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
Nations Are Judged By Treatment Of the Most Vulnerable: A Lenten Meditation by a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Readers of all faiths and no particular faith are invited to take a deep breath, exhale slowly and focus on our world and our country at this point in time. Focus on what is right and beautiful and focus on what is ugly and unjust, on the “haves and have-nots” and on those trying hard to have, to share, and to build a just Nation. You may be surprised when I say that the coinciding of Lent in the Christian tradition and the U.S. Presidential Primaries and debates DO have something in common. I will try to draw some of those commonalities here. This is at risk of alienating those who are sick of politics and promises loosely made and rarely kept. But it is also necessary and hopeful in encouraging the connections between what we value and believe in the Scriptures and applying it not only individually but as a National entity.
My ears and my whole being perked up in the recent Democratic TV debate when two of the candidates, not totally in sync with one another, quoted similar scriptures when asked their favorite quotes: Elizabeth Warren quoted Matthew 25: 40 in the King James version ” Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me”. (Or in The Priests for Equality Inclusive Bible (TIB): “…the truth is , every time you did this for the least of my sisters or brothers, you did it for me”. And the corollary is Matthew 25:45 ” “The truth is, as often as you neglected to do this to the least of these,you neglected to do it to me…. only the just will go off to eternal life.”) And Pete Buttigeig quoted the Golden rule. “You should love your neighbor as yourself”. And each of the other candidates without quoting scripture made points about how they would make policy and or program provision for the “least of these”, including the homeless, the sick, particularly those without money, and children and youth seeking education as well as daily breakfast and immigrants and migrants. These aspirations for the Nation were very much in line with the Golden rule and Matthew 25, with or without saying so. All were hopeful for a new day for the underserved and those for whom racism, classism and gender inequality have taken its toll. Sure, the “devil is in the details” and the details of all plans and hopes need work, but at least the start of such altruistic aspirations and plans were good to hear.
As it is now, under the current Administration, where would the USA stand in the Matthew 25 “judgement of the sheep and the goats?” To provide context-this is where Jesus frames the scene as a judgement of nations, of countries while we often apply it only to our individual lives, thereby getting only a part of the point being made. Not only do we singly have to measure up to the “rule of love,” but our country, our nation needs to do so as a Nation, as well. Matthew 25:32 states: “All the nations will be brought before him, and as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,so will he do with them, placing the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”- and those who do not feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome strangers into their homes/nations-house the stranger and the homeless- and clothe the naked and visit/take care of the sick and imprisoned will be considered the “just” and will be gathered in with the good sheep. Moreover in doing so the nation and individual that does these kind and merciful things is actually doing those acts of kindness as if God stood there before them as a hungry, thirsty, outsider/stranger in need of a home, a doctor, and a welcome. So, how does the USA as a Nation do with the application of the “Golden Rule” that Jesus emphasizes (Matthew 25:31-46)? This “Rule” actually originates in the Hebrew Tradition in Leviticus 191-2,11-18 ending with “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”.
These scriptural passages were in yesterdays, March 2nd 2020 Lenten meditations. And in today’s Lenten meditation Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s will to be done on earth. (In context this is God’s will for justice, especially for the poor and most vulnerable). While today’s Psalm 34 reminds us that ” When the poor one cried out, the Lord heard…The Lord has eyes for the just, and ears for their cry…and is close to the broken-hearted and those who are crushed in spirit.” Too often we make this about our individual emotional or spiritual states but I close my eyes and see parents and children being separated, torn apart, at the US-Mexico border and people dying on the arduous journey to the closed door they thought represented freedom and safety. And, in keeping with our Good Shepherd’s Ministry to the homeless and poorest among us, I shrink at the numbers of people of all ages still living in the streets in the USA.
How does the USA enact and operationalize this precious Golden rule? How do we as a Nation include the interests of the most vulnerable in our policies and programs? How do the Presidential candidates enliven and enact this rule in their own lives as well as in their proposed or actual programs, policies and actions? While we are sick of political disappointments and may want to pull back-this is the time to energize to do the opposite. To find the best of the very human candidates to vote for- and to do it, and help others to get out and vote as well. Not to say,”I’m not voting-there is no one I like”. That simply leaves the decision to someone else who may not want to live the Golden rule in this time of great greed and lack of global and environmental awareness. It means assigning the environment and all of its creatures to the needs of the greedy to get more. We need instead to look forward to Spring in this winter of discontent. To embrace the new growth that can surely happen.
To quote Sr. Chris Koellhoffer,IHM in http://www.livingwithchrist.us the word “Lent” derives from a word meaning Springtime. It evokes the feeling of seeing the new purpleblue crocus poking its head through the ice and snow as winter recedes, or the sheer beauty of a Spring day. While in many climates winter seems cold , iced over,barren and permanent, it is not. The cycle or spiral of life is still underneath and moves forward and makes itself known, sometimes when we need it most. Sr. Chris asks that we enter into this liturgical Springtime with deep listening to the word of God in the Scriptures and with “deep faith in God’s creative power to bring forth life in every heart,in every corner of our world”. Lent is traditionally a time of thoughtful and deep meditation with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. That is ,we take stock of ourselves and our shortcomings, and this can include of our Country and its shortcomings held up to the light of the Scriptures, and we fast from anything that would be unhealthy for us spiritually , as well as physically, and with a smile on our faces not a “woe is me” for trying to change something difficult with our “fasts” and prayers, we then ACT in compassion for justice and peace. And we do this in a million small ways right where we are. And those ways now need to include making wise political decisions and holding those decisions up to the light of the scriptures, and to the light of day.
The Network federation of Sisters religious (famous for the nuns on the bus and their lifegiving, including, political activities) have a website that can inspire and guide us in this direction. Here is a link to their Network Advocates and an article about Spirit-Filled Voting that is challenging and clear. https://www.networkadvocates.org/spiritfilledvoters/listening/ Also http://www.votecommongood.com Sister Emily TeKloste of the Network Lobby for Catholic Soical Justice teaches us to Listen First, then Act. What good advice! And there are so many coalitions of interfaith religious, and of secular groups to save the environment or assist migrants and refugees, and coalitions of people who work for getting out the vote, there is a place for every one of us to get involved in making something new happen.
So for Lent, this year do something, anything, and DO the most you can do to enact justice and make sure our Nation does the same!
Blessings and love as Lent continues on to the Cross and YES, to the Rising up from the dead!
For the “least of these”,
Pastor Judy Lee,
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP, DMin, DSW, MS
While, we, Roman Catholic Women Priests already do exist, we are validly ordained but “illicit”. Like the Episcopalian women who stepped out and were validly ordained for the Episcopal church in the 1970’s we hope that we are a wedge that will open the door for women’s Ordination within the Roman Catholic Church. It worked for that small group of Episcopal women priests, will it work for us within the Roman Catholic Church? It will have to, for that is where we are firmly planted, not starting “something new”. Many of us say, “well, probably not in my lifetime, but it will work- women will be both validly AND legally ordained within the Roman Catholic Church”. From seven validly women ordained on the Danube river in 2002, and the three women Bishops validly ordained by a male bishop in good standing in the following year, now there are over 265 Roman Catholic Women Priests and the number grows steadily. Yet, it is still the RC Church that must make a move to make it happen “legally” for both women and married priests.
Here is an article from another blog site that gives some hope for the present time.
Dr. Maike Hickson, blogger and author of A Catholic Witness in Our TIme has written this article entitled “Ban on Female Priests Not A Dogma-Says Key Amazon Synod Organizer” This is about Bishop Erwin Krautler who also sites the work of Bishop Fritz Lobinger regarding hopes to ordain married male priests and women as priests. Krautler,retired ArchBishop of Xingu, Brazil knows all too well that millions of people all over the world are not being served by any priest and that ordaining well prepared local people (male and female) would be an answer to this travesty. In March of 2018 Bishop Krautler met with Pope Francis who encouraged him to “make bold proposals” in the Amazon Synod that will begin on October 6th in QRome. It appears that Krautler has done this and we can only pray that our beloved Francis, for such he is to those who love his take on social justice and the Gospel, and others in high places will be open to hearing these bold proposals about ordination. We look forward to the Amazon Synod and pray for open ears and eyes to receive it.
Here is the link to the excellent article by Dr. Maike Hickson on Lifesite News.
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee
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
Thank you, Rev. Chava for this beautiful reflection on the children in the Body of Christ. We join you in prayer for them and their desperate families. And we pray for our Nation that they may be welcomed and cared for here as God’s own children and that our part in their countries’ struggles will turn from exploitation to caring support.
Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, June 22, 2014
Feast of Corpus Christi
Central America is bleeding children.
As many as 60,000 children have entered the United States across our
southern border in 2014, and there must be more on the way. They come
fleeing violence, sometimes running from gangs that told them, “join or
die.” They come believing that the United States will take care of them.
How desperate do you have to be to let your child go on such a dangerous
In all the immigration debate in this country, I have heard much about
whether people ought to be allowed to stay, but little about why they come
here in the first place. – and almost nothing about United States policies
that help to create and maintain the poverty and violence in their home
The first time I visited El Salvador in 2005 there were many surprises. The
first was the realization as we got off the plane, that we could have
walked there. It would have taken an awful long time, but it we could have.
And millions have walked that journey, heading north instead of south.
The second was the ubiquitous presence of the United States in this Central
American country. You cannot walk down a street in El Salvador without
being aware of the existence of the most powerful country in the world. I
began to understand what it means to be part of an empire as I looked at
the familiar corporate logos on streets in El Salvador. One day we climbed
a steep dirt path to visit a community clinging to life on the side of a
mountain. All the houses were made of sticks and found materials, some
without roofs, with curtains for doors. And there among some of the poorest
people in the world, stuck to a wall I saw an advertisement for a Disney
Our presence is in the air they breathe. I visited a little town that had
experienced earth tremors which they believed to have been caused by some
deep drilling being done by a North American company in the hills nearby.
Those tremors knocked down about half the town. Another time, we heard
about the companies mining for gold, using chemicals to leach gold from the
earth, destroying the very land. And I heard about the gangs that were
forming. Then, as now, El Salvador was losing hundreds of people daily to
the trek to the north – and the ones that came back were usually criminals,
jailed in the US and then deported – returning to El Salvador to form
gangs, using knowledge they’d gained in prison. And not only El Salvador,
but Guatemala and Honduras, the countries from which those children are
On my second visit to El Salvador, my friend Ruth Orantes took me on a tour
of the Baptist High School in Santa Ana. As we stood together looking at a
map of El Salvador, she asked me, “So what do people in the United States
say about El Salvador?”
It hurt to have to tell her the truth. “They don’t,” I said. “I’m not sure
most people even know it exists.”
We need to know that those countries exist, and that they are full of
people, people who need the same things that you and I do – food and
shelter, education and health care, the opportunity to grow and live and
learn. They are not there for us to exploit. Their countries are not
America’s trash can, where we throw what we do not need or want. But that
is how we treat them.
I do not know the solution to the current crisis. But I know that a country
that bleeds its children is a country screaming in pain. We have got to
realize that we are part of what is causing that pain.
Jesuit Jon Sobrino once wrote from El Salvador of the “scandalous
profligacy of the North.” Perhaps there is also the scandalous ignorant
blindness of the North.
Let us be the country these children believe us to be, when they risk their
lives to come here.
Love to all
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620