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

CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 014

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.

tues min 91 004

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

CBS TV Pastors and Pope Francis 002

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  

Anointing the Sickclaire,jb 001

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.

east ord2

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.

Receiving the Little Ones: A RC Woman Priest’s Reflections for the 25th Sunday in OT-9/20/15


“Taking a child, he placed it in their midst and putting his arms around it said to them: ‘Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me,and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me”. (Mark 9:36-37).

How do we draw closer to God? How do we become more like Christ?

The first reading from Wisdom(2:12,17-20) shows that the just one, the one who lives the law of love and justice makes other people very uneasy. The response is to torture that one to see if one who lives for love and justice will break under rejection, torture and threat of a shameful death. The deuterocanonical book of Wisdom was written between 50 and 80 years before Christ was born. It spoke to the difference of Jews adhering to God’s law and pagans or non-believers who felt reproached by them. Matthew, Mark and other Gospel writers also applied this to Jesus who indeed met the fate of the righteous and just one described here. In this passage we are charged to grow close to God by living the law of love and justice as Jews who understood and followed the Law did and as Jesus did. If this sometimes brings us big trouble we are to expect it-we are not embracing popular culture but God’s culture of love and justice. We are to become comfortable in out difference and not conform to those who live for hedonism and pleasure, bring death upon others, oppress the poor and widow, disrespect elders, and live by the slogan “might makes right”. (Wisdom 2:1-11).

In the Epistle of James (the brother of Jesus and the bishop of the church in Jerusalem) we read that to follow Christ ambition and selfish desires must be put aside.  We need to live for God’s passion, not our own passions that serve the self first. Disorder,discord and all that is evil result when ambition trumps service even in the church. Pope Francis has gone far to challenge the church to return to humility and service of the poor and outcast. This week, regarding the flood of Syrian refugees into Europe, Pope Francis challenged religious institutions to take in these strangers fleeing for their lives and religious freedom.  He went so far as to say that if the religious institutions would rather make money using their premises as hotels and had no room for the refugees, they should pay state taxes. They do not deserve church exemptions because they are not doing what church does. ( In the book of Acts it is noted that there were no poor or needy because those with money sold off their property and shared with the poor.)  He is showing the church and the world how to get closer to God-live God’s law of love and justice. Receive the little ones, including the strangers in your midst. I have no doubt that Francis has angered many powerful in the Church and in the world. This week as he visits both Cuba and the USA he will no doubt upset more of the rich and the powerful. He may fall in popularity and favor with the powerful, but he will show us how to live love and justice, to live the Gospel.

In the Gospel (Mark 9:30-37) Jesus is revealing the truth of Wisdom 2-he lives and teaches love and justice completely and he will meet the fate of those righteous/just ones who live love. Moreover, they will kill him, but the grave won’t hold him-he will rise in three days. The disciples do not yet get that Jesus’ Way will lead to rejection and punishment by those who are in power for their very power base is challenged. Might does not make right but right living draws us close to God. The discussion in Mark 9 where the disciples vie for power and rewards is to say they still do not get it. So Jesus tries again to help them understand the role of those chosen to bear the Gospel is not to become Number One but to take the last seat in the assembly and to serve all. It can’t be much clearer than that.

But, Jesus gives them still another example of what is needed. The example of Jesus receiving/welcoming the children is an object lesson. If you want to draw close to God and to Jesus the Christ then welcome those who have the least power in this world. This includes children and a host of people living in bare subsistence and poverty as well as those who are overlooked and marginalized for a variety of reasons dealing with ethno and egocentrism, prejudice and discrimination. When we receive these little ones we welcome Christ and we welcome God.  We draw close to God. In essence, we take the little ones off the cross and are willing to carry it ourselves.

Let us consider hungry children and individuals to take only one example from today’s world (2012-2014 statistics from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization) )- 805 million people out of the world population of 7.3 billion or one out of nine are suffering from chronic undernourishment. million children die of malnutrition annually. Poverty is the greatest cause of hunger. In most nations those at the top live and eat well and those, (the great majority) at the bottom struggle with hunger and its ramifications in poor health and death. Over 1 billion people in developing countries live,or barely live, on less than 1.25 a day. ( In the USA,48.1 million or one in seven struggle with hunger. Fourteen per cent of American households experience food insecurity. Seventeen.two million and 20 % of America’s children don’t know where their next meal is coming from. (Feeding America, Elaine Waxman, Report from Urban  While many churches and non-profits do work hard at feeding the poor directly and others of all religions tithe to give to the poor, many simply grow bigger, grander and fatter while children go hungry. Pope Francis has clearly become today’s moral compass for those who think they are close to God in their prosperity while their neighbors go hungry. In a recent prayer from the Vatican he said:

“God of love, show us our place in this world as channels of your love for all the creatures of this earth, for not one of them is forgotten in your sight. Enlighten those who possess power and money that they may avoid the sin of indifference, that they may love the common good, advance the weak, and care for this world in which we live.  the poor and the earth are crying out. O Lord, seize us with your power and light, help us to protect all life….”

Pope Francis is simply saying what Jesus said in today’s context.  “Receive, welcome these little ones”. Receive them in Baptism, receive them at the Table. Take them in your arms. Feed them. DSCF0802 Notice in Mark 9:36, Jesus takes the child in his arms and then teaches us about receiving the little ones that brings us close to him and to the One who sent him.  We are not only to give our Peter’s pence we are to embrace and to love in very real ways. This is the picture of God’s love for all little ones, all who have no power or money in this world-they are in God’s arms, and we are to open our own arms in a similar way to draw close to them and also to God. This will be our joy and reward, closeness with God’s people and closeness with God. How beautiful is that! Amen.

Brenda, formerly homeless and full of faith and joy is baptized. DSCF0822PDSCF0798DSCF0799

IMG_0141IMG_0015DSCF0124IMG_0139IMG_0131Blessing and feeding the children.

The Moral Clarity Of Pope Francis: From The New Yorker-James Carroll 9/16/15

This is an in-depth and astute analysis by James Carroll of the New Yorker.  I am with James Carroll here although I do begin with God comfortably, and not my ability to think which follows.  I am very thankful for Pope Francis’ moral leadership at such a dark time in human history. The only thing I would add to it is that given his challenging clarity on priority on the poor, shelter for immigrants and refugees, a humble priesthood, the sacred nature of all of creation including mother earth, and the stance of not judging the GLBT community, there are only two lacks. First, not to judge is not the same as challenging church doctrine on the GLBT community where “disordered” is still taught and believed. And, while Pope Francis praises the abilities of women, if women cannot be ordained to meet the call of God to priestly vocation, and the needs of a failing church still losing people by the droves,and to reach out to the poor and outcast it is the Church and the people that continue to suffer. For the life of the Church and the life of the world,I hope that he will add real moral clarity on women to his impressive guidance,including accepting women’s ordination.

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

Pastor, Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers



SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

What to Make of Pope Francis Now?

Under Francis, the Catholic Church continues its slow march toward modernity.

As Pope Francis heads to Cuba and the United States this month, with an itinerary that includes visits to the Castros, the U.S. Congress, the White House, the United Nations General Assembly, and a major Catholic convocation in Philadelphia, the measure of his accomplishments and further promise remains confused. Is he a radical or merely a liberal? Does he seek to revise Church dogma—to bring it in line with some ethical ideal—or to formulate a pastoral response that is rooted in reality, and that leaves the institution unchanged? Among Roman Catholics, conservatives emphasize that, for all the hoopla about gays, divorce, women, and dogs going to heaven, he is not changing Church doctrine. Liberals, on the other hand, recognize in him a longed-for reformer of Vatican corruptions and cruelties. In the secular world, where his reach is astonishing, he is celebrated as a prophet of compassion and economic justice, even as his stern pronouncements on climate change, global capitalism, the plight of migrants, and a host of other issues are dismissed as lacking “practical strategies for a fallen world,” as David Brooks put it in the Times.

The prevailing commentary so emphasizes the once-unimagined uniqueness of Francis that the larger and longer context of his arrival goes unrecognized: the real meaning of this surprising Pope is being missed. Rather than seeing him as a cult-worthy personality who represents something wholly new in Catholicism, it is better to understand Francis, even in his stylistic deviations, as the culmination of a slow, if jerky, recovery on the part of the Church from its self-defeating rejection of modernity.

That process began centuries ago. Galileo Galilei may seem like the ghost of another era, but by Catholicism’s slow-ticking clock he was alive practically yesterday. When Rome’s inquisitors condemned the seventeenth-century astronomer to house arrest, declaring him a heretic for his support of heliocentrism, the Church imprisoned itself in the preference of abstract ideology over testable experience—of what could be read in Scripture over what could be glimpsed through a telescope. In effect, Galileo had said that if hard data contradicted doctrine, then doctrine must be reinterpreted. By the twentieth century, the Church’s rejection of modernism—not only scientific thinking but also democratic liberalism, pluralism, and individual rights—had become so rigid that it was bound to crack, and crack it did.

With the Second Vatican Council, which lasted from 1962 to 1965, the Church began the process of leaving behind the most egregious of its dogmatisms—like the notion that there was no salvation outside Catholicism. Inevitably, there was pushback, embodied most notably in the Vatican’s condemnation of birth control, in 1968; in the words of one dissenting cardinal, this was “another Galileo affair.” But the Catholic reconciliation of oppositions between reason and faith, between change and tradition, between freedom of conscience and magisterial imperative, moved inexorably forward, driven mainly by the common sense and moral independence of the Catholic people. They found ways of affirming the faith—loyally attending Mass, for instance—even as Church authority was hollowed out and the clerical culture disgraced itself.

Ultimately, the new thinking had an effect even on conservative figures in the hierarchy, including Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The former apologized (more than three hundred and fifty years after the fact) for the denunciation of Galileo, and he was a champion of the Jewish people, advancing reforms that, implicitly, at least, involved the most radical transformation of theology in Christian history. The latter, although he railed against “the dictatorship of relativism”—the abandonment of absolute standards of thought and conduct—actually relativized the absolute claims of the papacy by resigning his office, conduct that itself upended how the Vatican is perceived. Francis’s two reactionary predecessors, in other words, prepared his way. True, the power of his presence in the Church and the world is a function of his magnetic temperament, his wily use of the levers of governance, and his uncanny sense of word and gesture. But that Francis is one of a kind achieves its potency only when joined to his being part of a larger historical current.

To those, both inside and outside the Church, who want less talk of ultimate justice and more talk of immediate policy—less mercy, more moralism—the Pope gave his answer early on. “The structural and organizational reforms are secondary,” he told an interviewer in 2013. “The first reform must be the attitude.” Pay attention to what’s really going on with people; begin there and change will follow. The recent breathtaking papal call to the Catholic parishes, monasteries, and convents of Europe to warmly receive migrant families—a practical strategy if ever there was one—did not come out of thin air. It was anticipated by the reform of attitude that Francis began, two years ago, with his prophetic journey to Lampedusa, the Mediterranean island on which many thousands of refugees have been landing. (One can’t help but ask what would have happened, in 1943, if Pope Pius XII had similarly instructed every Catholic parish in Europe to take in a Jewish family.) And as Francis demonstrated earlier this month in his surprisingly compassionate statement about abortion—an acknowledgment of “the agonizing and painful” decisions involved in a woman’s choice—his starting point is affirmation, not condemnation. A large-hearted feel for moral complexity trumps the narrow-minded moral rigidity that has mostly been the mark of Church responses. This shift in attitude is more than the mark of a nice man, and it has been a long time coming.
If Francis is not expressly overturning Church doctrines or the structures of the world economy, he is certainly overturning how Catholics think of doctrine and how savage global inequality must be regarded—the reform of attitude in religion and politics both. But attitude is defined, above all, by vantage point. “You have to start from the ground up,” Francis said in the same 2013 interview. This amounts to a watchword for a Pope who looks at power from below, and it explains his unrelenting emphasis on the poor. Doctrine and policy—the indissolubility of marriage, say, or cap-and-trade approaches to pollution control—must be evaluated, first, by their impact on the vast population of men, women, and children who have been tossed onto the garbage heap of history. What are the abstractions of religion and politics actually doing to people?

Starting from the ground up implies a clear preference for experience over dogma. Whether consciously or not, Francis upholds the revolutionary principle that has gripped the Western mind since the Enlightenment—that the human project begins not in divine dictate (“In the beginning, God…”) but in self-awareness (“I think, therefore I am”). Ethical insight opens onto theological insight, not the other way around. The perception, for example, of the goodness of a person who happens to be gay suggests that the creator of that good person does not condemn him. Therefore, so famously: Who am I to judge?

Galileo was right, but his insight extends well beyond the solar system. Hard data—migrants washing up on the shores of an amoral capitalism, the planet laid waste, wives trapped by the rules that tie them to abusive husbands, the evident connection between gender equality and justice for all—requires the reinterpretation of traditional beliefs, religious and secular both. In the various spheres within which Francis operates, experience over ideology means, yes, doctrinal change, economic reform, political transformation. Whether or not such change, reform, and transformation actually follow from the Pope’s advocacy, and whether or not he himself would specifically affirm them, he is pointing to a hopeful future. Practical strategies for a fallen world begin with moral clarity. In offering it, Pope Francis is helping his Church come of age at last.

Second Call: A Roman Catholic Woman Priest Considers Discipleship-Homily 24th Sun OT-9/13/15

“Jesus summoned the crowd and the disciples and said, ‘If you wish to come after me, you must deny your very self, take up your cross and follow in my footsteps’” (Mark 8:34, TIB The Inclusive Bible).

“Okay then” as my foster son Marley used to say mocking Pet Detective Ace Ventura in a slow questioning voice when reckoning with a hard truth, actually meaning “let’s head for the hills.” I can still hear him at eleven, at fourteen, and in his thirties and see his face as he says it. Sometimes it was said when homework was due greater consideration, sometimes when reprimanded, sometimes when things did not turn out the way he initially envisioned it, sometimes when he himself discovered daunting effort was needed in sports or doing a job.  He then had to make up his mind if that effort would be given.  In today’s Gospel (Mark 8:7-25) we have an “okay then” Scripture. And in the Hebrew Scripture of the day we do as well, Isaiah 50:4-9 is part of the prophet as “suffering servant“ writings. And the Epistle of James (2:14-18) reminds us that if good deeds/works do not go with faith, faith is dead.

Today we have a group of hard scriptures-hard if one envisions life without suffering and hard selfless work.  Hard if we see faith as a form of religious ecstasy or self- gratification.  Hard if it is about saving myself and not necessarily others. Hard if we have been faithful in living the Gospel of love and justice and are tired from the many efforts, only some fruitful, that this implies. I can identify with this last level of hardness telling God that I am tired and need a rest from service, and I can even sometimes hear God responding: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden”. True, but I would sure like that rose garden!

In the Markian Gospel , Jesus is telling Peter and his other disciples, and I bet Mary of Magdala and several women were there too, “the Promised One had to suffer much, be rejected…be put to death, and rise again three days later. Jesus said these things quite openly.”(Mark 8:31-32 TIB).  Now, some of today’s scholars think that Jesus did not say this –how could he predict his own death?  Certainly, they reason, this is not in oral tradition, Mark is putting this on Jesus lips some 35 years later knowing about the Cross. Well, ask Martin Luther King, Jr. how he knew he would not get to the promised land? For he said “I may not get there with you…” Ask Nelson Mandela if he knew he would be jailed and tortured.  When one knows that one has been prophetic enough to totally aggravate the powers that be- civil and religious, it is not a big jump to know the consequences and the likelihood of sustaining them. Jesus knew the world of Roman occupied Judea, he knew that people who offended Rome and the religious hierarchy hung on crosses and died in torturous public humiliation.  Peter, in faith, had just identified Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Promised One, but he was not willing or ready to think of the costs of such a job description and how this may end. He began to rebuke Jesus for saying this, probably wanting a happy ending with all his heart. But for Jesus, who still had to remain faithful to his calling and take on the powers that be, Peter was only a hindrance at that moment to Jesus, and his sense of what Jesus should be was a deception.  (Jesus called him Satan, which in Aramaic simply means deceiver, hindrance, not another-worldly force).  This is the same deception Christians tell themselves and others when they preach Christ without a cross, and discipleship without the hard work of loving until it hurts and then some, and seeking justice when there is none to be found. One of my dear friends, a religious Sister from Australia introduced me to the concept of “an airy fairy God”. She served mentally ill homeless women at home and could not envision a Christian life without selfless service-she said often that she cannot believe in “airy fairy theology”. We got along well because neither could I.  Peter was happy with the Jesus who was a great orator, teacher and healer, a wonder- worker. He was not happy with the Jesus who gave it all away, including his very life.

We are having an adult baptism this week at Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community.  Brenda, in her fifties, is a woman who has faced many challenges in life. She had epilepsy and was in Special Education. She was rejected by family for some of the early choices she made and trouble she got into, and reconciliation barely came before both parents died earlier this year. She has been serially homeless and grieving her many losses. Yet, Brenda is a woman of strong faith that ultimately gets her through a disproportionate amount of hard times. She feels connected to Jesus who ,as she says, “suffered lots more than I did or ever will”  She feels loved by God and beloved in her church. Church is home for her. She has been part of our church since we met in the park in 2007. She moved out of Lee County and we still remained in contact. Finally after many more trials in life she came back to Fort Myers and to our church last March. Although homeless once again, having lost everything except her little dog, she simply announced: “I’m home”.  Once housed she became our greatest ambassador, bringing many others young and old to church. She also helps to shepherd our littlest kids on Sunday, coloring with them and sharing stories from a children’s Bible. Her prayers each Sunday moved many to tears in their depth and compassion for others. It did not dawn on me that she had never been baptized, but a few months ago she came to me and asked if she could be baptized. She wants to be part of our Church and she wants to be strengthened in following Christ. I truly believe that she does know what this means.

The words of James 2: 16 hit me like a ton of bricks this week when I had to tell some callers who wanted financial help to be saved from eviction the equivalent of “we don’t have it, good-bye and good luck”.  We had just been through another costly save from homelessness for a family of seven reduced to living in a rented van so money to help was low, but I am putting down my cross if I don’t find some way to help. For the cross we carry in Good Shepherd Ministries is the cross of the poor and all it entails. Jesus challenges us: “take up your cross and follow in my footsteps”-show by your love and service to whom you belong. There are crosses of illness and troubled relationships and personal crosses that only you can define that you must take up  to do the work of the Gospel, the work of love and inclusion as Jesus did. This also means for all of us, not just clergy or religious, to take up the cross of the poor, the outcast, the marginalized and the hated.  Identify those issues of injustice that are close to you, in your community, and in our world, homelessness, hunger, blatant discrimination in the world and in the church against the gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered people and the still second class citizenship and objectification of women, the plight of the immigrant and refugee, and take up that cross. Taking up the cross means “do something about it, from the gifts God has given you, do something about it!

So in today’s Gospel, Jesus is patiently giving those who would follow him a second call. It was great to be called by Jesus at the seashore, to respond to Jesus’ wonders of a full net of fish, but that entailed no hard work or disillusion. Sure we had to leave our fishing job behind, but that was a hard job and following this charismatic teacher is exciting and probably much easier! Wrong! So Jesus calls again, more explicitly-“Okay then, it’s going to be very hard work to live the law of love, inclusion and justice, it’s going to be hard work to forgive those who take advantage of you and hurt you even as you try to help them, it’s going to be exhausting and endless. It’s going to be hard to put God’s work first and your wants second. You are not going to be loved for your risk taking and your efforts to change the status quo and it can lead to your own suffering as you try.   But, you belong to me, you belong to God, I’m calling you to do it so God’s kin(g)dom may reign in this world.” Wow!

Let us pray: Jesus, thank you for calling us again. We hear you. Help us to follow you wherever that leads and no matter how hard it may be. Help us to put God’s Kin(g)dom first and our own lives second. Fill us with your Spirit so we can respond to your call with our eyes wide open.  Fill us with your love so we can love as you do. “ Amen.

                  DSCF0543Have a blessed Baptism, Brenda! IMG_0129 Welcome Aboard!                      

Good Shepherd MembersTaking up the Cross IMG_0728