San Rafael Woman to break Canon Law and Be Ordained a Roman Catholic Priest

Inviting All to the Table, Article by Stephanie Wekly, Marin Independent Journal September 4, 2016. This article announces the priestly Ordination of Mary Alice Nolan, RCWP Western Region Deacon to take place in October, 2016.

San Rafael woman to break canon law to be an ordained Catholic priest

By Stephanie Weldy @StephanieWeldy1 on Twitter

Mary Alice Nolan will soon be ordained a Roman Catholic priest.

The 64-year-old’s ordination will not be acknowledged by the Catholic church, which only allows men to become priests, but the lifelong follower of the faith is not letting that stop her.

The San Rafael resident plans to press onward with the ordination, to be conducted by a female bishop of the Western Region of Roman Catholic Priest, in October at an Episcopalian church in San Francisco.

Though skeptical that in her lifetime she will see the church modify its rules of who can take the priesthood, Nolan said she hopes one day the church becomes more inclusive.

Q Why do you want to be a Roman Catholic priest?

I want to start using inclusive language. When I say Mass, I want to invite everyone to the table. I have been a nurse for 35 years and my specialty is end-of-life care. In addition to my nursing, I now want to administer to people in a spiritual way. Spirituality at the end of life is a really good healing tool. So now I will be able to anoint people when they’re sick andhopefully follow through with being able to do their funerals.

AQ What inspired you to want to become a priest?

A My husband and I went to see the movie, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.” It was a wonderful movie being shown in San Francisco. It was story about a woman who was a nun in South Africa who was the first doctorly prepared woman professor at an all-male seminary she taught at. She realized, “Wow, I’m teaching them how to preach, say Mass, what the liturgy means. Why can’t I do this?” Her story really inspired me. My husband said, “You can do this. You should go for it.”

Q As a “cradle Catholic,” do you have family and friends trying to discourage you from doing this?

A Actually, no. It’s interesting, everyone I’ve met has been incredibly supportive. I think it’s time for a change and people — they’re very optimistic for change. I think Pope Francis is responsible for helping that optimism.

Q If you were to be ex-communicated, how would you feel about that?

A(That thought) bothered me a lot. I had to work withmy spiritual director to work through that. So luckily, I don‘t work for a Catholic institution. If I were a nurse in a Catholic hospital or taught at a Catholic school, I would be fired. I’m the manager of the oncology department at Kaiser in San Francisco. So my Catholicism doesn’t affect my employment.

Q Would you be upset if you were ex-communicated?

A It makes me very upset.

It makes me very sad.

It’s an unjust punishment for an unjust law. It’s breaking canon law but ex-communication is an unjust punishment for wanting to serve peopleand it’s a shame actually.

Q If ordination is a detriment to your faith, why do it?

A It’s not a detriment to my own faith. I just thought instead of complaining about the lack of women leadership in the church, I would do something about it. So I’ve decided to take action to make a change. And I’d like to be a female role model for the priesthood.

And change happens from the ground up. So far there have been 150 women ordained in the United States and 225 across the world.

And we have to be role models for change.

Mary Alice Nolan will be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in October. The ordination will not be recognized by the church because Nolan is a woman, and only men are considered as priests by the church.


Mary Alice Nolan baptizes Jasper, left, and Reid Gibson in Novato.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: