Speak Their Names: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest

Throughout history women’s names have been omitted from important accounts and their presence omitted from events. This is particularly true in the Holy Scriptures. In using one subject index to the Bible I was only able to count the mention of less than 20 women’s names from the Hebrew Scriptures through the New Testament. And some of the earlier stories were not salutory toward the women who “tempted” the more righteous men, etc. And , as we know, poor Eve got blamed for the “first sin” and had to blame the snake as she could certainly not blame Adam, the man.

The New Testament is not much better. For example, when we read of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000 women don’t even get to be a number. Both times we read “”…about 5,000 men, besides women and children”. And, “…about four thousand, besides women and children.” So he fed more than twice those numbers if women and children were included as human beings. Just think of all those women who also followed Jesus, heard Jesus, and brought their children to hear Jesus. Just think of the women Jesus healed and included in those near him that the writer immersed in (probably) his culture omitted from the story. In fairness to the Gospel writers we are at least told that some nameless women, including foreign women, were healed because of their great faith. We are told of Peter’s wife’s mother’s healing though neither his wife nor mother-in-law have names.

We are told of some women disciples by name and so we want to remember their names. We are told that Mary of Magdala was healed perhaps seven times and that she became arguably Jesus’ closest and most faithful follower along with his mother Mary and another Mary and Salome, Joanna and Susanna and many other women who were faithful even to the cross and the grave. Jesus appeared first to these women after his resurrection. (See for example, Mark 15:40 and Mark 16, and Matthew 27 and 28.) In Luke 24: 9 we learn that the disciples did not even believe the report of the women and had to go find out for themselves. And finally even within the traditional Church, Mary of Magdala who was sent to tell the disciples of his rising (John 20:10-18) is considered “the Apostle to the Apostles”.

The Apostle Paul has a checkered record regarding women. Several of his pronouncements clearly place women as subordinate to their husbands as was culturally thought, even saying they should be silent in church, (See I Corinthians 11:3 and 14:34 .) But he also recognizes the importance of the couple Priscilla and Aquila in his work, putting Priscilla’s name first which indicates her possible leadership( Acts 18) and he also recognizes Deaconess Phoebe and the leadership of other women who provided homes and provisions for the disciples. He also describes the disciples speaking to groups of women who were responsive to the Gospel. He notes, for example the conversion of Lydia, a business woman influential in the community. And so we have some more names to remember.

But my favorite account of women named by Paul and two of my favorite names called by Paul are “Lois and Eunice”.

Paul, who is ill and in prison, is speaking to his “spiritual son” Timothy of Lystra (modern day Turkey) to whom he is passing on his mantel in doing the work of evangelization of the known world. He says (2 Timothy 1:1-8):

“I am grateful to God…as I remember you constantly in my prayers…I yearn to see you again…as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and that I am confident lives also in you. For this reason ,I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands…”

Here Paul honors the faith and the work of Timothy’s Grandmother Lois, and Mother Eunice in passing on the faith to Timothy. Paul could then help Timothy to go to the next steps in deepening that faith through Paul’s imparting of the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. This is similar to our Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and of Holy Orders. Paul is recognizing that he is building on the faith that was imparted through Timothy’s Grandmother and Mother, and he uses their names Lois and Eunice.



I particularly love this passage as my faith was initially passed on from my Grandmother, Ella, and also in a different way, from my Mother, Anne. I was blessed to grow up in my Grandma’s little house in Brooklyn, New York on the border of Bedford-Stuyvesant, with my mother and two Uncles, Jack and Warren. My Grandmother, Ella Adelaide Shotwell Robinson Weinmann, was on fire with her faith in Jesus Christ and passed it on to all in her sphere, even the neighbors and church members she sat on the stoop with at the end of the day. It seemed to me that everyone in our large extended family and in the neighborhood came to my Grandmother with issues regarding the need for faith. And often after listening to them she would pray with them.

My Mother, Anne Marie Weinmann Beach, taught me how to pray every night before I went to bed. She would say the prayers with me. Her gentleness and acceptance of me and all people, her love of animals, and her endurance under the fire of her own demons and the loss of my father to abandonment when I was two, and the pressures of entering the work world where women were still objects, could go unnoticed. She could appear fragile but her strength and faith were never lost. She was beautiful from the outside in and the inside out and her beauty brightened our world. Her love of art and poetry and education nurtured my spirit and her conversation and attention grew my intellect.

My Grandmother prayed with me often as she read the Scriptures. I was blessed to read the Bible twice with her, just about in its entirety, by the time I was fourteen and she taught me as we read. I was so blessed! I can see my wonderful Pastors, Rev. Dave Ver Nooy and Rev. Melvin G. Williams and my Youth Group leader and mentor, Grace Thorpe (Brathwaite) visiting with her and kneeling down on the floor with her as she led them in prayer. Indeed Nana encouraged me to go to church regularly and passed me on to them for the next steps even as Lois had passed on her grandson Timothy to Paul. I learned viscerally of Jesus love from her. She had courage as well and would not move us when the neighborhood turned from mostly white to nearly all black. She loved our neighbors and stayed put with a lesson I shall never forget as all of our nearby relatives moved away. I first met Jesus there with her kneeling on that linoleum floor. Her love of Jesus and all of God’s people was all encompassing and her teaching gentle and full of wisdom and compassion. She often sat at the front window and I knew all was well when I saw her there. All of the neighbors greeted her with love and respect, and she greeted them likewise. I was so blessed! Grandma at her window:

Grandma, ELLA, whom I called both Grandma and Nana, was sitting on the stoop reading her Bible when Uncle Jack brought her flowers for Mother’s Day!

Below is my beautiful Mother, ANNE

Above Anne has just been exhibiting at the Washington Square Art Show and had sold a painting! and below -our shared love of animals.

Below is my first mentor in the faith, GRACE Thorpe Brathwaite, our much loved Youth Group Leader at a reunion of our Youth Group in 2002. Grace was brilliant, had two theological degrees, and knew and taught us the Scriptures with a love and energy that made them irresistible to even teenagers and young adults. And we also had a great deal of much needed fun with her. She left us to go to the Sudan as a Missionary. When she returned she helped me to enter Hunter College where she had gone as an undergraduate. Her support in this was essential as it was a new world in Manhattan for me. It was hard to let her go but we kept in touch afterward and throughout our lives. She had a hard time accepting my gayness/ orientation once I finally knew it at age 30, but she wrestled with it and with Pastor David’s help eventually accepted me fully again. She is bottom left and her sister Evelyn is in back of her next to me. Jackie and Pat Copeland from the Youth Group are there as well, and the then current church Pastor Genevieve Brooks.

Below in 2015 Grace and Evelyn and Judy Beaumont and I are visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The picture is slightly out of focus but precious to me. Like Ella and Anne, Grace has now gone home to God, as has Evelyn and my friend Pat Copeland.





Perhaps you will reflect on your life and sing the names of your leaders in faith. If you like, hit Comment here and list their names and then we can have a compendium of faith filled women who passed it on to us. They should be named and cherished forever.

Bless you as you pass it on to others,

Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP

Rev. Judith AB Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of Fort Myers

4 responses to “Speak Their Names: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest”

  1. Nancy V Chism says :

    My mother Lillian Van Note
    A mentor, Dorothy Newell (Sr. Ignatius Loyola)
    A theology teacher, Philomena Marsecano

  2. docrondeau says :

    Madalyn, Ruth, Sisters of St Joseph, Lois

    Faith filled women.

  3. patricia byrne says :

    A wonderful glimpse into your spiritual autobiography.
    We never realize in the moments of our lives, how the many
    incarnations of Divine Love and Wisdom become
    sentences, paragraphs, chapters and the the connected miraculous story of our own rebirths and ongoing ‘Becomings.’ Thank you for this inspiration of God’s goodness.

  4. patricia byrne says :

    A wonderful glimpse into your spiritual autobiography.
    We never realize in the moments of our lives, how the many
    incarnations of Divine Love and Wisdom become
    sentences, paragraphs, chapters and then the connected miraculous story of our own rebirths and ongoing ‘Becomings.’ Thank you for this inspiration of God’s goodness.

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