Christmas Is Love: A Glimpse Into The Lives of Two Roman Catholic Women Priests
I have been reflecting on the loving gifts I have received this Christmas-expressions of love never cease to amaze me. Some were small material gifts thoughtfully matched to who I am or what I like and some were gifts of calls and cards and messages sending love. They were especially important in this year of Covid19 when we cannot travel to be with our loved ones. And they were especially important to me this year as it is my third Christmas without my partner in life, love and ministry- Rev. Judy Beaumont.
(We were both ordained Roman Catholic Priests through the Roman Catholic Women Priest -RCWP-Movement that began on the Danube river in 2002. After many years of service and compassion particularly to the homeless and outcast we were both called by our local community to also serve as Priests. We were already serving our Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida and we became Co-Pastors of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers. I was ordained in 2008 and Judy Beaumont was ordained in 2012. Over 400 persons joyfully participated in her ordination. Our service continued with a new sacramental dimension supported by our varied and loving community.)
On New Year’s Day, Jan 1, 2021 Judy began the New Year by leaving the suffering of AML Leukemia behind and going home with Love. Her life is now eternal and she remains our guiding star and angel. As all who lose loved ones know all too well, the Holidays, and even the most Holy days can be a difficult time, a time of remembering and a time of missing and a time when there is one foot in the past and another in the present. So love expressed at Christmas is particularly important. Yet Christmas is ALL about Love. God’s tremendous love for us. A beautiful Christmas song popularized by the Jars Of Clay and available on Youtube is entitled Love Came Down At Christmas. (It adapted by the jars of Clay but was written very long ago by Christina Rosetti- 1830-1894 with a Traditional Irish Melody). The words say it all:
“”Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas; Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine….
Worship we our Jesus, But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token; Love be yours and love be mine,
Love from God to all of us, Love for plea and gift and sign”.
When we embrace the love of God at Christmas we are never alone and never ‘Unloved”, though we remember the loves of our life who have gone before us. Those of us in older years may often say: “There are more of my loved ones in heaven than on earth”. Some may even say “ALL of my loved ones have now gone before”. There is a poignant sadness in that, yet a hopefulness. I ask you to remember love with me now. The love we were blessed with, and the love we are still blessed with- and most especially the Love that came down at Christmas.
As a special gift I am sharing here Chapter 12 of my book about Judy’s life of complete loving service. There are Chapters that are written by Judy and Chapters about what she accomplished and how she struggled and served. A few Chapters are about our life together as well. This is one of those Chapters. If you care to read this Christmas chapter, it may whet your appetite for the whole story. It is appropriately entitled “Every Day Is Like Christmas”. Click on Download if you would like to read it.
Here is a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/author/judyleejudithablee
A Blessed Christmas Season and a New Year in which you know without a doubt that you are loved-most especially by the Love that came down on Christmas. Let us remember to be the hands of Love this Christmas and always.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Co-Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Good Shepherd Ministries in Fort Myers Florida
For As Long As it Takes: Memoriam for Jack McNally-By Good Shepherd Ministries Pastor Judy Lee
Our Good Shepherd Ministries Community celebrates the amazing life and mourns the loss of Jack McNally (John W. McNally, 1927-2020) who went home to our loving God after a month long struggle with Covid 19 on December 5th, 2020. His Funeral Mass was today 12/12/2020 at the church he loved, St. Cecelia’s Roman Catholic Church in Fort Myers. The Eulogies were led by his loving wife of 47 years, Ellen McNally who served always at his side including volunteering in our Good Shepherd Community with him faithfully since 2007. Ellen firmly said that she shares his joy in being fully alive with God now.
In view of Covid guidelines only those close to this wonderful couple were able to attend sitting six feet apart and wearing masks, yet this beautiful church was filled with love as Jack was remembered. St. Cecelia’s Assistant Pastor, Rev. Frank Hanlon honored Jack’s request to have the theme of the day and the homily centered on Church on the Margins. He pointed out that although Jack served on the margins and felt that he too was on the margins of the church, Jack’s life of selfless service was right in the center of Jesus’ heart and Jesus’ teachings and the Gospel message. Jack’s life long commitment to serving the poor and outcast enabled him to empathize and identify totally with the poorest among us even for his Funeral Mass. Joe Irvin Pastor of Bootstraps Ministry in North Fort Myers and one of Jack’s closest friends, and I joined Ellen in eulogizing this special man.
Jack and Ellen McNally , to the right of Rev. Judy Beaumont and Good Shepherd member Nate Chester( both preceding Jack to eternal life) in the above picture, were beloved supporters of our Good Shepherd Community serving the poor and homeless in Fort Myers since 2007. They were with us when we served up to 150 people in Lion’s Park and remained with us when we served both outside and inside through 2010, and when we moved our hot meals, services and Mass inside our House Church and transitional home for the homeless on Central Avenue from 2008-2017. Jack and Ellen brought and cooked meals and organized their whole neighborhood at Country Creek in Estero and the CTA (Call To Action) group to do the same so we were never without a hot meal. Perhaps more importantly they were the presence of love as they interacted with all who came to eat and have fellowship with us. Our Community members cried upon hearing of his death.
In this collage(top left) we see Jack as a youngster in his class in the poor country school house where he had his first eight years of learning in rural Nebraska. Another picture shows him in the US Navy and from there he was sent to Notre Dame where after two years he entered the Seminary. There is a glare from the glass(top right) but we see him as a very young man saying his first Mass. He served a poor rural community for four years then served in inner-city Detroit where his love of the poor and outcast continued to grow. When he was in his mid forties he met a Religious Sister also serving that parish and another very special love happened. He received a dispensation from his vows, and she from hers and they married in 1973, serving together ever since. ( The pictures are faded, but there is one of their wedding day and one taken a bit later). Their love continued in a marriage of three, including Christ at the center for all of their 47 years together. All who came in contact with them felt the joy and centrality of Christ in their love and service.
Ellen talked about Jack’s kindness to all and his ability to always keep his word as well as his love of service. She pointed out that Jack served as a volunteer in Lee Memorial Hospital for twenty-eight years. And he also served similarly for many years in Pontiac General Hospital in Michigan. In Lee Memorial he was a loving presence for those waiting anxiously for news of their loved ones during surgery. It is possible that he was exposed to Covid 19 there as he was at his post until it was no longer possible due to the pandemic.
For me there are four concepts that describe Jack McNally: Ultimate kindness; prophetic service; courageous persistence for justice; and a presence of love. First, I echo Ellen’s description of his kindness. It was palpable in any room he entered and with all people. Our Good Shepherd people were calmed and drawn by his often quiet yet smiling, warm and kind presence.
Joan Chittister says the following about prophets (P. 22 in The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage, 2019 Convergent Books):
“The prophetic tradition is clear, We are not here simply to succeed today. The prophet will persist for as long as it takes to make the present what God intends it to be as well as to prepare the future to maintain it. We are here to seed the present with godliness so that others may someday reap the best of what he sowed.”
That is exactly what Jack McNally did throughout his life of service to those in most need. Godliness was what you felt in Jack’s presence as he quietly served and cared for all around him. Indeed, “as long as it takes” was his whole life of 93 years, for he persisted in challenging injustice until the end, and we are so blessed that he has helped so many of us to maintain a present that is as God wants it to be: full of love, compassion and justice. And, yes, this took special courage-courage to live at the margins with all who live there, not just visit it occasionally. Jack lived a life of courageous persistence in enacting and working for justice for all God’s beloved people.
And, finally as we remember Jack we are struck by love. Jack exuded love for those he worked with and served. His was a reflection of Christ’s love and all were blessed in his presence. And Jack and Ellen together were dynamite for prophetic justice. Their love reached out to all around them, enfolding all in love. “JackandEllen” seemed often to be one word as their love was a unity in Christ’s love. And here I want to speak of their love for one another as it was an example for all couples who love, and for all who love. there was ample space for independent activities within their relationship but their service together was also remarkable.
I like the words of Henri Nouwen (from Bread For the Journey, Harper, 1997). I hear them as Jack speaking to Ellen. “Ellen” he whispers to her,
“Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. When we die , we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation”.
“Ellen” he continues with Nouwen’s wisdom filled words, but his own love,
When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer consolation and comfort”.
I know Ellen is feeling that love, and I offer it as well with Nouwen, to all who sustain profound loss.
Thank you Jack McNally for showing us the way to love.
Thanks be to God for his life.
Rest in peace and rise in glory dear Jack. Well, he already has!
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee,RCWP