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A Charge and A Promise of Presence: Good Shepherd Continues During Covid-19-Mass for Jesus’ Ascension

The life and Spirit of the church continues no matter what restrictions and challenges we face in this time of Covid-19. We continue God’s work. We worship alone and in small groups 6 feet apart and we pray together across the miles and beyond the masks. We provide connection and presence for one another no matter the distancing necessary. Filled with the Spirit and power of our loving God we continue on.
Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Pastor Judy Lee celebrated Mass with two Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community members on Thursday 5/21/2020. Kathy O. and Kathy L are a couple from Minnesota that have attended Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers seasonally for over 10 years. They usually leave for Minnesota by April but they were grounded due to the the difficulties of travel during the pandemic. When they visited on the Day of Ascension, Thursday the 21st we had a lovely Mass celebration together. The intentions for this Mass were for their health and safety on their impending travel home; and for all touched by Covid-19 as sufferers, caretakers, family and friends, those stuck at home,and especially for health care professionals. We also joined in prayer for our former Bishop, Bridget Mary Meehan of Sarasota ,Florida who faces cancer and has had a double surgery two weeks ago. And for our members Jolinda Harmon also facing cancer and her grandson Quay Crews, facing another chronic life threatening illness, and for two relatives of Kathy and Kathy also facing difficulty.

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The readings of the day are Acts 1:1-11-where Jesus’ appearances to the disciples and his time of leaving after providing many assurances are described and we are assured that “…You will receive power when the the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses….”
The Responsive Psalm is Psalm 47 where we are encouraged to shout for joy and blare the trumpets as our God reigns over the nations.
The Second Reading is Ephesians 1:17-23 where we see Christ taking his position as Head of the Church, his body-all of us who are called to follow.
The Gospel is Matthew 28:16-20 where Jesus charges the disciples to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of Abba God, and of the Only Begotten, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you. And know I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!” TIB).

In our homiletic reflections we shared a writing by Harry McEvoy in Living With Christ where he reflects on trying to remember most of all that Christ is always with us, even though he is experiencing forgetting and mild cognitive impairment. We each reflected on God with us and the difference it makes in whatever we must go through. The sharing was personal and simple and profound. I added that the “being with us” is , in the context of these Ascension readings, not only for ourselves. Yes, we are to feel Presence and accompaniment on our journeys no matter how hard they are. YES. But we are also to witness to God’s presence and power to be with us and change lives to following the commandments of love and inclusivity so that all whose lives we touch may be touched by God’s deep love and conversion to Love.

The Ascension Reflections of 5/7/16 and 5/13/18 in these archives on the right of the page can also bring us deeper into why sometimes it is necessary to leave in order that our true spirit remains with those we love. As Kathy and Kathy leave our community to return to Minnesota, and the Community led by women priests there, we keep them in our hearts and prayers. And we pray that we can not only feel the ever abiding Spirit of God with us, but have the power to preach the gospel using words whenever necessary.

We also celebrate the 69th Birthday of our dear member Jolinda Harmon, 5/19/2020. And we bless Stella Odie-Ali for her continued loving support of Jolinda during this hard time.
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And we bless Claire Tessandori on her birthday, 5/24/2020
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And we thank and bless our member Carol Schauf for her continued support of our member Brenda Cummings which includes bringing her goodies and activities to do and provisions for her pets during her time “stuck at home”.

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We continue to pour our blessings on Maya and Lamar Cummings and their baby girl Kimora:
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And we continue to thank God for our beloved Good Shepherd church community that remains alive and well with the power of the Spirit.

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Be blessed and aware that “I am with you always until the end of the age”.

Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B. Lee

This Year with Good Shepherd Ministries

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Our Good Shepherd Ministries and the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers continues to exist and flourish in its 12th year despite the many recent events and changes over the years. Pastor Judy Lee continues as Pastor with Pastor Marina Teresa who generously gives her able assistance in shepherding the flock. While we lost our co-founder and co-Pastor Judy Beaumont on January 1, 2018, her spirit remains with us and guides us still.

I recently visited one of our members since 2007, Lauretta Rasmussen who is in the hospital with advanced cancer. She was in good spirits and told me immediately that she was happy to see me, and that Pastor Judy B. was already there with her. I had no doubt of that as Pastor Judy had a special relationship with Lauretta not only as Pastor but as Rep Payee for many years. It was Lauretta who had presented her to the bishop for her diaconate Ordination in 2011 and stood by her side with Judy’s sister Jill Bergner and others at her priestly Ordination in 2012. So today we ask your prayers for Lauretta and God’s blessings upon her. Below Lauretta is worshipping with us in 2018.
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While over 17 of our original members who were formerly homeless and some of our supporters as well have gone home to their loving God in the past few years our congregation remains vital and committed to serving God and one another and all of their neighbors. This church of the poor and not poor together comes in all colors, cultures,sexual orientations, ages and states of life. We are united in the love and service of Christ. It is such a blessing to be one with them.

We have come together to worship several times this year. Each time 30-40 of our members squeeze into Pastor Marina’s centrally located home to worship, to pray, to share a meal and to celebrate birthdays and many other life events.
The pictures below taken by Maya Rismay Cummings are from our church gathering on August 31st, 2019. Pastor Judy Lee presided, with Pastor Marina Teresa and our special Lector Joelle White who read to us about “Mother God” from Bridget Mary Meehan and Regina Oliver’s Heart Talks with Mother God for the Children’s sermon. After spirited worship where the Gospel for the day, Luke 14: 1,7-14 has Jesus telling us to invite EVERYONE to the Table we also blessed and celebrated those with Birthdays, and return to school and those coping with illnesses. The “Birthdays” were Quayschaun Crews, Brenda Cummings and Jolinda Terrell as well as our beloved deceased Linda Maybin, mother of Quay and Jolinda and four others present as well as her mother Jolinda Harmon and her nieces and two grandchildren also present. Maya Rismay Cummings was joyfully returning for her last semester at FGCU and Natasha Terrell will be continuing courses at FSW College while Joelle White and Ni’yah Battles were returning to Middle School and Keion Lewis to High School, and we also had Courtney Bolt starting First Grade and Zee Tobias in the third grade. Special healing prayer was also given to those battling cancer and other life threatening illnesses. Those who were left out in Jesus day were the maimed, the blind, the lame, the ill, and the poor. Sometimes people with “disabilities” and the poor are still left out today as well as those of the LGBTQ community and people of different lands and cultures and languages, especially those from Hispanic and Muslim countries. Sadly racism still exists. We prayed to learn to include everyone in our lives and in the church of Christ. No one is to be left out.

As I write this I am particularly thankful to those churches where Roman Catholic Women Priests serve and have served that continue to send us spiritual and material support and also to the individuals who tithe with us and remember us in so many ways with prayer and material help. In this year, 2019, Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community in Newton, New Jersey renewed its quarterly giving while Sophia and Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota and Living Waters Inclusive Catholic Community in Maryland gave sustaining gifts to our fund to assist one dear member on a fixed income who is battling advanced cancer with her basic needs. The response to this need from individuals as well will take this member up to January in her rent and for other needs. The response overwhelmed us with gratitude and joy. Such giving also enabled us to place a homeless couple from Tennessee in a Motel overnight so St. Vincent De Paul could give them bus money to return home and to supplement starting school needs and other needs of daily living on low or fixed incomes. We forestalled eviction and electric shut offs in three situations and helped members to fix and maintain vehicles needed for transportation. As members faced the news of Hurricane Dorian possibly approaching we were able to help them with needed supplies like water,food and batteries. Additionally we helped two families to keep their pets by having them vaccinated and receiving Veterinarian care. We are so pleased to say that our donations were just about equal to our needs during the first nine months of 2019. God truly provides through the generosity and giving of our sisters and brothers in the wider community and our own. Thanks be to all who have shared with us and many blessings.

In turn our church gathered a large amount of clothing for another ministry to the homeless that gives out clothing and was caught short due to the heavy rainy season. Our member Brenda Cummings takes care of clothing for this ministry and alerted us to the need. And two of our members, Kathy Roddy and Pearl Cudjoe and, whenever she is in town Cyrillia Rismay provide hot meals and desserts for our gatherings and there are always many plates to take home. Other members also contribute beverages and desserts. Most of all, each one contributes caring and love so that all experience the love of God in Christ in one another and in our gatherings.

We are truly thankful for our co-Pastor Rvda. Marina Teresa and our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and for all who support her in so many ways. Thanks be to God!
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Blessings and Love to You,

Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,DMin,DSW,MSW

Happy Birthday From The Giraffes

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Today is Marcella’s twelfth birthday. Her Mom, Lili, arranged with us to take Marcella and her friend Eric to the Naples Zoo. Animals are some of Marcella’s favorite things. ┬áLili was able to come and Marcella’s older brother,Gaspare also came, making the celebration complete. Gaspare has not been with us as a group since Marcella’s baptism at our church in 2009. So today was a doubly special day. Everyone was full of life and excitement at meeting so many new beings.

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The excitement at seeing the alligators and snakes, the bears and the impalas,the kebu and the anteater and especially the lion and lioness whom they dubbed Nala and Simba was contagious. But the highlight of the day was the boat ride around “Lake Victoria” seeing the monkeys, apes and gibbons in their own island habitats, and the lemurs being fed at snack feeding time. Gaspare and Eric loved feeding the giraffe but Marcella enjoyed watching this from a bit of a distance. ┬áThe way the giraffes bent down and waved their necks made us think they were singing Happy Birthday to her. The barn owls and the sloth hanging around the neck of its trainer and the Gila Monster whose venom is helping people with Diabetes II and cancer were also highlights of the day. Letting off steam in the playground was another fun time. This was such a joyful time with the animals and her friend Eric and her family and pastors, that I think she will remember her twelfth birthday for a long time. that is if she doesn’t get sick from ordering and eating 5 chicken pieces, one carmel shake,curly fries, and one chocolate turnover at Arbys.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY,MARCELLA!

Love and prayers,

Your Pastors, Judy and Judy and your Mom, Gaspare and Eric and the Giraffes and all your zoo friends

10/12/2013