I have begun to see my life in times and places, roles and functions,and relationships, in periods of time- as the beginning, the middle and the end. The beginning was my first 43 years in New York. A time of firsts, first loves, first jobs, first careers. A time of family and relationships that remain strong. The middle was my fourteen years in Connecticut, a time of productivity, changes, and great learning and special relationships. I wrote my first major text The Empowerment Approach to Social Work Practice while there and revised it in Florida adding “Building the Beloved Community” to the title. It is still going fairly strong in the field. And now, I am in Florida, and have been for 17 years. It is a time of amazing growth and consolidation, of new and old callings fulfilled and of pulling it all together, if that is possible. And in that spirit I realized that I need to reclaim the middle most of all at this time.
When I was a Masters of Social Work student at Columbia University, in the beginning and not the middle of my life, I had a most gifted teacher, William Schwartz, Bill, as he preferred to be known was a brilliant thinker, writer and teacher. Students hung on his every word. One of the things he asked us to do was to pay attention to the beginnings and end of encounters with people in groups or as individuals. He said the middle was not as important. When we wrote Process Recordings for his class, he wanted a verbatim account of all of it, but focused more on the skills of contracting at the beginning and where it stood as the encounter ended, how we wound it up. I have kept up with some of my Columbia friends , but most are gone now, along with Bill. My dear friend Dr. Alex Gitterman, whom I met at Colombia in the early 70’s, and I have kept up over the years. and he is still teaching at UConn and carrying on and developing the tradition we learned and elaborated on so long ago with Bill as our mentor. I am so thankful that he is a part of my beginnings and the middle and the now.
But now, as I look back and continue to move forward with my life, I will do what I did respectfully several times with Bill, say that I think he was wrong. This was never easy to do as he was so brilliant everything sounded right and he certainly was sure about it. But as I grew older in life and in the profession I developed my own wisdom and tested it out. Middles are important, dear Bill. They are the heart of the “work phase” and though quite messy very often, they are filled with what you call “real” emotions and events. They are worth staying with in practice and in life. I know that Bill would agree with that, despite his emphasis on beginnings and ends. But I guess I learned his lessons too well because I recently took stock of my life and the relationships that were important to me and also my self identity and I saw that I worked hard at maintaining early relationships and held on tight to what is here for me now, in what i call an ending phase of life, although I expect it has a while to go. And somehow, unintentionally, I let the middle drop out of my grasp. Yet, I am blessed because I did not let go completely and neither did my beloved friends of those middle years, many of whom were connected to the University of Connecticut School of Social Work where I was a Professor of Social Work for fourteen years.
I did take my “middles” with me of course as Judy Beaumont and I met while we both served the homeless community in Hartford in 1987 and we have been living and serving together for 25 years now. Both Judy and I had things to leave behind in our professional worlds, we were each ready to move on and so the move to Florida in 1998 opened new doors for us. But the goodness we left behind in our work and in our relationships were put on a “back burner” as we coped and adapted in Fort Myers.
I realize now that I was in a process of laying one profession down to pick up another. In the end I have kept both as being a priest and a pastor demands all of the social work and counseling skills I ever taught or used. Both professions demand your all although “pastoring” is truly more 24-7. Yes, I got up at 2 AM the other day to comfort a woman who was in the hospital and quite scared of a blood transfusion. And of those dear people from the middle of my life, when I was ordained in Boston in 2008, I was delighted to look up in that beautiful liturgical ceremony and see Ruth Martin,her daughter, also my student, Valerie Martin, and Jean Low and her mother,Ruth Low, and Nelly Rojas Schwan and others from my St. Michael parish in Hartford, reaching out to bless me in the laying on of hands. Thanks be to God that we were able to pick up our special relationships from there. It was Nelly who helped me in my role as Program Coordinator for those candidates coming to the Roman Catholic Women Priests from South America, Colombia in particular. She helped with support and also translation and was there beside me as I preached my first sermon in Spanish in Bogota, Colombia.Since then all of us and dear Virginia Starkie who facilitated my work as a Professor in so many ways and Gail Bourdon, then a religious Sister and my student and friend and then co-worker in work with the homeless women and children at My Sister’s Place have kept in touch, but not very well, alas- not as well as we would have liked but we held on to one another as we each scaled life’s vicissitudes. I was there to “MC” and to read a poem I wrote for Ruth at her retirement as Associate Dean of the School of Social Work. We also visited when she still had a home in Tampa, but I had not seen her since she established a magnificent home in Hartford’s Historical District with her daughters, Valerie, Sonia and Maxine all talented and accomplished women. Ruth, or Dr. Ruth as we call her, wrote a wonderful review of my book 1185 St. Mark’s in its original version. (It is now expanded and called The House on Sunny Street….). Jean and her Mom exchanged happy visits with us in Connecticut and Florida. The loss of Ruth Low was a very hard one indeed. When Jean started “RV-ing” she made it here as well. I was delighted when she and her cousin Bob Low came in March of this year and stayed for a good while as the RV was repaired. I knew then that the middles were also in the now. I purposed to get back to Connecticut to see all of our friends there as soon as possible. Nelly’s loss of her beloved husband Hubert quite suddenly in July, prompted me to find a way to do this.
I realize now that I was too eager to put the political struggles of Academia behind me-to get away from the unpleasant difficulties that develop when everyone is right about something and no one is right about all of it, but some see only one path and believe all should walk on it. While at UConn Carel Germain, a gentle and elegant human being and thinker and theoretician of the best quality, was my motivating force. She “brought me aboard” and we stood side by side and loved our time together. She was my dearest friend and a mentor. I could tolerate the political fray while she was there. When she retired then passed on, I think I just gave up the struggle. I developed no patience with this process that repeated itself in every institution. ( I was also at Colombia and NYU and later at Florida Gulf Coast University. My academic career was a good one, productive and exciting for the most part and it spanned 27 years. I loved the students and teaching and writing, but hated the “politics”.). And so, I know now, that I precipitously laid down Social Work education with a loud thud when I ran out of energy for “academia” when I was 55 ! I wanted to continue my social work practice as I had always done, I wanted to expand it, and I was drawn to a spiritual level of being and working with,ministering to and with people that was pastoral. I first felt this call to being a pastor as a child, and I never could leave God and faith out of helping others as i was originally taught in social work. (It is a bit better now on that score with the work of Edward Canda and others). It was in 1982 while I taught at NYU that I also began my “voluntary” work in the NYC Shelters for women. I put voluntary in quotes as I strongly felt called by God to work with the homeless on any level possible. I found myself praying with women who clutched worn Bibles and rosaries in their shelter beds as well as offering all of the social work services possible. This has continued to the present time and it is no wonder to me that now I include the Sacramental level of serving as a Roman Catholic validly ordained, and excommunicated, priest. Our Good Shepherd Ministry where Judy Beaumont and I are both ordained co-pastors has roots that go way back to the beginnings and middles of both of our lives.
I have been in Florida for seventeen years now and somehow despite the varied directions we have moved in those dear ones from “the middle” have come through for me and stuck with me over the time and distance. My recent visit to Connecticut on my way to the Priestly Retreat in Stony Point, New York was a very important one for me as it helped me to put the middles back in my life. I was truly warmed by the rekindled flames of relationships and the chance to put my time at UConn into perspective. It was very good to meet with Dr. Nina Heller now the Dean at UConn. We talked about issues then that are non issues now. We laughed about a good deal and she reminded me that it was I who “brought her abroad”. I said that was indeed one of the best things I had done while there. As I talked with Nina and Alex and walked through the halls where I taught for 14 years meeting some of my old colleagues and the new Doctoral students I had the same feeling of remembering who I am that I had at the IASWG (Group Work) Conference in 2013. Then I gave a keynote honoring the life of Dr. Katy Papell, my first in many years, while i used to give the keynote frequently, especially to tell about Jane Addams and her influence on the profession and on me. In that time some like joe Lassner of Chicago and Jim Garland of Boston, called me “Our Jane Addams in modern times”-but these are post-modern times now. I was so happy to be able to do that for Katy who passed over a year later. And I was thoroughly moved by the reception I had as “one of the greats” according to introductions and the many that greeted me afterward. I had not thought of myself that way. One doesn’t in the midst of things. But with grace I accepted that my time and leadership in IASWG had been good. And, I missed the group, many of whom were now gone. Alex stood with me then too and we missed our colleagues and friends together. Alex has been a friend from the beginnings until now and I am so grateful for this continuity and love. Here are the pictures of reclaiming my “middles”, my place in the profession of Social Work, and a part of myself laid aside and now taken up again with this visit to Connecticut. .
We loved visiting with Jean and her Bonnie
Judy Beaumont and her friend,peace activist colleague and former Co-Worker at My Sister’s Place, Jackie Allen, meet outside of the Catholic Worker House in Hartford. This House is a cross between a Dorothy Day Worker House and a Settlement House. Jackie and her family live there and so do others and some of the poor folks who have knocked on the door. Our sister Priest from Colombia, Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia was especially happy to visit the Worker House and see St. Michael Parish in the North End where Father Al Jaenicke, of truly blessed memory especially on All Saints Day, inspired our ministry with the poor and African Americans. Marina Teresa who is dedicated to the Afro-Clombiano Community in Cali was also happy to meet with Dr. Ruth Martin, leader and elder in the black community in Hartford.
Here is Virginia Starkie with Dr. Ruth. Virginia , our wonderful support staff, was one we could not have done without. She just retired two years ago and is now 88. We met for dinner at the home of Dr. Nelly Rojas Schwan (standing next to Rvda. Marina Teresa with Judy B., Dr. Gail Bourdon, Virginia and Dr. Ruth and Jean seated).
We are blessed to be at the table together in a eucharistic moment, one of thanksgiving and praise to God who brought us all together again after many years. I was honored to bless the food for the strength of our bodies and our friendships for the strength of our souls. I believe that we all left there with a renewed spirit of love, compassion and service.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Friday, October 30, 2015
“Cincinnati Nun Excommunicated After admitting Illegal Priestly Ordination”, by Elizabeth A. Elliott, National Catholic Reporter
We are pleased and grateful to present here two homilies for All Saints Day, my own and Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle’s of the Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Toledo, Ohio.
Rev. Judy’s Homily
This Saturday Hallow’een is celebrated and it leads us into the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints Day on Sunday. Hallow’een means Holy evening when the church prays for all departed souls. The praying for our loved ones is a welcome remembrance of them and a sense of their existence beyond the grave. But for children, eerie ghosts and friendly and not so friendly pumpkins as well as downright scary costumes heighten a sense of questionable comfort with the dead. Mexico with its happy and playful Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations conveys cultural comfort and acceptance of death as part of life. Yet, I loved Halloween as a child and had only a vague sense of its religious significance. It was a day when children could have fun dressing up and also “beg” for “treats” including apples, candies and coins, a special joy in a poor neighborhood. Only as I grew older did I grow to appreciate praying for the dead and celebrating the sainthood of ordinary people as well as extraordinary people throughout the ages. It is so precious to me to get together with friends and family members who live far away, to preserve and rekindle those precious ties. But for those who have died, prayer can unite us with them in forever love and care. I deeply miss many saints who have gone before, including my own grandmother Ella, and mother, Anne, and my mother-in-law (Ngut Gue Lee) who bore much pain and adversity with strong and wonderful faith and sweet, sweet spirit. I think of my friend Barbara’s grandmother, Hattie Ballard, who did the same with the added burden of discrimination to balance yet she raised her son’s family as my grandmother raised me- to know God. I think of living Grandparents, Godparents, and other holy people in our church like Grandma Jolinda Harmon and her daughter Linda Maybin and Phyllis Williams and Harry Lee Gary who carry huge families and much illness and laugh to keep from crying but bring their families to church, bring them not send them to God. I think of my co-pastor Judy Beaumont who has served always bearing at one point one cancer after another, three in all, and other illnesses. I think of my Pastors, David and Melvin and Virginia and Al and Angelo and fellow church members who kept the faith when discrimination,hatred, doubt and many evils might have pulled them away. I know that they are with us still. Prayer can remind us that we are part of a “communion of saints” throughout time, a “cloud of witnesses” who point us to the faith and hold us to the love of God in Christ. And as we are witnesses to their journeys they are also witnesses to our own.
The first reading for Sunday from Revelation (7:2-4,9-14) is rich with symbolism known to people of the day probably 81-96 CE or A.D.( after the death of Christ.) Christians were living under the cruel domination of the Roman Emperor Domitian who demanded that he be addressed as “Lord and God”. Those who refused to do this were threatened, exiled and put to death. This book(the Revelation of John) was a call to the persecuted that God still reigns supreme, and Christ is alive forever, death did not hold him. “Praise and glory….power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!” The saints who endured persecution continued to praise God. Indeed it is an essence of sainthood to praise God in great adversity. While Jesus’ disciples often did not “get it” and sometimes denied and betrayed him, all but John also died a martyr’s death as did unnamed millions throughout the ages. They have much to teach us as do modern day saints like Martin Luther King, Jr., Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day and the millions unnamed who lived the faithful life of working for love, justice and inclusion. For those who live for justice no matter the cost with little reward I John 3:1-3 offers explanation: “The reason the world does not recognize us is that it never recognized God”. Selah-pause and think that over. We are also assured that we are children of God. The Beatitudes Jesus gives in Matthew 5:1-12 tells us that we are blessed, happy, and indeed, congratulated by Jesus when we keep the faith in humility and in poverty, when we are gentle, and merciful. These Be-attitudes are the attitudes that make for sainthood. We are also congratulated, encouraged and happy when we live our lives as justice seekers and peace makers. I see the Beatitudes of Christ as be-attitudes and actions that lead to fulfillment of our purposes on earth -to bring in the kin(g)dom of God where ALL may live and be and be happy. Finally in the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that we are to be congratulated and blessed when we are persecuted for “righteousness sake”, “persecuted for their struggle for justice” . And here I think of our Roman Catholic women priests and the men and women who support us. I reiterate to those who get mired down and stuck in outdated church traditions that don’t recognize the sanctity of all lives, including women, gays and those on the LGBTQT spectrum: God still reigns and Christ lives and includes all of God’s children always and in all ways.
I think especially of Rev. Sister Tish Rawles the gentle woman of conscience written of in earlier blogs, who dared accept her call to the priesthood and is now dismissed from the only family she has known for 47 years as a religious sister, her community of Sisters. I pray for this living saint who is in need of appropriate housing and health care. Let us remember the saints on Sunday, the living and those gone before. Let us take strength from their courage and steadfastness. Let us pray for them, and ask them to pray for us.
Rev. DR. Judy Lee, RCWP-US-East
Co-Pastor of the Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Bev’s Homily
Blessed are the poor in spirit, our gospel says.
The modern translation would read like this:
Congratulations, you who are poor! the reign of God is here!
Right here, right now.
Congratulations, you who mourn!
God is with you!
Congratulations, you who hunger and thirst for justice!
God is on your side!
Good news, indeed, for the people Jesus talked to… and for us.
Those beatitudes, scholars tell us,
are very close to what Jesus actually said.
In the Gospel of Thomas, which predates the canonical gospels, Jesus says:
The kin-dom of God will not come by watching for it.
It will not be said, “Look here!” or “Look there!”
Rather, the kin-dom of God is spread out upon the earth,
and people don’t see it.
The Gospel of Luke repeats that same saying.
So Jesus challenged
both the apocalyptic and the nationalist expectations
of John the Baptist and of other prophets of the time.
In short, Jesus said, God—
not the government, not the rich,
not the corrupt religious leaders—
God is already in charge.
But Jesus’ sense of God’s reign was often lost on his followers.
The gospels show them as understanding him poorly.
Mark softens Jesus’ ideas—he writes
blessed are the poor in spirit
instead of just blessed are the poor—
probably, scholars say, because Mark’s community is wealthy.
Mark also follows the expectations of the culture
in phrasing the beatitudes
as a promise of reward for virtue in the future
rather than assurance about the reign of God
in the present time.
Not only that, but the kind of people Jesus calls blessed,
the kind of people he congratulates
for their poverty, for their grief, for their hunger for justice—
those folks are not the ones looked up to and rewarded
by the culture they live in.
Theologian Frederick Buechner observes that
“If we didn’t already know
but were asked to guess the kind of people
Jesus would pick out for special commendation,
we might be tempted to guess one sort or another
of spiritual hero—
men and women of impeccable credentials
morally, spiritually, humanly, and every which way.
If so, we would be wrong.”
This week when I was at breakfast at Claver House,
I was especially aware that I was sharing a meal
with people without much money, some without a place to live.
I found out Tuesday that Ned,
a man I’ve talked with every weekday for over a year,
can’t read or write.
I found out that the job he goes to every morning
is hard labor at less than minimum wage,
paid under the table, with no benefits,
and that he did time in Stryker.
But my experience of Ned is
of a man with a sense of humor
and a habit of consideration for his elderly neighbors.
When I look around that room,
I see people who are looked down on by our society.
I see the very people Jesus called blessed—
people living in poverty,
people who grieve the loss of jobs and homes and family,
people oppressed and discriminated against
who hunger for food and justice.
Being recognized as a saint didn’t always mean
that you had to be canonized by a pope.
The first saints were people who died for their faith.
Then people who were examples
of living good lives as followers of Christ
began to be called saints.
The year 973 saw the first recorded evidence
of a pope naming a saint.
Then the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century
set forth the dogma of the communion of saints
and reserved the naming of saints to the pope.
As a result, lots of saints don’t get canonized.
But the sensus fidelium, the sense of the faithful, prevails.
We still, thank God, hear people say about someone,
“What a saint!”
Like the first disciples, we all stumble and bumble through life,
most of the time unaware that we live in the kin-dom of God,
unaware that we live in the midst of a communion of saints.
Not perfect people, but people on the Way,
people doing the best we can,
with what we have,
right where we are.
Thinking about these beatitudes
caused me to take another look at the people in my life.
I have to admit that it’s hard for me to see any saintliness
in some people I’ve known—a short list, but memorable.
And then there are some people who have died,
family members and colleagues and friends,
a longer list of people who did some good stuff in their lives.
And finally, a really long list of people I know who are still here,
living under God’s rule,
friends of God, and prophets,
the holy ones among us.
Every one of you is on that list.
All of these folks—
the saintliest of them as well as the ones
we aren’t able to see the way God sees them—
all of them are part of our church.
When we gather to celebrate Mass,
they’re with us, that communion of saints
that we acknowledge when we profess our faith.
On this All Saints’ Day
we call them to mind in a special way.
Each of you has a slip of paper,
and as you reflect on today‘s celebration
of our communion with all the saints,
please take a minute to write down the names
of the people you would like to remember.
Write down the saints who have died,
and the saintly people still with us,
and any people you have trouble seeing saintliness in.
Then place them on the altar as a reminder to all of us
that we are not alone
and we are not a small group.
We are, as the book of Revelation puts it,
“an immense crowd without number,
from every nation, tribe, people, and language.”
We live, right here and right now, in God’s kin-dom,
a true communion of saints.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006
Thanks be to God for the Saints among us!
YOU CAN HELP: SIGN THIS PETITION From Groundswell….Use link below- click or cut and paste and click:
POPE FRANCIS-REINSTATE FIRED NUN
of 200 signatures
TO: POPE FRANCIS
” I lift my eyes to the mountains-from where will my help come? My help comes from YHWH who made heaven and earth! YHWH will not let our footsteps slip;our Guardian never sleeps….YHWH guards our leaving and our coming back,now and forever” (Psalm 121:1-3;8).
Stony Point New York is a long way from Fort Myers, Florida and an even longer way from Cali, Colombia where temperate warm green climates prevail. There is no crisp autumn air or deeply colored autumn leaves in our home towns. Yet from Friday October 23 – Sunday October 25th Stony Point Conference Center was the most beautiful golden and red home for the members and friends of RCWP-USA-East including Roman Catholic Women Priests Maria Teresa Sanchez Mejia, Judy Lee and Judy Beaumont who were welcomed into membership by the group. RCWP-USA-East gathered for a renewal and retreat centered on the theme of “:Pastoring” led by Rev. Ellie Stratton, a Presbyterian Pastor and Retreat Leader from Pennsylvania. And it gathered to welcome its newest members, Marina Teresa, Judy Beaumont and me, Judy Lee, and three new Deacons to be ordained in a private ceremony on Sunday October 25th and one new candidate as well. There was a sense of anticipation and joy in the air as palpable as the crisp and gentle breeze that held us in her embrace.
The crisp mountain air and delicate, crunchy and beautiful autumn leaves heightened our senses and set the stage for a warm,moving, and heartfelt welcome ceremony planned by Maryrose Petruzzi and Alexandra Dyer. Sadly, Alexandra could not be there as she continued in her recovery process but her spirit was there with us. Also Gloria Carpeneto who has guided so many in this group as Program Coordinator needed to be at home with her husband who was also recuperating-yet her sense of humor carried on in Maryrose and others. Alexandra gave us the image of an open door and we waited actually on the other side of an oak door as we were welcomed one by one into the group. We sat together in a circle of smiles and warm welcomes including our bishop, Andrea Johnson, and listened to readings by Jean Marchant, Barbara Beadle and others. We were each given a glass vessel to be filled by each member present with multicolored glass stones symbolizing the passing on of the spirit of the group to us. Then we were each blessed by everyone there with the oil of gladness. This reminded me of the point in our ordinations when the bishop(s) and all present lay hands on us in blessing and tears came to my eyes. To be anointed blessed by so many priest sisters and members was a most sacred moment of inclusion and unity. As I looked to my side at Marina and JudyB I could see they were also thoroughly moved and blessed. We joined in a circle, arms linked, and sang De Colores and Wherever You Go by the Monks of Weston Priory. After the sign of peace and many embraces the song Can You Feel the Love, by Elton John felt more sacred than secular. How true it is that our loving God guides our leaving and our coming back home. It was good to be home.
After a break there was a Celebration of Life Service for Rev. Maureen Andrews,RCWP who went home to our loving God on September 13, 2015 after battling cancer with grace, humor and ,finally, peace.Jean Marchant, Mary Steinmetz and others of the Mary Magdalene Community in Boston, Massachussetts, Maureen’s community, led the Celebration. Maureen’s loving partner Nancy Stephens was a part of the group for the entire retreat and her sweet presence brought Maureen’s spirit close to all present. Maureen, born in Australia, loved the image of the Cosmic Christ and unfathomable mystery. There was a lovely video and also a photographic eulogy remembering Maureen.Her own words were used throughout. In her words: “Life is inspired by the universal and is open to the universal. It is based on forgiveness and openness to those who are different, to the poor and to the weak. Community is the breaking down of barriers to welcome difference”. WOW! At the end we wee asked to bless one another as Maureen enjoyed most giving blessings. It was wonderful to be welcomed by Maureen in this way and to spend time with Nancy witnessing their love.
The Retreat itself was centered on “pastoring” using the symbols of sandals, the staff and a stole. Rev. Ellie Stratton guided us in meditating and reflecting on these symbols. Many shared their stories of using these symbols in their ministry, and the struggles and joys of ministry and of being a priest in a church that rejects women priests. The sharing was very real and from the heart. Rev. Ellie ended with a lovely story of a Pastor who was loved by the congregation and loved the congregation until it was time to part with much gratitude to the loving congregation.. She wished us all that love. It was good to remember the essence of Love in our ministry at every level..
On Sunday the time came to ordain three new women deacons. This was a beautiful rite and it was a joy to welcome these deacons, two of whom are Jacqueline Clarys of the Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community in Maryland and Claire Gareau of the Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community in New Jersey. Our third deacn wishes to be welcomed at a later time. We also welcomed a new candidate from Maryland and remembered that we have welcomed some wonderful international candidates earlier this year. these are some of our priests as they gathered for the Ordination.
And the beat goes on.
with love and gratitude,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP-USA-East
On the right in both pictures is Rev. Tish Rawles,ARCWP of Cincinatti,Ohio, and also a religious Sister of the Precious Blood Community, as she recently assisted in worship with the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Pastors Judy Lee, RCWP and Judy Beaumont, RCWP in Fort Myers, Florida.
Although we, Pastors Judy Lee and Beaumont, are not in the same group as Sister Tish in the RCWP Movement, we met at an ordination and became fast friends with this gentle woman who loved her Sisters, and her beloved animals and had thoughts of becoming a priest. Her abilities in sharing love and caring far surpassed her pressing disabilities and infirmities, though the latter were quite serious. Sister Tish was ordained in April of 2015 and served those around her in her Assisted Living Facility. She also cared for the many abandoned cats outside of the facility. As a vacation gift we invited her to Florida for a visit and she graced our home and church community with her presence from 10/2-10/7. . Upon her return she immediately learned that someone at a local religious Conference had told her Superior that she was an ordained priest. She had held this in secret not wanting to be separated from the Order where she served faithfully with her Sisters for 47 years. Below is an account of what happened quickly after it was known that she had been validly ordained. This kind of rejection should happen to no one, and especially not to such a good and faithful servant. But that is what happens when one lives with inspiration and follows conscience. May there be a public outcry directed at a rejecting church and rejecting community who follow the letter of the law but not the spirit of LOVE. We understand that the Community could suffer if they supported Sister Tish, and this is a difficult position to be in, but we expect nothing less from people of conscience and Christ-consciousness, like Sister Rev. Tish Rawles.
Nun working as priest fights excommunication Updated: Wed, Oct 28 2015, 05:51 AM CINCINNATI (Angenette Levy)
— A retired Catholic nun who has been operating as a priest in secret was kicked out of her religious order and excommunicated after she was questioned about her activities. Sister Tish Rawles has dreamed of being a priest since she was in the fourth grade. “When I first started going to Catholic school I couldn’t understand why it was only men on the altar. I couldn’t understand why there weren’t girls up there too, serving,” Rawles said. She responded to her calling by serving as a nun for 47 years but she always wanted more. “I needed to respond to the workings of the Spirit. I needed to follow my conscience what we call Primacy of Conscience,” Rawles said. Rawles wrestled with her decision to become ordained. She suffers from MS and end-stage liver disease. She also worried her decision would hurt her community, the Sisters of the Precious Blood.
In April, Rawles was ordained a Catholic priest by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. The group said its ordinations are valid because the first women bishops were ordained by a male Roman Catholic bishop with apostolic succession. The group preaches about inclusivity and welcomes members of the LGBTQ community. “All are welcome. All are accepted. No one is turned away from our tables.” Rawles preached in secret – also known as catacomb status – until last week. She was questioned by the head of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. She was notified that she was no longer a member of the community and excommunicated. Rawles said she and the other women priests want to force change in the Church. “We feel that we are not leaving the Church. We are leading the Church,” Rawles said. She and the other priests are appealing to Pope Francis to remove the excommunication from the women who’ve been ordained priests during the upcoming Year of Mercy. “Jesus would not excommunicated anybody. Jesus welcomes all with open arms… There’s no reason a person can’t be a nun and a priest at the same time.” Pope Francis has said he’d like to see women have a greater role in the Catholic Church but he has not said that he would be open to women becoming priests. Sister Joyce Lehman of the Sisters of the Precious Blood said Rawles excommunicated herself by her actions. Sister Lehman said she was surprised that Rawles had been acting as a priest. “If we’re going to be Catholic sisters then we will be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Lehman said.
The Grace of Joy in the Bitter Cup: Rev. Judy’s Homily And Rev. Chava’s Letter for 29th Sunday in OT, 10/18/15
Today I am sharing my homily and also a letter from Rev. Chava Redonnet, RC woman priest for migrant workers in Rochester, New York. As the homily theme is that we belong to others, especially the most needy and outcast among us the letter is a part of the homily. St. Romero’s has a pressing need before winter and I hope that we will all respond in sharing our resources to help this special church find a new home.
Rev. Judy’s Homily: The Grace of Joy in the Bitter Cup
God is deeply in love with the world and all of its people, each and every one. God will go to extremes so that all may live with health and dignity and worth upon this earth. But, that’s not the way it is or has been for many who suffer the inequities of existence. The readings for this Sunday (Isaiah 53:10-11: Psalm 33: 4-5, 18-20,22; Hebrews 4:14-16 and Mark 10:35-45) show God giving God’s beloved Jesus in selfless love to the world. In Isaiah the “suffering servant”-(in Hebrew Scriptures context Israel and in context for Christians, Christ) is to redeem the world from the evils and fruits of greed, hatred and injustice. Psalm 33 says that God loves justice and right and fills the world with God’s loving kindness. In the New Testament book of Hebrews we are to see Christ as the great high-priest, yet one of us, who offers sacrifice (of himself) for suffering humanity. This is to whom we can turn in time of great need. And, in the Gospel of Mark we see Jesus asking his followers throughout time to imitate him in taking and drinking from the bitter cup and to show that by serving others.
Actually Jesus asks more than just service, but that we become slaves of all (Mark 10:44). That is, Jesus asks that we, born in freedom, choose freely to belong to someone else so that all may live. Yes, so that God’s loving kindness may spread throughout the world. What a paradox! The “someone else” is God in Christ and the” someone else” is the people we serve with the giving of our lives. We are asked to choose to be slaves for God, that God’s kin(g)dom of love and justice may come on this earth. It is normal to want to be served instead of serving, and to be free and not “owned” by another. We who abhor class and socioeconomic systems that force some to serve others and racial, socioeconomic and other divides that enslave whole peoples and populations have an understandably hard time in dealing with these texts. And greater still is the hard time we have when we do enslave ourselves to the Gospel, to Christ and to God’s people, especially the most broken of them. And yet, there is the greatest hope and joy in this central expectation of Christian life-by freely giving ourselves to God and to one another we are free indeed and have the joy of drawing closer to God. Moreover we are the hands of God offering loving kindness where it is most needed. This, not sitting in the power seats of heaven, is its own reward.
I have been reflecting on the saddest times in my life and on the happiest times. Believe me, in my life, as for most of us, there are more than enough sad times to choose the saddest times from. The loss to death or terminal illness of loved ones make for the saddest times in most lives, mine included. But another powerful source of the saddest times for me are when I witness the needless pain and loss of others. Pastor Judy Beaumont and I spent an afternoon in a Nursing Home on Thursday. We were with a woman in her fifties whom we have known and ministered with since 2007 and our Park Ministry. She has maintained housing with difficulty and lots of help throughout this time. Ruby is a self- described ‘free spirit’ who had experienced so much pain in her life from profound mental and physical illness and homelessness and now she faced living the rest of her life out in a hospice bed in a small shared room. She had to give up her little apartment home and her cat and her world as she knew it as her health was declining quickly and the light of life was beginning to fade. Yet, she still returned on occasion to days with some life in them and deeply missed her “life on the outside”. Her cries of “this is it? This is all I have now? This is where I will die?” burned through to our very souls. She had already “coded” in the hospital and returned to life. She still had life. But this life was not the life she wanted. God gave us words and arms to hold her, but our hearts turned within us as we tried to help her accept the life she now had. Mostly she was afraid of dying “alone and forgotten” and we could assure her that with us and her other dear and faithful friends, one in particular, that she was not alone. She also wanted to know if her time of helping others who are homeless was over. We showed her how she could help the many people around her who were, like her, experiencing homelessness in a new way. But, when push came to shove all we could offer was some companionship on the rest of her journey. But that is also a great deal considering those we saw who appeared to have no one at all. She also needed to know that this place would not cast her out into the street homeless again, and we did assure her of this.
My heart turns within me whenever I encounter people living on the streets. Whether these people are wandering aimlessly in the brutal heat and sudden torrential downpours of Florida or Guyana or Colombia, South America, whether they are wrapped in plastic like human sandwiches on the street median in Medellin or Fort Myers or Brooklyn, or huddled in doorways in New York City or Hartford, Connecticut in the freezing winters, they stab me in my heart. That “stabbing” and turning of my heart is almost a literal feeling and I realize that is God reminding me that I can do something to help. And so I try. We are blessed to have our Good Shepherd Ministry and many others to serve and try with us. There are times we can all cry together as when we realized that Tom or Diane are back on the streets again after completing the effort to get them housed one or two years ago. Or when we see Grady or Mike or Rudy or Dana who can’t stop drinking long enough to do the few things needed to get into housing. Or when we have young and large families that live lives tottering always on the brink of homelessness and despair because there are literally no housing resources for them here. Housing lists have been closed both for Section 8 and low income projects for over three years. The lowest income working poor do not have Medicaid until they place tremendous burdens on hospital ER’s. Then they sometimes they get it. We can offer to help with bills to the extent that we can. We can help with enriching experiences for the kids and young people. And we can be the shoulder to cry upon and cry out to. But I wish that we could take away the anxiety and pain they live with daily, not knowing if they will keep a home or a car or health. This is part of the bitterness in the cup. The sheer exhaustion of trying to help is another part. I have one young woman in her mid- thirties who finally has a chance to keep her baby. But this is so hard for her with working as well that she sometimes calls me several times a day. I am glad that I can help get her through each “crisis”-but I also admit I am tired. I admit that belonging to someone else is very hard. At Good Shepherd we belong to those we serve, and it often hurts to feel their pain and to encounter with them the obstacles to lives of dignity and worth.
But then there is the indescribable joy of doing what one is called to do. Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, says this:
“We are called to serve, and we are also called to drink of the cup from which Jesus drinks. It is a cup of darkness, a cup of suffering. In my experience this cup of suffering usually holds a hidden gift, an obscure grace. We may have to hold the cup longer than we wish to discover the gift. Seldom is the gift visible as we drink. “
I testify here to that holding the cup longer than it is comfortable reveals deep hidden joy. It is the feeling in my heart when even one other person is helped to turn tears into laughter. And, by the grace of God there are many. Belong to Christ, belong to others, there is such deep joy to be revealed.
And so we pray with Sr. Macrina:
Lord, help me to trust even the darkness,that I may never turn away from the invisible gift”.
In Today in Focus in Living with Christ
Also here is a letter from Rev. Chava Redonnet about her Ministry with the Migrants. Our ministry will be making a donation toward their church home. I pray that you will consider doing this too, it is one way of taking the cup.
Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, October 18, 2015 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 19 was the fifth anniversary of the first Mass of Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church. Back then we called ourselves “Our Little Church,” until our name was chosen by consensus of those present at Mass one Sunday a few months later. September 19 was also the day that my young friend and I talked about our migrant church and her family’s experience at a workshop at the Women’s Ordination Worldwide Conference in Philadelphia. She did great! I know she hopes to be a teacher someday, and I think she will make a good one! Those present were interested in what both of us had to say, and at the end when it was time to go, most of them stayed in their seats.
This week I again told our story, this time to a group called “Take Back the Land” that tries to keep people from being evicted here in the city. I told them we are natural allies, because they are walking with people in dire circumstances (eviction) in the city, and we’re walking with people in dire circumstances (deportation) in the country.
I was there because sometimes people have land or buildings to donate, and I was asking them to keep their ears open for anything that might become available in the area more or less between Batavia and Albion. It is time for us to find a building for our migrant church, a building that we could use for community suppers and after school programs and AA and Al-Anon meetings in Spanish, and English classes, and a bike workshop, and generally welcoming people and building community. We could call it Oscar Romero House of Hospitality.
For two summers now, we have had the use of a small migrant dwelling for Mass, and that has been a great gift. This summer we have been battling a problem with mold in that house; even after finding the source of the problem, letting the farmer know and having it taken care of, we’re still finding mold growing on doors and cupboards. We’ve had to throw out all the nice office chairs that Jim Morasco donated to us (when mold grew back after being removed), and I’ve taken most of the books in the library home for fear of them being ruined. This is with a little dehumidifier running 24/7. So, I figure God’s giving us a nudge to start looking for other digs.
So, now, at the five year mark for St Romero’s, with our tax-exempt status in place, we are kicking off a fundraising campaign, hoping to raise $50,000, which will either be a down payment – or pay for a trailer – or if something gets donated there will surely be a need for repairs. If you would like to donate to our building fund, you can send checks to me, made out to Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church with a note that it’s for the building fund – OR, you can donate on line! Lynne Hamilton set up a website for us at http://www.oscarromerochurch.myevent.com
We also, TaDa!!! Have a website for the church. My daughter Clare has put it together for us, and she is still in the process of getting all the back bulletins on line. Check it out! http://www.oscarromerochurch.org/
I pray that we will grow however God is dreaming for us… that we will be and build community, and empowerment, and justice, and love. May it be so!!!!!
Love to all , Chava
“Dream Statement” for Oscar Romero House of Hospitality
From its beginning, the migrant ministry of Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church has truly been a migrant church. We have moved from place to place, worshipping in at least seven different places in our first five summers. Most recently we have used a vacant migrant house, a tiny building where we have battled damp and mold, and always had the possibility of being asked to move on if the house were needed for other purposes.
Here is the dream:
If we had a house of our own, we could use it, not only for worship, but as a community center. We could offer after-school help with homework, and have some computers available for kids to use. We could have community meals, movies, offer space for Spanish AA and Al-Anon meetings. We could have English classes – art classes – cooking classes – a bike repair clinic. We could be a safe space for people to stay when they get out of the detention center and need help transitioning to what’s next. We would call it Oscar Romero House of Hospitality.
Our goal is to raise $50,000. Find us at http://www.oscarromerochurch.myevent.com/
Oscar Romero Church An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620 A member community of the Federation of Christian Ministries
May God continue to surround us with love and blessing as we seek to serve one another.
Love and prayers,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP,
CO-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
There is nothing unclear in what Jesus says in Mark 10: 17-30-if you want eternal life “sell what you have and give it to the poor….then come, follow me”. This passage, also addressed to the rich young man or the rich young ruler,the important man, is also found in Matthew 19: 16-30 and Luke 18:18-29. In consideration of the feelings of the rich, and most of us who have enough, we do many theological dances that ultimately miss what Jesus is saying. We glorify spiritual poverty, for example. We raise dependency on God as a supreme value but we also then overlook Jesus’ actual concern for people who were poor and outcast. We glorify poverty instead of work hard with those affected to do away with it. We also apply these passages mainly to those called to follow Jesus in religious life with vows of poverty to earn this spiritual poverty. But, we miss the call to all of us who follow the Gospel to depend on God in this way and , moreover, to share our goods and resources with the poor among us so that there will be no more poor.This indeed is the essence of Acts 3:44-47 and Acts 4: 34-35 where the apostles and all followers understood what Jesus meant and shared their resources freely and there were no poor among them. This is the spirit of the Gospel- Jesus came to “…preach good news to the poor, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:14-20), This job description in fulfillment of prophecy and Law is not metaphorical or abstract. Jesus lived under Roman oppression and the poor and many outcast in his culture and under Roman rule were consigned to the bottom of the heap with no hope of moving up from there. Jesus defied that structure and included the poorest and most outcast in his love and ministry. He also consistently asked his followers to follow the Law of Moses but go one better, to go beyond the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law.
To follow Jesus and to enjoy the fullness of life now and forever, is to remove one’s self from the center of concern and share all of one’s resources, money, gifts and goods with those who struggle for subsistence so that they will be poor no more. In this there is no idealization or glorification of poverty, and no real damnation of riches if they are shared fully, but the charge is to fulfill the Law by giving more than a small percentage of one’s income or one’s self and to go farther. Jesus acknowledges that the seeker of life (rich young person) already keeps the Law. He loves this person who is struggling to be a good person. The Law includes many commandments about treating the poor fairly. Jesus wants us to go the next step. To follow Jesus we are asked time and again and in many ways: give it all away-give yourself away, then you will find yourself and then you receive the fullness of life. To do this only in the abstract with out realizing that Jesus strongly said to give, share with, be committed to, align with, and struggle with and not only for those who are economically poor is to miss the point of the Gospel-to bring God’s kin(g)dom here on earth. Justice , love and inclusion are the hoped for outcome in the kingdom of God and also the processes by which it is to come. Tzedak, Tzedakah and Chesed, justice and charity and lovingkindness in Hebrew, are the essence of the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy). Justice and Chesed/ Caritas, the kind of love that gives it all away is the essence of the Gospel. Jesus gave his life so the kin(g)dom of God may come and the sins that deter it be addressed. Sin goes beyond our mis-steps in our near relationships, however serious these may be. Sin most strongly relates to creating, tolerating and participating in those conditions of injustice, exclusion,oppression,greed, discrimination,ethnocentrism and often hatred that create a world in which only some are “worthy” of love and equality and a very few have a lot and most have very little-our world today. Today we are asked by Jesus to commit ourselves to actions that end injustice here in our world, in our families and our near communities and throughout the world. As Pope Francis said to the shepherds of the church, we are to get down in the nitty gritty with the sheep so that we smell of sheep. Yet,we are all to shepherd one another, to literally walk with and stand with the poor and outcast of our communities to move on up together and take others with us. We are to give ourselves and our money and gifts and resources all away in pursuit of the kin(g)dom of God where there will be poor no more.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Part of The Good Shepherd Community with Co-Pastors Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee, RCWP
And here is an insightful homily by Fr. Gerald Darring on a similar theme for today’s Gospel and Readings. I love his quote about avarice as “moral underdevelopment:
|The rich man wants to have it both ways: he wants his possessions and he wants everlasting life. Jesus shatters his illusion; you can’t have both, Jesus says. The rich man goes away sad, prompting Jesus to comment on the difficulty of being rich and entering the kingdom.
There is more to this story than renunciation of material possessions, for Jesus does not tell the man simply to get rid of his possessions: he must sell them and give to the poor. The point of the command is the acknowledgment of the priority of people and their needs over the satisfaction provided by the ownership of things.
This is “God’s word (that) is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword,” and this is the spirit of Wisdom of which the first reading speaks: we are to value each other as if we were prime possessions, and the promise of everlasting life is made to those who have the power to give all they have to their brothers and sisters, especially those most in need.
Then who can be saved? Those whose love for God expresses itself in eagerness to do good for others.
Now published in book form, To Love and Serve:
This article is from the Kansas City Star and Associated Press writer David Gibson Religious News Service. While I applaud Canadian Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher for his strong positive statements on behalf of women, it is necessary to think through whether opening one door to women would fix them at a permanently “lesser” state or open the door later to the priesthood? By lesser I do not mean that the tasks of the Deacon are less important than the tasks of priests at all for service to people according to Pope Francis, and my own spirituality, is exactly the job description of the priest as well as the Deacon. To “get the smell of the sheep” on one’s hands is to serve them. However, within the church as it is now, Deacons can baptize, officiate at weddings , perform funerals and preach. Priests also do all of this. But only priests can celebrate Mass, consecrating the elements at the Eucharist, hear confessions and anoint the sick. Certainly the latter three are service to God’s people as well and all of the above are holy and sacramental. How can it be that one sacrament is more holy than another? And, indeed it is the people of God that are needed for a Mass to take place and for consecration. The people are sacrament, the church, the Body of Christ, is sacrament. But the line is drawn making the diaconate and priesthood a two class clerical system. To assign women to rise only so high in this hierarchy,simply based on gender, not on call or spiritual gifts or intellect or knowledge, education and preparation is to say that both women and deacons are not only different from priests but inferior to them.
As readers of this blog know: Roman Catholic women priests are already here. Starting in 2002 on the Danube in Germany prepared women were ordained validly to the priesthood and women bishops were validly ordained as of 2003 who have ordained many other prepared and called women. There are over 150 validly ordained women priests world wide and also many in the transitional diaconate and more in candidacy, totaling well over 200 ordained members of Roman Catholic Women Priests worldwide. As one of those priests, ordained in 2008, I have served God’s people sacramentally and with all my heart and soul. Our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic ministry, as readers know, where I serve with Co-Pastor Judy Beaumont ordained in 2012, serves the homeless and the poorest and a range of Catholics who also want to serve with the outcast and marginalized. The priesthood and the diaconate is a literally awesome responsibility and grace. It is only by grace that service to all of God’s people is accomplished. And grace is free for all, men and women alike. God can and does bestow grace on women and men to provide service to God’s people, sacramentally and in all ways. Preparing meals for the hungry and homeless is work for priests as well as deacons as well as so-called laypeople. We are all called to feed the hungry. And we are all called to feed the hungry sacramentally as well. I hope that our brother Archbishop Durocher, who is the bravest priest I know of in the church today(others have been dismissed from Orders for such radical ideas and we pray this does not happen to him) will continue to stand for women. I also pray that he will broaden his argument-but then there would be no doubt, he would have to join us as excommunicated,a penalty we reject. But, like Fr. Roy Bourgeois, he would continue his cause as conscience trumps unjust rules every time. Here is the article.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP-USA-East-Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Fl
AP Article in Kansas City Star, 10/9/15 by David Gibson, Religious News Service
Ordain women? Vatican synod gets an unexpected proposal
Canadian archbishop suggests women could be deacons
In theory, female deacons could preach, baptize, officiate at weddings and perform funerals
A woman named Phoebe was called a deacon in Romans
Still, even that suggestion — made by a Canadian archbishop on Tuesday, near the start of the closely watched, three-week gathering of church officials called by Pope Francis — was considered eye-popping.
That’s because if the trial balloon floated by Quebec Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher flies, it would represent a historic breakthrough for the Roman Catholic Church, and Catholic women, by giving them access to the kinds of offices that only priests and bishops can hold.
“The only way a woman can fully ‘obtain’ many church offices is by ordination — by becoming a cleric — and the ordinary way to enter the clerical state is by ordination to the diaconate,” said Phyllis Zagano, a leading expert on women deacons and a researcher at Hofstra University in New York.
Moreover, as Zagano noted in an email, women deacons could perform functions that male deacons currently do: preaching, baptizing, witnessing marriages and performing funerals. Celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and anointing the sick would remain the province of the male priesthood.
Durocher, archbishop of Gatineau and until recently president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, made his proposal in the 3-minute window that each of the 270 bishops at the synod is allotted to lay out concerns and priorities for the church and the modern family.
Durocher focused on the role of women, first lamenting the “sad and dramatic reality” that women “continue to suffer discrimination and violence at the hands of men, including their spouses.”
He asked Francis and the bishops to state clearly that there is no scriptural justification for such bias, and in particular that passages in which the Apostle Paul speaks about wives submitting to their husbands “can never justify the domination of men over women, much less violence.”
He then asked that the synod recognize that women can be given “decision-making” posts in the church and in the Roman Curia, the papal bureaucracy.
Finally, he said the synod should establish a process for opening the diaconate to women, a suggestion that quickly drew praise from church reformers and negative reactions from conservatives.
“If you’ve opened the diaconate to women, you are opening up the door to female priests,” Chad Pecknold, a theologian at Catholic University of America, told The Washington Post.
Durocher anticipated that criticism, telling Catholic News Service that “the diaconate in the church’s tradition has been defined as not being ordered toward priesthood but toward ministry.”
In fact, Jesus’ Apostles established the order of deacons mainly to carry out the charitable mission of the church. In the Catholic tradition, the role was eventually subsumed into the priesthood, until the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s revived it as an ordained order open to “mature married men” older than 35. (Deacons can also wear a clerical collar, which sometimes leads them to be taken for priests.)
The restoration of the diaconate quickly raised the question of whether women could also become deacons, since a woman named Phoebe is called a deacon in the Book of Romans.
Zagano, author of “Holy Saturday: An Argument for the Restoration of the Female Diaconate in the Catholic Church,” said other sources show that the Western church continued to ordain women as deacons up to the 12th century, and some Eastern tradition churches still do.
“There is no doctrine against women deacons,” she told the Pray Tell blog.
Though the Vatican never definitively ruled out women deacons, Rome and conservative theologians have tried to dismiss the idea as unjustified — an “amusing anachronism,” as Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, now chief Vatican doctrinal official, once put it — and theologically dangerous. The issue was raised at a 1987 Vatican synod but went nowhere.
In 2001, when some German and Austrian dioceses set up classes that could be viewed as training women for the diaconate, the Vatican ordered them shut down because the church “does not foresee the possibility” of ordaining women deacons. Others have continued to argue that it cannot happen.
But at the same time, other experts and some churchmen continued to quietly lobby for a reconsideration.
Zagano said she has had “serious” private discussions with bishops and cardinals in recent years about ordaining women deacons, and the late Cardinal Francis George of Chicago — known as an orthodox churchman — pushed the idea with Rome and acknowledged in 2012 that it “is being talked about very slowly.”
Our Scripture readings for this Sunday are wonderfully deep about love and relationship. They are about God’s love and the love of family including our church families and those we make for ourselves. If we don’t get stuck in literalism and we understand language and cultural context we understand that these are some of the most important lessons in the Scriptures, and we are so thankful for them.
The first reading is Genesis 2:18-24 where the first thing we learn is that it is not good to be alone so God created companionship of a like sort for us. God also created animals and birds as companions on this earth but the companions of like sort would meet a need within us that other loving creatures could not meet. This week there was a terrible case in nearby Cape Coral , Florida of a teenager tormenting and abusing small pet dogs that went viral online. By now he has been apprehended but what will fix this tortured young soul that thought it funny to torture other living beings? Similarly this State of Florida is big on killing any animal deemed a pest. Most little lakes here had funny and beautiful, in their own way, muscovy ducks a few years back. Then people complained of duck waste and were allowed to shoot them. Soon almost all were gone to the dismay of those who love and enjoy all creatures, as God intended. Now they are returning and we pray for no further permission to mass killing. Bears are now also on the “shoot them” list despite the outcries of many. There is time for one more appeal on this. We have taken their habitats and left them only garbage but when they “steal it” and make a mess or scare someone the instinct is to kill them. This is not what God intended when God provided for animals asked Adam (the human being) to name them . God who is Love intended care, but “dominion over them” KJV words meant for many an awful domination instead of caring for.
There are many translations of God bringing humans into being. But there is one interpretation by the great African American poet and writer James Weldon Johnson in his poem The Creation that shows deeper spiritual understanding than some of the translations. God is clearly a being with deep feelings to the poet: ( I am using ‘God’ where the poet would use either God or he.): “Then God walked around/And God looked around/On all that God had made. God looked at God’s sun/God looked at God’s moon/And God looked at God’s little stars.; /God looked on God’s world/With all its living things, And God said: I’m lonely still”. So God bent down and from the earth, “like a mammy bending over her baby,/ Kneeled down in the dust/Toiling over a lump of clay/Til God shaped it in God’s own image…” and human beings came into life. While the poet of his times, the 1920’s, saw God as “he”, Johnson also saw God like a mother bending over her child. It is a tender and loving feminine image of God along with the masculine image of sculpting the clay. Johnson saw God as loving and lonely for companionship from the universe. That is good theology that prevails even today. In short, the cosmos was created in love and for love. Last week in his USA visit Pope Francis spoke to families. He told a story of a child asking a priest what God did before God created the earth and all that is in and around it. The priest was stumped and thought-then he said “God was busy loving for that is Who God is, Love”. What a great answer. Whether we come from clay or stardust or a big bang-we were created, along with all of the cosmos, in love. And God is still here loving us and drawing us close.
Why then do we have so much trouble with love? Many stories in the Bible address this- like Cain and Abel and the twelve brothers and Joseph that illustrate the worst effects of sibling rivalry or the story of Ruth and Naomi that illustrates the love of a daughter-in-law for her mother-in-law-so usually not an easy relationship. But Ruth’s story is a beautiful story of love for one woman for another. Just as the story of David and Jonathan is a beautiful story of male friends. And God incarnate, Jesus, was born as a baby into a human family-how precious and important that makes families. And the Gospel is the story of God’s love and Jesus’ love for all of his brothers, sisters and friends , for that is what he calls us. Love is for husbands and wives and families and extended families of all sorts, families headed by two parents, mothers and fathers, and two women or two men or one grandmother or father or mother or grandparent or aunt or foster or adoptive parent, and friends and tribes and neighborhoods and communities and for the church. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read that Jesus was not ashamed to call all of us brothers and sisters. Wow! We are thereby grafted into God’s very family.
Pope Francis’ coming to the conclave on the human family further gave families dignity and immeasurable worth. However, it was used by those who are opposed to gay marriage as a bludgeon against two of the same sex joining forever in holy union. I fail to understand how this provision for companionship, joy and stability in relationship of others would undermine the traditional family. Gayness is not a chosen state so that people are being drawn away from traditional marriages into gay marriage. Living a life of rejection and stigma that still exists even in many American families and cultures is not an appealing choice unless that is the choice you are born with to love another like yourself. The alleged meeting of Pope Francis with the woman, Kim Davis, an elected Kentucky City Clerk, who would not sign marriage certificates of gays was a painful rebuke for people who love each other and plan to live together always. Yet, Pope Francis also met “secretly” with a gay male couple of 19 years and their friends (one of the Pope’s former students and his partner) before meeting with her (See Bondings 2.0- newlifeministriesblog and USA Today 10/3/15) . We cannot simply dismiss Pope Francis in his complexity even when he does not do exactly what we who believe in love and inclusion as he does think he should do, and even when we too, as members of the LGBTQ community or as women priests may want his blessings and the opening of doors now.
Jesus addresses the question of divorce in today’s Gospel. Read without cultural and language understanding this made for rigid church rules about divorce. But in context of Jewish Law and his times and language, men sometimes simply threw away their wives and took another wife. In doing so they were following popular culture but not Jewish Law about having giving a bill of divorcement so she and he could marry again. Jesus is saying at least honor the bill of divorcement but better still don’t just throw wives away like inanimate objects you don’t want anymore with or without papers. Go even beyond the law on giving a bill of divorcement- make it work! Marriage is a holy union of two-don’t loosely undo what God has blessed as one. If a woman was thrown away without the bill of divorcement she was in limbo, she could not even marry, while the man could. Jesus is speaking up for the dignity and equality of women, he is charging men with greater responsibility to live in love and not to follow cultural prescriptions that take all women’s rights away.
Brothers and sisters, God who is love has made others for us to love. God who is Love has made provision for all to be loved.God who is love has made us able to love God and be in relationship with our loving God. We need never feel unloved or alone, God is with us in love. And we thank God for all forms of family and friends, for biological families and for chosen families and for the inclusion of animals as loving companions. Let us then celebrate the message of this Sunday: let us celebrate the sacredness of love in all its forms and let us remember in today’s words: When we express our love to God in our worship and in our everyday lives, God’s message is “I love you more”. Thank you God for all the love in our lives and thank you most of all for your love! Amen!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCW_-USA-East
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community