IN The Beginning God Created: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
“In the beginning God created…. (Gen 1:1)” EVERYTHING! Chapter 1 of the book of Genesis- the first book in the Bible gives beautiful descriptive metaphors of God creating all that we know of the earth and the cosmos. I love “Waters: swarm with an abundance of living beings!” (Gen 1:20) That is amply illustrated in the picture above of a Moorhen family tending their young on little lake, and in the picture of abundant lake life below. All beings are to “be fruitful and increase…” “God saw that this was good and blessed them” is said about every aspect of creation, including humankind that is given the charge of stewardship of all that was created (Gen 1: 26). “Humankind was created as God’s reflection; in the divine image God created them; female and male God made them” (Gen 1:27). I just love the end of that Chapter “God looked at all of this creation, and proclaimed that this was good–very good”. Gen !:31).
I admit that of all of God’s creatures I am most concerned about humankind as we too often plunder and harm the most amazing creation that we exist in. We are too often horrible to each other and to all living things. We allow each other to starve and thirst and go homeless all over the world. And we continue to have wars that demolish one another and the environment. We continue to use violence rather than reasoning to solve disputes, and we are greedy and want more and more. We are too often not very good stewards. Even with this little lake we have to be careful not to fill it with plastic and landscaping products that harm it. And this is a very small scale example of what is happening all over the world.
The Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is a group that takes stewardship of our environment seriously. My friend, Linda VerNooy gives her life to this cause and to this group. I am so moved and inspired by her. Like her father before her, she has opened my eyes more and more to what is happening in our natural world. There are local Chapters of this group (citizensclimatelobby.org) and the groups are active on local and national and international issues, particularly regarding how we are changing the world we depend upon in terms of seasons and weather and climate in general. One might sign up for the firstname.lastname@example.org. With the recent partisan struggle over debt limits many of the gains made in the past years on clean energy incentives and care for the climate are on the table. President Biden intends to keep these gains and we can be helpful with letters and phone calls to our congressional representatives.
This blog is a challenge to all of us to do all we can to preserve the beauty of Creation. I will simply show some varied beautiful things/aspects of and from my natural world, both near and far, and hope it helps you to reflect on what gives you joy too. And then inspire you to find your own ways of protecting Creation.
SPRING– Up North
The Beauty of New Life
MAY OUR LOVING GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU LOVE AND CARE FOR PEOPLE AND CREATION all around you and to cherish your favorite things,
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries Fort Myers, Florida
Happy Mother’s Day: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Every day should be a day that Mothers and all women (and men and youth) who are taking care of others are honored as their work is never done. Mother’s Day, this Sunday, is a special day of saying “thank you” for the mothers in our lives- but any day is a good day for a real, heart-felt thank you!
THANK YOU MOTHER GOD!
For me, this includes being thankful to Mother-God for always being there for us! When Jesus taught his disciples “The Lord’s Prayer” he spoke in his language which was Aramaic. The first line has been widely translated in English and other languages “Our Father, Which are in Heaven, hallowed be your name!” However in Aramaic there are many ways this could be translated, none of them are “our Father”. The closest translation from the Aramaic to “Our Father” is “O Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos!” Please note that Jesus was speaking to his Parent and “Birther and Father-Mother” is Who he addressed (In Prayers Of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus: Translated and with Commentary by Neil Douglas-Klotz, Harper Collins, 1990: p. 12). Clearly for Jesus there is a Mother-God as well as the Father we always translate from his speech inadequately.
Jesus also identified with the feminine face of God when he said ” “O Jerusalem….how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Luke 13:34). In the Hebrew scriptures ( Isaiah 49:15) the prophet asks” Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the children she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.” And in Isaiah 66: 13-“As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you…” There is no doubt that the Scriptures honor the fatherhood of God but, just as Jesus did in his prayer, they also honor the motherhood of God. So first, for this Mother’s Day I want to thank our Mother-God for all of the abundant blessings of my life, especially the love and compassion that I experience in my relationship with God and from my closest others.
Thank YOU Mother Mary/Mariam
I am also so thankful for the lessons of Maryam, or Mariam of Nazareth, Jesus’ dear mother (Mary in Greek) who took him from birth and infancy through the launching of his ministry, and then his horrendous death, and resurrection. She was always there for him. And that is what we must be for each other, especially for those we care for. She is our Mother in the faith. Below is an 19th century photo of a woman and child from Hebron in the Middle East near where Jesus was raised. Mariam would have been a Middle Eastern mother as well. The picture beneath is an artist’s rendition of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth, her cousin. Here we see the love of two Middle Eastern women supporting each other in sharing the good news of pending birth. The reader might also want to search The Almighty Has Done Great Things For Me on ETSY with the Art of Maria Lang, or Jump For Joy with Art by Corby to get a sense of what Mary and Elizabeth may have looked like. We are so thankful for the relationships that sustain women throughout life.
You may be a mother, God Mother, foster, adoptive or other mother, a grandmother,an aunt, a sister, a cousin, a niece or a friend. You may be in a care-taking profession, a doctor, a social worker, a teacher, a counselor, a nurse, a nurse’s aid, a Home health aid, another way you help others, or a pastor or priest. You may be more than one of the above! And you may love any or all of the above.
Since male priests are called “Father”, some people ask me if they should call me “Mother”. I supply my name, usually my first name, and add that they could also call me Pastor or, what is comfortable for them. Most call me Pastor Judy but some call me Mother in my priestly role, and some call me Mother from my care-taking of young and older throughout my life. Some say “thank you” often in a variety of ways and some never say it. But it is very true that there is a need for acknowledging that another’s care-taking has been important and special in your life. As you approach Mother’s day, you might want to let someone know how important they were and are in your life.
Even when our own mothers, grandmothers and care-takers are home with our loving God, a time to remember is good for us and days like Mother’s day afford us this remembering opportunity. I am so grateful for the Mother and Grandmother that lovingly raised me and shared the love of God with me and for the Aunts and Uncles that helped them out. My mother, Anne, was always by my side, even when she had to pick me up at the bus stop late at night after my evening job at 17, so I would not have to walk home alone. Below she is with me at my Junior High School Graduation. She had a most beautiful gentle spirit and was an artist in her later years. My Grandmother, Ella, did a lot of my day to day care as my mother worked to support us. I remember laughing with my Nana so often, here she is tickling me as a friend takes my picture with my stoop full of my well worn dolls, mostly gifts of my mother except for the largest one that my Nana saved up for and bought for me from a Catalogue. I also learned to read (and think) along side of both my mother and my grandmother. Nana made sure we read all the way through the Bible together more than once by the time I reached fourteen. I am reminded of a hymn we sang in my all girls High School: “Faith of our mothers, holy faith, we will be true to thee til death”.
“Other Mother” is a valid title in the cultures I was brought up with in inner city Brooklyn, New York. Here are some special pictures of some of the ” Other Mothering” in my life and ministry. The first and second pictures are of the Maxwell children, siblings, Perdita, Marley and Chanel that my life partner Judy Beaumont and I raised while in Hartford, Connecticut- individually and together for varying lengths of time except for the smallest one, Felice Rismay (and her sister Maya) who did not live with us due to Felice’s severe allergies to animals. It was a joy having them to live with us. When we moved to Florida in 1998 the youngest, Chanel, also lived with us here for a year as she prepared for High School. We were blessed to share them with their working Mom, Cyrillia, and to be mothering presences in their lives. And now we can be grandmotherly presences for their children and that is great fun.
In the Good Shepherd Ministry
Some of our church members gather after a Mother’s Day Mass. In this Mass there are several candles on the altar table as family members lit them for their departed loved ones. The first picture above is of our dear Good Shepherd members, Jolinda Harmon and Kathy Roddy. Grandma Jolinda Harmon wears a special tee shirt for her departed daughter Linda Maybin/Neicey, whom we lost to cancer. Quay, Linda’s son, in the picture on the right is wearing a similar shirt wishing his Mom a Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven. Several other siblings are outside in similar shirts as this picture is taken. One can also note that Grandma Harmon herself is fighting cancer. I met Quay and Mrs. Harmon when I did part time work in a local Middle School several years before our Church began. They became among the founding members of our Good Shepherd Church and Grandma Harmon brought over 25 of her family members to worship regularly with us over the years. We baptized and Confirmed Grandma and Linda and many of the young people. The whole church loved them and mourned their loss. Grandma continued leading her family and our church three years after the passing of Linda. The mourning of her loss was and is great but so is the faith that she is with our Loving Mother God. I am so glad that we were members of the Body of Christ, the Church, together for over ten years. We still say of Grandma Harmon “She is the mother of the church”.
Ann Palmer, left below,was another dear mother of our Good Shepherd Church until she passed in her early nineties. And Deacon Hank Tessandori standing between her and Pastor Judy Beaumont was a loving father of our church until he moved with his wife Claire to be near family. So we will wish him a happy Father’s day now, and Claire a happy Mother’s Day! Also in the picture are Harry Gary , our Elder and Judy Alves and Phyllis Williams, other beloved parents of our church.
And then there are our PET Parents
ABOVE is my beloved Mother with me and a few of my pets when I taught at NYU School Of Social Work in New York City in the early 1980’s. I am so happy that my Mom passed her love of animals on to me. When she could no longer have pets in her Senior Housing she smuggled in hamsters that she dearly loved! Below is our Good Shepherd member Brenda Cummings with her dogs Scrappy and Turbo. Our Ministry helps members to care for their pets and Brenda is getting them a yearly examination at the Vet’s Office here. Dr. Terry Sutton, DVM has helped us with many members’ pets as part of her caring ministry.
Below is Gaspare, one of our Church members who helps me, along with his mother Lili, to take care of my rescue kittys.
This beautiful mosaic is in the ancient Aachen Cathedral in Germany. It is a Christ-figure of a pelican feeding her chicks, after the Lukan text cited above that Jesus wanted to gather God’s people under his wings like a hen gathers her chicks.
This blog remembers our beloved mothers and it is for all who gather chicks, their own or someone else’s, and provide care for others,
A BLESSED MOTHER’S DAY TO ALL,
Love and Prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida May 12, 2023
From time to time this blog will use pictures more than words to convey meanings. The meanings will be your own and if you wish to share them we will add them to the blog. Be blessed! Pastor Judy
These beautiful flowers greeted me on my morning walk. What a way to start the day!
The Good Shepherd-Carried and Called : Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
For the last three days our Scripture readings have included the “Good Shepherd” readings from the Gospel of John. Yesterday’s Gospel includes:
“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me….and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd….” (John 10:14-16)
I am ,as always, moved by the intimacy and inclusion in these words of Jesus. His relationship with the sheep is one of caring and trust. His love extends even to “laying down his life” for the sheep. They are called by name and the sheep know his voice and do not follow strangers. And he is not parochial, he is including those of other folds. There is a genuine relationship there. How blessed we are to be part of that huge diverse flock!
I have always felt drawn to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. As I sit here at my desk to my left is a depiction in embroidered cloth obtained and made a long time ago, of Jesus carrying a little lamb and reaching toward another sheep. And on my right on my other desk is a Bible that a Good Shepherd church member gave me, opened to the 23rd Psalm describing God as ‘My Shepherd” who leads me into green pastures and by the still waters, and “restores my soul”. In the accompanying picture is Jesus on a mountain- side carrying a lamb and leading the sheep. Although the Jesus figure is not accurately Middle Eastern in appearance, the care for the sheep is heart warming. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 43:1 “I have called you by name and you are mine!” How blessed it is to be called by name by our loving God.
In my autobiographical book “The House on Sunny Street: A Tale of Two Brooklyns…” ( PublishAmerica Press, 2013-Amazon.com-Kindle copies) I share that when I moved to Florida over 25 years ago needing a professional change, I wandered away from addresses the Real Estate Agent gave me and and saw this house with a little lake right behind it. When I stood by the lake I knew that God, my Shepherd was still leading me by still waters to gain rest for my soul. We bought that house! Also in the book is a story of getting lost as a small child after church and one of the men of the church finding me and carrying me to my frantically waiting mother. Mr. Leopold Dyce was from Jamaica, in the West Indies, and yet I felt that he was the arms of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, for me that day.
Even as a child I felt called to follow the Good Shepherd, and to be the arms of the Good Shepherd for others-to help shepherd the flock. I was happiest inviting friends to church. Throughout my life, no matter how old I was I could see Jesus lifting me to his breast as a little lamb, and I could feel him finding me and bringing me home as an adult when I strayed away from the flock. (It was not easy to stay with the flock when some strong members rejected me for the gayness I embraced in my thirties). I would find other flocks and somehow Jesus always kept me close to Him.
Hence, when my life partner Judy Beaumont and I started our ministry in Fort Myers, Florida in 2003 by buying a house where a homeless woman and her family could live, we easily agreed to call our ministry The Good Shepherd Ministry. When I was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in 2008, we were ministering with the homeless and hungry in a local park (since 2007) with the support of many who chose to assist this ministry. In 2009 we bought a building to be our Church Home and a shelter for the homeless that we called Joshua House, Jesus’ House. More than a hundred people left homelessness behind once they entered those doors. We came together to become The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church located in central Fort Myers. Those who served and those who were served became one serving church.
Below are some pictures of our Good Shepherd Community. Like the sheep Jesus taught about we are diverse, all colors and sizes and shapes. Each one different and each one called by God to follow. In the second picture below some of our members are joining several from earlier years in electing to be Confirmed as followers of Jesus. Over 30 people of all ages and walks of life were baptized in our church. In the last picture we are meeting outside during Covid, Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez-Mejia is standing next to our Church elder, Mr. Harry Gary and myself. Like sheep we have developed a wonderful mutual aid and friendship community. It is good to know that sheep are actually smart creatures who form friendship groups, know each other and care for one another. Our community exists to the present time even though early deaths and moving have diminished our numbers from over 70 to about 30. Semi-retired now, I am not able to offer regular Mass. Pastor Marina is working full time in a Hospital and has a separate Hispanic ministry. We meet as we can but are still a community. We would do well to emulate sheep in developing non-hierarchical mutual aid communities where young and old are cared for. I enjoyed the research on sheep by Tamsin Cooper, Online, 2022, and in Countryside Sept, Oct 2020. I am happy to be one of the sheep!
Bless you as you seek to follow the Good Shepherd,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida 5/3/2003