Live NOW and Forever! All Saints and All Souls Celebration of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community with Three Roman Catholic Woman Priests
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida celebrated All Saints and All Souls day a bit early this year. On Saturday afternoon, October 16, 2021, twenty-seven people of all ages, races, sexual orientations, and social class and cultural backgrounds, met outside in East Fort Myers where several members live, to give thanks to our Loving God for those who have gone before us. Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP, was assisted by Co-Pastors Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, RCWP and Marilyn E. Rondeau, RCWP, from Maryland. Rev. Marilyn gave greetings from The Living Waters Inclusive Catholic Community in Baltimore and Thurmont, Maryland and was warmly welcomed to our Good Shepherd Community. We also named those with Birthdays during this season and said we would celebrate those important events today as well.
We especially remembered and honored the faithful Mother and Grandmother of our Good Shepherd Community who made her transition home to God in August of 2021 after battling cancer for four years, our beloved Jolinda Harmon,70. Nine members of her family attended, including a daughter, Yolanda, eight grandchildren, Quayschaun, Natasha, Keeondra, Jolinda La Faye, Ni’ya, Ri’ya and Ki’ya, and Isaiah and Isaiah’s 5 year old son. Four of the young adult grandchildren present recalled that they were baptized with or after Grandma Harmon as she made sure they became a living part of our church community. We also recalled how Grandma Harmon brought all of the children and grandchildren and their friends that she could bring regularly, and how she was Grandma for everybody. Two other grandchildren who were baptized with or just after with her were not able to attend today, Jakeriya, who was home preparing a birthday party for her son Jamir and Jakein who is living and working in Alaska. While three Good Shepherd members attended her Funeral in August when Pastor Judy co-presided with Pastor Tommy White of Jolinda’s mother Lessie Ivory’s Missionary Baptist church, this was the first time we could celebrate our dear sister as a Good Shepherd Congregation. We lit a candle in her memory and her Grandson Quay placed her picture on the altar along with that of his mother, Linda Maybin, also our beloved member who went home to God in 2017.
We celebrated our dear Linda as well as Nathaniel Chester, who lived where we were worshipping until his death in 2016 and Michael Murray, Lauretta Rasmussen, Richard Duncan who made his transition home in 2021, our great supportive brother,Jack McNally, 93, in December of 2020 and other church members, along with our beloved Pastor Judy Beaumont who left us to return home to God in January of 2018. Each one was remembered. We recognized that we are a part of the vast Community of Saints who surround us with their love and guidance, especially those who welcomed Christ as their Beloved here at Good Shepherd.
We began with the hymn Revive Us Again as Pastor Judy introduced the theme of the day, to LIVE now and be assured that we will also rise again according to God’s love for us expressed in the Scriptures of the day. Pastor Marilyn read the first reading from Isaiah 25:6-9 where we learn that God will remove the mourning veil forever, and destroy all death forever, wiping away the tears from every cheek. Our elder, Mr. Harry Lee Peter Gary led us in the Responsive Psalm33-“May Your faithful love be upon us ,O God as we place all our hope in You”. Pastor Marina Teresa read from the Epistle to the Romans (6:3-9) where we hear that Christ was raised from the dead so we may lead a New LIFE and be raised from the dead as well.
We then sang and claimed the ground before us and ourselves and our neighbors as “Holy Ground” before singing ALLELUIA before the Gospel. Pastor Marilyn then read from the Gospel; John 6:37-40-“Whoever comes to me I won’t turn away…but rather raise them up….this is the will of my Abba (Father): that everyone who sees and believes in the Only Begotten will have eternal life….and be raised on the last day. ”
Pastor Judy then preached on LIVING NOW and the assurance of our rising again. She asked the congregation to reflect on their lives and to share what can keep us from really living now, can keep us as if we were dead. Grief was the first thing first mentioned…how it is so hard to let go even when we believe in the rising again of our loved ones. Then stress and money problems and health issues, and loneliness and other worries were mentioned. As we all owned the things that deaden us, Pastor Judy asked that we let them go and trust in our loving God and God’s people for support and compassion.
She went onto say that our faith in God’s love through Christ can give us the strength to let go of our heavy burdens of grief and worry and give us the strength to really live fully now. And we can turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ to give us the support we need to let go of death and embrace life. We have each other, we are not alone. The prayers of our loved ones and all the saints gone before us can enliven us again. Our God is the God of the living and our loved ones live with God and want us to live too, now and forever.
Our intercessory prayers included our loved ones and all gone before even as they pray now for us. Joelle White age 14, now taking college classes in her first year of High School, who grew up in our church read special intercessions for victims of war and conflicts, hunger and basic needs unmet, and victims of AIDS, Malaria, Covid-19 and other infectious diseases especially those who died without adequate care. This is Joelle next to Mr. Harry Gary and her mother Debbie and friend Felicia, and niece Courtney Bolt. Mr. Gary was Joelle’s Godfather at her baptism at Good Shepherd ten years ago .
We prayed for all our deceased members and loved ones who sleep in Christ and for families and individuals locked in grief, that God will give relief and consolation to them, and that we may minister to one another in this. This is Grandma Harmon and her grand and great grand daughters in 2018.
We welcomed all present to the Table of Plenty prepared by Jesus at his Last Supper. And we sang Thank You, God, and I’m So Glad Jesus Lifted Me as Holy Communion was received.
Before we concluded we gave Birthday blessings and gifts to Kathy Roddy, Natasha Terrell, Jolinda LaFaye Terrell, Keeondra Terrell, and Ni’Ya, Ri’Ya and Ki’Ya Battle who were ten in the picture above and 13 now and seven year old Courtney Bolt. We also recognized the presence of Ellen McNally at 91, our CTA President who continues always to support Good Shepherd. All received a big hand, especially Ellen McNally. She is on right in mask here with Mary, Gary, Pearl, Brenda and Kathy. And below are the three Pastors of the day together after we concluded with a mutual blessing and Mr. Gary sent us forth to continue our service.
May you be blessed as we celebrate All Souls and All Saints day this year. May you realize the fullness of your life and service to our loving God and others every day and live in the hope of the resurrection as you remember and celebrate the life of your loved ones.
In The Risen and Living Christ,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP