those who remain homeless or on the streets or in trouble. IMG_0184IMG_0190

On Holy Thursday,  we reflected on how hard it must have been for Jesus to have a farewell meal with his loved ones and how much he wanted to make sure they understood how to follow him in serving one another. We enacted the foot washing and reflected on how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to show us how to serve one another. We reflected on the ways we do serve one another. Brenda has returned to our community after five years away and she was welcomed home warmly. Many community members helped her to move to a little apartment, not only once but twice as the first apartment flooded due to a slumlord and faulty water pipes and was declared unsafe by the fire Department.

IMG_0142 IMG_0143This is our first team helping Brenda set up her apartment. Kathy Lauwagie from Minnesota who is part of our community for the winter months is drilling to hang pictures. Lili Randazzo and Linda Maybin and their teenage girls, Marcella, Jolinda, Keeondra and Jakeriya members of our Sunday school were part of the clean-up team. However, the next day the ceiling fell in and Linda Maybin quickly intervened in the crisis helping Brenda to mop up and sweep out the flood waters. When she moved in two days Quayschaun Crews , Joe Baker and Nathaniel Chester carried furniture up two flights of stairs. Carole Schauf and her friend George helped her to get reorganized and hang pictures again. They also did quite a bit of carrying and purchasing needed supplies.  It truly took a community to help Brenda leave homelessness behind again and it was serving as Jesus taught us. IMG_0053 This is Nathaniel and Gary with our Minnesota Kathy’s in a farewell picture as Kathy Overby and Kathy Lauwagie are leaving for Minnesota on Tuesday. This was also Nathaniel’s fifty-first Birthday and Brenda, who has been his friend for over ten years made him a beautiful card for everyone to sign. She appreciated the help that the women and girls and  Kathy, Nathaniel, Joe and Quayschaun gave to make her move possible.

Quayschaun who helped Brenda move a large piece up two flights with Nate and Joe Baker was also chosen to be our Christ on Good Friday. This is Quay earlier this year at an affirmation of his baptism. His baptism was the year before as he was critically ill in the hospital. Everyone who saw Quay enact Christ’s suffering and passion remembered what he too had gone through and the resurrection he has indeed experienced. His brother Rashawn offered to carry the cross as Simon of Cyrene and he confided that he now understood what he needed to do in his life. Quay offered himself on Good Friday as he was so thankful for new life, and although he is not completely out of the woods, he truly believes he has risen and he too shall ultimately rise again. Aleigha who would be baptized on Easter sunday also said that being Veronica taught her how to help someone else.

IMG_0059 On Good Friday we reflected that those who really do know the Good Fridays of life can best know what rising again on Easter means and how precious it is to rise again here and now.

IMG_0727IMG_0728This is Quayschaun and some of the Good Friday faithful ready to walk through the streets of Fort Myers enacting the Stations of the Cross. On our cross are the petitions of the community.

Our simple altar and the baptismal font and a fragrant blooming lily was also a meditation on this Easter Sunday. IMG_0009The children and the adults were all dressed in their pretty dresses and sharp clothes and we reflected on how Jesus left his burial clothes behind and put on his glorious Easter clothes-inside and outside. Our smiles ,our words, our caring and our respect for the dignity of ourselves and others can reflect Easter. We pondered how we can witness the light as Easter people who live the promises of our baptism.

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Aleigha’s Baptism focused all of us on the vows of our own baptism.

IMG_0013 Aleigha and her Aunt Jody and one of her Godmother’s, Liliana Randazzo. Her other God-parents are Pearl Cudjoe and Hank Tessandori of our community and her relatives in Maryland, Cirene Nowicki Estepa and Luis Hernando Estepa. IMG_0021The laying on of hands.

The hallowed moment of Baptism.


Receiving Her White Garments IMG_0033

While Aleigha changes the congregation sings Amazing Grace. Then Aleigha is presented to the Community and receives the light of Christ which her Aunt Jody lit from the Easter candle. While the traditional baptismal candle is white this one was used as it has a green vine and branches embossed on it and we reflected on Jesus as the vine and Aleigha as the newest branch of our church who would yield good fruit .

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The community applauded loudly to welcome Aleigha into the community of Christ. Aleigha also received her First Holy Communion at the time of the Eucharist. She shared her joy at receiving at the Table of Jesus and her intentions to come to the Table for strength to serve others and to grow in Christ.

IMG_0043  After church we also celebrated the Birthdays of Joelle, 8, and Donnie, Timothy and Nathaniel. It was an altogether joyful celebration.IMG_0054IMG_0051

IMG_0055 This is Donnie and her best friend Lauretta.

IMG_0052Thanks be to God for the love of Christ and the love of our community.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee

Rev. Judy Beaumont

Co-Pastors, the Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida