Archive | April 2016

Another Roman Catholic Woman Priest Ordained in Central Minnesota Today

Our Blessings and Congratulations to Ruth Lindstedt, validly ordained a Roman Catholic priest today with Roman Catholic Women Priests in St. Cloud, Minnesota!!

Below is an excellent article by Stephanie Dickrell of the St. Cloud Times, telling about Ruth and our priests in Central Minnesota. The only clarification  I would offer regarding the “requirements” stated below is that a strong sense of God’s call to the priesthood and the call of the community are a given and a Masters’ degree in Divinity or its equivalent is expected of those under 55 while for those over 55 a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies or its equivalent is expected.  In terms of history/herstory of the Movement, it began in June of 2002 with the ordination of seven well prepared women by a Roman Catholic Bishop with Apostolic Succession, on the Danube River in Passau, Germany. The Movement came to the USA in  July of 2006 when several women were ordained in Pittsburgh.  My own ordination was in July of 2008 in Boston and now there are over 220 of us world wide- and many in preparation. As noted below we are validly ordained but contra legem, against man made church law. We congratulate Ruth for her courage and conviction and life of service as she becomes a priest today.

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

Women in the Priesthood is about equality      Stephanie Dickrell

“Lesser than.

That’s how three Central Minnesota women feel the Roman Catholic Church views them.

That’s one reason Deacon Ruth Lindstedt chose to be ordained as a womanpriest Sunday.

Lindstedt, 72, joins 220 Catholic womenpriests worldwide, including the Rev. Bernie Sykora, 83, who in 2013 became the first womanpriest ordained in Central Minnesota. Both women live in Sartell.

The Roman Catholic Church has stood in staunch opposition to the ordination of women for centuries.

“They don’t know what to do with us,” said Rose Henzler, 72, of St. Cloud, who hopes to be ordained in 2017.

For these three and others, it’s an issue that goes beyond their personal call to serve. It’s a pursuit of equality.

Minnesota is one of the areas of the country that sees more support for the movement, said Jennifer O’Malley, president of Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA. With Lindstedt, there will be five in the state.

“This isn’t just about women’s ordination, but it’s about sexism within the church,” O’Malley said. “Ordination of women is not just so that we can follow our call. … It’s a realization, that in the hierarchical church, we cannot be priests, which makes it easier to use religion as an excuse to oppress and abuse women.”

O’Malley, who lives in Long Beach, California, was ordained in 2012.

“We are both following the call from our community and our God, and breaking down that barrier that says that women are ‘less than,’ ” O’Malley said. “We’re standing up for the global justice of women throughout the world.”

For these women, the church’s position on women stands in opposition with its stated mission.

“When the church talks about welcoming the marginalized, and this whole thing on justice, I’m sorry I just can’t take it seriously, folks,” Lindstedt said.

Their ordinations are a form of peaceful protest.

“From Mandela to Thomas Jefferson to Martin Luther King, (if there) is a law that is unjust, we must try to change it. If we can’t change it, we must break it. That’s pretty much where womenpriests are coming from now, on the side of justice,” Henzler said.

They recognize that it can be difficult for people to accept. It requires a change in their worldview.

“I know that members of my family who don’t agree with me are afraid that what they believed all their life is not true, that there might be some other way of looking at something,” Sykora said.

Taking a risk

Despite their drive to serve their community and faith, these women are taking risks with their social and their spiritual lives.

Sykora’s brother, for instance, isn’t supportive. She spoke to him recently.

“I said, ‘You know I’m priest,’ and he says, ‘No, you’re not,’ ” Sykora said. “It is very hurtful. In fact, I feel hurt by the church.

Upon receiving ordination, they are automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

In 2008, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith issued a penalty of excommunication for any women ordained as priests or any clergy that ordain them. The order is automatic and takes effect at the moment of the offense.

Excommunication is the most severe penalty the church doles out, barring people from all sacraments, including communion.

While this is concerning to them, women in the movement reject it as a punishment.

“The call to priesthood, the call from God, trumps that unjust law,” O’Malley says.

In recent years, the RCWP has reached out to church organizations like U.S. Catholic Bishops to talk about the issue, but generally, they don’t get any response, she said.

Locally, Bishop Joseph Kettler of the Diocese of St. Cloud affirms the church’s stance barring women from ordination, but disagrees with assertions that women are treated as lesser than men in the eyes of the church. Kettler was not available for an interview with the Times, said Joe Towalski, director of the office of communications for the diocese. Instead, he sent this statement:

“The Roman Catholic Church reserves priesthood to men based on the example of Jesus who chose only men as his Apostles. This teaching about the priesthood has been constant and unchanging. The ordination of women who claim to be Catholic priests is not valid. This teaching about ordination, however, in no way diminishes the equal dignity that women share with men. Both women and men are called to holiness and discipleship. Both women and men bring invaluable gifts of service and leadership to their families, the Church and their communities.”

Women in the priesthood movement have not received any indication that Pope Francis would make any changes.

While the organization appreciates Francis’ tone emphasizing mercy, members will continue to challenge him to address the women’s issue in the church, O’Malley said.

“Until he does, he’s not really addressing poverty and climate change, as women are disproportionately affected by all those issues,” she said.

The Women’s Ordination Conference had an event in Philadelphia in 2015, around the time Pope Francis visited the area.

“It was important to do it close to when Pope Francis was going to be there,” O’Malley said, “to empathize the injustice, the sexism in the church.”

The church’s stance on women can have global implications, members say. The Vatican has a seat at the United Nations. It’s a very influential voice throughout the world, O’Malley said.

“We saw that with Pope Francis on the environment, the conversation that spurred and impact that it’s had. Imagine if Pope Francis said sexism in the Catholic Church is ending and … the church will be open to women,” she said.

There is support

Despite the unmoving position of church leadership, there is growing support for their cause, O’Malley said. She hears anecdotes and conversations confirming this, along with polls and surveys.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Survey of U.S. Catholics and Family Life, many Catholics, cultural Catholics and ex-Catholics think the Catholic church should change its position on allowing priests to marry and women to be priests. However, fewer believe these changes will actually take place in the next few decades.

“We’re also seeing a steady growth in women who are answering that call to be priests,” O’Malley said.

However, she knows that Roman Catholic Womenpriests as a movement are still relatively unknown

“As people find out about us, they’re really excited. The reaction we generally get is, ‘It’s about time,’ or ‘Why not?’ ” O’Malley said.

For younger generations, it’s almost a nonissue. They assume equality is the way the church should work.

The three local women have received support from some in their families, including children.

“My daughter didn’t quite know what to make of it,” Henzler said. “But it’s come to this point where her faith community has asked me to preach. … My nieces and nephews are just ecstatic. ‘You know grandma always wanted a priest in the family.’ ”

Lindstedt says her children are spiritual but not religious.

“What fascinates me is that now I’m taking this step … I called each one of them and said this is happening, here’s the date, and they said, ‘Oh, yes, please we’d like to be there,’ ” Lindstedt said. Her kids will travel to St. Cloud from the West Coast, just to attend the ordination.

Sykora’s sisters and children are also supportive.

A calling

The decision to seek the priesthood is not made lightly.

Women in the movement talk about it as a calling to serve God and their community. They also feel called to create equality and leave the world better than they found it.

Not every woman who’s interested in religion, religious studies or theology is called to be a priest.

“We really think that God is calling us or our spirit is calling us to be priests, and we can deny or we can accept. For me, I couldn’t deny it. I knew that this was something I must do … to be who I was called to be,” Sykora said.

And they dismiss the argument against ordination that relies on tradition.

“I don’t care what they did two decades ago. I don’t care that women weren’t priests two decades ago. Anyone who uses that as an excuse is mind boggling,” Sykora said.

“Tradition takes over instead of the possibility for true inclusion and love,” Lindstedt said.

Still, as she approached ordination, Lindstedt considered her position.

“I even wavered during the course of studies,” she said.

But it’s not all about the job. It’s about changing your perspective.

“Being a womanpriest is really quite secondary to opening up my heart to possibilities,” Sykora said. “I could not, in my right conscience, do that within the Catholic church. Talking about … up at the altar the men, the men, the men. It was too painful to go to church than to not go to church. That’s when I decided to do something about my own personal spirituality.”

Womenpriests have to reshape their thinking, she said.

“That’s one of the more difficult things, to be open to a new idea of God — not that closed concept of the creator, the male, the father, the man with the long beard and white hair. Let’s open it up and think about who God really is,” Sykora said. “Not the king, not the emperor, not the father.”

Many in the womenpriest movement see a correlation between the Roman Catholic Church treating women as inferior to men and how society treats women, Sykora said.

“That is so offensive, so sad, so hurtful to me, to think that something I have honored all of my life, and appreciated so much all of my life, now is guilty of some disrespect to a group of people,” Sykora said. And it’s such open disrespect that it validates those actions in others.

“They’re not giving an example of equality and honor and respect,” she said.

Becoming a womanpriest

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests hope to build the movement where the church is forced to deal with the issue.

“(The church) won’t be ordaining womenpriests until women are ordained,” Henzler said.

But they don’t want to stop there. They believe the whole church needs a renovation.

One way is to change the language that is used. It should be inclusive, using pronouns such as they or their, not exclusive, such as him and his.

There are also so many connotations of God as being male in scripture and tradition.

For instance, the womenpriest movement uses a different sign of the cross. Instead of: “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” they say: “In the name of God our creator, our brother Jesus and Sophia, Spirit of Wisdom and Love.”

In the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church, Sophia, or Hagia Sophia meaning Holy Widsom, is an expression of understanding for the third person of the holy trinity. It is a feminine image.

“When you go to a church where there’s a male giving the homily … the woman experience has not often been talked about in a personal way, as it can be by those who have experienced it,” Sykora said.

For example, some of the scriptures describe God as the tender mother.

“And it’s been so ignored by our male hierarchy,” Sykora said.

As an organization too, they quite literally try to practice what they preach.

“We try as much as possible to operate as a flat organization, so that everybody’s role is honored. There are no top-down decisions,” O’Malley said. “Everybody’s voice has a value and everybody’s role is just as important as somebody else’s, ordained or not ordained.”

Their approach is based on circles of relationships, or consensus-building. There isn’t a strict hierarchy.

Yes, there are bishops, who are servants and leaders. But they’re not unquestioned decision makers, nor do they have authority in judgments, Lindstedt said.

All of this is a process, of course, one that accounts for varied viewpoints.

For instance, the movement doesn’t take a stance on particular issues.

People as individuals can decide but the group would need consensus to make a statement, which is difficult to achieve. But generally, there’s a degree of openness, Lindstedt said, on issues such as divorce and remarriage, LGBTQ, abortion and more.

“The one word that Jesus never used was ‘except,’ ” Henzler said. ” ‘Everybody’s welcome, except …’ ”

And if beliefs seem to come from a place of bigotry, hate or distrust?

Lindstedt said they are challenged to see beyond that to the individual and try to understand where it comes from.

“We need to be loving to that person,” Sykora said.

To understand that hatred is coming form someplace, Henzler said. Maybe it comes from a place of fear, hurt or an experience. There’s always a why, she says.

“I would say that I know that I am still learning about how to love more, how to listen more and allow my heart to expand more,” Lindstedt said. “So if a person is coming from a place of hate or exclusion, rather than reacting, … I need to learn more about being more loving.

Feeling fulfilled 

The women find fulfillment in their service.

Sykora lives in senior housing. She doesn’t say Mass at the altar because she doesn’t have the energy for it.

“But people in the community know I’m a priest and they respect me for it. And I’m involved in the community in a different way than if I wasn’t a priest,” Sykora said.

People come to her for advice.

“It’s very rewarding. It’s a very rich experience to be that for them. And we’re so close to death in an environment like that that you get down to the nitty gritty,” Sykora said. “You’re down to the bare truth of things, the bare honesty. That is what is so beautiful.”

For Lindstedt, the symbolism of the liturgy itself is so dear to her heart.

“To be able to take a role … in convening people, to join in this celebration is really important, Lindstedt said.

The women ask each other an important question: If you were invited back to the traditional church, would you?

Lindstedt and Henzler would, but Sykora would have a hard time.

“This presumes there’s some healing in other areas as well. Not just women standing at the altar, but acceptance of the fact that there is an inclusive welcoming of all,” Lindstedt said.

Henzler would need to see drastic changes.

It’s imperative, they say, for the church, the community and individuals to grow.

“It’s a matter of a community effort growing to be something that is God-like,” Sykora said.

Sykora said while considering ordination, her age was a factor. She wondered, was it really worth it?

But she decided her ordination could be empowering to other women.

Henzler and Lindstedt agreed.

“I never thought of myself as a feminist, however I’ve come to recognize more and more, to be a woman, it’s an important contribution to the needs of the world,” Lindstedt said. “Until women are fully incorporated into all aspects of life — and I don’t care what culture we’re talking about — then we will not see further progression in terms of peace, justice,” Lindstedt said.

Follow Stephanie Dickrell on Twitter @SctimesSteph, like her on Facebook at, call her at 255-8749 or find more stories at

By the numbers 

  • There are 220 women worldwide have been ordained as womenpriests.
  • There are 16 women in a seven-state Midwest region are ordained. 
  • There are 11 women in the region who are in discernment or who have started the process to become a womanpriest.
  • Ruth Lindstedt is the fifth womanpriest in Minnesota. 
  • There are five womanpriest regions in the U.S., each with a womanbishop elected by those in their region. 

Source: Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

Requirements to become a womanpriest

  • Interest.
  • Master’s in divinity or the equivalent. 
  • Complete 10 units through Roman Catholic Womenpriests, on subjects such as liturgy, counseling and the sacraments. They are online courses. 
  • Have a mentor to help guide through the process.
  • Takes about two years. 
  • Ordained as a deacon before moving toward priesthood. 
  • It is not required that you be a woman. While the goal is to ordain women as priests, there are men that have been ordained in the womanpriest movement. 

Source: Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

Apostolic succession

Roman Catholic Womenpriests asserts that ordinations of women are valid through apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church.

Apostolic succession is the uninterrupted transmission of spiritual authority from the Apostles down through successive popes and bishops. It is important in Catholicism, but not in Protestant religions. 

As the first womenpriests were ordained by Roman Catholic male bishops, the group says that the ordinations are valid. Womenbishops too, have been ordained by valid Roman Catholic bishops. So anyone they ordain continues the line of succession.

Source: Roman Catholic Womenpriests,  Encyclopedia Britannica.  

Brief history of womanpriest movement

2002: Seven women were ordained on the Danube River. 

2003: Three womenbishops were ordained. 

2008: The Vatican issues an Excommunication Decree, saying women priests and the bishops who ordain them are excommunicated latae sententiae, or sentence already passed or automatically. Womenpriests reject the penalty, because it relies on discrimination against women. 

2008: The womenpriest movement comes to the U.S. 

2009: Mary Magdalene, First Apostle, is formed. 

June 2013: Bernie Sykora is ordained as a womanpriest. 

April 10, 2016: Ruth Lindstedt is scheduled to be ordained as a womanpriest. 

2017: Rose Henzler hopes to be ordained as a womanpriest.” 

Source: Roman Catholic Womenpriests

Women RC Priests Respond to Pope Francis’ Document “The Joy of Love”

Here we present Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” which is a mix of  something new and something old, of compassion, courage, holding the line and caution and three responses to it. Two are responses of Roman Catholic Women Priests and one is by Francis De Bernardo of New Ways Ministries Bondings 2.0.

First what did Pope Francis say:

Associated Press Article

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis said Friday that Catholics should look to their own consciences rather than rely exclusively on church rules to negotiate the complexities of sex, marriage and family life, demanding the church shift emphasis from doctrine to mercy in confronting some of the thorniest issues facing the faithful.
In a major church document entitled “The Joy of Love,” Francis made no explicit change in church doctrine and upheld church teaching on the lifelong bond of marriage between a man and a woman…
While Francis frequently cited John Paul, whose papacy was characterized by a hardline insistence on doctrine and sexual morals, he did so selectively. Francis referenced certain parts of John Paul’s 1981 “Familius Consortio,” the guiding Vatican document on family life until Friday, but he omitted any reference to its most divisive paragraph 84, which explicitly forbids the sacraments for the divorced and civilly remarried.
In fact, Francis went further than mere omission and effectively rejected John Paul’s suggestion in that document for people in civil second marriages to live as brother and sister, abstaining from sex so they can still receive the sacraments. In a footnote, Francis said that many people offered such a solution by the church “point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of children suffer.”
Similarly, in discussing the need for “responsible parenthood” and regulating the number of children, Francis made no mention of the church’s opposition to artificial contraception. He squarely rejected abortion as “horrendous” and he cited the 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” which deals with the issue.
But Francis made no mention of the “unlawful birth control methods” cited and rejected in “Humanae Vitae.” Instead he focused on the need for couples in their conscience to make responsible decisions about their family size.
Francis made a single reference to church-sanctioned family planning method of abstaining from sex during a woman’s fertile time. He said only that such practices are to be “promoted” — not that other methods are forbidden — and he insisted on the need for children to receive sex education, 
Francis condemned at length the “verbal, physical and sexual violence” many women endure in marriages. He rejected their “sexual submission” to men and the “reprehensible” practice of female genital mutilation. And he said the belief that feminism was to blame for the crisis in families today is completely invalid.”

No Mercy for Roman Catholic Women Validly Ordained Priests?

Below is Jamie Manson’s thoughtful and provoking article in today’s  National Catholic Reporter: (Picture below shows  ordained women of the Eastern Region of RCWP-USA. )

DSCF1071In meeting with Fellay, Pope Francis shows double standard in the ‘culture of encounter’

Earlier this week, NCR’s Joshua J. McElwee reported that, on April 1, Pope Francis met with Bishop Bernard Fellay, the Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X. Founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society widely rejects the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

According to the society’s website, the “false teachings” of Vatican II include the Council’s exhortations on religious liberty, ecumenism, liturgical reforms, collegiality and what they call the “modernist” idea that “that the human conscience is the supreme arbiter of good and evil for each individual.” The society is an ardent defender of the Tridentine Mass (Fellay’s liturgical dress rivals any garb donned byCardinal Raymond Burke) and believes passionately in the supremacy of the Roman Catholic church over all other religions.

In 1988, Lefebvre decided, against orders of then-Pope John Paul II, to consecrate four new bishops. Lefebvre consecrated these men out of concern that, in the event of his death, there would be no truly orthodox bishops to ordain new priests for the society. St. John Paul II in turn excommunicated Lefebvre and his four newly minted bishops, including Fellay.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI lifted those excommunications in an attempt to repair relations with the group. But his efforts to bring the Society back into the fold eventually broke down.

By meeting with Fellay this past weekend, Pope Francis has taken a new step toward returning the Society of St. Pius X into full Communion with the Roman Catholic church.

Get everything NCRoffers! Subscribe now and save $10!

According to McElwee’s report, Fellay believes that “Francis may consider his group as existing on the ‘periphery’ and thus needing to be accompanied back to the church.”

This isn’t Francis’ first overture towards the society. Back in September, the pope announced that, during the Year of Mercy, the society’s priests would have their faculties restored to offer absolution “validly and licitly” to those who come to them for confession.

“This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the pontiff said in September. “I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity.”

While some may admire the pope’s latest meeting with Fellay as yet another example of his commitment to a “culture of encounter,” it also demonstrates that the Year of Mercy has its double standards.

If Francis can offer a forty-minute, private meeting to a formerly excommunicated bishop who has been performing the sacraments illicitly for decades and who believes that the Catholic church is laced with false teachings, why can’t the pope also extend the same invitation to Catholic theologians, ethicists, and lay ministers who challenge the church’s teaching on women’s ordination, the use of contraception, and the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons?

If Francis truly wishes to cultivate a culture of encounter and to include everyone in the Year of Mercy, why not welcome those women and men who have been excommunicated for expressing their belief that women deserve an equal role in decision-making authority and sacramental leadership in the church?

Why not open up a dialogue with the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement whose first priests were ordained by a valid Roman Catholic bishop? Not unlike Lefebvre, Roman Catholic Womenpriests have moved forward with consecrating their own bishops and, not unlike the society, they continue to perform the sacraments validly but not licitly. Why, then, can’t they get a hearing from the pope, too?

In the three years since his election, Pope Francis has welcomed a stunning spectrum of people to the Vatican. He has greeted everyone from actor Leonardo DiCaprio to discuss climate change, to American Evangelical leaders to discuss religious liberty and evangelization, to the founder of Twitter to discuss the power of social media.

The Pope has flown to far away places to participate in historic encounters, most recently traveling to Havana, Cuba, to chat with Fidel Castro and to sign a joint declaration with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all of Russia.

And, yet, like popes before him, Francis still can’t seem to find time on his dance card for the members of his own flock who seek to make the Roman Catholic church a better reflection of mercy, justice, and equality.

This is tragic, since according to a 2014 Univision Poll of Catholics on five continents, a significant number (if not substantial majorities) of Catholics in countries around the world disagree with the church’s teachings on women’s ordination, contraception, divorce and same-sex marriage. These Catholics surely exceed the slim number of those who would adhere to the society’s anachronistic beliefs.

The pope’s meeting with Fellay shows us who among “dissenting” Catholics is worthy to encounter Francis, and who is not.

Members of the Society of St. Pius X flagrantly reject the Catholic church’s rite of the Mass, its teachings on the primacy of conscience, and its respect for the truths expressed by other religions. Yet they are beckoned back into the fold.

But Catholics who (based on decades of theological and historical inquiry) challenge the church’s teachings on women’s ordination and sexual ethics are still locked outside of the doors of mercy.

One can only conclude from this situation that a spirit of welcome and dialogue are available to anyone — except Catholics who question the Vatican on issues of gender and sexuality. Until they, too, are invited to talk to the pope, the notion of a culture of encounter remains dubious.

[Jamie L. Manson is NCR books editor. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School, where she studied Catholic theology and sexual ethics. Her email address is]


Female Priest attacked with acid to cover up non-profit scam: DA

Here is a 4/5/16 NY Post update on the story of RCWP Alexandra Dyer, a victim of a vicious attack  on August 19,2015 altering her life of service and love in so many ways. Our hearts remain with Rev. Dyer who is still recovering from this attack. In the picture below taken in August 2015 Rev. Alexandra Dyer,RCWP, in the middle, is with Rev. Eda Lorello,RCWP and Rev. Judy Beaumont, RCWP in Queens, New York. 

A man who burned a ​female Q​ueens priest by throwing an acid-like liquid in her facecommitted the gruesome crime as part of a cover-up ​of an embezzlement scheme at a non-profit,​the Queens district attorney said Tuesday.

Jerry Mohammed, 32 — who is accused of attacking ordained priest Alexandra Dyer​ — a member of the sect Roman Catholic Womenpriests ​and​ executive director of the Healing Arts Initiative ​– in August. He allegedly schemed with a former employee of the non-profit who fleeced $750,000 from the group, law enforcement sources said.

Mohammed and Kim Williams, 47 — a former accountant for the group — plotted the attack on Dyer to ​distract from the theft and apparently make it look as if a hardened thug had stolen the money instead of her, according to law enforcement sources.

Pia Louallen, 41, a close friend of the allegedly twisted numbers cruncher, worked with Williams and pocketed $150,000 between 2013 and 2015, law enforcement sources said.

All three were indicted for the scheme Tuesday, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

“This case is troubling on so many different levels. In an atmosphere of such giving, it is disheartening to see an individual alleged​​ly use her position of fiduciary trust to siphon off tens of thousands of dollars in funds for the personal use of herself and another,” Brown said.

On Aug. 19, Mohammed allegedly waited for Dyer to leave work then threw the acid-like liquid at her as she sat in her car — burning her face and other parts of her body.
Dyer was hospitalized and underwent surgeries as a result of the attack.

Mohammed was charged with assault, conspiracy and criminal possession of a weapon. Williams was charged with assault, grand larceny, falsifying business records and other charges.

Louallen was charged with grand larceny and conspiracy.


Reflections on Second Sunday of Easter-Divine Mercy-Loving Thomas

We present here three insightful reflections, and my own, on this Sunday of Divine Mercy. On this day, where our Gospel has the apostle Thomas encountering the risen Jesus, we see Jesus’ love for Thomas and how Jesus connects with Thomas, through his wounds. First we have a reflection by Sr. Melanie Svoboda on how we who are wounded (and that is indeed most of us in one way or the other) connect with Jesus through his wounds- how we connect with God through knowing that God’s Beloved Jesus suffered even as we do-and that God is with us, loving us through that which causes suffering. This reflection reverberates in my heart this year as I encounter the ‘suffering’ of another cancer, one which, very thankfully, is not life threatening, but is in some ways life altering. And there is also the suffering of loss and change as Pastor Judy Beaumont and I discern the ways which our ministry at the Good Shepherd will need to change to accommodate our situations of life and health.

During this Holy Week we had to modify our worship and liturgical activities. Usually we celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter with our Good Shepherd Community. We have always celebrated the Mass of the Last Supper and foot washing. This year we were able to celebrate Good Friday, although we did the Stations of the Cross in the Church and not walking through the community as done before.  And we celebrated a glorious Easter but could not include Holy Thursday. We attended Holy Thursday at the Lamb of God Lutheran Episcopal Church, the congregation that we joined with in 2007 to provide a meal and later worship with the poor and homeless in Lion’s Park in Fort Myers. Our friends there continue to cook and serve with us at our Good Shepherd Community, and their Thrift Store sends regular financial support as is possible to our ministry. Since we could not minister ourselves we were so happy to be able to join our friends at Lamb of God. As we sat there we both remembered the holy events of our lives that took place at Lamb of God in years past. In 2012 Pastor Judy Beaumont was ordained by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP in that same beautiful worship space. Almost 400 people attended and joyfully affirmed her ordination. She was truly called forth by this whole community. She was presented to the Bishop by members of our Good Shepherd Community and her family.

In 2008, this beautiful worship space was used to call me forth to service as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. In the tradition of the Black Catholic Church there is a Dedication Service before a formal ordination and since I was to be ordained in Boston it was so important to assemble our community to participate in my calling. Various people from the homeless community and the wider community stepped forward and said why I was called to serve them. Representatives of the homeless, Latina, Black, LGBTQ, Homeless, and Roman Catholic and Ecumenical communities brought me to tears on that day. Pastors Becky Robbins-Penniman and Walter Fohs of Lamb of God and Rev. Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan, then of RCWP presided and facilitated the calling forth by the community. I remember Bridget Mary’s words and her father Jack Meehan playing the trumpet. I recalled how Pastor Walter first and then Brenda and Roger, who are still with our Good Shepherd Community lead in blessing me with water from the Baptismal Fount as a long line of people followed suite. I remember  Pastor Becky standing next to me at one point, and perceiving my feelings of being overwhelmed by love and the momentous nature of the calling, she asked me to kneel for the blessing and whispered to me: “Just focus on the face of Christ etched into the altar”, and I did. This is the face of Christ in agony on the Cross, the Crown of thorns pressing into his head that is etched into the rich brown wood. Yet it is entirely strong and beautiful and transforming. She knew what I would face in shepherding this community and she knew Who would be with me as I did. I am ever grateful to her for that moment, and that day and perceived her with me as well on this Holy Thursday as I returned to that same space to be with Jesus at the time of his Last Supper with the disciples before the Cross, and Resurrection.

Like Jesus that night, I knew that I would not continue with my people, my ministry to the poor and homeless, in the same way as I had for the last eight years. And deep within me, just beyond my consciousness, I knew something of how Jesus felt that night in leaving his work on earth behind and in the hands of others. And I began to cry softly and then weep openly as I moved forward to participate in the foot washing. I remembered all of the feet I had washed, large, small, dirty, clean, twisted and strong. And as I submitted my feet to Pastor B. to wash, and washed hers I deeply knew that there was a time to receive as well as a time to give. And I knew the Resurrection was coming. As our friends from Lamb of God including the Catholics who attend there reached out to us at the Sign of Peace we felt enveloped in love. When dear Lisa Munklewitz, a LOG member, who serves our ministry so faithfully with her cooking and serving embraced me and cried for joy at seeing me whole after this second surgery I did feel whole again. On Good Friday when eight of our faithful sat in a circle and reflected on the Stations of the Cross, I was again moved to silent tears.  When Pat S and Mr. Gary shared their journeys from homelessness to homes as reflected in falling down again and again, and having the brow wiped or the Cross carried by a friend, our ministry, I gave God thanks and praise for the ministry given us. As we reached out to one of our members, Dr. Joe who grieved as he recently lost his sister to death and as another shared how her disability caused major disruption in her life, I realized that the frequency, time and place of our ministry may change, but we would continue to serve God’s people in new forms. And on Easter we all rose again in great joy. Having experienced the sufferings the joy of Easter was rich, full and overflowing. And so for dear Thomas. As Pat McMillan notes below: Jesus came back for him, did not leave him in his grief, doubt and misery. And as Rev. Katy Zatsick notes we see the risen Christ around us every day-in faces that once suffered and rose again.

The second reflection is from Rev. Katy Zatsick,ARCWP and Patricia MacMillan of Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota ,Florida from

 Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Acts 5:12-16

Psalm 118 All: #814 “This is the day that our God has made; let us rejoice and be glad; for this is the day that our God has made; alleluia, alleluia!”

Second Reading: Revelation 1:9-11, 12-13, 17-19

All Sing: Alleluia! Alleluia!

Gospel Reading: The Good News of Jesus the Christ from John 20:19-31


 St. Thomas by Pat MacMillan

I am St. Thomas. I am sometimes the “doubter” (where is God?) but more often the “ believer”, ( “My Lord and my God.”). In reading about Thomas, I learned that he is characterized as being somewhat gloomy and easily discouraged. While he was considered a pessimist, he was, indeed, a full believer in Jesus and a very loyal follower through His life. His loyalty and love is depicted in John, Chapter 11, when the disciples were worried about going with Jesus to Judea (because the Jews had previously tried to stone Jesus there), Thomas encouraged them to stick with Jesus, who wanted to return to the area to help his friend Lazarus, even if that meant being attacked by Jewish leaders there. Thomas says in verse 16: “Let us also go, that we might die with him.”

Thomas was the one disciple who was not present on Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection. Jesus knew why. He knew that Thomas was in deep mourning over his death. So, Jesus returned several days after the Resurrection- He returned for Thomas. Not to be little him for being a non-believer (“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” No, Jesus didn’t come back because of those words, not at all. He returned so that Thomas, who was suffering, could see and be healed. He knew Thomas loved HIM, he wanted Thomas to know HIS love.

And, isn’t that what we all need in our hours of greatest despair?

Reflection for April 2  by Katy Zatsick

When the doubts come

Today we celebrate the God of Love who died in Jesus has been raised from the dead. As Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead now he himself is raised and is present throughout the ages to all who believe. In our Gospel Thomas struggled to understand and accept that Jesus lives.

How many experiences have we had like Thomas?  We know there is a God but…and it is a BUT in the struggles of life we doubt, we hesitate in knowing our Higher Power, our Brother Jesus loves us unconditionally and is present to us.

Two years ago I asked your prayers for my grandson James Charles then a junior at Jesuit High School in Tampa. He was experiencing a life-shattering emotional, spiritual and physical breakdown. JC has an uncle who is diagnosed schizophrenic and has lived a life of suffering. We did not know the possibilities for JC’s future. His mother took care of JC’s physical needs and found a nutritionist and a therapist. And the members of MMOJ prayed for his healing along with myself.

As JC completed his senior year at Jesuit he created this watercolor as a project. For me, it is the story of Thomas. From sufferings including depression, will come new life to bloom in fullness of living. My doubt about JC’s healing and God’s loving presence was transformed into rejoicing at his new life. May Jesus continue to heal JC as Thomas was healed, as I was healed.

Jesus is risen and is with us NOW., accompanying us as unconditional Love the energy of spiritual evolution.”


And From the blog of newways ministries  bondings2.0:

Nearly four months ago, Pope Francis inaugurated, to much excitement and anticipation, the Jubilee Year of Mercy now underway. He has called for this to be a time to remind ourselves that the church to be a “home for all,” a place “where everyone is loved, welcomed, and forgiven.” Catholics worldwide are participating in many ways and Malta’s Bishop Mario Grech even expressed his hope that the year would “start a new era for the Church.”

On this Divine Mercy Sunday, it is worth inquiring about what impact the Year of Mercy is actually having for LGBT Catholics, their loved ones, and their allies.

Positive moments of expanding mercy and inclusion have occurred. In several instances, bishops have used the Year of Mercy to extend special welcomes to LGBT communities.

For instance, Bishop Terry Steib, SVD of Memphis, in his letter titled A Compassionate Response, called on Catholics to tightly link mercy with humility and to be open to encounter and dialogue in ways which can move LGBT issues forward. Two bishops even apologized for the church’s mistreatment of marginalized people. In his Lenten message on mercy, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, sought forgiveness from those whom the church had hurt, including LGBT people. In New Orleans, Archbishop Gregory Aymond is hosting a Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday that includes a ritual of forgiveness and resurrection which acknowledges:

“[That] we as individuals, as members of the archdiocese and society as a whole have let people down. . .This rite seeks forgiveness and reconciliation with those who have been hurt or alienated by the church either through institutional or individual offenses.”

While no communities were specified, LGBT people are clearly included among those hurt by the church and Aymond has spoken in more positive terms about issues of sexuality in the past.

Lay Catholics are participating in the Year of Mercy, too. Many call for a more just and inclusive church and society. As a way to mark this special year, Kentucky Catholics marched through downtown Louisville and rallied outside the cathedral to foster support for LGBT non-discrimination protections. U.S. Catholics elsewhere, including at least two governors, are actively resisting “license to discriminate” bills now under consideration in state legislatures across the country. And two transgender Catholics shared their stories during a workshop at L.A. Religious Education Congress, the largest Catholic gathering in North America.

Despite these items of good news, negative moments have also occurred.Too many church officials are either avoiding the Year of Mercy or it seems they do not quite understand mercy. Malawi’s bishops used a pastoral letter on mercy to call for the government to jail LGBT people. A pastor disrupted a funeral because of his opposition to LGBT issues. Another pastor closed a parish LGBT ministry. The Vatican has thus far refused to intervene to stop Dominican Republic church leaders’ increasing attacks on gay U.S. Ambassador James Brewster. For church leaders whose hearts remained hardened to LGBT people, we can pray these words taken from Pope Francis’ prayer for the Year of Mercy:

“You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.”

When it comes to LGBT concerns, Pope Francis’ own involvement in the Year of Mercy is ambiguous. The million-dollar question right now is what impact his upcoming apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, will have for LGBT Catholics. The pope consistently preaches mercy during his Wednesday audiences, his foreign travels, and everything else in between. But he lodged his harshest criticism of marriage equality yet in January, and his involvement in Italy’s debate over civil unions has been unclear.

The jury is still out on whether the Year of Mercy, viewed as a whole, will be good or not good for LGBT people and other Catholics who support equality. There are signs of hope among the people of God but plenty of intransigence in ecclesial institutions too.

What do you think? Has the Year of Mercy benefited LGBT Catholics? If not yet, do you think it still might? What would be ways of showing greater mercy to those the church excludes and harms? You can leave your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Feel free to comment……

May all who need mercy and compassion all who give mercy and compassion be blessed!

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP