African American Woman Ordained a Catholic Priest in Rochester, New York

Rev. Myra Brown , a daughter of migrant workers found the Roman Catholic Church at 16 when she and her musical family were invited to join the choir at St Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church, a black Catholic church in Albion, New York. Her sense of call to the priesthood came in young adulthood but unfolded as she joined and then ministered at Spiritus Christi in Rochester, New York. Her full ministry extended beyond her local  church to doing workshops for Call To Action, the progressive Roman Catholic group, nation- wide on issues of racism and inclusion. Some of us met her when she gave a wonderful workshop in Fort Myers in 2015.

The first two African American women ordained priests in Roman Catholic Women Priests-USA were Alta Jacko of Chicago (now deceased) and Donnieau Snyder of California.

Local woman ordained as priest, becomes a part of history

The sanctuary at Spiritus Christi was full of love and excitement on Saturday for Rev. Myra Brown as she became the church’s newest priest.

Rev. Myra Brown has been a part of the Spiritus Christi Church for the past 25 years. She was part of an original group that broke away from a traditional Catholic church and formed the independent Catholic church in 1998 in order to be inclusive of all.

A life full of service and devotion to the church, Rev. Brown said she got the call to serve at the age of eight. It wasn’t until she was 24, though, she thought of becoming a member of the parish staff.

“I heard the Lord say to me, when I was praying, ‘I called you to preach and teach my word’,” she said.

But being a woman, an African American and a Catholic, Rev. Brown never imagined the call would lead her to this moment.

“I didn’t understand why God would say that to me, but I trusted, and decided to walk with God. Whatever door God would open, I would walk through and meet God on the other side.”

Her church family, though, did understand. They were proud to stand in support of a woman they say has changed many lives in the community.

“She has just been an inspiration to us, given she has gone through so much herself and has come to this calling,” said Dawn Novak.

“She works to break walls down, to represent all of the people who are not being properly represented,” Kirsten Allen Reader said.

Rev. Brown said it was starting to sink in just how historic this day is; and not only for her.

“It’s important to send the right message to other African American girls and women, to follow their call, to let their voices me heard, to step into their place in the world, in society, in the church, wherever God is calling them.”

Rev. Brown will celebrate her first official mass Sunday morning. First at 7:30 a.m. at the Spiritus Christi Church and at 9:30 a.m. at the Hochstein Music School.

And from Bridgetmarys blog: 

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests congratulates Rev. Myra Brown on the occasion of her ordination as a Catholic priest. Rev. Myra has been a member of Spiritus Christi Church in Rochester, NY for the past 25 years where she served as youth minister, community activist, associate pastor and deacon.

ARCWP members, Jim Marsh, Joan Chesterfield and Mary Theresa Streck, along with Myra’s family and friends, joyfully watched as Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, a Roman Catholic bishop from Austria, ordained Rev. Myra.

Rev. Myra is one of three African American women ordained as Catholic Priests in the United States.

 From BY Melanie Johnson, January 28,2017

Rochester Woman Makes History as 3rd African-American Female in US to Become a Priest

By Melanie Johnson
Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 07:10 PM EST
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — One woman’s path to history brought tears of joy and calls of gratitude to the sanctuary of the Spiritus Christi Church.

“People are not only crying out of a sense of rejoicing,” said Jonathon Leach, a long time friend of the new Rev. Myra Brown. “They’re crying out of a sense of love. They’re crying out of a sense that ‘wow, this is finally happening’ and we cant believe that it’s happening to Myra someone we know.”

A journey that spans over two decades has finally come full circle for Rev. Myra Brown.

In front of a congregation of parishioners, close friends and family, Brown became ordained as the third African American woman in United States history to become a priest.

“It was so emotional because a long time ago they wouldn’t allow a woman on the pulpit so to see her come out through all of that, it’s a blessing,” Brown’s daughter Jasmine Latimer said.

For Rev. Brown, her trailblazing ordination to priesthood reminds her of how her purpose to serve was not always as clear.

“The call that I heard from God when I was 24-years-old, didn’t quite understand it and didn’t see how that would happen because I was black, a woman, and a Roman Catholic,” Rev. Brown said.

The Albion native looks to take her spot in history and inspire others to not only join a kingdom, but become a part of fighting against barriers that she has dedicated her life to breaking down.

Rev. Myra Brown will live out her childhood dream as a priest during her first two masses Sunday.

Spiritus Christi Church split from the Diocese of Rochester in 1998. The split resulted from Spiritus’s practice of blessing same-sex unions, giving communion to non-baptized members and allowing women to take clerical roles in the church.

One response to “African American Woman Ordained a Catholic Priest in Rochester, New York”

  1. Lois Mills says :

    I met Myra several years ago at Call to Action. She gave the homily at the Sunday liturgy and I was a lector. She probably doesn’t remember me, but I had my guide dog, my German shepherd, Maggie, with me. I am so happy and excited to read this news!

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