Lifting Up Our Eyes To The Hills: A Time of Welcome, Retreat and Awesome Beauty For RCWP-USA-East
” 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.
This is Retreat leader, Rev. Ellie Stratton with Judy Beaumont and Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and Eda Lorello during a break at the retreat.
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