Archive | May 2016

Three RC Women Ordained Priests: Pictures

Pictures are now available for the Ordination of Jacqueline Clarys, Sharon Dickinson and Claire Gareau   who were ordained to the RC Priesthood in the Roman Catholic WomenPriest Movement,  in Morristown, New Jersey on April 23,2016.

Pictures are courtesy of Rev. Cynthia Blackwell,D.D., Rector of Redeemer Episcopal Church and also available on Shutterfly. We are grateful to Rev. Cynthia for sharing her beautiful Sanctuary and for her skill as a photographer.

RC Women Priests Celebrating the Body and Blood of Christ: Sunday 5/29/16

Here are three homiletic reflections on today’s celebration of The Body and Blood of Christ. There is nothing more central to our faith  than understanding the totality of the being of Christ-first the incarnate embodiment, totally divine and totally human of the historic Jesus who gave himself away in every way possible, body, soul and mind to bring the reign of God among us- really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist and present at the table and all around the table where all are invited to partake;  and that of the risen and  living Christ down through the ages, living in us and in every face we see struggling in poverty, in illness, in war and on the margins;  and the sacrament of Body of Christ that is the church, that is each one of us.  We thank God for the complete being of Jesus, the Christ, and for the breaking and pouring out of the body and blood that draws us together in one body. The excerpted reflections are by Rev. Janet Blake, ARCWP of Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida and Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle of The Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Toledo, Ohio and myself, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida reflecting on the sermon of Rev. William Colon at the Church of the Good Samaritan today.

From Rev. Janet Blake, and Rev. Sally Brochu (Liturgy)

First Reading: Genesis 14: 18-20                                                                                                                                     Responsorial Response – Psalm 110 (Adaptation by Nan Merrill)                                                                                                                                                     

The Beloved says to all who will hear,
“Come walk with Me.
Let us give birth to a new Earth!”
R: Come! Feast on the Bread of Life.”

For the Spirit is the One who makes all things new,

and ever awaits our “yes” to the Dance!

Those who offer themselves freely, without reserve,

are guided through life’s rough paths.

R: Come! Feast on the Bread of Life.”

Light beckons to light; divine dignity adorns all in holy array.

The Promise holds true forever, to all generations!

“As companions of the Most High,

Come! Claim your home in the Universal Heart!”

R: Come! Feast on the Bread of Life.”

You, O Divine Breath, dwell within our hearts;

with unconditional Love, You assuage our fears.

You call us to holiness, to justice, and integrity,

to free those bound by oppression,

to bring light where ignorance and darkness dwell.

Come! Drink from the streams of Living Water.

Come! Feast on the Bread of Life.

R: Come! Feast on the Bread of Life.”

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26                                                                                                                                                                                                        
Gospel Acclamation: Alleluia

Gospel: Luke 9: 11-17
Reader: The good news of Jesus, the Christ!
ALL: Glory and praise to you, Jesus, the Christ!


Janet Blakeley ARCWP

Gospel: Luke 9:11-17

(Feeding the 5,000 men at Tabgah)

“This has to have been one of the favorite Jesus stories ever told.    It must have been recounted over and over amongst the early Christians because it’s the kind of story people relish telling, and children love to be amazed by.   Under any circumstances, somebody producing 5,000 fish tacos is amazing.

The environment sets up the story.   We’re at an out-of-the-way place called Tabgah at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee.   The weather is like ours of the last week – sunny with blue skies, sparkling blue water, a green hillside that slopes down to the shore.   A perfect place for a picnic!   We know that what happened here was remembered because 300 years later  people built a church on this spot which is still standing.   Its floor is typical mosaic of the era – with a large round picture formed in the middle of the floor.   It shows a basket filled to the top with round flat breads and a dried fish on either side.   (We have a small replica of that mosaic on the altar if you care to look at it.)

Today is the solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ.   Although the term, Body of Christ, may indicate the human body of Jesus, or his presence in the Eucharist, or the Church itself, or – in today’s theology the entire creation – today we honor it as the Eucharist and for that reason we have this Gospel showing Jesus feeding everyone.   We see that he likes to feed people as much as he likes to share meals with them.

Over time, people have suggested all manner of ways in which this “miracle of the loaves and fishes” might have come about – that people carried a bit of food with them and the real miracle is that they shared it.   Others have suggested that the women – that is the uncounted women and children! –  the women, true to form, had brought and prepared food for the 5,000 men.   We don’t know how this came about – but does it really matter?   Most important  is what we learn about Jesus.   Not only do we see an ordinary man acquainted with hunger and thirst, but Jesus as an infinite resource wanting to fill our needs – needs he identifies even before we do.   One who gives to the extreme.

This brings us to the Eucharistic meal in which Jesus feeds us with his very self.   In both Hebrew and Greek, the words “flesh and blood” do not refer to parts of a person’s body, but to the entire person, i.e., everything that a person is.   Incredible as it seems, Jesus gives us his entire being – which means we now (already!) share in his relationship with God the creator, we have his Spirit, we share in their relationships with one another – which means that even as we live in this moment, we are part of the Trinity!   We have wisdom, an endless capacity to love, the power to heal, the strength to endure pain, eternal life….   We already have all this and more because Jesus hasalready shared it with us.

Why is the world not thriving because of all that Jesus has given us and continues to give us?    Maybe that’s because we fail to acknowledge what we carry within us, fail to access what is there.   How many times have you heard someone say

“Oh Lord – Give me strength!”   He already has the strength.   Maybe the prayer should be “I know you have given me all that you are.   Help me to find your strength within me and to draw on it.”

“Help me to forgive.”   We already have his perfect forgiveness within us.   “Help me to want to forgive” or “Help me to draw on your forgiving nature until mine catches up.”

“God, we ask you to heal this person.”   We have his healing power within us as well.   What’s needed is some variation of “I believe.   Help my unbelief.”

The world is not thriving but hobbling along because we are hardly drawing on what Jesus has already given us in his Body.

Contemporary theology has taken the notion of the Body of Christ to include the entire universe from the Big Bang forward.   The concepts are scarcely within my understanding and vocabulary, but the god-life within me nudges me to think they are true and valuable.   Maybe one day we will be able to talk about them.   For today, let us stay with this thought:

Jesus, the Christ, has broken through like sunlight breaking through clouds, by acting through us to transform the world into a growing likeness of himself.   In praise and thanksgiving, let us take time to recognize where he has done that in us.”

From Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle

“….The first century society that Jesus lived in
typically saw four different meanings in meals:
to support kinship,
to enforce boundaries,
to perpetuate social values,
and to gain honor.
And Jesus turned every one of them upside down.
He used meals to disrupt social values
and overturn cultural standards.
For example, Jesus used meals
to redefine who he considered his family.
When his mother and brothers called for him to come out to them,
Jesus said that his family
are the people who hear the word of God and keep it.
And Jesus used meals
to challenge exclusivism in his society and in his religion.
He put the needs of people
ahead of traditions about washing or fasting
or keeping Sabbath rules.
He ate with sinners.
He didn’t hesitate to call attention to a sinner
as serving God more faithfully
than a host with great social rank.
In short, when Jesus’ followers talked about him,
they remembered his subversive message of love
embodied in table fellowship.
Catholic theologian Joseph Martos
says that the question he asks,
and which most scholars do not ask,
is what experience is the evangelist trying to talk about
when language is being used metaphorically?
What experience of Jesus
is Luke trying to talk about in the feeding of the 5,000?
What experience of Jesus
were the gospel writers trying to talk about
with at least 18 different stories
of meals and eating and drinking—all that table fellowship?
When we look at Jesus’ teaching as a whole,
it makes perfect sense.
In his latest book
[Deconstructing Sacramental Theology and Reconstructing Catholic Ritual]
Dr. Martos says that the people of the time
who heard Jesus say
“This is my body” and “This is my blood”—
at least the ones who had followed him along the way—
they would have taken those sentences as metaphors.
My flesh is real food!
My blood is real drink!
I am real!
Chew on what I have said and done.
Drink in what I have taught.
The pattern in that letter of Paul we just heard
uses language that we still use at Mass—
took, blessed, broke, gave.
That pattern shows up in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.
It shows up in the Last Supper narratives.
It’s what Jesus did,
and what he tells us to do:
Take—you have life, so grab on and live it.
Bless—thank God for all that is, life and breath, wine and bread.
Break—put all you have into loving others, even if it breaks you…
until it does break you.
Give—give all out of love. Give your self away.
So we follow the way of Jesus.
We chew on his example,
drink in his teaching.
We forgive.
We include everyone.
We love one another.
We have potlucks.
And we break bread together.

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

 From Rev. Dr. Judy Lee

Today  Pastor Judy Beaumont and Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez and Patricia Scorsone and I went to visit another neighborhood church, the Church of the Good Samaritan, Iglesia del Buen Samaritano in Fort Myers. The inspired and dynamic message by Rev. William Colon was “God loves the broken pieces”. His text was 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10-God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. When we are broken we are very close to God and it is God that shines through us. God is loving us deeply in our brokenness. It is often simply terrible to experience brokenness-be it physically, mentally and/or spiritually. Yet it is cause for thanksgiving, for God is reconstructing what has been deconstructed and broken for God’s glory-to build the kindom of God through us. Pastor Colon’s words were exactly what I have been feeling lately-broken physically and in many ways-facing uncertainty and perhaps another round of illness, hardly healed from the first rounds of illness.Broken, and yet knowing that God is using and will still use this broken person to serve God’s people who are also broken by the difficulties of lives of poverty, sickness of all sorts,difference, marginalization and all that can go wrong and become difficult in life . Pastor Colon did not preach specifically on the Body and Blood of Christ but he offered the Christ whose body and life was broken and poured out for us as the hand of God to reconstruct us when we are broken. After church all present were given bread to take home-this church is living the feeding of the many every Sunday, and also planning to do a feeding of the homeless on a weekly basis soon. The warmth and prayers of this congregation lingers with us still. A hymn that Diane Colon led us in stays with me:”Cubre me con su amor,O Dios”, “Cover Me with your Love oh, God.” May the Christ who gave it all away, poured out and broken, sustain us all in and as the Body of Christ today.   AMEN!


ere, Gloria Laracuente, Titi Gloria, an Aunt of my dear departed friend and also a Pastor, Nancy Echevarria, listens raptly to the Gospel from the well worn Bible that she asked Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez to read and teach from. Her sister Miriam and I look on. Titi Gloria’s body was broken but her spirit was whole and so full of God’s love. She lived on for a year or so after this and left us in 2014, now she is completely whole with her loving God forever.  After my ordination in 2008 we visited Titi Gloria and she gave me her first well worn Bible,Santa Biblia, as she has gone through several in her lifetime.  I cherish it, and had it with me at Buen Samaritano today. We heal each other.  Pastora Judy Lee

God Loving, Loved, Love: Trinity Sunday 5/22/16

In my early twenties I wrote a poem asking where God is and wondering how God could be present in churches “where people worship with so little vitality-so very little giving of the self”, concluding: “One of us is in the wrong place; I can not find You there anymore.”  I continued: “Do I find you in all that I experience in a moment, in all that I am and am not, in all that I need and feel? ….Are we related You and I? Do You love your Creation?  Where are You?” (Pages 100-101 in The Flame Keeper and Other Poems, AmericaStarBooks, 2007). While I smile now at my fervently seeking younger self and remember the unsettling ingredients making up that turning point in my life, I give myself credit for at least asking some good questions of and about the God I loved then and love now. I am respectful of all who seek to know our loving God. Jesus did his best to share his beloved Parent with us and to let us know Who  God is and how we can experience God. Indeed we struggle to put words on the vast mystery of God but we know God is so much more than anything we know and yet with us and within us. We see God in Jesus’ life on earth, in all he did and said and was. We see Love in action. And we see God in all of creation. In the darkness of the night we feel the Spirit of God with us, bathing us in light and hope. We do know the Three-in One God, the One in Three God, though  the words we learn to describe God are so inadequate.  More than simply reciting stale doctrine we recognize the sense of the triune God in our hearts, as a formulation of the experiences of God by the faithful in the early church, where action for justice and compassion and not doctrine were the concerns of the faithful.  The God of the Cosmos, the God of the beyond, the More we can never fully know or capture with words; the God who walked with us,incarnate in the human form of Jesus; and the God who remains within us-God transcendent and immanent as close as breath.

When Jesus was leaving this earth he felt their acute sense of loss and said to his followers: “….When the Spirit of truth comes, She will guide you into all truth….She will take what is mine and reveal it to you. Everything that Abba God has belongs to me.  This is why I said that the Spirit will take what is mine and will reveal it to you.”( John 16: 13-15,TIB)) This Spirit is Wisdom Sophia,  that was with God from the beginning. Proverbs 8:22-31 describes the relationship of God and the Spirit: “Day after day I was there,with my joyful applause,always enjoying God’s company,delighted with the world of things and creatures,happily celebrating the human family” (vs. 31 the Message. ) In Proverbs 9: 1-6, “Lady Wisdom goes to town,stands in a prominent place and invites everyone within the sound of her voice…Are you confused about life….Come with me, oh come…leave your impoverished confusion and live  !…” We see God here in dynamic and electrifying interaction. And in Romans 5:1-5 we see the peace and hope in God we have gained through Christ, even through our afflictions as “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (v. 5). Note the action words: the love of God is poured into our hearts.   We thereby become a part of God in dynamic relation: to use words of St. Augustine: God loving (Creator, transcendent God in relation and in dynamic interaction), dancing as it were with God loved, God’s beloved Jesus; sends God Love into our hearts. The dance of God Father/Mother and God Son/Beloved, produces the love that is poured out and flowing within us through the Spirit.  Augustine also saw this trinity as  Mother, Child and Womb- the womb being the Holy Spirit in which we live and move and have our being.

How wonderful it is to grasp something of the mystery and complexity of God-three beings in one God. How wonderful for us to witness the love of Christ while he walked the earth, touching, healing, embracing and including the outcast, the poor, the stranger, women and girls as well as men and boys and all of creation in God’s justice and love. How blessed we are to know that Christ is with us still and that we are guided by God’s Holy Spirit, Wisdom Sophia.  And how confident we can be in knowing that we have been commissioned to do as Jesus did, and that we CAN do it because of the Spirit of the living God within us.

I like the vision of God in Celtic Christianity and put before you the words on St. Patrick’s breastplate:

“I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
his eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken, to my need;
the wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
the word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort
and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of
all that love me,
Christ in mouth of
friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word
praise to the Lord of my salvation,

salvation is of Christ the Lord.”

 God, our ONE holy and living God: Father/Mother,Beloved Son and Holy Spirit; Mother, Child and  Womb; Loving, Loved and Love be with us now as we seek to enact justice and to love you and love one another, without exception. AMEN. 

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida


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Roman Catholic Women Priests on Women Deacons

Here is an excellent article in today’s Christian Century from the point of view of the Roman Catholic WomanPriest Movement. We might only add that we remain thankful to Pope Francis for making a crack in the door and pray that it may open wide, both to affirm the well known history of women clergy at all levels in the Church for the first 12 centuries and to move positively toward equal ordination. And, we also ask that the “penalty” of excommunication be removed in this “year of Mercy”. If not now ,When?

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP


Womenpriests on the prospect of female deacons

There’s the Pope Francis buzz. And then there’s reality.

Last week news outlets reported that Pope Francis would form a commission to study the issue of female deacons in the Catholic Church. The predictable reverberations began immediately. Within days, the phrase “female priests” wormed its way into the headlines. While some hailed the pope’s progressive stance and remarked on potential changes in the Catholic Church, others pointed out the lack of historical precedent for female deacons serving in the same role as their male counterparts. More in-depth analyses and clarifications soon followed.

One group in particular remains highly skeptical that any real changes will occur: the women already ordained as Roman Catholic priests.

Roman Catholic Womenpriests began in 2002, when two bishops ordained seven women on a boat in international waters on the Danube River. Today the group has its own bishops to perform ordinations. With more than 225 priests and candidates ministering to more than 75 worship communities throughout the world, RCWP is creating change on its own terms. As Suzanne Thiel, ordained priest and board officer for RCWP-USA, told me, “We are not going away and we are growing.”

Training for the priesthood through the RCWP program is as rigorous as it is for men. Candidates must earn a master of theology, a master of divinity, or an equivalent degree. Since womenpriests are generally volunteers, most have other jobs.

Yet even after completing their official training, the path for womenpriests remains bumpy. Their ordination violates Canon Law 1024, which states rather simply that “a baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.” Still, only a relative few have been formally excommunicated (a reversible process, by the way, intended to facilitate repentance). Some Catholic sisters are ordained using an alias. At least one woman lost her job at a Catholic parish simply for expressing an interest in RCWP’s program, but a more common scenario is being quietly shunned by members of the establishment.

Womenpriests might perform many allowable duties under one male priest at a parish, only to be told a few years later by a less progressive priest that their services are no longer needed. Or, a womanpriest ministering to her own faith community might be told by a male priest in the same town that he can’t collaborate or even interact with her.

“So why don’t they just become Protestants?” my husband asked, somewhat indelicately. The women I spoke with, and others who have publicly answered this question, all say more or less the same thing: Catholicism is my tradition. “It’s who I am,” offered Jennifer O’Malley, a priest and president of the RCWP-USA board. “I’ve looked into the possibility of becoming something else, but the rituals and Catholic social teachings are really inspiring to me.”

Despite their commitment to their faith tradition, many RCWP priests are skeptical about a sea change at the Holy See. As O’Malley said: “It’s not just about ordaining women. It’s about ordaining women in a renewed Catholic Church. It’s about including people who are currently excluded—the divorced, the remarried, the members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thiel echoed her sentiments: “It’s a much bigger picture than just the ordination of women. It’s about the oppression of women, a renewal of the whole church, and a return to gospel issues.”

Like others, these women are doubtful that we’ll even see ordained female deacons any time soon. Helen Weber McReynolds, a relatively new RCWP candidate, said the pope’s statement “is a glimmer of hope, but I’m not getting my own hopes up about anything concrete happening any time in the near future.”

There’s the Pope Francis buzz, and then there’s the reality. The pope’s commission will study female deacons. And the number of ordained female priests will continue to grow.



The Ordination of Women in the RC Church

Here are three strong responses to Pope Francis’ willingness to explore the history of women deacons in the church:

First from

“3 Ways Pope Francis Opening to Women Deacons Can Change Catholicism” by David Gibson, National Catholic Reporter

From Religion News Service:
“When Pope Francis suddenly agreed, during an off-the-cuff chat last week with nuns gathered in Rome, to explore the idea of ordaining women as deacons he touched off what has by now become a typical Francis-like media storm:
Some conservatives ran around with their hair on fire, deploring Francis’ willingness to open controversial debates and to take steps down what they saw as a slippery slope to ordaining women as priests, while some liberals did a happy dance over Francis’ willingness to open controversial debates and take steps toward what they saw as reforms that could elevate the role of women.
A day later, on May 13, the Vatican stepped in with a fire hose to douse the wilder speculations and reiterated that Francis had not said women could be ordained deacons or that this could lead to ordaining women as priests. He simply agreed to set up a commission to find better answers to what has been a longstanding and important question for theologians, scholars and church historians.
But whatever does come out of this potentially historic opening — and the outcomes range widely, from maintaining the status quo to actually ordaining women as deacons — the move will have at least three other concrete effects that could be just as important:
1. It will launch a genuine exploration of the “theology of women”

Francis has frequently called for greater roles for a women in the church — and did so again last Thursday in the meeting with hundreds of sisters from the International Union of Superiors General, a global umbrella group for leaders of women’s religious orders.
He has also regularly called for a “deeper theology of women,” without, however, providing much in the way of that theology or indicating what it really means or how it would work on the ground.
As papal biographer and Vatican expert Austen Ivereigh tweeted, such a commission would “quickly become a discernment about the role of gender in church leadership roles.”
Indeed, wherever the discussion of women deacons winds up, it would help clarify exactly what areas are open to women, and why, or why not.
The reality is that in the past few decades, there has been enormous growth in the participation of women in ministry and church life, a growth that has gone hand in hand with the explosion in role for lay people. But many of those roles — especially when it comes to participation in the liturgy — remain contested and somewhat ad hoc and not at all universally accepted.

In fact, there has been a strong conservative pushback against what some on the right decry as a “feminized” church. A discussion of women deacons could settle many of those arguments.

2. It will launch a deeper theology of the diaconate (and ministry)
The other gray area that the “deaconess” debate illuminates is the unsettled question of what exactly a deacon is.
The role of the deacon was created, as recounted in the New Testament, by the Apostles so that they could deploy ministers specifically dedicated to doing charitable works and thus freeing them to focus on preaching.
In the Catholic tradition, the role of deacon was eventually subsumed into the priesthood and hierarchy, until the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s revived the diaconate as an ordained order open to “mature married men” over 35 who can be married.
But in essentially recreating an order of ministry after more than a millennium there were bound to be ambiguities about not just what women deacons were in the New Testament, and what they could be now, but what deacons themselves are and how they are distinct, or not, from other ordained clergy, namely priests and bishops.
As Deacon William Ditewig, a theologian at Santa Clara University and a leading expert on the diaconate, wrote at the Catholic blog site Aleteia, “this is ultimately a question, not simply about women in the diaconate, but about a theology of the diaconate overall.”
Ditewig’s fellow deacon and Aleteia colleague Greg Kandra also noted that a few years ago, in seeking to distinguish the order of deacons from that of priests and bishops, the Vatican — and in particular Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the doctrinal traditionalist who later became Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI — may have made it easier for the church to decide to ordain women as deacons.
That’s because the 2009 tweak to canon law made it clear that deacons were not equivalent at all to priests who act “in persona Christi,” or in the place of Jesus in performing all the sacraments, and that deacons simply “serve the People of God in the ministries of the liturgy, the word and charity.”
The clarification would both ease any concerns about ordaining women deacons as a stepping-stone to women priests, and it also eliminates a gender requirement in that deacons don’t have to be men because Jesus was a man.
3. It will push the pontiff’s dynamic of dialogue and discernment
If there’s one thing about Francis that drives Catholic conservatives crazy, it’s that he wants to open up conversations among the faithful instead of shutting them down with blanket directives.
“He never says all that he has in mind, he just leaves it to guesswork,” Sandro Magister, an Italian Vatican-watcher and regular critic of the pope’s, fumed in a recent column. “He allows everything to be brought up again for discussion. Thus everything becomes a matter of opinion, in a church where everyone does what he wants.”
Well, Francis really doesn’t want everyone to go off willy nilly, not by a long shot.
But as Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese wrote about the women deacons story, “what is most significant in Pope Francis’ response is the way it shows how open he is to discussion in the church of ideas and how he wants discernment to be the process by which the church makes decisions.”
“In the past, the clerical establishment would discuss church matters behind closed doors so as not to ‘confuse the faithful.’ With Francis, that day is over,” Reese wrote. “It is clear he hates anything that smells of clericalism.”
On the other hand, Francis may see a step to ordain women as simply a way to “clericalize” them. But it’s clear that he’s happy to have the debate, even if many are not.”

Bridget Mary’s Response: The international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement is hopeful that Pope Francis will open a dialogue with us and lift the Vatican excommunication in recognition that we are following our consciences in loving  service  to the people of God in non-clerical, egalitarian, empowered and inclusive communities of faith where all are welcome to receive sacraments. We don’t need a theology of women, but, rather policies, practices and ministries that treat all the baptized as”in Persona Christi”, equal, beloved images of Christ called to live Jesus’ message of compassion and love in our world. Roman Catholic Women Priests are changing the church we love now, one inclusive community at a time. 
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,,
And Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP notes :WE ARE ALREADY HERE!
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AND From University of Southern California RD/ Religious Dispatches

Female Deacons….Women Clergy Weigh In

“The recent flurry of headlines over the possibility of women deacons in the Catholic church may be good for news, but it’s also good for a question: what does women’s ordination really mean today, at a time when more and more Americans are moving away from belonging to Christian denominations?

In light of the fact that some American Christian denominations have ordained women for over a hundred years (Antoinette Brown was ordained a Congregationalist minister in 1852, and Julia Foote was ordained a deacon in the AME Zion church in 1894), some conservative pundits’ claim that women’s ordination will drive people away from the Catholic church bears examination.

As of today, among Protestant denominations, women are ordained in the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Methodist Church, American Baptist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ, and the Reformed Church in America. Women are also ordained in Buddhism as well as in Reform and Conservative Judaism.

The Roman Catholic Church, however, is not the only American religious denomination to deny women’s ordination: the Mormons, the Orthodox church, Orthodox Judaism, the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, Islam, and the Southern Baptist Convention have all-male clergy. Some signs of change may be afoot in at least one of those religions, with the first Orthodox female rabbirecently hired by an American synagogue, but the Mormon excommunication of Kate Kelly, an advocate for opening the Mormon priesthood for women, unfortunately mirrors a familiar pattern for American Catholic advocates of women’s ordination.

In the most high-profile case, peace activist Father Roy Bourgeois was dismissed by his religious order in 2012 for participating in the ordination of a Roman Catholic woman. Last year, Father Jack McClure was sanctioned by San Francisco Archbishop Cordelione and prevented from saying mass for appearing at a women’s ordination gathering. Any Roman Catholic woman who pursues ordination in an independent Catholic Church (not considered to be in communion with Roman Catholic Church) is considered automatically excommunicated for breaking church law; members of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, who consider themselves in apostolic succession with Rome, are also excommunicated when ordained.

In the case of Georgia Walker, the first Roman Catholic Woman Priest ordained in Kansas City, she was informed of her excommunication by certified letter in 2015 because of her participation inwhat the diocese referred to as a “simulated ordination.” In spite of the advocacy of groups like theWomen’s Ordination Conference, little progress has been made on the issue.

It’s understandable, therefore, why many people initially reacted to the idea of Catholic women deacons with enthusiasm. If Pope Francis was willing to explore the issue, that felt like the possibility of an incremental step.

However, the Vatican was quick to emphasize that this was not the official beginning of progress toward full ordination; when the transcript of Pope Francis’ remarks was released, it was clear he was stating this off the cuff, and he even repeated the idea that only a male priest or bishop could preach in persona Christi—only a male body, in that thinking, can be the body of Christ on earth.

“Doom was forecast. Doom didn’t happen.”

Knowing that women have been ordained as priests and pastors in other Christian denominations, though—often after years of contention and threats of splitting denominations—I felt this was a good time to talk to women clergy, see how they interpret this latest Catholic kerfuffle. In the American Christian denominations that do ordain women, most of the clergy I spoke to were excited about the idea that Catholic women might see an opportunity to join their ranks.

The Rev. Wil Gafney, an Episcopal priest first ordained in the AME Zion Church, told me that “Roman Catholic women deacons would mark a significant advance for women to live out their vocations more fully and for the church to experience the grace it is lacking by silencing the voices of half of its members.” She added that this would be “returning to a historic pattern in part,” since historical evidence shows the existence of female clergy even to the extent of women deacons being mentioned in the Bible, but that the Roman Catholic Church would still be stopping at full ordination of women, “counter to the historical record.”

The Rev. Laura Brekke, who works in campus ministry at a Catholic college and is ordained in the Presbyterian Church, notes that

working at a Catholic university, I have met multiple young women who have had a unique call on their lives to serve as priests, and yet feel that they are faced with the choice to leave the church home that they love, or deny this calling God has on their lives.

She adds that “it’s time for the Roman Catholic Church to re-evaluate the theology that prohibits females from sacramental authority in the church.”

The Rev. Jordan Ware, also an Episcopal priest, mentions that the Roman Catholic Church is a “sister church” to the Anglican Communion of which she’s a part, and adds that deacons in the Episcopal church “remind the Church what’s going on in the world and what the Church ought to be doing to serve the needy. Deacons also read the Gospel during worship “because they’re the ones who keep reminding us of the Gospel in action.”

The Rev. Josephine Robertson adds that diaconal ordination would “simply acknowledge what has been already done by God in the life of many faithful Roman Catholic women,” and that many Catholic sisters she’s met already have a ministry “that is absolutely diaconal in all but name.”

When I asked these clergy members about the notion that the ordination of women was part of the reason for the decline in population in many American Christian denominations, they all disagreed.

They also pointed out that women’s ordination is not the way to bring disaffected Catholics-turned-Nones back to the church either. Rev. Gafney points out that “Roman Catholic churches are experiencing the same membership losses as other mainline churches in the West,” and that she has never seen a study linking that loss to an egalitarian clergy. Rev. Brekke says any Catholic who thinks women’s ordination would bring back disaffected young Catholic Nones “will be disappointed. Women’s ordination to the Diaconate should be about a calling form the Holy Spirit to review doctrine and renew it under God’s guidance.”

Rev. Ware adds that the connection between inclusive churches and a loss of people is a “red herring,” and that “if the reason you’re ordaining women is to chase an elusive population, you’re probably going to be frustrated, because that’s a bad reason.” Rev. Robertson points out that when the Episcopal church began ordaining women, “churches left, clergy left, doom was forecast. Doom didn’t happen.”

The same conversations occurred around inclusion of LGBTQ clergy and same sex marriage, which Robertson describes as “issues of justice, of welcoming as Jesus did.” The deeper issue of decline, she says, “is that Christianity, done properly (which it rarely is) is hard as hell. And Christianity done poorly (as it so often is) isn’t worth the bother.”

Jennifer O’Malley, a member of Roman Catholic Women Priests, says that her initial enthusiasm about women deacons faded as “it has become evident that the Pope’s intent is to have a commission that looks at what the role of deacons has been historically,” and as it also became clear that Pope Francis is potentially thinking of women deacons not having the same role as male ones.

While the ordination of women is an important step in ending sexism in the church it is not the only issue that needs to be addressed. About the number of people who’ve left the Roman Catholic church, she says that “while many who are leaving may affirm the adding women to the current structure, more will need to be done to make the church relevant in the lives of people.” For her, that includes the inclusion of the voices of the non ordained, LGBTQ people, and the divorced in discussions of the church’s role in society.

All of the ordained women agreed that even if Pope Francis’s commission to study the role of women deacons in the church eventually leads to diaconal ordination, Roman Catholic women with a vocation to the priesthood still face an uphill struggle. Rev. Robertson notes that it took the Episcopal church almost a hundred years from the first diaconal ordinations until the regularization of priestly ordination for women. Rev. Brekke adds that her Catholic campus ministry students are “psyched and don’t know what the church is waiting for. They have seen lay women in action and can’t reconcile the ministry they’ve experienced with lay women and not being ‘good enough’ for the priesthood.”

Rev. Gafney adds that

Roman Catholic women have been living out their vocational calls as lay and vowed religious women, providing pastoral care, religious education, preaching, administrating parishes and in a host of other ways and they will continue to do so.

And she urges Roman Catholic women to “find places in your context where you can use your gifts, outside your church if necessary. Maintain an appropriate standing with your church so that if ordination becomes a possibility you won’t be disqualified.”

Given the church’s history when it comes to the idea of women being ordained, most Roman Catholic women aren’t holding their breath after Pope Francis’ remarks. Many RC women who have priestly vocations have left for other denominations where they could live them out; others have risked excommunication by being ordained as Catholic priests anyway. And there’s little evidence that ordaining women would either cause people to leave the church in droves or bring them back to it.

But, as women ordained in other denominations point out, change in any religious tradition is slow, and in the Roman Catholic Church, it may be the slowest of all. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. We wait in hope.”

And Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP adds:

Like the first courageous Episcopal women who were ordained as priests, we in Roman Catholic WomenPriests stepped out in faith and in conscience. We did not sit and wait, we led, risking it all like our Episcopal sisters of the 1970’s. In the Episcopal church the leadership of those first women opened the door to ordination within the church. Eventually we will see this in the Roman Catholic Church, but now is not the time to sit and wait, it is the time to act in conscience. We are breaking man-made law but are validly ordained nonetheless. Perhaps the most important thing is that we are already serving as Deacons, Priests and Bishops. Serving with the people of God according to our call is what it is all about.

Dando la Eucaristía a los niños de Colegio Educativo NavarroIMG_0055 (1)

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Fresh on Us! Pentecost Sunday 5/15/16

I spent the week breathing in the Gulf breezes and inhaling sea air. Health and strength renews with each breath. And there, and everywhere, I breathe in God’s holy, sacred breath, and I breathe out love, justice ,forgiveness, inclusion and- church. That happens on my best days, I am sure that I also pollute the world with less than elegant breaths and words,actions and thoughts that are sometimes the opposite of all that is good, and very human. But the most  beautiful thing is that it is not my breath or even the breath of saints, but the Breath of God that will renew our people.

As I do not return to preaching until next week I am sharing here an updated homily from 2014.

Jesus said:

“ ‘Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you.’ After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’” John 20: 21-22

Jesus left his disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit.   He filled them with his Spirit so they could carry on his work of love, inclusion and justice.  Still they were frightened, they had not fully tried their wings to see if they could fly-could really carry on the work of the kin-dom.  On Pentecost, this gift came again in a dramatic way enlivening the followers, the men and women gathered together, with the abilities to reach out to peoples of all languages and cultures with the Good News of the living Christ. The Pentecost story in Acts 2 is such a wonderful accounting of how God provides the church the gifts that are needed to include everyone in the church. In the diverse group gathered in Jerusalem peoples of all then known languages and cultures had gathered. Suddenly, as if with the force of a hurricane, all could hear the Good News in his or her own languages, the disciples could preach to everyone! What a wonderful message of unity in diversity and in how Christ and the Church mandates, speaks, breathes,  diversity.

In our church the reading from Acts 2:1-11 has been be read simultaneously in  African languages and in Spanish and English and  Italian. How exciting it is to hear the first Pentecost enacted in this way and to know that our church like the Pentecost church is such a diverse group of followers. Two years ago we were moved as our youth leader, Efe Jane Cudjoe, home from her semester in Viet Nam, South Africa and Brazil  reflected with us on her experiences of the Spirit of God in those lands and diverse cultures. She has just finished a year of research and assisting in Medical practice with African-American and other diverse mothers with Duke University in North Carolina.  She is now about to begin Medical School at FSU and her finely tuned understanding of diversity and the dignity of each person will enrich the class she studies with.  Such deep respect for all people and compassion is the very air she breathes and  exhales.

Pentecost is one of the happiest feast days of the Church. We gather with excitement, we wear red and we welcome God’s Holy Spirit once again to breathe life into us so we may be the church that Jesus founded and intended. We are ever mindful of the need for renewing God’s spirit within us, not because it has left us, but because we are so often overwhelmed by life’s events and no longer hear or heed it. We need a fresh infusion, for God Transcendent as well as Immanent can indeed breathe new life into us!  An African-American Gospel Song goes: “Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me/ melt me, mold me, Fill me, use me/ Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me”.   That is our Pentecost prayer.

Acts 1:12-14 and 2: 1-11

The Spirit comes to the followers of Jesus, the men and women gathered in the upper room, in a dramatic and indisputable manner with what sounded like a “violent rushing wind, the noise filling the entire house.” – not a little breeze this time – something like the hurricane that we know well here in Florida. And how they must have been amazed and afraid!  Their spirits were ignited by the Holy Spirit and they burned with the Spirit.  Wind and fire, symbolizing the presence of God, filled them and they even began to speak in other languages.  Here God gives the church, the first Christians – the power to preach, teach and witness to Christ, Risen, Living and present, and to present the Good News to all people; no matter where they live or what language they speak.  And this power is given on the harvest feast of Pentecost (or the Feast of Weeks) celebrated by the Jews seven weeks/50 days after Passover.  As such Pentecost is the reminder of the covenant the Jewish people and Moses made with God on Mt. Sinai.  Luke is telling his followers that the Spirit brings us a new Covenant as God’s new people – that all people, “Gentiles” are now heirs to God’s promises of faithfulness and love.  And we are to preach the Good News everywhere – and especially to the poor, the disenfranchised and outcast of our world even as Jesus came to do that (echoing the purpose of the Prophet Isaiah) and fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic vision: “The Spirit of God is upon me because the Most High has anointed me to bring Good News to those that are poor…..”  (Is. 61; Luke 4:16-20).May the Spirit of God be upon us to do this as well. May She renew us to be able to restore the sight of the blind and preach liberty to the captives!

1 Cor. 12: 3-7,12-14 (TIB)

Clearly the Spirit distributes gifts “as She will” – No one, no church, no government, absolutely no one can get in the Spirit’s way of distributing gifts.  So, my friends, clearly women – yes, women – and men – young and old of all classes, colors, cultures and languages may be filled and called by the Spirit.  I sit here today in deep thanksgiving for that – Amen!

Now here are the gifts Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12 – but these are just some of the gifts of the Spirit.

  •  Wisdom in discourse (i.e. teaching/ discussion/communication)
  • Knowledge, the word of knowledge
  • The gift of healing
  • Miraculous powers / also …… as mighty deeds
  • Prophecy
  • Speaking other languages
  • Interpreting other languages
  • The gifts to be apostles, prophets, teachers, administrators (and, yes, priests!)

Paul reminds us, it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts and many more and distributes them as She will – “as She will”!! (The words for “Spirit” in Greek and in Hebrew-Sophia, Pneuma-breath- and Ruah are feminine). This week, Pope Francis in honest and open dialogue with the nuns agreed to appointing a commission to study the history of deaconesses in the early church and therefore the possibility of ordaining women as Deacons. This is a giant step forward for women, but the scholarly work of this commission has already been done according to a post by Gary Macy on Facebook. So the study should be brief and it will also be apparent that women were not only deacons but priests and bishops in  early church history. Others have wisely noted that despite the wealth of material known about this the study will probably be very slow as the truth about women as deaconesses and beyond in the early church opens the door for women as priests. Indeed there are now over 220 ordained women in the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement of which we are a part. The Spirit gifts us all as She will, not as we or the Church will, and this includes gifts of ministry, service and all that is needed to fulfill Holy Orders.

Let us now think about these gifts – and name in our hearts other gifts given to each of us by the Spirit.

But gifts are not necessarily or even usually given in especially dramatic ways – just God’s Holy Spirit whispering to the spirit within ourselves.  The breath of God, the breath of Jesus shared with each one of us. One of our young people, Natasha is discerning her path in higher learning. Sometimes the answer and the road seems easy and clear, sometimes not so easy or clear. We pray for her as she makes her choice of majors and moves toward a career path. And we pray for all those who are finding breathing hard due to illness or despair or being smothered by the difficulties and troubles that overshadow life for those who are poor and those on the margins.

“We all drink of the one Spirit” (v. 13) – and here is the symbol of the living water and water as the giving of the spirit for we are baptized into one body – but it has many different and necessary parts – different gifts.  As we USE and DEVELOP these many gifts we can join Jesus the Christ in turning the world upside down!! Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on a group of frightened people and they were no longer afraid – AND THE CHURCH WAS BORN!!

The spirit of the living Christ that Jesus imparted to his disciples after the Resurrection en-couraged and em-powered them to go forth.  But the Pentecostal visitation of the Holy Spirit was different, it was dramatic and it was inclusive, for all gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-11).  The followers of Christ, now empowered, could reach the whole world through the many gifts that God gives to each one of us, the body of Christ.

And the body of Christ is diverse and of infinite variety.  The first Pentecost came with loud sounds – wind and fire – the way that the Spirit spoke to the people of old.  Peoples who today are still struggling for peace- those from Israel, Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and parts of Africa, Asia and Rome, Jewish converts and Arabs alike were united by the Holy Spirit.  Today the Spirit of God still speaks to the Church in many different ways – and it still says “Peace, Justice, Love and ALL are welcome.  Receive the Holy Spirit, be instruments of peace, be re-newed, forgive all, and live!

May God empower us again to bring our many gifts to God’s world. Spirit of the Living God, fall Fresh on us!  Happy Birthday Church!  Amen.


A Beautiful Homily for Ascension Sunday by Fr. Rolheiser

I get to spend most of this week at the beach. The sea renews my spirit and I look forward to it. My childhood friend Dr. Barbara Ballard Grimes, Bubba, calls me “Sea” and that is a good name for me. This week the tide is out. So, I am away from preaching and my congregation. I miss them and they miss us, my Co-Pastor Judy Beaumont and me. And in time, by the middle of this summer, we will not be having our regular meetings and Masses at the church house on Central Avenue. We will “ascend” to another level of ministry, one that God is calling us to, and one that is not demanding of us in the same way. This will be hard for all of us, but also new things will happen because of it. The building will shelter three in need of shelter for the time being and that is good. And after a rest we will resume church with Masses in the homes of the faithful. New people will come along with the faithful, doors will be open.

This homily by Fr. Ron Rolheiser speaks deeply to me today. It speaks because of the transition that we face at Good Shepherd and it speaks because it is Mother’s Day as well as Ascension Sunday and I join all those whose beloved Mother and Grandmother , Aunts and friends have ascended before them. In a very real way I feel the spirit of my beloved Mother and Nana and Aunt Edie and other beloveds very close on this Mother’s Day. I will walk by the sea where we had so many good times and talk with them. I can thank God that they are with me in a new way. May you experience this too.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! May our MotherFather God bless and keep you.

Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP

Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community

In Exile By Fr. Ron Rolheiser,OMI-

Painful Goodbye and the Ascension

In Exile
The Solemnity of the Ascension
May 8, 2016
Ron Rolheiser, OMI

As he blessed them he parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.

Painful Goodbye and the Ascension

Among the deeper mysteries in life perhaps the one we struggle with the most is the mystery of the Ascension. It’s not so much that we misunderstand it, we simply don’t understand it.

What is the Ascension?

Historically it was an event within the life of Jesus and the early church and is now a feast-day for Christians, one that links Easter to Pentecost. But it is more than an historical event, it is at the same time a theology, a spirituality, and an insight into life that we need to understand to better sort out the paradoxical interplay between life and death, presence and absence, love and loss.
The Ascension names and highlights a paradox that lies deep at the center of life, namely, that we all reach a point in life where we can only give our presence more deeply by going away so that others can receive the full blessing of our spirits.

What does that mean?

When Jesus was preparing to leave this earth he kept repeating the words: “It is better for you that I go away! You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. If I don’t go away you will be unable to receive my spirit. Don’t cling to me, I must ascend.”

Why is it better sometimes that we go away?

Any parent with grown children has heard similar words from their children, unspoken perhaps but there nonetheless. When young people leave home to go to college or to begin life on their own, what they are really saying to their parents is: “Mom and dad, it is better that I go away. You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy. If I don’t go, I will always be your little boy or little girl but I will be unable to give you my life as an adult. So please don’t cling to the child you once had or you will never be able to receive my adulthood. I need to go away now so that our love can come to full bloom.”

Text Box:  To remain present to someone we love we have to sometimes be absent, in ways big and small.The pain in this kind of letting go is often excruciating, as parents know, but to refuse to do that is to truncate life.

The same is true for the mystery of death. For example: I was 22 years old when in the space of four months both of my parents, still young, died. For my siblings and me the pain was searing. Initially we were nearly overwhelmed with a sense of being orphaned, abandoned, of losing a vital life-connection (that, ironically, we had mostly taken for granted until then). And our feelings were mainly cold, there’s little that’s warm in death.

But time is a great healer. After a while, and for me this took several years, the coldness disappeared and my parents’ deaths were no longer a painful thing. I felt again their presence, and now as a warm, nurturing spirit that was with me all time. The coldness of death turned into a warmth. They had gone away but now they could give me their love and blessing in a way that they never could fully while they were alive. Their going away eventually created a deeper and purer presence.

The mystery of love and intimacy contains that paradox: To remain present to someone we love we have to sometimes be absent, in ways big and small. In the paradox of love, we can only fully bless each other when we go away. That is why most of us only “get” the blessing our loved ones were for us after they die. Mystically, “blood and water” (cleansing and the deep permission to live without guilt) flow from their dead bodies, just as these flowed from Jesus’ dead body.

And this is even true, perhaps particularly so, in cases where our loved ones were difficult characters who struggled for peace or to bless anyone in this life. Death washes clean and releases the spirit and, even in the case of people who struggled to love, we can after their deaths receive their blessing in way we never could while they were alive. Like Jesus, they could only give us their real presence by going away.

“It is better for you that I go away!”  These are painful words most of the time, from a young child leaving her mother for a day to go to school, to the man leaving his family for a week to go on a business trip, to the young man moving out of his family’s house to begin life on his own, to a loved one saying goodbye in death. Separation hurts, goodbyes bring painful tears, and death of every kind wrenches the heart.

But that is part of the mystery of love. Eventually we all reach a point where what is best for everyone is that we go away so that we can give our spirit. The gift that our lives are can only be fully received after we ascend.

Ron Rolheiser

Used with permission of the author, Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser. Currently, Father Rolheiser is serving as President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio Texas. He can be contacted through his web site,







How Daniel Berrigan Helped Save My Life

  • This beautiful article by Jim Wallis was sent to me by my friend and activist inspiration, George Getzel, Professor Emeritus Hunter College School of Social Work, New York, New York.
  • Jim Wallis Christian leader for social change; President and Founder @Sojourners

Peacemaking is biblical, theological, and political. Sojourners has certainly learned that over the years. But peacemaking is also personal — and a personal commitment at the heart of the gospel.

When we lose a Christian peacemaker like Daniel Berrigan, it gets very personal for many of us. To our readers from a generation who may not know of him, I implore you to read some of the best historical accounts of Daniel Berrigan’s life as a Jesuit priest, renowned poet, incredibly prolific author, and continual offender as a peacemaker.

My colleague Rose Berger, in the accompanying Sojourners piece today, shares her story as a Catholic peacemaker and how Daniel Berrigan influenced her life. Berrigan shaped and motivated a Catholic peace movement that became a fundamental and foundational influence on Sojourners — and one of the core constituencies of our work from the earliest days.

As you know, I was raised not Catholic, but evangelical. Here is how Daniel Berrigan shaped me.

My Eisenhower Republican and evangelical family was certainly influenced, as was the whole nation, by World War II, where my father served as a Navy officer. Virtually allof my family and church friends had dads who came home from the war to start their new families, and support for the war was universally assumed.

Then came my generation — and Vietnam.

Some of you know my personal story of how I was pushed out of my white evangelical church by the issue of race in my hometown of Detroit. After leaving my home church and childhood faith, I joined the civil rights and student movements of my time. As students, we went deeply into the history of Indochina and the facts of the war in Vietnam and found our nation’s policies to be based on lies. The government stopped sending their people to debate on college campuses because they lost all the debates. We organized — and at Michigan State University, where I went, we could bring 10,000 people into the streets in a few hours.

I had left my church and faith behind, and didn’t even know any Christians were against the war. Friends were drafted, others feared they would be next, and the war consumed the attention of an entire generation. But then I heard one name: Berrigan. Daniel and Phillip Berrigan — and the small group of Christian protestors they were inciting — were the only Christians I could see or hear about who were against the war in Vietnam.

The name Berrigan helped keep the possibility of coming back to my Christian faith alive. Just like the black churches that took me in, here were some Christians who were saying and doing what I thought the gospel said that nobody in my white evangelical world was. I believe the witness of the Berrigans literally helped keep my hope for faith from dying altogether.

African-American Christians fighting for justice and that Berrigan handful of Christians fighting for peace paved the way for my return to faith out of the student movements of my generation. When Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came out against the war in Vietnam at his famous Riverside Church address in 1967, linking racism, militarism, and materialism (the “giant triplets”) — it all came together for me. Ironically, the black scholar and activist who helped Dr. King write that speech was Dr. Vincent Harding, who later became a primary mentor for me and Sojourners. If Vincent were still with us today he would be mourning the death of Daniel Berrigan and celebrating his life among us.

When our rag-tag group of seminarians at Trinity Evangelical Seminary put together the first issue of our tabloid publication The Post-American, which later becameSojourners, our opposition to the war in Vietnam leapt off almost every page — with our call to Christians to be peacemakers after the clear gospel instruction of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” One of the first calls we got was from one of the few evangelicals against the war — Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield. He said please come to Washington; I need some friends! That led to our first trip to Washington, D.C.

I remember our very first speaking engagement to a national conference of evangelical student leaders from across the country, held that year at Oral Roberts University. I had been asked to speak but had little idea what the gathering would be like. I vividly remember walking into the auditorium during the speech of a national evangelical leader who spoke strongly in support of the war in Vietnam. I remember asking myself what I had got myself into but decided I need to strongly address the Vietnam War and call evangelical Christians back to the gospel of peacemaking. I did the next day, and got a standing ovation from a new generation of evangelical leaders who talked constantly to me over the next two days. It was a defining moment for our work:— to speak prophetically for peace to the church, as Daniel Berrigan had done.

Another one of those moments came when a group of us from our early Chicago days went down to Dallas for a Campus Crusade for Christ event at the Cotton Bowl. During their Flag Day military salute to the war, a little group of us peacemakers held a banner high at the top of the huge stadium that read “Cross or Flag” and chanted “Stop the War!” I had never before been booed by 100,000 people. And I still remember Dan Berrigan’s smile when I told him about it. He knew the feeling well. The headline on the front page of the Dallas Evening Times the next day read “War Vs. Peace at Explo ‘72.”

Daniel and Phillip Berrigan rose to national prominence after they and seven others burned 378 personal draft files with homemade napalm at a draft board in Catonsville, Md., on May 17, 1968. What followed was jail time for the Berrigan brothers and the group, and eventually books and a play about the “Catonsville Nine” that I recommend people see again now as a celebration of Dan’s life.

One of the most famous stories about Daniel Berrigan, which prompted wide news coverage at the time and a LIFE magazine feature, was when he was arrested on Block Island, while hiding at the home of his friend William Stringfellow, after being sentenced to prison for Catonsville.

“On an ominous morning in August, with a fierce nor’easter blowing up black clouds and spattering rain over the harbor, Daniel Berrigan lay asleep in a manger [a little shed outside the Stringfellow house] on Block Island, R.I.,” wrote Lee Lockwood in the May 21, 1971 edition of LIFE. “… Berrigan’s Block Island routine was to rise late and breakfast lightly on coffee and a piece of bread. Afterward, with books, paper and pen, and dressed ‘in some outlandish headgear,’ he would disappear below the crest of the Mohegan Bluffs until nightfall. Reappearing then for drinks, dinner and conversation …”

On August 11, 1970, FBI agents, posing as birdwatchers on the island, found and apprehended Berrigan and took him off to a correctional facility in Danbury, Conn., where he had been sentenced for three years. When asked about his own potential prosecution for harboring a federal fugitive, Stringfellow said “I don’t fear persecution. I know we are in jeopardy, but everyone in this country is in jeopardy.”

When asked why he had taken in Berrigan, Stringfellow replied, “Where does a person in this situation turn, but to his friends?”

Bill Stringfellow, who also became a dear friend, elder, and primary mentor for me, decided to build a small cottage for his imprisoned companion on the back of his property overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Berrigan’s beloved Mohegan Bluffs named after a local indigenous tribe — to give Dan a place to rest, retreat, and write after he returned from jail. The Stringfellow Spring Street House and Berrigan cottage were to become my primary retreat and only vacation destination in the years to follow, and the place where Dan and I had our most personal conversations — on long walks along the beach or paths around the island, or on his porch overlooking the Atlantic. I still clearly remember many a long meal with Bill and Dan, around Bill’s dining room table or at the cottage, for some of the best theological and political conversations of my life. Watching a presidential debate together, once, after food and drinks, became one of the most hilarious nights I can ever remember with likely the best moments of political and spiritual satire I’ve been part of.

Dan, members of his family, and personal friends came to that cottage for years after Bill died, and it became a sacred space for many of us. I even proposed to my wife Joy Carroll on Block Island, and we have taken our two boys there regularly for many years. On the cottage wall, Dan had inscribed this poem.

Where this house
at Land’s End
and the sea
turns in sleep
ponderous menacing
and our spirit fails and runs
—landward seaward askelter—
we pray You
from the Law’s
from the second death
from envy’s tooth
from doom’s great knell
who dwell here

Then he kindly listed some of our names at the end of the poem.

I was always very moved and grateful for the way Daniel Berrigan consistently made the connections between peace and justice. In his testimony at the Catonsville trial, for the public burning of draft records, he said:

“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise…. We act against the law at a time of the Poor People’s March, at a time moreover when the government is announcing ever more massive paramilitary means to confront disorder in the cities….The war in Vietnam is more and more literally brought home to us. Its inmost meaning strikes the American ghettos; in servitude to the affluent. We must resist and protest this crime….”The time is past when good men can remain silent, when obedience can segregate men from public risk, when the poor can die without defense.”

This is where the vocation of Daniel Berrigan becomes clear. His critics always accused him of disorderliness, disruption, creating drama, and causing discomfort — all of which were true. That’s because he was not only a priest and a poet — Daniel Berrigan was a prophet, in the biblical tradition of all those who caused such trouble on behalf of what they believed God was trying to say to us. It is in that prophetic tradition that Sojourners has tried to stand — and Daniel Berrigan, for all his controversy and confrontational style, has helped us to stand there. Whether we were Catholic or evangelical or anything else, Dan Berrigan always gave us comfort, encouragement, support, and courage. We loved Daniel Berrigan, and know he will always be with us.

Dan and Phil, along with their communities, took on the nuclear arms race early, as Sojourners did, with their Plowshares actions, named after the Isaiah injunction to beat swords into plowshares by actually pounding hammers on nuclear weapons. I remember sitting on the benches at the WWII museum with my father near the end of his life, when he told me the story of how his naval ship was one of the first to visit Hiroshima after the first atomic bomb had been dropped there. A 5-year-old girl had come out of the rubble and walked up to him, all alone, with nothing but rags falling off her body, and obviously soon to die of radiation. Fifty years later, in tears, my father told me. “She had nothing to do with the war; and meeting her turned me against war ever since.” Berrigan always told us to look at the faces of war.

I cannot help but end with one of Daniel Berrigan’s most prophetic challenges — even to those of us who believe we are called to be Christian peacemakers. It’s a quote I have always been most struck with from Berrigan’s best-selling book No Bars to Manhood. It is about the cost of peacemaking versus to the cost of war-making — and the problem that war-makers are usually willing to pay a higher cost for war than those of us peacemakers are willing to make for peace. The prophetic words of Berrigan will remain with us:

“We cry peace and cry peace, and there is no peace. There is no peace because there are no peacemakers. There are no makers of peace because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war – at least as exigent, at least as disruptive, at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison and death in its wake.”

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Second Woman Ordained a Roman Catholic Priest in South Africa

Here are some beautiful pictures of the Ordination of Ann Ralston to the Roman Catholic Priesthood in South Africa on April 17, 2016. Bishop Patricia Fresen presiding. Rev. Mary Ryan, RCWP, eMCee.


DSC01388Bishop Patricia Fresen presents the newly ordained Rev. Ann Ralston to the Community


Rev. Mary Ryan addresses the community


Ann Ralston is vested

DSC01375 Deacon Ann Ralston is ready to answer the call to the  the Priesthood








An Extraordinary Living of the Gospel: Fr. Daniel Berrigan

There are lights that will never go out. Here is some of the prolific media  coverage on the life and passing of one man whose life made a big difference and who showed us the way of peace and justice- Fr. Daniel Berrigan-May 9, 1921-April 30 ,2016.  “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news,who proclaim peace,who bring good tidings….” (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15).

NLN Dan Berrigan 2008.jpg

Berrigan in 2008

Daniel Joseph Berrigan, S.J. (May 9, 1921 – April 30, 2016), was an American Jesuit priest, anti-war activist, and poet.[1][2] From Wikipedia

From The New Yorker

Postscript: Daniel Berrigan, 1921-2016

The Jesuit priest and peace activist Daniel Berrigan was the last survivor of a cohort of gifted and engaged writers who shaped twentieth-century American Catholicism.
The Jesuit priest and peace activist Daniel Berrigan was the last survivor of a cohort of gifted and engaged writers who shaped twentieth-century American Catholicism.

He was in the elevator when we got on, riding down from his rooms in the building on 98th Street that housed the priests known as the West Side Jesuits. His hair, thick and black in the old news photographs, had gone gray. Instead of a black turtleneck and suit coat—the outfit with which he had united clerical garb with Beat style—he had on a collarless linen shirt, untucked at the waist. His face was thin and lined. At the time, in the mid-nineteen-eighties, it seemed that the Roman Catholic Church and the gay men of New York City were at war, but he was spending his time ministering to AIDS patients at St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Greenwich Village. He stepped off the elevator, and, as we trailed behind, the Jesuit priest we were with said, a little boastfully: “Dan Berrigan—that was him. He lives with us.”

It was a significant sighting. At Fordham University, where I was a student at the time, the worldly accomplishments of the Jesuits were a point of pride, and the name Daniel Berrigan held an aura of both holiness and notoriety that was singular in the order. He had won the Lamont Poetry Prize. He had stood up against the war in Vietnam when doing so could have caused a priest to be silenced or worse. He had been one of the Catonsville Nine, whose members doused Selective Service files in Catonsville, Maryland, with napalm. After Catonsville, he’d gone underground, eluding the F.B.I. for four months before he was captured on Block Island in 1970. At the time, these actions had divided American Catholics as fiercely as Pope Paul VI’s renewal of the ban on contraception. But they led the Church toward its present position, set firmly in favor of peace and against war.
By the time he died, at Fordham’s Jesuit infirmary, on Saturday, at the age of ninety-four, Berrigan’s aura of holiness-and-notoriety had long since yielded to another, greater aura: that of the priest whose consistency of purpose had allowed him to face down immense forces, including this nation’s war machine and celebrity culture.

In the nineteen-fifties, the brilliant Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who would become a friend and mentor to Berrigan, published a book about St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the twelfth-century Trappist. In the book, Merton expanded on the idea of St. Bernard as “the last of the fathers,” the figure in whom the run of foundational Christian thought, which began with the apostles, came to a conclusion. Berrigan, in my opinion, was the “last of the fathers” of twentieth-century American Catholicism, the longest-surviving associate of a cohort of gifted and engaged Catholic writers, among them Merton, Dorothy Day, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and other lesser-known figures such as the Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray and John Kennedy Toole, the author of “A Confederacy of Dunces.”

It’s often forgotten that Berrigan, who was born in 1921 and entered a Jesuit seminary in 1939, was a member of the Second World War generation, not the Vietnam generation with which he is associated. He was six years younger than Merton, who died in 1968, and four years older than O’Connor, who died in 1964. It’s also often forgotten that the actions of the Catonsville Nine divided and challenged the Catholic left, including Berrigan’s counterparts.* “These actions are not ours,” Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper, said of the Nine’s napalming of draft files. And yet Day maintained her friendship with Berrigan, corresponding with him, hosting him at the Catholic Worker movement’s houses on the Lower East Side, and agreeing wholeheartedly with his wider stance against the Vietnam War.

Merton, meanwhile, was made nervous by the borderline violence of Berrigan’s actions and by the personal righteousness that Berrigan brought to them: “He’s a bit theatrical these days, now he’s a malefactor—with a quasi-episcopal disarmament emblem strung around his neck like a pectoral cross,” Merton wrote in his journal, in August, 1968. And yet he struck notes of solidarity with the Catonsville Nine, and wrote an essay meant, in part, to help middle-class Catholics understand the action as “in essence non-violent,” even if it “frightened more than it has edified.” The previous October, Merton had advised Berrigan to keep clear of the peace movement’s lust for relevance—“now non-violent, now flower-power, now burn-baby, all sweetness on Tuesday and all hell-fire on Wednesday,” as he described it—and had posited an ideal of the Catholic radical as a person who strove “to give an example of sanity, independence, human integrity, against all establishments and all mass movements.”

By the nineteen-eighties, when I caught sight of him, Berrigan had taken Merton’s counsel to heart and become a figure of radical purity and apartness. Instead of cultivating followers, Berrigan developed mutually searching relationships with the next generation of figures in the Catholic peace movement: Robert Ellsberg, of Orbis Books; Carmen Trotta, of the Catholic Worker; Kathy Kelly, of Voices in the Wilderness. Instead of leading large rallies on college campuses, he sought out small protest actions, such as the Plowshares operation, in which Berrigan and several others entered a General Electric plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and struck two nuclear missile nose cones with hammers. No longer the peace movement’s leader, he was its sage and celebrant, solemnly presiding over Catholic Mass on dozens of occasions, such as during a Pax Christi retreat at N.Y.U. and at the Catholic Worker after an action at the United Nations on Hiroshima Day.
In a moving portrait of Dorothy Day, written shortly after her death in 1980, Berrigan recalled reading a book about Day and the Catholic Worker not long after he was released from prison in 1972, after serving time for his role with the Catonsville Nine: “I stayed up all night, unable to put the book aside. What held me in thrall was an absolutely stunning consistency. No to all killing. Invasions, incursions, excusing causes, call of the blood, summons to the bloody flag, casuistic body counts, just wars, necessary wars, religious wars, needful wars, holy wars—into the fury of the murderous crosswinds went her simple word: no.”

Berrigan’s own consistency involved rejecting not just violence but also the media influence and the resources that his notoriety might have made available to him. He created no foundation, nonprofit, or N.G.O.; headed no pacifist think tank or Jesuit school of advanced study; gave no TED talk; engaged in no stagey dialogues offering equal time to the military point of view; and never reframed the ideals of nonviolence in any pocket-size manual for personal growth. When he wrote about Catonville in his 1987 autobiography, “To Dwell in Peace,” Berrigan characterized celebrity as something like a purifying fire: “There was shortly to be a spotlight on us: it was thin as a pencil slate, and would pierce us through and through; a testing light that touched on the very soul, and illumined and burned. The light of the adversary, the light of the church, light of the eye of God? Light, perhaps, of self-knowledge: of all these together.”

Berrigan kept clear of the trappings of fame so as to face down, as he put it, “the skeletal leer of war.” Always and everywhere, he rejected war as an evil in itself, and his opposition was a religious one, first and last. Celebrity, and the cultural power that came with it, loomed as a temptation that stood between him and the purity of his witness, which was rooted not in an idea but in the person of Jesus: his poverty, his blend of piety and righteous anger, his nonviolence and abhorrence of violence.

“I had come of age in a church that, for all its shortcomings, honored vows and promises,” Berrigan recalled in “To Dwell in Peace.” “I had examples before me in the people of the church, especially in laypeople and nuns, of those who lived to the hilt the life commended by the Gospel. Such were my people.” Such was Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit and peacemaker, who honored his vows and promises.

Daniel Berrigan, poet, peacemaker, dies at 94

 Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan, poet and peacemaker who was one of the most influential voices in shaping Catholic thinking about war and peace during the past century, died today. He was 94.
His death was reported by a number of sources, including Jesuit Fr. James Martin, an editor of AmericaMagazine.Berrigan gained national attention for his work against the Vietnam War, including his participation in a striking act of civil disobedience with his brother, Philip, also a priest at the time, and seven others who became known as the Catonsville Nine. In 1968, the group burned draft records in the parking lot of a Maryland selective service office from which they had taken files.

It was one of the most spectacular and high-profile actions of a lifetime of civil disobedience and protest against militarism, nuclear weaponry and U.S. war-making.

He was a prolific writer who achieved a remarkable lyricism and poetic force when writing about subjects that normally were explored in academic and military circles. He also plumbed the scriptures and the spiritual depths of the Christian tradition in conducting retreats that challenged the status quo and often upended participants’ presumptions about life in America.


IN The Baltimore Sun by Peace activist, Max Obuszewski,5/3/16

IT is difficult to realize that Daniel Berrigan, one of the most important peace and justice figures in our nation’s history, is no longer with us (“Activist priest Daniel Berrigan dies at age 94,” April 30).

Growing up, we were encouraged to not rock the boat, to accept the fact that our government was capable of great injustices. However, the fog lifted when I found out that two Roman Catholic priests were arrested for daring to challenge a government bent on evil and destruction in Southeast Asia and Latin America. Eventually, I would meet Dan and Phil Berrigan and have the honor of being arrested with them for speaking out against our government’s criminal behavior.

Both of these radical priests would have a great influence on me as mentors in troubled times. Both brothers rejected the comfortable life, recognizing that silence meant acquiescence in the government’s oppressive activities. Both of them were former teachers who taught us that one should take the risks of peace and suffer the consequences.

The best way to honor and commemorate the life of Father Berrigan would be to take action. Resist the war machine, protest those responsible for climate chaos, take direct action against the 1 percent and speak out whenever you encounter injustice.

Max Obuszewski, Baltimore

Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun