Archive | September 2015

A Time Of Celebration: September at Good Shepherd Ministries


As summer slowly marched to a close we have had cause to celebrate many blessings and special occasions at Good Shepherd Ministries of Southwest, Florida. We were able to add a Minister to the Sick to our team just in time as we had several hospitalizations and hospice calls from our people. We helped a family travel to Florida to join their Mom’s cancer support team. We celebrated an adult baptism and five birthdays and we continued to develop our work with families, children and youth. We helped twenty young people from 5-21 get  a good start in school. We also helped to reestablish a home for an evicted family of seven and helped others to maintain housing by assisting in various ways.

We often pray for laborers to join us in our work. This prayer was answered when one of our recent church members, Patricia Byrne, RN,MA ( a Nurse and former Chaplain, who holds a degree in Pastoral Counseling and Ministry from Boston College volunteered for this ministry. She has been visiting and comforting our sick members, participating in important team meetings at facilities and advocating for the medical needs of our people.  We are so blessed to have her with us and welcome her aboard!

Here is our Minister for the sick,  Patricia Byrne  (left) with Brenda whom she sponsored for BaptismDSCF0834We met Brenda in our outdoor ministry in the local Lion’s Park in 2007. Brenda loved to attend our worship service and sing hymns for us. Yet, her uncontrolled epilepsy often necessitated an ambulance call or trip to Lee Memorial Hospital which was next to the park. She had no income or medical coverage at the time and moved from pillar to post with other homeless individuals. Within two year’s of shepherding we were able to help her reinstate her Disability benefits, get Medicaid coverage and move to subsidized housing for the disabled. This housing was not in Lee County but we stayed in touch over the years until she returned to us, once again homeless in late March of 2015. By April she had an apartment for her and her little dog and was reconnected to medical services. Her epilepsy is not completely controlled, but is now only one of her medical problems and she is blessed to have Pat as one of her God-Mothers. ( Her other God-Mother is Pearl Cudjoe and God-Father, Hank Tessandori.  Brenda elected Baptism to seal her life’s new beginnings with the blessings of water and the Holy Spirit, to affirm her faith and become part of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community where she is a faithful member assisting us with our Kindergarden and First Graders.  Our church was blessed to witness this beautiful new beginning.

DSCF0816Brenda is presented for Baptism

Baptized and Given the White Garment and the Light of ChristDSCF0826DSCF0822



Brenda also shared her Profession as she celebrated her First Holy Communion as part of the Catholic Community

Gina , 5, and members of her “Littles” Class looks on:DSCF0828DSCF0543 Our youngest kids are full of joy and every Sunday is a celebration for

them:IMG_0049DSCF0777IMG_0139We love to Celebrate Birthdays Too: DSCF0830Sunday September 13th was our Linda Maybin’s birthday. She assists us in many ways including transporting our youth. Brenda’s Birthday is the 15th and Jolinda Terrell’s 18th Birthday on September 18, so we celebrated all three together. DSCF0832DSCF0831IMG_0057Jolinda, Nesha, is now 18 and also starting her first job at Walmart. She says she is looking forward to voting for the first time and is studying what the candidates are offering to help everyone move forward, not just the well to do. Our teen class this Sunday had a heated discussion about finding the Presidential candidate who was really for the people. The lessons had to do with inclusion and they were also ending their summer unit on justice as a Gospel imperative.

DSCF0792Lauretta  and Gary, two of our church “elders”. Celebrating Lauretta’s 55th Birthday.  

In our Tuesday Ministry we celebrated Louis’ September 5th Birthday and reflected that he, like Roger were with our ministry since 2007. Roger was the first to ask for prayer and worship in our park ministry. Louis is on the left, then Roger, Robert and Lin. Our work is not finished as one of these, Robert, who was baptized and confirmed in 2014, is still in need of benefits and housing and is moving toward both. Presently Robert is living at the church and is our caretaker. We also celebrated Lauretta’s September 16th Birthday. Lauretta, too, is one of our first members from the park ministry. Her story,like Roger’s is told in my book Come By Here: Church With the Poor (America Star Her generous spirit and love for others continues and on Sunday she gave Brenda a special Ecclesia Ministry for the Homeless Cross that meant a great deal to Brenda. DSCF0791On Tuesdays we also have Phyllis and her grandchildren, our faithful Mary, and Brenda and her friend Kelly with her child Isabella for a hot lunch and prayer time and social time. And sometimes we have special visitors like Sandra Wenger from Kentucky and her friends from Naples who minister with us.  DSCF0788



Thanks be to God for this month of ministering with God’s beautiful people!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida

Questioning Women’s Role in the Church-A Missing Piece

east ord2This article is from CBS Los Angeles,CBSLA.COM: Jennifer O’Malley is the Leader of RCWP-USA, Roman Catholic Women Preists -USA. Here she praises Pope Francis whose positive,intelligent, charismatic and very spiritual impact on millions in the USA and Cuba during his visit was totally moving. BUT she also notes that a piece is missing-the true company of women peers and their supporters and parishioners, many of whom would be the outcast and poor that he loves, who can have meaningful dialogical encounters with him and inspire change in his view of  “the closed door”  on the ordination of women as priests.

Get home safely, beloved Pope Francis, and then may your reflections bring a crack in the closed door.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP-USA-East

Group Of Local Female Catholics Question Women’s Role In The Church


Jennifer O’Malley is just one of many women who respect Pope Francis, but feel that something is missing around him.

“We find his pastoral nature very refreshing,” O’Malley said.

“But unfortunately he continues to exclude women from leadership roles… We continue to see him surrounded by men, by clergy, we don’t see women present,” she added.

O’Malley is the leader of the “Holy Wisdom Catholic Community” Church in Long Beach,, and a movement called Roman Catholic Women Priests, or “RCWP”.

With or without recognition from the Vatican, she says that the presence of “self-proclaimed” female priests is growing.

While there were just seven in 2002, there are more than 150 today.

“While personally, it’s a call from God to the priesthood, on a justice level, there is an oppression of women within the church,” O’Malley said.

In Philadelphia on Saturday, Pope Francis said it was time the church valued the “immense contribution” of lay and religious women, suggesting the church could not afford to be stuck in old traditions.

The Pope continued by arguing that reinvigorating people’s faith was one of the “greatest challenges facing the Church in this generation”.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told us, “We are blessed in our Archdiocese to have many women in leadership roles from our Chancellor to our many teachers, catchists, and Parish Life directors.”

A CBS News / New York Times Poll shows more than half of Catholics say the Vatican is out of touch with everyday Catholics.

Two thirds would allow priests to marry, and nearly 6 in 10 would allow women to be ordained priests.

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Calling All Prophets: A Roman Catholic Woman Priest’s Homily for 26th Sun in OT-9/27/15

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We have been moved to tears and cheers many times this week as we followed Pope Francis in his visits to Cuba and the USA.  We join the millions experiencing the humble presence and strong challenging words of a prophet.  We experienced his love for all and his use of symbolism to preach the Gospel without words. His luncheon visit to two hundred homeless and low-income people who gathered at St. Patrick’s in the City and Catholic Charities in Washington D.C. instead of enjoying a fancy State dinner is who he is. He also emphasized that there is no justification in the world for the lack of housing; that it is unconscionable that homelessness endures. Indeed he has also welcomed the homeless people surrounding the Vatican in for dinner and a visit, and made sure that sandwiches are served to them daily. In the same way there are now refugees from Syria living in the two churches in the Vatican. He shows us what to do as prophets in our times, and the Spirit will fill us with what to say and do as we too are open to becoming prophets of love and justice.  And that invitation is to ALL of us-we are all to be priests and prophets by virtue of our baptism, and ALL are to live for justice. Pope Francis said in a Washington homily: we are all priests (1 Peter 2:9) and prophets. We are to walk the talk. We are to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable as we are witnessing in Pope Francis’ missionary journeys-that is what a prophet does.

And yet, our Scriptures for Sunday illuminate how religious groups can become so ingrown that they seek to limit the voice of prophecy that rises around them. They can create doctrines and/ or indulge in behaviors that create inside and outside groups. This seems to be human behavior- to draw lines and leave some people out. But for God there is no inside or outside-there is only Love and Justice- not inside or outside but God’s own side. For Christians this is exemplified in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ and prophets like Pope Francis and Martin Luther King Jr. and Dorothy Day whom Pope Francis cited in his address to Congress.

The text from the Hebrew Scriptures, Numbers 11:25-29 shows a young Joshua asking Moses to stop Eldad and Medad, two leaders chosen to be prophets who were not present at the appropriate ceremony to bless prophets. Yet God’s Spirit rested on them and they began to prophesy.  But the wise Moses says “If only all people were prophets…” In other words, “thank God and ask God for everyone to be Spirit filled Prophets- welcome them!” God cannot be contained in the small box of in- group leadership, God’s Spirit falls where it will.

Marina Teresa preaching                                              Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia,RCWP preaching in Colombia, SA

We are so moved by the numbers of people waiting to even glimpse the Pope on his journey, rich and poor, people of every station and every sort. They are looking for something, something loving, something holy, something just, something of God. They were not disappointed in this caring, just and holy man. But he also spoke truth to power in the Congress and with the leaders of the USA and in Cuba. This is prophetic in the spirit of Christ.   The Epistle of James (5:1-6) is crystal clear in that same spirit, that God does not like or accept the rich, those who have a great deal, exploiting those who do not have-he says that “ the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached God’s ears” (Jas 5:4).  Here in Florida we stand with the migrant workers who have successfully boycotted and protested McDonald’s and many big chains and owners and growers who have denied pennies to the poor, pennies that can add up to a living wage. Similarly the issue of raising the minimum wage to a living wage is one that the Gospel clearly takes a stand on. It is beautiful to see Pope Francis champion and identify with the workers-but he can do no less in the Spirit of the Gospel.

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In the Gospel (Mark 9:38-43; 45; 47-48) Jesus faces the same question that Moses faced. The disciples, like Joshua, want to forbid someone not in their group, “not one of us” from healing in Jesus name.   Jesus disagrees with them: “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in my name can soon speak evil of me. For whoever is not against us is for us”.

Jesus is inclusive and welcoming while the disciples are arrogant and excluding. If we could for a moment, reset this scene in today’s world we can see Jesus accepting disciples, men and women, young and old of all cultures, races and languages, of many denominations and persuasions who reach out to “the least of these” our brothers and sisters and who do miracles in his name. Jesus’ total ministry was inclusive, he included strangers and non-Jews, like the woman at the well and the Centurion whose daughter he healed, extolling their virtues in the case of the good Samaritan, for example; he literally touched the lepers of his time and allowed women to touch him, he had women and men in his following and women ran to tell his story, and showed him great love washing his feet with oil and tears and following him to the grave.  Jesus first appeared to Mary of Magdala after his resurrection and commissioned her to “go and tell” thereby making her the Apostle to the apostles. How then can we imagine that Jesus would allow the disciples to prevent women, for example, from serving the sick and the poor in his name or relegate them to positions of authority in the church with limited spiritual powers? To forbid women from responding to the call and infusion of God’s Holy Spirit to open the Sacraments to ALL of God’s people, especially the poor and the outcast. To say Holy Orders are only for the “in group” of men not the “out group” of women.  Someone wrote me a comment on my blog in response to an article on the ordination of women and said “Peter has the keys, Peter says no to women’s ordination, case closed.”

This is my answer in the words of the Gospel of the day-John, the beloved disciple said “we stopped him because he was not one of us” and Jesus said: “Do not stop him….” The descendants of Peter are, like the early disciples being exclusive, trying to stop women from serving as priests, from serving as disciples who can receive Holy Orders.  Jesus is saying “Do not stop her” for that is who Jesus IS. Like Moses before him, Jesus wants the Spirit of God, and of prophesy to fall on EVERYONE. Moses and Jesus knew: the Spirit of God falls where it will. So those who form clubs that leave others out in Jesus name have misunderstood that Christ has sent the Holy Spirit among us and it rests where it will even as it did in the times of Moses and Jesus.

Good Shepherd Pastors Judy B and Judy L with Rev. Judith McKloskey And Church Leaders Hank Tessandori and Harry Gary

Good Shepherd Pastors Judy B and Judy L with Rev. Judith McKloskey And Church Leaders Hank Tessandori and Harry Gary


RCWP-Midwest Bishop Nancy Meyer Greeting Good Shepherd Youth

The Holy Spirit Confirms Good Shepherd Faithful

The Holy Spirit Confirms Good Shepherd Faithful

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CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 003

Mike Walsher of CBS TV News here in Fort Myers, WINK News, interviewed Pastor Judy Beaumont and I on Wednesday September 23, 2015. He asked us what we thought of Pope Francis?  We answered unreservedly that we love him, and we love his commitment to the poor and outcast. It is the mission of our ministry, our lives and our priesthoods to serve God’s poor and outcast. We have Dorothy Day’s picture and Martin Luther King’s portrait hanging in our church and in our hearts and alive in our actions. We, too, have been ordained in the line of Peter, ultimately through bishops in full communion with the Church. But, the rules of the in group, of the all- male hierarchy ( Canon Law 1024), have excluded us and made our ordinations illicit.  CBS ,WINK TV News did a great job on our story including many pictures of church members in interaction with us. They did show baptisms of youth and adults, and serving the Eucharist to all, but, there were no pictures to show of the last rites we offered to people dying homeless in the woods or nursing homes, or of anointing the very ill poor and disfigured or precious moments of reconciliation or a marriage on the beach of a formerly homeless couple. They had few pictures to show the importance of offering the full Sacraments of the Church to those usually excluded. That is why we just don’t serve as laywomen or religious Sisters. The Sacraments need to be opened to all people and with ministries like Dorothy Day and MLK JR. we are where the people are and that is where we bring the Sacraments.

BaptismBrenda's Baptism 008Confirmation - Natasha ConfirmationIMG_0043                                                                                First Holy Communion  

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While we reject the rejection ( called excommunication) of the Church in-group, we do at times feel like Eldad and Medad, and like the one who healed in Jesus’ name whom the disciples tried to stop. But we have both Moses and Christ saying to their respective “in group” leaders-“Do not stop them”. We know that if Pope Francis could talk with our church members, our hungry, homeless and formerly homeless, the physically and mentally ill and mentally challenged, and our lowest income residents of a rich city, he would know that they had priests who serve Christ and spread love and justice liberally among them. As we watched Pope Francis on his Journey we saw him throw aside his prepared notes and speak spontaneously from his heart to those who moved his spirit by what they showed or told him. We know that above all he listens and he values the encuentro, the encounter, with people. We shared with Mike Walsher, the CBS Reporter, that our one prayer was that Pope Francis would have the opportunity to have a real encounter with women who want or have Holy Orders or their parishioners so that the spirit could speak to him through them. Mike asked about those of our sister priests who would protest at sites the Pope would visit in Washington. We said that non-violent protest was one way to bring attention to women’s ordination. But it was our hope that human contact with religious Sisters, laywomen and men, male priests and ordained women and their congregations who support women’s ordination would inform and inspire Pope Francis and the Church to open the doors.  Open the doors that have been so arbitrarily closed to women, and to the openly gay and the married. If there can be fruitful encuentros, encounters, the doors will be open. It does not matter if it is within our lifetimes or not, it will come.  We pray for these encounters and then to hear Jesus echoed: “Do not stop them”.



Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP-USA-East ,Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 002 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 005 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 006 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 007 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 008 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 009 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 010 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 011 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 012 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 013 CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 016Speak Out For Justice ! Justice For the Poor and Marginalized,Justice For all, Justice for Women Starting in the Church-Ordain Women!

WOMEN AS PRIESTS?-From the LA Times and Huffington Post

Sr.Joan Chittister’s Letter to Pope Francis

I very much agree with this letter from Sr. Joan Chittister to Pope Francis from Vision and Viewpoint a weekly e- newsletter from Joan Chittister.  I pray that he encounters women like her during his time in the USA. Women like her are women religious, and Roman Catholic women priests and laywomen and missioners who serve the poor and outcast as Francis asks and models so beautifully but also know deeply, as Sr. Joan says, that women’s poverty has a direct link to the treatment of women in the world and especially in the church.  In observing his trip to Cuba it is clear that Pope Francis takes inspiration from encounters when people share from the heart. When one young religious sister movingly shared her story of being assigned to serve the most severely developmentally disabled of Cuba and how the assignment has changed her to know God’s love in a new way, Pope Francis put his prepared talk aside and answered her from his heart-stressing that service to “lo mas pequeno”, the smallest among us, is what God wants of us and the source of all joy. I doubt that he will get to meet Sr. Joan on this trip, or any of our Roman Catholic women priests, as I am sure that the plans for encounters are already set in stone,  but I pray for this miracle of encounter in which the Holy Spirit speaks and Pope Francis responds.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP
Co-Pastor of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
SR. Joan Chittister’s Letter:
A letter to Pope Francis
Dear Pope Francis,

Your visit to the United States is important to us all. We have watched you make the papacy a model of pastoral listening. You have become for us a powerful reminder of the Jesus who walked among the crowds listening to them, loving them—healing them.

Your commitment to poverty and mercy, to the lives of the poor and the spiritual suffering of many—however secure they may feel materially—gives us new hope in the integrity and holiness of the Church itself. A church that is more about sin than the suffering of those who bear the burdens of the world is a puny church, indeed. In the face of the Jesus who consorted with the most wounded, the most outcast of society, all the time judging only the judgers, your insistence is the lesson of a lifetime for the self-righteous and the professionally religious.

It is with this awareness that we raise two issues here:

The first is the dire poverty to which you draw our attention ceaselessly. You refuse to allow us to forget the inhumanity of the barrios everywhere, the homeless on bank steps in our own society, the overworked, the underpaid, the enslaved, the migrant, the vulnerable and those invisible to the mighty of this era.

You make the world see what we have forgotten. You call us to do more, to do something, to provide the jobs, the food, the homes, the education, the voice, the visibility that bring dignity, decency and full development.

But there is a second issue lurking under the first that you yourself may need to give new and serious attention to as well. The truth is that women are the poorest of the poor. Men have paid jobs; few women in the world do. Men have clear civil, legal and religious rights in marriage; few women in the world do. Men take education for granted; few women in the world can expect the same. Men are allowed positions of power and authority outside the home; few women in the world can hope for the same. Men have the right to ownership and property; most of the women of the world are denied these things by law, by custom, by religious tradition. Women are owned, beaten, raped and enslaved regularly simply because they are female. And worst of all, perhaps, they are ignored—rejected—as full human beings, as genuine disciples, by their churches, including our own.

It is impossible, Holy Father, to be serious about doing anything for the poor and at the same time do little or nothing for women.

I implore you to do for the women of the world and the church what Jesus did for Mary who bore him, for the women of Jerusalem who made his ministry possible, for Mary of Bethany and Martha to whom he taught theology, for the Samaritan Woman who was the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, for Mary of Magdala who is called the Apostle to the Apostles, and for the deaconesses and leaders of the house churches of the early church.

Until then, Holy Father, nothing can really change for their hungry children and their inhuman living conditions.

We’re glad you are here to speak to these things. We trust you to change them, starting with the Church itself.

—Sister Joan Chittister, OSB

Roman Catholic Women Priests Call For A More Inclusive Church

For someone whose very title – Roman Catholic Womanpriest – triggered her excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, Eileen DiFranco has much in common with Pope Francis.

“I think he has said just marvelous things about poverty and Catholic social justice,” DiFranco said of the pontiff.

Their views, however, diverge sharply on the role of women in the church.

That is: DiFranco, a retired school nurse who lives in Mount Airy, believes that women can and must be ordained as priests, as she was in 2006 in a ceremony declared invalid by the church.

She is now one of 188 Roman Catholic Womenpriests around the world.

Many of them are gathering in Philadelphia this weekend for the third meeting of Women’s Ordination Worldwide. Their aim: to “challenge global discrimination against women in the Roman Catholic Church” in advance of the larger World Meeting of Families.

On Friday, DiFranco, Andrea Johnson, and Patricia Fresen gathered in DiFranco’s comfortable living room before heading to the conference, musing about their journeys to become Womenpriests and their hopes for the movement. Johnson, of Annapolis, Md., and Fresen, who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, are both bishops.

The trio, who eschew using titles and wearing Roman collars, would love to have a conversation with church leaders, but laugh at the thought of so far-fetched an idea.

The church has characterized the ordination of women as delicta graviora – a grave crime against the church, considered the same level of sin as sexually abusing children.

“Do we look that scary? A bunch of old ladies?” asked DiFranco, who is 63. “Why not sit down to talk with us? Why not come down here and have pizza and beer with us? But most priests and bishops don’t even want to hear our story.”

No pedophile priests have ever been excommunicated from the church, notes Fresen, who grew up in South Africa and for 45 years was a Dominican nun. For most of her life, becoming a priest was a persistent, but impossible, idea.

“For many years, the idea of being ordained – it wouldn’t go away,” said Fresen. But although she studied in Rome for years, earning her Ph.D. and giving men studying to become priests formal preaching instruction, Fresen was barred herself from preaching.

The push for women’s ordination began in the 1970s, after Vatican II reforms stirred new life in the church. The first women priests, the Danube 7, were ordained in 2002 by a male Roman Catholic bishop on that river in Germany.

Fresen was the eighth to become a Womanpriest, ordained in Barcelona in 2003. DiFranco was ordained in 2006 and Johnson, in 2007.

“When you take the chains off the Holy Spirit,” DiFranco said, “it’s amazing.”

DiFranco is married, a mother and a grandmother, and holds advanced degrees in nursing, health education, and divinity. She is a priest in the Saint Mary Magdalene Community, which holds worship services in Drexel Hill and North Wales, with a third location coming soon in Palmyra.

The liturgy at their services would be familiar to Roman Catholics, with some key differences.

“We’ve changed the sexist language,” DiFranco said.

“And we certainly don’t have people kneeling,” Johnson said. “People pray the words of consecration together – there are no spectators.”

Womenpriests preside at baptisms, weddings, and funerals. They anoint the sick.

Five hundred people are expected to attend this weekend’s conference, traveling from as far away as Australia to discuss “Gender, Gospel, and Global Justice.” They will attend workshops on Catholic feminist perspectives on human rights challenges and on women leaders in the early church.

The conference concludes Sunday with a “vigil and witnessing walk” with Catholic Organizations for Renewal – a larger call for a more inclusive church, the womenpriests said.

If they got Pope Francis’ ear, the message would be the same, the faithful women said.

“Come and see,” Johnson said. “Come and celebrate Eucharist with us – speak to our communities.”


Women RC Priests: Not A Closed Book

Here we share an article from ChristianToday about the WOW Conference of 9/18-20/2015 and the existence of validly ordained Roman Catholic women priests. We are here and there is HOPE.

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Pope Francis says it’s a closed book, but some Catholic women are getting ordained anyway

Florence Taylor JUNIOR STAFF WRITER 18 September 2015

A Catholic organisation advocating women’s ordination has organised a conference days before Pope Francis is due to speak in Philadelphia.

The Roman Catholic Church holds that Priesthood is a role solely to be held by men, however there is a growing movement of Roman Catholic women who would beg to differ.
Women Ordination Worldwide are seeking to work within the Catholic Church for women’s rights and ordination

While Pope Francis has been lauded as progressive in many respects, his treatment of women is his ‘blind spot’, according to Miriam Duignan a leader of The Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW).

Their conference has been scheduled just before the World Meeting of Families, where Pope Francis is speaking, to make it a “call to action for Catholics and to get Francis’ attention”. “We want more Catholics to see women’s rights as a justice issue,” she said.

The Pope has said the topic of ordination of women is a closed book.

“I readily acknowledge that many women share pastoral responsibilities with priests, helping to guide people, families and groups and offering new contributions to theological reflection,” the Pope wrote in in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.

Despite this, he maintains that “The reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion.”

Women are told they cannot be priests because they do not physically resemble Christ and therefore cannot stand on the altar to represent Him to the Church.

WOW says that the denial of female priesthood on physical grounds is damaging.

“Why can’t women be priests? Because you failed to meet the selection criteria of God because you are a man,” said Duignan.

“We cannot allow this to continue to be said to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world.”

Women are often told that if they feel they are called to priesthood, they are in fact discerning wrongly, she added.

This position is inherited from the Pope’s predecessors. In 1994 John Paul II declared that any woman who sought ordination would be excommunicated. Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ruled that the teaching on an exclusively male priesthood had been “set forth infallibly.”

The Catholic Church teaches that it has no authority to allow women to become priests because Jesus Christ willingly chose only men as his apostles when he instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper.

Proponents of a female priesthood say Jesus Christ was only acting according to the customs of his times.

One group that is part of the conference has taken matters into their own hands; Roman Catholic Womanpriests is a group which has ordained 188 women into priesthood.

Caryl Johnson calls herself a priest, but technically she was excommunicated when she was ordained by Roman Catholic Womanpriests.

Johnson said she struggled for more than three decades with the ban on female ordination. She tried to do all that she could within the limitations set on women in the Catholic Church, but she said it was not enough.

“I had a decision to make,” said Johnson. “Am I going to follow the spirit of God and do what God asks no matter what the cost? Or am I going to follow a rule?”

The attempted ordination of a woman was determined a “grave crime” officially by the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict and results in excommunication.

Although officially no longer part of the Roman Catholic Church, women such as Johnson are keen to keep their Catholic identity and are fighting for mainstream ordination simultaneously.

“You are born into Catholic faith – it is such a strong faith wrapped up in identity and culture that it isn’t just a matter of boycotting it” in order to move forward, according to Duignan.

“It is a very powerful church and a very powerful message – I cannot, as someone who loves my church and cares deeply about the treatment of women, stay silent.

“You cannot work towards equality whilst allowing the world’s largest faith to say that women are misbegotten males.”

While critiquing Pope Francis’ approach to women, Duignan said she is hopeful there is potential for progress.

“The good thing is that he does occasionally have these AHA moments when he does change his mind on things. He is often persuaded by a personal encounter.”

Her hope is that he might meet one of the women who feel called to priesthood and see the reality that they would be a “perfect priest who leads people in the divine the way Jesus would have hoped.”

A recent poll by Pew Research Centre found that 58 per cent of Catholics believe the Church should ordain woman. This is in accordance with WOW’s belief that many parishioners believe women should be priests, but do not voice that opinion since it was made an officially banned topic in 1994 by Pope John Paul II.

Although WOW was denied an official seat at the conference, members of WOW will be attending The World Meeting of Families not to protest, Duignan says, but as parishioners who love their church and want to work within it to bring about change.

“We are not a fringe group who are trying to bring down the Catholic Church, we are all part of the Catholic Church.”

The WOW conference entitled ‘Gender, Gospel and Global Justice’ is being held in Philadelphia on 18-20th September.