Sharing some thoughts here from some of our Roman Catholic Women Priests and others as we wait for the coming of the Prince of Peace, and as we hasten the coming of peace through justice. Much food for thought and prayer here:
This is from Rev. Chava Redonnet, Pastor of the Ocsar Romero Inclusive Catholic Comunity in Rochester, New York where she serves migrant workers. They are hoping to gather enough funds for a small house to be a church and hospitality house.
Happy Second Week of Advent! I hope you find some time for quiet and stillness this week. And joy!
It was just me and one woman from the street at Mass this morning (she took the photo). She told me about how yesterday a church group came to St Joe’s with early Christmas gifts for everyone: gloves for the men, socks for the women. She told me the socks were pretty colors – purple, pink and blue – and that they also gave her a Christmas card. “Now I got two!” I don’t want to romanticize poverty. It’s unjust and mostly just stinks. But I hope that, whatever I might receive this Christmas, I will have the grace to be as pleased with it as she was with her socks and card.
Just before Mass, someone dropped off leftover pizza, apparently from a party last night. When I opened the pizza box and saw the few leftover pieces of unappetizing cold pizza in it, I thought of the magnanimous way the man at the door had presented it, like it was a great gift, and I felt annoyed about the junk people give to poor people. But! After Mass, I had pizza to offer my friend, and warmed it up in the microwave, and she enjoyed it. Once again – even the stuff that annoys me is a gift.
Clergy Members Critical of Deal’s Plan to Block Syrian Refugees
By WXIA-TV; Atlanta, Georgia
The Year of Mercy now underway will hopefully “start a new era for the Church,” said one Maltese bishop who recently spoke extensively about the need to welcome LGBT people and their families.
Bishop Mario Grech of Gozo, part of the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, added that not only the style but content of church teaching must be different. In an interview with the Times of Malta, when asked whether same-gender couples in a civil unions should be welcomed by the church, Grech said:
“Of course. They are part of God’s people, and like everybody else they are going through a journey and the Church needs to support them in revealing God’s hidden face. We cannot define such a journey in stages and put up barriers, as the road is wide open to those truly seeking to follow God’s footsteps, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Grech said that “there can be different forms of relationship” beyond marriage, though he still defined it hetero-normatively. He said the church must clarify the “difference between civil and ecclesiastical marriage.” Importantly, the bishop set questions about marriage and relationship within the broader context of Christian life:
“We are neither condoning nor condemning anybody. As long as the individual tries to imitate the values preached by God, we embrace them. There are other values in the gospel, which are difficult to attain, such as forgiving the enemy. We need to strive to reach this goal. We seem to have very clear ideas about justice and love but then stumble upon kindness. These are all proposals put forward by God – like marriage between a man and a woman who form the natural family.”
The bishop pushed back against those suggesting Pope Francis’ emphasis on mercy is just appeasing a culture in transition. Grech said mercy is not populism, but the gospel, and criticized those whose ecclesial vision has prioritized ethical judgment:
“Before being a moral agency, the Church is an experience of God. I fear that at certain times we have put the cart before the horse as we speak on moral obligations but leave no room for mercy and forgiveness. The Church must be different. If God is at the centre of our lives all other things would naturally follow.”
Commenting on the Synod on the Family, Grech said homosexuality was not discussed because it “could have seriously jeopardised the approval of the entire document.” He continued:
“On many occasions accidental issues have replaced the core substance. If need be, we must cleanse ourselves of certain things in order to be close to the ideals. There must be greater urgency to reach out to people out there as many are looking for God, in various forms.”
He included in this outreach the children of LGBT parents, noting that such outreah is “already happening” and is “fully accepted” by the church, and necessarily entails full access to the sacraments. Children, Grech said, are not “accountable for their parents’ deeds, decisions or way of life” and therefore:
“Why should the Church deny the opportunity for same-sex parents wishing to give a Christian formation to their adopted children? They are most welcome.”
Bishop Grech’s pastoral vision for the church is inclusive of, but extends beyond LGBT considerations. He is proposing a renewed and reformed Catholic Church, which understands that life is complex and that the church is composed of human beings. In the bishop’s own words:
“Life is not black or white – there are also a lot of shades in between. What makes a good Christian? Perfection? If this were the case it would probably be beyond everybody’s reach. . .Life is a journey from one stage to another, and the Church needs to support the faithful in their quest to find God.”
You can read Bishop Grech’s interview in full by clicking here.
Similar to the interview reported on yesterday with Mumbai’s Cardinal Oswald Gracias, this interview with Bishop Grech reveals a church leader dedicated to understanding the realities of Catholics’ lives and trying to accompany them. Though imperfect for LGBT advocates, his vision of a church where inclusion and conscience are prioritized, and all are supported despite difference, is a good one. May more church officials be converted to this vision during the Year of Mercy!
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
May we use this precious time of Advent to reflect, repent and turn ourselves and our world around so that we can pass hope on to our beautiful children.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
This is Jackie Allen Ducote and Rev. Judy Beaumont,RCWP in front of The Catholic Worker House in Hartford, CT. Both women have given their lives for peace and working for peace through justice.
Making the Rough Road Smooth: Rev. Judy’s Homily Second Sunday of Advent-Dec. 6, 2015
Advent is, above all, a time of hope. As we wait once again for the coming of Christ who is here and yet coming anew at Christ-mas, we wrestle with experiencing the world as it is with all of its uneven-ness. Some folks, theologians included, are like ostriches who flatten out, stretch their long necks, stick their heads in the sand and lie low to the ground when threatened. In the midst of great evil around them, they lay low and “see” only good as if they can will it to be so. This is simply the opposite of those who saw only sin and evil in the past and neither view has a hold on truth as revealed in the life of Christ, in the scriptures and in the lives of the faithful. The truth is that our world is full of good, but also full of what is downright evil. We cannot pretend otherwise. We can see and feel its great beauty, goodness, order, life-giving medicine and knowledge, and the existence of real kindness and the faithful lives of those who live in love and justice. We have all been blessed by those faithful lives. At the same time we witness all around us great disorder including the disorder in its people, greed, hatred, conflict, terrorism, seemingly unmitigated human need, the worst kinds of violence and war. In our ministry in particular we witness a good deal of violence both corporal and spiritual, including the great unjust disparity in income, opportunities and basics like housing and health care in a land of abundance. We long for the dismal second picture of life as it is here and now to disappear and the first picture of a good world with justice for all and compassionate people to prevail. We long for peace and justice to be the order of the day.
These are Roman Catholic Women Priests Rev. Eda Lorello of LI, New York and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia of Cali, Colombia who have given their lives to work for peace through justice
On this second Sunday of Advent we light the candle of peace. Our readings for the day are beautiful and they give us hope that we can, and must, contribute to the peace that surely must come. But to do that we must prepare our hearts and lives in a different way. We must clean out the debris, self-absorption and cynicism caused in part, by our own tough life experiences and join with God in making the rough roads smooth once again. “I know the road can be horribly rough, have hope, I’ve got your back, get your own life in order and work for the reign of God-it will come”: that is the message of the prophet Baruch (5:1-9) and the encouragement of Paul (Philippians 1:4-6;8-11) and the teaching of John the Baptist (and Isaiah 40:3-5) that we are given today (Luke 3:1-6). “The twisted paths will be made straight and the rough road smooth- And all humankind will see the salvation of God” (Luke 3: 6).
The Psalmist (Ps. 126) tells us that “those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” –that God will restore us- as nations, communities, families and individuals from the greatest devastations we have endured. Baruch tells Jerusalem, “take off your robe of misery and mourning; you will wear God’s glorious splendor forever” (5:1). This message is for the nation of Israel and for all of God’s people. When we think of what the nation of Israel and those in the Jewish diaspora have endured throughout ancient and modern history and right now with enemies with nuclear power right at its door, we marvel at God’s promise of comfort and restoration. And too, we look at the pain and rough roads in the lives of those we love, and in our own lives. We cannot turn our heads from this and speak in simplicity of God’s presence in all. For God is NOT in the evil that devastates LIFE. Not at all. But we can acknowledge God’s abiding love and hope for all of creation. In our readings today, God knows the hurt that has been and is endured, yet the hope of both peace and joy are offered. Once again, it is a message of hope. In these readings we, and the nation of Israel and all of God’s people are encouraged not to pretend that pain and suffering do not exist but that where suffering and evil do exist and have taken their toll, and where the playing field is anything but equal, God is there to even it out and to restore. Blessed renewal, blessed restoration!
These are members of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers who work for peace through justice, including our blessed Doctor Teresa Sievers (in back of her daughter Josie playing the violin) who was brutally killed in her home in June 2015. Dr. Teresa worked for justice by seeing our people who had no medical coverage pro bono as needed and also service to other community agencies. Her family is in our prayers.
Like John the Baptist we are to “prepare the way for our God” to “clear a straight path”. John prepared the way for Jesus by asking that people look at their lives and turn them around, to think again, to take stock of and repent-and yes, to ask forgiveness of sin as needed. And, we all need it. In essence we are asked to make the rough road smooth, even the road within us that has taken one to many a devious turn under the pressures of life. But we are asked to do this not for personal and solitary salvation but so we can participate with God in creating a truly good world where love and justice, mercy and forgiveness reign. Clearly, that world is not here yet, we must straighten the path and smooth the rough ways to create it.
Paul encourages and prays for the church at Philippi to have “your love abound more and more, both in understanding and in wealth of experience, so that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct you may learn to value the things that really matter, up to the very day of Christ….to be rich in the harvest of justice that Jesus Christ has ripened in you, to the glory and praise of God (Phil 1: 8-11). Verse 11 reads variously in translation as “to be rich in” or “filled with” “the fruit of holiness”, fruits of righteousness” and “harvest of justice”. The Inclusive Bible (TIB) by the Priests for Equality has the latter translation. I think it is closest to Paul’s notion of the process of Christ ripening the fruit within us, and the essence of today’s readings: Baruch 5:2 says as God restores God’s people (Israel) “God will call your name forever Peace in Justice” (Christian Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral edition-Claretian Publications) or Peace through Justice (TIB). Indeed, I agree that “the things that really matter” are to get our lives in order so that our love abounds and we work for peace through working for justice. Justice work, the work of mercy, levels the playing field so that all have a chance to live abundantly. Then we have justification for the hope of ultimate joy and peace: “for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of divine glory, escorted by mercy and justice” (Baruch 5:9).
Judy Alves, JD, serving food to our children, living justice and Donnie and Lauretta enjoying the friendship found in the Good Shepherd Community as we seek justice and peace together.
May God lead us to the Christ who will ripen such holiness, pursuit of justice and mercy, in us helping us to make the rough places smooth this advent.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
Waiting for Christmas-Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFl, Inc.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Our children look to us with hope and anticipation as they hope for the kind of Christmas they see on television, with big meals, joy and laughter, lots of desserts, and lots of coveted presents. Most do not know that little of this will come their way unless Santa gets a little help this year. They know that Santa will visit our church for Christmas and they can hardly wait for that day. Most do not know that their families often cannot pay the rent or utilities unaided, let alone provide this kind of Christmas experience. Most do not know that Good Shepherd Ministries helps their families hold on to housing and tend to the needs of their children for a secure home as well as love, caring and the things they need. Most do not know that the need we face is above our ability to meet it, and so they hope. They still hope for a good Christmas for all, and we do as well.
As we prepare again to meet the needs of the Good Shepherd Community for the Christmas season it is good to look back and see what we have accomplished since last Spring. This has been a time of maintaining and consolidating our goals of assisting individuals and families to attain and maintain housing and educational and vocational success for our youth. We have also had a good deal of illness among our community members necessitating even greater assistance and a renewed attention to health.
Fortunately we continue to have a strong and varied volunteer core and some changes, positive and negative in our supportive help. The saddest and most difficult change to accept was the loss of the wonderful Doctor who saw our medically uncovered people pro bono, Teresa L. Sievers, who was killed in her home by “friends” of the family on June 28, 2015. We missed our July meeting of the Tuesday group as we officiated at her funeral on that date. She and her two little girls were regular attendants at our church in 2012 and 2013 and continued to work with us until her tragic death. Many of our Good Shepherd members attended that event and we continue to mourn her loss. We have not located another Doctor who is willing to assist us as she did as of yet. She gave her service selflessly and often on brief notice and with the greatest respect for her patients too poor to pay a “regular” Doctor. We continue to pray for her and her family. Below Dr. Teresa Sievers and her girls at Good Shepherd.
We are fortunate to have a new Good Shepherd member, Patricia Byrne, who is a RN and Master’s level pastoral counselor volunteer to assist with visits and follow up with the sick served by Good Shepherd. She has worked intensively with four of our people during this period. Our Pearl Cudjoe also assists with hospital visits. Below is Patricia Byrne with Brenda Cummings who has epilepsy and breathing issues on her Baptism Day.
We have been invited once again by Barbara Roth to submit a grant proposal to Our Father’s Table Foundation. In 2014 Hank Tessandori shared our work with Barbara Roth who is an OFT Board Member and Barbara is supportive of our work. One can only apply by invitation. Our last grant from OFT was in the summer of 2014. It was for the goals of assisting with housing and youth enrichment. This application is also for those continued goals with the additional focus of health education and access to health care. Our experiences with the serious illnesses of our members including family wage earners, has illuminated the need for greater focus on health, both health education and access to resources. The problems affect all ages and include managing diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, heart attacks, sickle cell, migraines, Gyn and GI problems, HIV+, epilepsy and issues related to addictions and mental illness as well.
Hot Meals and Food and Clothing Programs
Healthy nutrition has always been one of our priority services. From April 22 to December 1st, 2015 we have served 480 hot and healthy meals on Sundays and 107 on Tuesdays for a total of 587 meals. This does not count the additional plates taken home for themselves or others or second helpings. We are blessed to have Ellen and Jack McNally of CTA and Country Creek Community serve and prepare meals for our Tuesday gatherings. Our Board member, Gini Beecroft and her Breckinridge Community also prepare and serve meals on either Tuesdays or Sundays. The Breckinridge Community also gives monetary donations for special needs and Christmas gift cards for teens and families. Lisa Munklewitz and Sally and Rob Patterson and Monica Piccirillo of Lamb Of God Church continue to help us on Sundays. Our Board member Judy Alves and Pearl Cudjoe also cook and serve on many Sundays.
The McNallys with Pastor JudyB and Nate, and Pearl Cudjoe and Lisa Munklewitz serving our meals
The LOG Thrift Store helps us with reduced prices on clothing and when we obtain furniture and household goods to move someone into housing for the first time. They also send monthly monetary donations. St. Columbkille Thrift Store has also been helpful with donated furniture. Many private donors also give clothing and goods regularly.
Stipends And Bills
We have four people now housed who have no income as they await Disability hearings. We give each one a $20 stipend a month, base, and more as needed. Some of our housed people on SSI have market rate rent so high that they cannot afford both rent and utilities. In one case a private donor gives $100 per month so one woman can maintain her housing. We also assist her with special needs. In another case, illness has caused unemployment and inability to pay rent and utilities and we are supplementing rent and utilities and car insurance as a car is needed for reemployment. This is a minimum of $800 per month but we are keeping a serially homeless family of seven housed. The primary wage earner is now covered medically by Medicaid and hopefully appropriate medical treatment will restore health and thereby employment. We acted similarly with another family of eight. But we simply can’t keep up this pace especially during this holiday season.
We also assisted three other families with utilities and rent to avoid evictions. We paid Security deposits for two families and program fees for two women in Residential treatment for alcoholism. We also assisted several people with applications for HUD assisted housing.
We helped several people and families gain access to Medicaid and Medical Services. One dear woman whom we have known for eight years and who has never asked for anything was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and had a single mastectomy. We were able to help her with dealing with this devastating diagnosis and helped her to access health services and additional services like Meals on Wheels and transportation as she goes through chemotherapy. We also paid for her family living in another state to come to her aid as she lives alone and provided for a microwave oven and special food extractor as well as more comfortable furniture for her apartment. We make many hospital visits and are thankful for Pat and Pearl who assist in this as many cannot negotiate the medical system unaided.
In other situations we worked with Hospice to get appropriate care for a formerly homeless woman who could not cope with her diagnoses and placement and we assist another with her relationships with family. We have also done a good deal of education on various illnesses with several of our people and assisted with access to care. We have had sessions with our youth as well on illnesses that affect them and their families.
Ruby, in Hospice care, was especially worried about her cat of seven years and pleased that her cat was placed in a good home with our assistance.
Joshua Hospitality House
The family of seven living in Joshua Hospitality house for five months moved out on in early May 2015. We assisted them fully in getting established in market housing. Sadly their rent is very high and there has been much serious illness in this family. On May 6th a man who regularly attends Good Shepherd and was living in a shed with his dog for several years moved in and is now acting as caretaker. From 7/25-8/3 a married couple with two dogs who were living in their car moved into one of the rooms for a week. We also had paid for a night in the Quality Inn for them. Unfortunately they moved out with our TV and digital box and several household items. This brings the number of people served by Joshua House to 38 individuals, and several pets. We thank Hank Tessandori for patching up breakage and damage after stays. Despite some difficulties we are happy to provide this housing as a bridge to permanent housing.
Youth Success and Enrichment
During this period we served 33 young people ranging in age from 4-young adult. All of our young people except one achieved promotion and grades from average to excellent. This lack of academic achievement has to do with her learning limitations and we have hooked her up to the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for further testing and vocational help. In the meantime she is working at a Super Store and enjoying this. Another of our young men has a Security job at this store and is happy with the higher pay and status this job provides. Another is holding down three jobs. Our college student is in her Sophomore year and although challenged by her own illnesses and family situation including the need to work she is still in school and working on her courses. We have given her much counseling and also financial support for all of her text books and medical needs. A donor recently gave an amount that paid for an eye exam and new glasses for her. We also have another young woman graduating from SWFL College this year. For our middle school teens and elementary students we provide an oasis where learning is valued and rewarded and problems are worked on together. Almost all live in families where there are significant problems and we try to assist the whole family. We continue to reward academic progress and homework completion with small sums.
This summer we were able to take five trips to local educational and nature experiences and attractions. Twenty young people from 6-23 attended these functions along with our youth leader who just graduated from Brown University, Efe Cudjoe,two parents and the two Pastors. We were blessed to have Efe’s help for six weeks before she took a research job in another state and applies to Medical School. This was a great way to get to know one of our new families with four children and also two other children as well as the regular youth members. As one teenager wrote after a Busch Gardens trip: “I loved this trip and I want to say thank you. I loved the animal show best because it is amazing knowing that they can remember so much and not mess up. I had a great time, and it was even better because I got to spend time with great people, my church family.” And when the teens attended a movie of their choice “Max” one wrote: “….This is a great story and showed me so much about love and loyalty and what a hero really is. A Hero doesn’t always go with the popular choice, he does what is right whether it is the popular thing or not.” A mother who accompanied her five year old on a trip said “ she had a ball, but so did I. I didn’t realize how important it is to play with my child and enjoy something together. I’m glad she is making new friends and I am too.”
Efe and the Cudjoe Family at her Brown Graduation
We are looking forward to doing more enrichment activities with our kids if we get The Father’s Table grant as there is no doubt that new worlds are opened when we do special activities together.
Our Donors and Volunteers
We are so thankful for our donors and volunteers for making all of this possible. We have several who give monthly and those who give at special times of the year. We are so moved by their generosity and support. Our volunteers have mostly been with us for years-indeed, more like an extended family. We are so thankful for all they give of themselves and their resources. In this Christmas season we have a few wonderful elves to help us, like our Board member, Stella Odie-Ali who is wrapping endless gifts.
We continue to need a youth leader and Sunday school teachers. These are special skills and persons with experience with our diverse population are needed. Some gift cards have been pledged but in view of the need we need Christmas gift cards for families as well as teens. The Orioles Lodge in Fort Myers has again volunteered to give gifts for our little children as they have done in past years. We are so thankful for their continued interest. They have 28 children on their list and that is a lot for them. We are also hoping for donors who will provide monthly stipends to people who are in housing that far exceeds their abilities to pay and make ends meet.
Website and Brochure
Thanks to Jack Ross our website: www.goodshepmin.org is up and running. It is a terrific website and we encourage you to visit it and also suggest materials for it. And thanks to Gini Beecroft and her sister Judith Strom of Minnesota we now have an excellent brochure that can be used for informative and donation purposes.
Pastor Judy Beaumont and I want to thank our Board members, donors and volunteers and all who continue to make Good Shepherd a successful endeavor, especially the members of our Sunday and Tuesday communities. We thank all for their prayers and blessings and hope that you will remember our families as Christmas draws near. For how to send donations to our tax exempt organization please go to http://www.goodshepmin.org
In Service and gratitude,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP
Pastor Judy Lee-Co-Pastor and Clinical Director of Good Shepherd Ministries of SW FL, Inc.
And Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP, Co-Pastor and Administrator