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.
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.
And we bless Claire Tessandori on her birthday, 5/24/2020
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”.
We continue to pour our blessings on Maya and Lamar Cummings and their baby girl Kimora:
And we continue to thank God for our beloved Good Shepherd church community that remains alive and well with the power of the Spirit.
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
It is very hard for this Pastor not to be able to gather the flock, and to have limited contact with those who need her. We have found creative ways to be in contact and that is the good news I can share here.
Good Shepherd Ministries and Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers,Florida have been in existence from 2007 and 2008 respectively while the combined ministry I shared with Pastor Judy Beaumont as Good Shepherd Ministries in Fort Myers, actually began in 2003 when we housed a homeless family and then a woman with mental illness in a house we bought for the purpose as we served many of the poorest in East Fort Myers. We have had Church in the Park from 2007-2009; Church in the house we bought to use as a Church from 2008-2017, (we also used the Church House as a temporary residence for 55 people leaving homelessness, and those facing hard times from 2008-2016) And since Pastor Judy Beaumont’s return home to our loving God in January of 2018 we have had church about every 2 months in the condo of our Associate Pastor Marina Teresa in Central Fort Myers.(Below)
It is amazing to us that from 30 to 40 people of a wonderful diverse group of God’s people gather each time we gathered since February 2018 and no one who attended regularly has been lost since 2007 although over 20 of our formerly homeless people went home to God in the last several years. We often joined Jesus in praying “And this is the will of Abba God who sent me,that I shall lose none of all that has been given me,but raise them up on the last day” (John 6:39) We pray not to lose those whom God has given us in loving ministry. We were blessed to walk some of the 20 or so who died home to God, and to minister to their grieving families as they were available. And the others still come and sometimes bring friends,and so we continue. A church of the poor and of the more well to do (economically), an inclusive church of all classes, races, statuses, cultures and sexual orientations, many formerly homeless and some sporadically homeless, continue on together even during this COVID-19 interlude of sickness and distance. We are amazingly blessed.
First,we keep contact in the old-fashioned way by phone calls and mailings. Few days pass that I don’t speak with one of our members. They call me to check on me as much as I call to check on them- and we have good talks and we pray together. We celebrated Easter and Mother’s Day with cards and gifts for many to help them through the hard times. Now that the Stimulus payments have reached most of them we call and write not to share need, but to share love. Love is truly what we share in any event. It is particularly sad to us that those who have nothing at all have no way to get stimulus payments. They do have Food Stamps, most of them, but nothing else except,for some, the subsidized housing we helped them get before all lists closed in Fort Myers, One man in particular, Joe, is quite ill, but was denied SSI before his current neurological illness although he could not work. He lost heart and did not follow up with a lawyer which he still needs to do. We have been paying by the visit for his Medical care and one of our other members,Roger, who lives in his complex takes him to the Doctor faithfully, but he cannot be seen until Covid-19 wanes and the Doctors who take poor folks can see him again. He has Food Stamps and is housed but he has nothing else so we are trying to subsidize him now. He and I talk on the phone and write and he responds to encouragement to follow up on medical help. Roger also takes Mary, also a cancer survivor, and other of our members to their necessary appointments. In the photo below taken after the funeral celebration of one of our members, Nate Chester, Roger is the man in black leaning on the cane. Joe and the Cudjoes and Brenda and Judy Alves are also in this picture.
Other members come to see me and we visit 6 feet apart and outside wearing masks. One dear woman, Grandma Jolinda who is struggling with advanced cancer has been removed from her cancer treatments during this Covid-scare. She has asked me to speak with her Doctor and explain it all to her. The Doctor and I have developed a good relationship and I explain all of the Doctor’s reasoning to our dear member, who takes heart and is less frightened in understanding. She and I talk often and are very happy for our 6 feet apart visits. The family members she lives with bring her and we visit too. On Mother’s Day they came by with her and, thinking I was not home, left beautiful flowers for me on my front porch. I was so moved by this. Then we had an in person 6 foot visit this week so I could give her some gifts we had for her Mother’s Day. We long to hug, but are satisfied with being in the same out-door space.
With another member,Gaspare, I went to see the newborn baby girl,Kimora, of our young couple, Maya and Lamar Cummings and we had 6 ft apart blessings outside their home. What a joyous visit that was. And they will be bringing her by in similar manner in the future.
Gaspare and his mother Lili help me weekly and biweekly wearing masks and gloves in my care of my rescue Kitties and birds. I am so thankful to them and to my neighbor and sister in Christ, Rena Kopp, who assists me with a paralyzed kitty named Brooklyn. Like several others, I also walked Lili through how to get her benefits during her time of unemployment due to COVID. Here the Unemployment website did not work at all for weeks and people needed to make paper applications still not attended to by the State.
With other members we video-chat as well as message and talk on the phone. Brenda, who is living in a tiny studio apartment with her four pets and ,temporarily, another friend really felt “locked-in”. For her, video chats were a great joy. I also enjoy video-chats with Cyrillia Rismay-all the way to St. Lucia. Other members, like Judy Alves who calls our 90 year old Elder, Ann Palmer, and visits newly 18,Jakeriya and her baby Jamir, and twin brother Jakein, and Debbie Carey and her daughter Joelle and grand child Courtney,reach out to one another with calls and 6 feet visits and the love continues on.
Our “snowbird” members from Minnesota, Kathy O and Kathy L have visited me at home with our 6 foot visits and drive-through meals from McDonalds. They will be here again next week before they return home to Minnesota. It is a joy to have them with us.
We do not use zoom meetings as most of our members do not have or use the technology. But many of our sister churches use this with great success.
This Saturday, May 16th we will celebrate the virtual Graduation of Dr. Efe Cudjoe from FSU Medical School. Efe Cudjoe and her family have been with us from the very beginning, before 2003 when Pastor Judy Beaumont and I worked with St. Peter Claver Community. Efe has been our youth leader all during her High School Years and is loved by all of our members for her thoughtful caring of others as well as her brilliance. She still makes home visits for me when she is home, and with her faithful parents, Dr. Joseph and Pearl Cudjoe! Her older sister, Nana Cudjoe has also become a Medical Doctor and has begun a Practice of Psychiatry. Efe will be in OB-GYN in a well earned and coveted University of Pittsburgh Residence and we are so happy to celebrate the outstanding achievements of both-even virtually and by phone. (Below Efe, on right is with Pastor Judy Beaumont and Keeondra Terrell on a Youth Outing).
And so our Good Shepherd Community continues on during the pandemic. None have been ill with the virus though some, like our Associate Pastor Marina Teresa, and Debbie Carey work in health care at various levels. We call, we message, we visit 6 feet apart and we continue the love. We pray for and with one another and for all those we love, including our former Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of Sarasota and Mary Mother of Jesus Community there who has just undergone serious surgery for cancer. We join in prayer for her recovery. We are so blessed to have one another in prayer and love.
To all who are homebound by Covid-19 we pray that you too will find ways to stay connected to your faith and love communities. We can not do this alone, we need one another as never before.
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP,Dmin,DSW,MSW
On this Holy Saturday we go with the women to the grave. We pray. We mourn. We do not yet experience hope or understand anything about resurrection. We are in darkness before the light dawns. For many fearing and experiencing the swift sword of the COVID-19 virus and the unexpected loss of our dearest ones it is Holy Saturday. World-wide in this pandemic, not just in our own spheres, it is Holy Saturday. We pray for them today, and all who serve them with love and care. For the many losing loved ones to the ravages of war and hunger and thirst throughout the world, we pray. For the many who lose loved ones to a realm of natural illnesses not yet vanquished by knowledge of prevention and cure, we pray. For all with cancer,Alzheimers’ disease,and other life altering and life threatening illnesses, we pray. For all who don’t know You and the Light and Healing You bring, we pray. For all who know no Easter, no rising from the dead, we pray.
In Pope Francis’ Holy Saturday Homily today he said that when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb at dawn (Matthew 28:1-10) and the huge stone in front of the grave was so dramatically rolled back they were given a message of the greatest HOPE. First, they were told not to be afraid. That is a clear message for us today, here and now too-Do not be afraid. Then they were told that the crucified Jesus they were seeking was not there-“He has been raised just as he said”. By now they must have been in total shock and awe, but they were invited to “Come and see the place where He lay”. They were then told to hurry and go and tell the other disciples that he has been raised from the dead and goes before them to Galilee where they will see Him. And you know the women did RUN and they did become the first apostles telling the Good News that Jesus was raised from the dead! He also said that the fact that Jesus went to Galilee was so important. Galilee was not the heart of Jerusalem it was often called Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus was leading them to go tell EVERYONE, that Jesus rose and because He rose from the dead they too, no matter who they are, can live-now and forever! The message of the empty grave, of the cross and resurrection is a message of HOPE-death does NOT have the last word-Amen!
For those for whom the cross, and its meaning as the gateway to life, remains covered we pray.
With all who keep vigil today waiting for Easter, we pray.
For all who have gone to their Easter and live in Your Light and love forever, we pray. And we ask them now to pray for us.
For our own Easter, our own rising from the bonds of death, now and forever, we pray.
Here is a link to my earlier blog that tells about the beautiful Holy Saturday Easter Vigil Service and pictorially illustrates its sequences and meanings:
May the light and love of Easter break through for you this night.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
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.
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!
Blessings and Love to You,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,DMin,DSW,MSW