The Roman Catholic Church, a mammoth institution plodding through history, changes slowly. Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich and others may move towards fuller inclusion of women, but until they extend all seven sacraments to women, the Roman Catholic Church will not reach wholeness.
Here is another excellent article on the ordination of the seven women to the Roman Catholic Priesthood in New Jersey on April 25,2015. This is by Mark Di Ionno in the Star Ledger.
I also want to thank the over 50,000 viewers and mounting who have seen my blog on this thus far . Only a very small percent-50 or so, have written what is easily termed hate mail full of self righteousness and ignorance. For them we pray. We are thankful for the opportunity to shed light on the fact that Roman Catholic Women Priests are already here! Thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
STAR LEDGER-Mark Di Ionno
The call to religious vocation came at different times in different ways. For some, it was a thunderclap, a great moment of clarity. For others, it was a building crescendo after a lifetime of being in harmony with their faith.
But the seven women ordained as Catholic priests last weekend in Morristown all agree on this: Their call to a religious pastoral life was genuinely sent by God and is as pure as any man’s.
“For me, it was when I received my first Holy Communion,” said Susan Schessler. “In that instant, I felt a very personal bond with Christ that was not breakable. Christ was there to me, and I was there to Christ. Like any relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs.”
Schessler’s communion was 68 year ago at Our Lady of the Valley Church in Orange. What followed was a life of religious service with the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell. She taught school, directed religious education and then immersed herself in helping children in the inner cities.
But she — like the other women ordained last weekend and their sister priests around the world — had a growing dissatisfaction with the “lack of inclusivity” and “ego domination” of the male hierarchy.
I was tired of people telling God how to be God.’ Susan Schlessler, ordained woman priest
“I was tired of people telling God how to be God,” she said.
Two years ago, at age 73, she made the decision to seek priesthood and said “the freedom that came with that decision is the freest I’ve ever felt in my life.”
Inclusivity is a word the Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) organization is built upon. The movement began in Germany in 2002 with seven women who were ordained on the Danube River by an Argentine Catholic bishop who cut his ties to Rome and began a church he believed would be more progressive.
Those women chose ex-communication by Rome, which, simply put, is like leaving a club you were never allowed to join.
So they started their own branch of the club and there are now 208 women priests worldwide, following Saturday’s ordainment.
“We did not leave our religion. We love being Catholic; it is a faith of great hope and great promise,” said Andrea Johnson, a self-described “Jersey Girl” from Ventnor, who is bishop of the Eastern Region of the RCWP in Annapolis, Md.
Again, simply put, the women believe the Catholic faith is to the Vatican what democracy is to the U.S. government. One is a philosophy, the other is a hierarchical bureaucracy.
Johnson ordained the seven women at Morristown’s (Episcopalian) Church of the Redeemer. In her homily, she described the “mission of Roman Catholic Women Priests (as) standing firmly within Roman Catholic tradition, yet pushing the envelope and creating a safe and welcoming space for all.”
“We are obedient to the Holy Spirit and disobedient to unjust laws,” said Kathleen Gibbons Schuck, 59, a Summit native now living in Blue Bell, Pa.
Her moment of clarity came in 2012 after Mass one day. She was deeply involved in her local parish as a Eucharistic minister, Gospel reader, teacher and fundraiser, but the monsignor always greeted her husband first.
“My daughter (Ann, then 15) asked, ‘Why is that monsignor treats Daddy so differently than he treats you?’ ” Schuck said. “That was like the wake-up call. I remember in my own (church) upbringing that the women did the work and the men made the decisions. I thought it was time to stand up.”
The entrance hymn to the ceremony was “All Are Welcome,” as a procession of clergy accompanied the seven women through the ornate stone edifice and nave of the Gothic church. It’s interesting to note that the Church of the Redeemer started in 1852, breaking off from another Episcopal church in Morristown that was pro-slavery.
That progressive tradition is obviously still alive, as the church welcomed not only the women priests but a group of married male Catholic priests who also practice outside the reach of Rome.
One is Michael Corso, who was ordained in the Archdiocese of Newark in 1983, but left to marry. He is the pastor of Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community in Sparta. The church was founded by Mary Ann Schoettly, New Jersey’s first RCWP member who was ordained six years ago. Schoettly, a mother of three and a grandmother, died last July.
The ceremony followed the rituals of ordainment for male priests. The women lay on the church floor in “prostration,” a symbol of humility during the long Litany of Saints. In the most emotional moment of the ceremony, the congregation joined in the “laying of hands” on the women, a tradition that invokes the Holy Spirit. The women had their hands anointed with oil and received their vestments, chalices and patens. Then, with hands clasped together and held high, they were celebrated as new priests by the estimated 400 people in attendance who stood and cheered.
But the differences between Rome-scripted ordainment and the RCWP’s ceremony were apparent. One was the gender-neutral liturgy. The word Lord was absent. God was not exclusively called Father, but Creator God, Creator Spirit and Life-Giving Mother, Gentle Father. Christ’s disciples, a heavily male-oriented word, were described as friends. The prayer over the Eucharist is said by the whole church, meaning the congregation shares the power to bring the body and blood of Christ into their midst.
The women priests and other clergy also received Holy Communion last, not first, a RCWP tradition that speaks to a “leadership of servanthood” rather than “privilege,” as Johnson said in her homily.
Most important, the RCWP does not believe their priests are more godly than anyone else. In the Roman Catholic Church tradition, male priests are said to be ontologically changed by the Holy Spirit when they are ordained.
“I’m no more or less divine than I’ve always been,” said Schuck. “We believe the Holy Spirit is equally present in everyone.”
The women, and the men who support them, don’t see themselves as pioneers as much as the first standard-bearers of inevitable change.
“Most of these women were already (experienced) ministers; for them, this is a reality that already exists,” Corso said. “This is just the beginning of their acceptance.”
All the women hold various or multiple masters or doctoral degrees in education, health, social work and theology. Some came from the business world, like Schuck, who was a telecommunications executive; others, like Schessler, spent years in religious service. Now, they will serve in what they call “inclusive Eucharistic ministries” in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.
“We bring an aspect of inclusiveness that people want,” Johnson said. “We are as capable, if not more capable, of doing the pastoral work our communities need.”
And like any social change, the old rules will seem archaic to future generations.
“I think when people look back in, say, 100 years, they’ll ask, ‘What was the big deal?’ ” Schuck said. “And really, what was the big deal?”
There is a red- magenta flowered Bougainvillea tree (or bush) in front of our house. My neighbor planted it as a gift about five years ago. It was a small plant when it started and it took a long time to flower beyond a few blooms. With hope and patience, we cut and pruned it’s scraggily, long, thorny and uneven branches hoping for something beautiful to appear. We have the marks to prove that it did not like being pruned. We first began to notice that at Christmas it bloomed beautifully and added to our Christmas joy. Then, by the fourth or fifth year it burst forth with blooms everywhere lasting all year. It still needs occasional pruning, sometimes long asymmetric bloomless shoots dart forth. We cut them off and enjoy the abundant and magnificent color all year. The cut-off shoots wither and die quickly.
There are banana trees in our rear yard that also need pruning. When they are not cut properly no fruit is formed just big green leaves. Our friends from St. Lucia showed us how, when and where to cut them down or back. When pruned carefully clusters of bananas grow into maturity. This is nothing short of miraculous to one from the inner city of New York.
I remember climbing in the back yard grape vines of my Italian neighbors when I was a child. We were delighted when we found sweet edible grapes. Sometimes we bit into bitter sour grapes and we had no idea why some were sweet and some were sour and some had no fruit.
Jesus likened himself to the vine and his precious followers to branches of the vine. We are organically connected to Christ, one with Christ, as long as we practice what we have been taught-to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors-all of them-everywhere- as ourselves. On the Vine we are also organically connected to one another. The Epistle of First John (3:18-24) tells us that we cannot pay mere lip-service to love, we must live it, love is an action word. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “My vocation is to love. Love is not words it is action”. I am so thankful for all of the volunteers and members who love and serve one another in our Good Shepherd church and for the other churches, individuals and groups that freely and generously give so that our people may be housed and fed, clothed and sheltered and receive the benefits of education and learning enrichment.
So to remain on the vine we must ask ourselves-what are we DOING to live love and justice? What are we doing with and for the outcast of all types, the poor and the different, “the least of these our brothers and sisters?” What are we doing in the face of injustice toward people of difference-toward the LGBTQ community? Toward those with mental illness, mental challenges and AIDS and other horrible diseases? Toward those who experience licensed brutality of law authorities and to all of those who experience random violence from one another as well as from the Law? We all know about the death of Freddie Gray in Maryland and the response of some of the youth in the community. Rather than sit and condemn can we understand how it is to BE them and face police authority whether justly or unjustly apprehended. Here in SW Florida in Cape Coral, a young white man was unjustly apprehended and beaten badly by police authorities last year. There are protests here too. Here, as elsewhere, it is as much about class as race though the double whammy of both doubles the jeopardy of discrimination and pre-judging. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed when he allied himself with poor whites and others as well as blacks. Christ lives in the ghetto and in the hearts and hopes of all who are lowest income as well as the well to do. Where are we, the so-called followers of Christ? Have we followed him to where the rocks are flying and the guns are killing and the people are frightened? Can we also understand how it is to BE law authority when random violence is directed at them for doing their very difficult jobs? Can we understand how it all has gone wrong-toward hate and not love. How lawlessness and violence are signs that love is dying on the vine. Jesus is saying that if we do nothing but talk our faith we are not abiding in him, in his teaching, and we are bearing no fruit. We will become dead wood, dead branches, no longer connected to Love and Life. Roger Karban once said-if we merely worship Christ and do not LIVE what Christ said and did we do not “get it”. And if we do not get it, our communities suffer and die as well. Some die in conflagration. Some die in self-indulgence. Dying is dying-the question is how can the church be relevant to the death all around us if we too are dying on the vine?
To take it one step farther, the church itself is dying on the vine when it conveys lack of acceptance and injustice to any of our brothers and sisters in our communities and in our church. To refuse anyone at the Table of Christ is unloving and unjust. To refuse anyone baptism or last rites, or burial in ‘hallowed ground’ is the opposite of Christ-like. To refuse Holy Orders to anyone called by God and prepared is unloving and unjust. To attempt to cut ordained women and openly gay or married priests off from the sacrament of Holy Communion, use of faculties and Christian burial is vengeful, unloving and unjust. It is also impossible as no one can undo our baptisms or our calls or sever us from the love of Christ. No one. We recall with Sunday’s reading from Acts (9:26-31) that the Apostle Paul was initially maligned and rejected by the disciples in Jerusalem and that Barnabas took charge and mediated for him, introducing him to the disciples. Today we are thankful that there are those like Barnabas who do this for women priests and others rejected by the church authorities. So, it is not we who are ultimately cut off, nor have we cut ourselves off or died on the vine. It is the church itself that is being pruned by the God who loves it so that it can bear good fruit. Not the fruit of self righteous traditionalism, paternalism, or misogyny, or heterosexism, or class entitlement and greed but the true fruit of love, inclusion and connection to the Vine forever.
The Greek word for “prune” in the scriptures (kathairo) is also the word for “cleanse”. Even as Jesus cleansed the Temple of cultic blood sacrifice, mercenary pursuits, excessive and unending legalisms, and hypocritical posturing, today Christ prunes the church of its adherence to traditions that exclude, vilify, and actually promote hate instead of love. For those who “get it” we are thankful to God. For those who respond with hateful vindictive words and ugly actions, we are praying for you.
This Sunday the Gospel text, John 15:1-8, is the seventh and final I AM statement of Jesus. Each statement reveals another unique and divine aspect of who Jesus is and how we are connected to him: Bread of life (Jn 6:35), Light (Jn8:12), door of the sheep (Jn 10:7,9), good shepherd (Jn:10-11,14), The Resurrection and the Life (Jn 11:25) the Way (Jn14:6) and finally the Vine (Jn15:1,5). In Aramaic this also allies Jesus, the Christ, with ‘true religion’. Religion that is hateful and vengeful toward any of God’s people is not true. What is true is what is loving. What is true is living love. This last claim and offering of himself to his followers as the Vine takes place shortly before he is betrayed by Judas and arrested. Jesus is assuring them and us that we are an organic part of him and of one another, and as we continue to follow/act on his words of love and justice we remain both connected and fruitful, come what may.
Thanks be to God!
With love and prayers,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers
Here is an article from the Chicago Sun-Tiimes with accurate history-herstory and the testimony of a woman Roman Catholic Priest.