Jean Tracy (Forman) was born in Pennsylvania in 1942 but her family, her mother and father and two much older sisters, Helene and Eleanore, and a younger brother, Tommy, moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was a toddler so her Dad, Tom, could work in the Shipyards. They lived on Troy Avenue near Dean street right near PS 83 until Jean was in Junior High School 210, then they moved to Bedford Avenue-a big step up in housing. Jean and I were close friends from the second grade through High School and into young adulthood before our paths diverged. She married the maybe 7 year older Joseph Terdoslavich shortly before her graduation from Prospect Heights High School and had four sons, Vinnie, Joey, Daniel and later, Jamie. She would also divorce and marry Frank Forman and have a lovely and beloved daughter, Diana.
While there were problems to face, Jean was in love with all of her children and tried hard to be a good young mother. I dearly remember Vinnie and Joey as precocious and very cute preschoolers. Daniel had Downs Syndrome and had to be placed in Willowbrook State School where Jean visited regularly always. This was very hard on her. Through marriage and remarriage and marriage again, Jean sought and gave love especially when she found her “soul-mate” Lee Wilson, who could not stay in one place. She was a woman who was honest and true to herself and the choices she made were never easy, but she followed her own star and made them. And she loved all of her family and friends with all her heart.
Friendship is a most special relationship and, wonder-fully, it can be formed in childhood and be life-long. Jean Tracy and I first met when we were 7 years old in the second grade in PS 83 in Brooklyn, New York. Maybe Miss Rothstein lined us up by height and Jean and I were both short though I was a little taller. Or maybe we both sensed gentle, bright, souls that loved easily and loved art work, animals and trees. Whatever it was, we “clicked”. While we walked home in different directions, soon Jean accompanied me home for lunch and after school and my Grandma would give her big hugs and make her favorite meals if she could. Jean did not like oatmeal but sometimes that is what we had as it was available. It did not matter as we soon were playing with our paper Indians on the floor or climbing the “trees that grew in Brooklyn”, the trees of Heaven, (Ailanthus Altissima) that grew tall, smelled almost like peanut butter, and bent in the wind. On holidays like the 4th of July my mother would take both of us to Coney Island where we played in the sea and had fun in both the Steeple Chase Pool and Amusement Park and even in the bath house where we would run and hide from my mother, who was amazingly patient with us.
I was an only child and Jean’s sisters were much older. We became like sisters. We did everything together and had such fun, laughing all the time. In Junior High 210 we were no longer in the same classes but were forbidden from sitting near each other in Assemblies as we would laugh at almost anything and disrupt the Assembly. As we loved Native American culture, history, and crafts, we also researched and did a presentation on Navajo Indians together for our respective Social Studies Classes.
By the Fifth grade we were inseparable and still in the same class. We loved our teacher, Mr. Chisari, but he was not tolerant of her mischievous “cutting up” while I liked the laughter it caused. We explored the whole neighborhood looking for trees to climb, or animals, especially kittens, to rescue. We did save some from an apartment house basement, and one was missing an eye. I kept him for both of us and we shared Tiny Tim. She had a dog but was not allowed a cat. We loved playing in the snow with my dog, Brownie, pulling us on the sled. When there was major excavation to build the St. John’s Park and Recreation Center there were mountains to climb. This was inner-city Brooklyn, and we were mountain climbers! When the park was completed, we played softball there with the boys. We were proud to be chosen for teams. Jean was a great hitter. I could pitch. We roller skated in the streets, but safely in the park as well. We loved growing up and being “tom-boys” in our working class and very diverse Brooklyn neighborhood and made other friends to join us in our adventures. But, mostly, we explored our world together and loved every minute of it.
When Jean was thirteen or so she matured quickly. I less so. We grew apart some as she moved to Bedford Ave. which was a long walk away and she discovered boys, not as buddies but as objects of her affections. There was a part of her life I did not yet understand and it increasingly demanded her time and energy. So we continued to be friends through High School, but hung out in different groups. I was also active in my church youth group and she liked coming to events but was not allowed to come on a Sunday night. My close friends were then in that youth group. So our paths diverged but did not part. By sixteen she dropped out of High School and was married and a mother at seventeen. I was going steady with the church organist, and former youth group President at 17 in my first year of college and I married at 20. John and I would visit her and her family and she was the Matron-of-Honor at our wedding. We still felt like sisters. But after a few years she moved to Long Island and we lost track of each other.
We often thought of one another, but it was not until this age of technology that her niece helped her to go on Classmates.com and she found that we were searching for each other. About five years ago, with both of us in our 70’s she called me and we were happily reunited here in Florida. Miracle of miracles, she too had lived in Fort Myers, and was now only an hour and a half away in Sarasota. We picked up our friendship as if we had only been separated for a few days not over almost fifty years. We visited each other and called frequently and enjoyed each minute of our reunion. We were both so thankful for this re-union.
Jean had completed her GED and later went to Edison College in Fort Myers (now FSW University) to complete her Nursing Degree. This was a major achievement in her busy life and she loved working as a Nurse in the mental hospital here in Fort Myers, When it closed she went to work in jails and prisons. She had such empathy for those who got into trouble and those who were outcast or different. When I met her again five years ago, she had been sober for well over thirty years and still active in AA, offering herself to help others. She truly lived the Gospel, to feed the hungry and visit those who were sick or in prison both professionally and in her every day life. She was accepting of all people and loved by many. She continued her love for animals and took in an older dog whose owner died that the family asked me to place, and also a kitty that I rescued. Below she is with her beloved little dog Cricket. Truly Jean had a heart of gold, and she lived the Golden Rule.
The Memorial Service Saturday June 26, 2021
Jean left this life on May 22, 2021 of an apparent heart-attack as she was swimming at a Cape Coral Beach with her date Sam, a friend of her niece, Laura. Jean embraced life fully until the end. While she had some of the ills of older years, she would not let them slow her down. While her sudden departure was a shock to all who love her, myself included, her daughter Diana expressed it well: she died doing what she liked doing, being in nature and on a date. But oh, the difference to us who remain. I was talking to her friend Donna from Brooklyn and Fort Myers, who expects to hear her voice on the phone, and I do too. We will hear it in our hearts now. And we will miss her always.
I spent my life as a social worker, social work educator and later, since 2008, as a Roman Catholic woman priest and pastor of Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers. ( There are about 300 in our RCWP International Movement and over 200 validly but illicitly ordained women priests world wide). Jean attended church with us at Good Shepherd before Covid 19 and also we had Holy Communion together when visiting my beach timeshare condo and at my home. Jean shared her struggles with “religion” and Christianity with me and also we spoke at length of forgiveness to be given and received. She was working on forgiveness and seeking and, yes, she thought, finding a loving God in Christ once again before she died. Maybe in God’s provision that is one of the reasons we found each other again. The other was that our friendship would continue to bring much love and understanding into our lives at a time when it was most needed. Our reunion was such a source of joy for both of us.
I presided at her Memorial Service at the large and beautiful home of her daughter Diana Friedman and it was attended by maybe forty people who loved her from various parts of her life. In the last year and a half Jean lived with her beloved pets in a smaller house on her daughter’s property and she so enjoyed seeing Diana and her family every day. This was such a blessing to her that it was right that the Memorial Service and Interment should be there where she loved and found love. Family members and friends read Scripture readings from Genesis, where God asks us to be responsible for God’s creation including the animals, Jean’s gift always; From Isaiah where God promised to wipe every tear from our eyes; from I Corinthians 13 where love like Jean loved is described; and the Prayer of St. Francis. The Gospel acclamation was “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die it is only a tiny hard seed, but when it dies it produces much fruit”, and the Gospel was Matthew 25 where we are told to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison and when we do it is as if we did this to Christ, to our loving God. Indeed my homily was to show how Jean lived these Scriptures and fulfilled this Gospel with her life. And this was easy to do.
Then many members of Jean’s family and friends came forth and shared their love for her. Two highlights were when her beloved grand daughter, Hannah Friedman sang an old song “La Vie En Rose” that she and Jean had worked on together. Hannah’s love for Jean was overflowing. And little Tyler, her great grandson also told moving and funny stories about his dear Grandma. The pictures below are some of those who read and spoke. And here, I note that it was not easy for me to preside at my beloved friend’s funeral. I thank her family for having me do this, and I thank my friend, Carol Schauf for accompanying me and assisting me in this. I also thank her for the pictures as she truly captured the day.
Farewell our beloved Jean, we will see you on the other side where you live in love and joy with God forever.
with love and blessings to all her dear family and friends,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community , Fort Myers, Florida
Today’s Gospel reading ( Sunday 6/27/2021)is one of my favorite gospels. It tells the good news of Jesus healing a woman and then a girl (Mark 5:21-43). The woman had suffered hemorrhaging for twelve years and reaches out to Jesus in a crowd and connects with his garment. He knows she has touched him and when she approaches him “in fear and trembling” He says “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” Now her affliction was an issue of unceasing blood that also left her “unclean ” in her culture. Women, and she in particular, were not unclean for Jesus whose law of love was greater than the many laws the people followed. Not only did Jesus accept her touch, he called her “daughter” and healed her of this awful affliction. Can you imagine her relief and great joy? And for all of the women listening to this story there was also relief and great joy. We are not ever unclean, we are the daughters of our loving God. This courageous woman’s name was not recorded by the author of Mark but I will call her Alegra or JOY!
At the same time a Synagogue Official named Jairus had asked Jesus to heal his dying daughter. “Please come lay your hands on her that she may get well and live”. Jesus was on his way to do this when the woman with the hemorrhage approached him. The “laying on” of Jesus’ hands was already known to bring health and healing. This weeks several of our Gospel accounts were of Jesus’ healing touch. On Friday, 6/25 we had Jesus stretching out his hand and touching a leper who asked to be made clean. Jesus “stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean”. His leprosy was cleansed immediately” (Matthew 8:1-4.) In Jesus’ great love no one is unclean and all are worthy of his touch. That includes all of the lepers of our time, people whom we shun and deem unclean., unworthy of sitting at God’s Table of Plenty, and undesirable as members of our church or place of worship. No one is unclean. Like Jesus, we are to extend loving touch to EVERYONE.
And in Saturday’s Gospel readings( Matthew 8:5-17) we have Jesus healing the Centurion’s servant by speaking words of healing, and healing Peter’s mother-in-law who was very ill with fever, by simply touching her hand. Again his touch healed. We too can speak words of healing for others whom we can not be with in person: it is called praying and we can freely and fully offer that to all who need it. The Centurion believed in Jesus but was not of his faith, and that did not matter one bit to Jesus. We can touch and pray for any and everyone there are no means tests for our prayers or our loving touches. Like Jesus, we can touch the hand or the feverish brow of those suffering with great illness. Touch is so healing.
I remember a popular song by the group The Who of many years ago: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me”. How many long for simple human touch? We saw this at the height of Covid 19 restrictions where people would stand in a window and touch the glass where a loved one was touching to imagine loving touch. Or in jail visits where touch is not permitted hands are placed on walls and glass enclosures or the bars of cells to get as near to human touch as possible. Touch is essential and touch heals.
In today’s Gospel the crowd informs Jesus that his time with the woman was, in effect, too long and Jairus’ daughter has died. “Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, “Do not be afraid; just have faith”. Then he went inside with three of the disciples and found the household wailing and weeping. He told them the child was asleep and they ridiculed him. He brought the parents and his disciples into the little girl’s room and “took the child by the hand and said to her “Talitha koum” which means, “Little girl, I say to you arise” The twelve year old girl arose immediately and walked around….and they were astonished”. Again Jesus took her by the hand and she was enlivened and healed. Who can we take by the hand? To whom can we extend our hands full of healing and love? Can our hands bring life as Jesus’ hands did. The answer is YES!
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP is a very popular blogger and a caring, strong and wise leader in the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement, and I am blessed that she is also my dear friend. She, and members of her beloved congregation, Mary Mother Of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida have recently faced, and are facing, much serious illness. We were to join in prayer about this. Yet she reached out with love and understanding as Carol Schauf and I visited with her last night after I presided at the funeral of a beloved friend from my childhood, Jean Tracy Forman. Jean who was one of the most caring and gentle people I have ever known, loved all of creation, especially God’s little creatures both animal and human, died on May 22nd from drowning while at the beach. While I was lifted by the Holy Spirit to minister to the large group who gathered, I needed the support of my friend Carol who accompanied me and assisted me at the funeral and of Bridget Mary who understood what such pastoring can take out of you. As Jesus knew when the woman touched his garment- “the power has gone out”. I was full of love for those who mourned and all of their complex feelings, I was guided where to reach out, and I was depleted. Our visit in the midst of the powerful thunderstorm that started a second after the burial, gave me the lift and perspective I needed to continue on. Indeed, in addition to the healing prayers and words, touch had been a big part of the healing of the day. I embraced the daughter and sons and touched friend’s shoulders or arms lightly. And, now, indeed it was the hugs and touch of my friends that brought me back to life.
Here I am giving the link to Bridgetmarys blog where she has the most beautiful video of the song “Lay your hands” by Carey Landry. Take time with this lovely song and video and look into your worlds, and into our often fractured and divided world to see where loving touch is needed. Then reach out and gently share your touch through which our loving God can heal.
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Ministry
Fort Myers, Florida
Yesterday afternoon, 3/15/21, the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers eagerly assembled for worship and later to celebrate special occasions in the life of the community. The message on this seventh Sunday of Easter was on the twofold charge of accepting God’s great love for us, and being sent to share that love, everywhere and with everyone, no exceptions.
After our worship, we would celebrate the 70th Birthday of our matriarch, Jolinda Harmon, the very near pending birth of a new great grandson to her grand daughter Jakeriya, and a belated Mother’s day for Phyllis who was there with three of her grandsons, Brenda, and Mary, and also Awsha who brought her 7 year old daughter Ayana to celebrate with us. We also celebrate our Elder Harry Lee Peter Gary’s return from surgery and rehab able to walk again. We would also honor Abundant Grace Fellowship Pastor Sarah Faulkner who joins us in united worship and who is moving home to Georgia next month. And Stella Odie-Ali and Ellen McNally brought useful things to share with the people while Pearl Cudjoe made sure that we had a wonderful Birthday cake and KFC boxes and tea or water for all. And so we saw love enacted before us in every way.
Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and I led the congregation in joyful praise and reflection and thankful celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Pastor Marina read the Epistle ,I John 4:11-16 and commented briefly on God’s love. Pastor Sarah read the Gospel and after my homily sang a beautiful rendition of “What A Friend We Have in Jesus ” for us. This was not an easy feat in the middle of the parking lot where we met. Outdoor services can be difficult but the eaves of the houses provided shade for most but not all of our congregation. it was a beautiful but hot day here in Florida. Humidity was unusually low which was a saving grace and there was a little breeze, but the sun was unrelenting for those of us not under the eaves, even though some used umbrellas for shade. Because of our unusual configuration along a wall, then outward to the altar, I had to raise my voice loud, read shout, to be heard well. My heart was moved and filled with love for the people who so faithfully and hopefully gathered and I believe they heard me almost whisper God’s love to them though I was often shouting. I did encourage the whole congregation to get the Covid Vaccinations so we could meet indoors once again. I am not sure this will happen.
Loved, Chosen and Sent-To Be One
I began my homily sharing the interrelated themes of the several weeks of Easter readings: God’s great LOVE for us, the Commandment to love, which is what we are Chosen for and SENT to proclaim. A sub-theme is the joy that Christ wants for us, a joy that is found through loving the way Christ loves. We began and ended the homily together saying/veritably shouting, these words aloud: WE ARE LOVED,WE ARE CHOSEN,WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE,AND WE ARE SENT TO LOVE,AND THIS BRINGS US JOY. At the end of the Mass we added another sentence from the day’s Gospel, John 17:11-19, where Jesus prays for “us to be one even as he and the Father are one.” We considered what it is to be truly united with all of creation including those we usually don’t like or have prejudices against. We considered what it is to be a friend of Jesus with the responsibility and opportunity to love as he loves. We concluded: We are loved, chosen, sent and ONE in Christ-and so we are joyful!
This is the link to my homily:
Above is our church matriarch Grandma Harmon who brought at least 20 members of her family who became part of our congregation. Here our lovely Jolinda Harmon is with her Grandson Quayschaun Crews celebrating her 70th Birthday. She is also fighting cancer yet her spirit is not dampened by this and her heart is always praying for others.
And here, Ayana joins us for the Birthday Party, and below her picture with her mother Awsha Sanders.
Here is Ayana with her mother who has been a part of our ministry since before Ayana was born. And Pastor Sarah is pulling a suitcase from Ellen McNally to give to Roger for his trips to see his family on the East Coast.
We send you blessings for this last Sunday in Easter as we look forward to Pentecost when the Spirit of God fills us with life and purpose in a new way: “Send forth your Spirit oh, God, and renew the face of the earth”! “This day God has poured out the Spirit of Jesus on those gathered in Christ’s name. The Holy Spirit inflamed the hearts of believers who boldly went forth to proclaim God’s word. Alleluia, Alleluia!”
Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on us, rain down your gifts on our parched spirits. ”
And, indeed, our congregation was renewed by Christ’s Spirit of Love on this very day!
Love and blessings from Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,
Rev. Dr. Judith AB Lee
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
Let your hearts be full of joy and hope. Easter is here! The tomb is empty. We can look in and even enter it. We can see with Mary of Magdala and John and Peter that he is not there. The grave clothes are neatly folded, no grave robbers would do that. (John 20:1`-9). He has risen and will soon meet us on the road to Galilee. (Mark 16:1-7) Jesus can meet us any place-even where we first met him-where we first loved him as he first loved us. And we can begin again . Like Mary of Magdala we can encounter the risen Christ because He lives and wants to give us life now and forever. We can hear him call our name softly as he called “Mary” when she met him in the garden. (John 20 :10-18). We can welcome him in our locked rooms when we are frightened and thinking all hope is gone, like the disciples did. (John 20:19-21). We can hear him call us again to go into all the world and share the good news of God’s love and the gift of life-life eternal. Life bigger than death. Life that gives us another today and tomorrow. We can celebrate!
“He is Risen”
“He is risen, indeed!”
And so we rise,
Nothing or no one can hold you back.
“And still I rise”, as the poet Laureate Maya Angelou wrote. “And still I rise”.
As Kool & the Gang sing: “Celebrate good times, come on!/(Let’s celebrate)/Celebrate good times, come on! (It’s a celebration)” Because of Easter, life is a celebration-no matter what. I know it can be easier to sing than to really do, for we too have borne the crosses and felt the pain of Good Friday, but once we let in that death’s finality is off the table, it is only a stop on the way to forever, no matter how difficult the transition may be. Once we let that in, the heavy load is lifted and we can “let the good times roll”. We are so thankful for what Christ Jesus has done! And so we can sing “Thank you ,God, Thank you God…You been my friend.” You did this for me, brought me to new life and I am so thankful. You did this because You love the whole world, in all of its darkness and radiant light! And now I can help you reach the world with Your message of such love and justice. With Your help I can do it! And most of all, while I may only be able to brighten this corner, I know that Your Easter people are throughout the world carrying Your message of LOVE.
He LIVES, we LIVE! I hope that you can feel it this Easter. This Easter when the pandemic is still here, though we see the light at the end of the tunnel. This Easter when 2020 was full of fear and loss. This very Easter-we can sing “Christ ,the Lord is risen today-ALLELUIA!. Oh, thank God for Easter, yes Alleluia, yes CELEBRATE. Every day of life is cause for celebration. Celebrate for Love and Life have triumphed-find the joy today. In the look or voice of a loved one. Even in the written messages of loved ones whom we can not see in person or hold or touch. In virtual visits, and in real visits finally. In the beauty of Creation, mountains, the sea, the little creatures, and new life all around. Thank you God! We celebrate!
This is a link to the blog I wrote last year and because my heart is still full with those sentiments I share it here:
Appended with a link in that blog is the 18th Chapter of my book on the life of Rev. Judy Beaumont, my beloved partner in life and ministry for almost 29 years who made her transition home to our loving God on January 1, 2018. A dynamo in our Good Shepherd Ministries serving the homeless since 2003 in Fort Myers, and since 1981 in Connecticut. She was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in 2012 and was also a peace activist who was imprisoned for her actions with Plowshares and for her convictions, and a Benedictine Sister of almost 35 years. She loved and lived and served every minute of her life. The 18th Chapter is the final Chapter in the book. It is out of order and not the best way to read a book from end to beginning so I do hope you will get the book from Amazon.com as an e-book or paperback and immerse yourself in the life of a humble and courageous saint. Some of the Chapters were written by her, initially for other purposes and the rest is from my recall-but it is an account of such an unusual life, a life that always celebrated resurrection-no matter what! I give the link to the last chapter because in this chapter I share my experience of seeing her fully alive and at her peak during an Ordination ten months after her death. What a gift to me, and now I share it with you. She Lives because He lives! Celebrate!
CELEBRATE– EASTER IS HERE ! Grab your life with both hands and LIVE!
May God Bless you this Easter and Always,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee
Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL
Today is called both Palm Sunday and Passion Sunday in Christian worship. It opens both Jesus’ short lived triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his and our own entry into the events of the most holy week of the year, the last week of his life before crucifixion, the week of Jesus’ passion, culminating in crucifixion and finally, oh finally, in his rising. Let us begin this journey together. Let us take up our palms and wave them.
Palm Sunday celebrates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem riding on a donkey in fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 62:11 and Zechariah 9:9-the people rejoice as their King and Savior was to come riding on a young donkey) where he was greeted with a cheering crowd of followers and others, the ordinary people, the people Jesus cared for always, probably not many of the religious or political leadership. The people shouted and waved palm branches (in recognition of God’s provision for the Light to finally shine -Psalm 118:27) and threw leafy branches and their garments on the ground where he rode on the back of a young donkey, also covered with their garments. They exclaimed “Hosanna! Blessed is the One who comes in the name of our God!” “Hosanna” is an expression of praise that literally meant “Save” in Hebrew. The people were praising God for Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah who was promised, the one who healed them, taught them, loved them and included even the outcasts and strangers among them and brought hope to them. This was a day of triumph for Jesus and for the people who loved him, the poor and ordinary folks, not primarily the big shots who would soon get their way with him, but the ordinary people.
The poet Mary Oliver, in her book Devotions, in her deep understanding of all of Creation from leaves of grass to animals to people, ponders on the donkey. She says:
“On the outskirts of Jerusalem/the donkey waited./Not especially brave, or filled with understanding,/he stood and waited…./he let himself be led away./Then he let the stranger mount./Never had he seen such crowds!….Still he was what he had always been: small, dark, obedient./I hope, finally, he felt brave, I hope, finally, he loved the man who rode so lightly on him,/as he lifted one dusty hoof and stepped, as he had to forward”.
Indeed both Jesus and the little donkey had nowhere to go but forward on that ride. How blessed was that little donkey for carrying him, and how blessed are we if we too can carry him forward as we are chosen and called to do that.
In some Christian churches Palm Sunday is celebrated without the forward look to the passion of Holy Week that takes place in the RC Church in the same Mass or Service. This can be very good, to allow Jesus and all of us to savor the triumph, the victory of his teachings, his ministry and his work among the people who returned his love. While he knew what was ahead, this same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem, and at the death of Lazarus and grief of his friends Mary and Martha, also must have cherished this moment of acceptance. Perhaps he wept silently within his heart for both sadness and joy, or perhaps for a few moments, his heart was glad. I hope so. For me Palm Sunday is a challenge of living in the moment. Of accepting and enjoying the joys there are, even while knowing suffering is inevitable in all lives. A moment of thanking God for all of the good in our lives, of knowing good will ultimately reign. Of knowing that life is the victor not death. That is not to diminish the pain life entails, but it is to put it in perspective. That even the worse pain of death and loss will give way to life again because of Christ who went through such loss, grief, rejection, betrayal, belittling, injustice, and physical misery of the greatest order. And, I think the latter is the reason that in the RC church an in depth Passion of Christ account is given in the same Mass. This year the Passion is from Mark’s gospel-Mark 14:1-15:47. Reading the Passion account together as a congregation with roles for all of us, also gives us a chance to have an overview of the week ahead that ultimately will end not on the cross, or in the grave, but in the resurrection. This week will end in Life but we still have to get through it.
Perhaps the actions and words from the cross are the most important words and acts we have from Jesus. Both the cross and the empty tomb, the resurrection, are the heart and center of our Christian faith. It is not possible to have rising from the dead without death. We can never minimize the cross. Nor should we enshroud it and forget about the resurrection. Rising again is what Jesus was all about and the hope of our lives.
On the cross we see Jesus, after extreme torture, hanging in great pain with two men, one on each side. In various translations of the Bible, these men are described as criminals, robbers, thieves, rebels and revolutionaries. Perhaps they were all of those things. At least if they were rebels or revolutionaries, Jesus was in like company. For indeed, his life and teachings were absolutely revolutionary. While he taught and embodied all that the Law gave and asked of people, he also put it in perspective as he put loving one’s neighbor even above sabbath law and other laws. And he put ordinary, poor, foreign and outcast people, most especially including women, above the religious and political structures that, after all, left such people out. What a revolutionary he was! What a revolutionary religion true Christianity is and should be. That is Christianity that is lived, not only spoken or quoted. And so there he was on the cross, in that day intended to be the most shameful death, and in Luke 23:34 he says “Father/Abba, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”. Wow! Pause and think that over. Focus on his love. Focus on the love of God in the gift of Jesus. Focus on Christ’s loving all of us. No exceptions.
In both Mark 15: 34 and Matthew 27:46. Jesus cried out in a loud voice “Eloi/Eli, Eloi lama sabachthani-“which means, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.”” All three of the synoptic Gospels have Jesus crying out in a loud voice at the end, Matthew and Mark without a description of words he may have said-just loud crying out. Luke (23:46) has Jesus calling out in a loud voice “Father/Abba into your hands I commit my spirit”. John(19:30) captures just the end of that and says, after being given vinegar/cheap wine for his thirst, “It is finished; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” The agony of the cross is conveyed in the terrible thirst and the loud cries but the words of feeling abandoned, forsaken, finishing the job Jesus came to do and committing his spirit to his Abba’s(Daddy’s) hands, say more and deserve a closer look.
The quotes given above are from current translations of the Bible (NAB,TIB,NKJV,KJV,NIV) used in Catholic and Protestant churches today derived from ancient Greek and Latin and Hebrew. But there is also a translation from the authorized Bible of the Church Of the East, the Peshitta which is translated from the ancient Aramaic which Jesus actually spoke. It is interesting and important to note that the “Eli, Eli” quote which has Jesus feeling abandoned by God, and which is taken by Jesus from Psalm 22:1, has a different meaning in the Aramaic. Psalm 22 does indeed have a feeling of both the Psalm’s writer, David, and the Messiah of prophesy, being forsaken but it also concludes with praise to God for caring for the poor and for God’s people, both Jews and Gentiles, of all nations, and, basically- for always coming through. I do not doubt that Jesus could feel forsaken on the cross when others taunted him saying “if you are the one, let God deliver you now”, or “come down from the cross.” Yet, I also believe that he deeply knew that he was not abandoned and that however we may feel, God does not abandon us either-ever. Psalm 22:1 in the Western Christian translations is “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”. But the Aramaic translation is : “My God, my God, why have you let me live? and yet you delayed my salvation from me…. (v.11) Be not far from me…”.” It is a prayer for God to be close. Or maybe to feel God’s closeness in the midst of the worst things one can go through. And , Matthew 27:4 and Mark 15:34 which reads forsaken in the Western translations reads “…Eli, Eli, lemana shabakthani! My God, My God, for this I was spared!” It is more like the “It is finished” of John 19 but even more is in it- like, “I did it” -this is why I was alive, this is why I lived, this was my purpose, and I have completed it. No matter how hard, I did what I came to do in loving you! And there is a satisfaction in this, a release in this so that Jesus could commit his spirit back to his beloved Father/Dad. “For this I was spared”…. Amen!
Now, “I was spared” is also older English usage- where one might say-“I was spared from…from what? from a terrible fate, for example. Or from an empty life, or from a foolish choice I may have made, or from a bad relationship that I managed to avoid, or , or ??? OR “I was spared for…the work that God had for me, for the good relationship, for the life and future God had for me…”. This latter seems to be close to the meaning of “For this I was spared”…what Jesus was spared from since he went through so much is not clear, but what he was spared for was humankind and this included the cross. Indeed, his whole life of love and including all in God’s love, his teachings and ministry and, finally, the cross were what he came to do. The cross was not all he came to do, but because of the politics and religiosity of the times, it became inevitable. So he had to include it as the final act of what he came to do. Yes, his crucifixion, horrible as it was, brought him and also us an at-one-ment with God. Within the context of the Judaism of his time he became an expiation for the sins of the world but what if he had been well received instead of a threat to the powers that be-his job may have been completed without such a death. Yet it remained to conquer death in its finality. Death would be conquered in three days as the account ends with his rising again and vanquishing death’s finality himself and for humankind. And it is for this that he was spared….Thanks to Jesus, the Christ, death ends in resurrection but that is yet to come. First we must go through the events of the Passion, the events of Holy week.
For what has my life been spared? For what has your life been spared? What is God asking of us to do with, as Mary Oliver says, our “one precious life”? Perhaps we can contemplate this as we go through Holy Week, the Passion, with Jesus. The answer will include that we are spared not to avoid pain and suffering-but to have the courage to go through it and come out on the other side. To rise again and to help others to throw off the shackles of injustice and to live Love fully- now and forever.
In his Palm Sunday homily today, Pope Francis encouraged us to preserve our sense of amazement and astonishment without which everything is dull and tasteless. As you go through this Holy Week, be amazed and be astonished at what God endured for the love of us. And then love as Jesus did.
Above, Michael Murray, a formerly homeless Veteran who found a home and a renewed relationship with God and the love of Jesus. Also in the pictures are our Deacon Hank Tessandori and Elder Harry Gary. Michael who was with our Good Shepherd Ministry since 2007, carries the cross on which our petitions are nailed for our Stations of the Cross in Fort Myers in 2014. Here we are in front of Lions Park where our ministry began and where many homeless were recently evicted from a tent city. Hopefully they were helped to real homes and not just pushed aside. Michael lived in his home happily and with peace, loving his neighbors and his cats for nine years, until his death in 2017. Continue to Rest in Peace, Mike. We miss you but know you are with our loving God living forever.
We wish you a most Blessed Holy week.
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B.Lee
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church, Fort Myers, Florida
“Oh, happy day when Jesus taught my heart to pray, and live rejoicing every day…”
These words from an old hymn describe best the feelings of all of the members and Pastors of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers Florida, as we met for the first time since Covid 19 invaded over a year ago! Three Roman Catholic Woman Priest Pastors presided assisted by Pastor Sarah Faulkner from The Abundant Grace Fellowship that also serves the homeless population here. I, with great thanks, am Senior Pastor and my Associates are Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, RCWP originally or Colombia, SA and Rev. Judith McKloskey, RCWP of Kansas City Missouri who is with us seasonally. Thanks be to God for those who serve and for this congregation many of whom have been together since 2007.
Twenty faithful members from all walks of life gathered outside the homes of two of our members Harry Gary, our church Elder, and Quay Crews whose dear Grandmother Jolinda Harmon (also with us on this special day) helped us to start and build this diverse “inner city” community. Three of our other members, Roger Richardson, Joe Baker and Jewell Simmons also live in this wonderful Goodwill Housing complex that provided a way out of homelessness and inadequate housing for many disabled people. The sheer joy of gathering together and worshipping our loving God together was palpable.
It took a lot of cooperation and love to put all the parts of our afternoon together. The three Priests planned and served the Mass and Pastor Sarah read the Hebrew Scripture and picked up and brought Brenda Cummings and Timothy Vanderwarf and our esteemed CTA President, Ellen McNally with her. Brenda brought a stack of drawings that she made as Easter gifts for all and we put them on the altar with the gifts. Roger picked up Mary Flowers. Natasha Terrell brought her Grandma Jolinda and sister and little nephew, necessitating several trips. Pastor Marina and Jose brought 8 plastic chairs and with Carol Schauf’s kind help we brought assorted goodies for dessert and eight folding chairs and the Altar table, sacred items and linen. Stella Odie-Ali brought the Birthday cake for Timothy and Jakeriya Maybin’s birthday celebration afterward and Dan Shaw, Pastor Judith’s husband, brought water and boxes of Kentucky Fried Chicken for each one for our meal afterward. Mr. Gary opened his home for hospitality and so we also had some inside space as needed. We put our chairs in a big circle and began our worship service with eager anticipation. I welcomed the congregation with the words used by Ecclesia Ministries in its out door services with the homeless and others : “Come unto me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest….” Several of our people are battling cancer and other serious illnesses and many have other worries in daily living on very limited incomes. These words of Jesus reach them immediately.
We began singing as we always do with “This is the day our God has made, Let us rejoice and be glad in it!” The Mass intentions included our beloved ones who were now home with God, our beloved Pastor Judy Beaumont, our beloved sisters and brothers: Ann Palmer, Jack McNally, Nathaniel Chester (who lived and died two doors from where we were worshipping), Linda Maybin, beloved mother, and daughter of Jolinda Harmon, Lauretta Rasmussen and Dr. Teresa Sievers. Our community of Saints was very much alive with us on this day.
The Scriptures were the ones used for RCIA on this day as we were also affirming the promises of Confirmation made by our Congregation in 2014 and 2016 when Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan and then Bishop Andrea Johnson confirmed 25 members of the church, many here today. Ezekiel 37:12-14 (read by Pastor Sarah Faulkner of AGF); the 23rd Psalm also used by Ecclesia Ministries was led by Harry Gary; Romans 8:8-11 was read by Pastor Marina Teresa and the Gospel John 11:17-45 read by Pastor Judith.
My homily was based in the Gospel, supported by the other readings which shows Jesus as loving friend who takes a chance of entering enemy territory where he was recently stoned, to be with his grieving friends, who weeps with us when we are grieving, and who promises us eternal life beyond death-resurrection-now and forever. How good it is to have a God who is our Friend and who cries with us when we are sad. (AMEN!,AMEN! agreed the people). This account of Jesus raising Lazarus from death (after being dead four days) included calling Lazarus from death with the words “Lazarus, come forth” and Lazarus rising with his grave clothes still wrapped around him. Jesus loved his friends deeply, Jesus made the promise of himself as the way to Resurrection and Jesus prayed, then called Lazarus and waited for response. When Lazarus came forth, Jesus asked those there to remove his grave clothes and let him be free. We focused together both in the homily and in interaction after it and in the prayers of the people on the ways in which life’s events can wrap us in grave clothes-the sickness, fear and isolation of Covid 19-Pastor Marina works directly with Covid patients and requests prayers for all on the front lines, the hate crimes all around us, the gang shootings (Mr. Gary’s grandson was killed by shooting earlier this year), loss of loved ones to both illness and violence, the loss of incomes and the difficulties in making ends meet to survive. All of this and more can cause despair such that we are not really living as we live. Jesus calls us forth to live, to throw off the grave clothes. Mr. Gary made the point that Jesus asked the community to take the grave clothes off Lazarus whereas sometimes we are busy putting grave clothes on others-with our uncharitable words and deeds. And we have the ability to help others remove their grave clothes with love.
And so we focused on what rising again now means, and the promise of life after death as well. With nods and thoughtful looks and AMENS and interaction on these themes the scales of despair and death began to fall away. And hope and joy replaced them all around. Thanks be to God!
The Prayers of the Faithful are always a blessing with this community and today was no different. Almost all present offered his or her own prayer for the world, for the dead, for the church and for the sick. Given the number of those with serious illness present, as part of prayers for the sick the Congregation is asked if anyone would like anointing or prayer and about half present raised their hands. The pastors went to each one and raised hands while I laid hands on and used the oil of Anointing where it was wanted. All would raise hands while the persons next to the one who requested prayer would participate with the pastors. This was a particularly holy time as all prayed.
Pastor Judith McKloskey ended our prayers for the sick with “Holy and life-giving God, sustain us and all people we hold in prayer, by Christ’s presence; help us to know the healing power of Christ’s love…..” We then sang the AMEN from Lilies of the Field with everyone saying our departed Nathaniel’s part: Sing it over! Pastor Judith then gave the Peace of Christ and asked the people to gesture peace to one another. We then sang HOLY GROUND which is the anthem of this congregation . We pronounce all present as Holy Ground. We then began the Eucharistic Liturgy with all of the Pastors and the Congregation consecrating together. The congregation united in saying the prayer Jesus taught us. Oh God, our Father and Mother, Hallowed be your name….”
After Communion Pastor Judith McKloskey sang a beautiful hymn: “Gentle Resting Place”. Then we all blessed one another and Mr. Gary said: Go in the peace of Christ. Let our Service Begin”. And we concluded our worship with earnestly singing “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus”.
Then we removed the altar and set us a serving table for the Birthday Cake and many individual cupcakes while the KFC dinners were passed out. What a joyful group this was as we celebrated Timothy and Jakeriya’s birthdays and also clapped for Grandma Harmon who would be 70 in May. What a blessing it was to be together on this Holy Ground and to share worship and fellowship once again. Indeed, God was present with us, and Jesus was smiling this time, not weeping.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
AND MAY GOD BLESS YOU AS YOU TOO RISE AND LIVE-NOW AND FOREVER!
Blessings and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia,RCWP
Pastor Judith McKloskey,RCWP
This is a most joyful day that was always celebrated in my extended family in New York and in many families and communities all over the world. I think there is something about the Irish courage, wisdom, wit, humor, and victory over domination and oppression and the glorious green countryside and the warm people of Ireland, that invites music, melancholy, singing, dancing and joy. On this day everyone is just a little Irish. According to Ancestry .com and their DNA base I am about 10 percent of Irish background. But according to 23AndMe and their DNA base I am 60.9 percent British and Irish with strong roots in Counties Galway, Cork, Donegal, Clare and Mayo and also though less strongly from Kerry, Kilkenny and Dublin. I have a special love for Irish music and how much is learned and how much inherited I will never know. A distant cousin with roots from from Kilkenny was actually in communication with me two years ago. But it is hard to track down the exact roots. Yet this does not matter for on this day the world is Irish. Everyone can identify with joy and maybe, for one day, or even a little while in one day, put aside the pain of emigration, immigration, meeting with prejudice and discrimination, wars, famines and all that can kill life and that joy. God bless the Irish people for sharing their joy with all the world.
St. Patrick was the son of a noble British Romanized family born at the end of the fourth century who was captured at age 16 by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland where he worked as a lonely shepherd for 6 years before escaping and finding his way back home. While in Ireland he learned to love the Irish countryside, and culture and also became deeply committed to loving and serving Christ. After 15 years of religious study and becoming a Priest, Patrick was convinced that God called him to return to Ireland. He did so and while there was a small Christian presence already there he devoted himself to evangelizing the Irish with a respect for including Irish culture as part of his evangelization (which may well be why he was successful). Patrick gave his life to Ireland and died on 3/17 in 460AD (CE). He became a Saint by popular acclaim and the day of his death is celebrated as St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, Europe, the USA and throughout the world. His is a story of God’s love overcoming “ugly”-overcoming slavery, indenture, violence, greed, oppression and domination on all sides. It is a story of the worst things people do to one another changed by and into love by Love. May we ponder his story today as we enjoy this special day.
Here is a link to his story though there are endless sources for it. https://www.britannica.com/biography/saint-patrick/
(Just click on Britannica on the page that shows up).
Above in the pretty blue hat is ARCWP BIshop Bridget Mary Meehan who was ordained as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in 2006 and ordained a Bishop in 2009. She was born in County Laois in Ireland, immigrating to the USA in 1956 with her family. Her father, Jack Meehan had a popular Irish band and filled life with music and happiness. She presides, with other women priests at the Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota Florida. Below she is with me and two of our Good Shepherd members. She is a fighter for justice and an inspiration to us all.
And God bless each and all of you on this special day. May you take some time and allow the joy even with the difficult journeys your people and you may have made in this world and the troubles you may still face. Be joyful!
(The beautiful picture below is from one of our SWFL CTA, Members-John Hancock-thank you, John.)
Love and blessings on this special day,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B. Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of SW FLorida
“Rejoice...all you who mourn…” Isaiah 66: 10-11. So begins the entrance antiphon for this Sunday in the Lenten season. For this Sunday the priest wears a rose colored chasuble and unlike other Sundays in Lent flowers may adorn the altar. Why? Because we are anticipating getting beyond suffering, our Beloved Christ’s suffering, and that of the world, and our own, to the joy of the resurrection on Easter- to our rising from the dead. How good it is to stop the mourning on all levels and anticipate the rising again. This Sunday highlights that even Lent itself is not about penance, or atoning for one’s faults, but it is for the renewal of love-love expressed in caring service and giving. The Gospel for the day (John 3: 14-21) gives us the depth of the reason for this joy in the midst of any suffering: “For God so loved the world…” It is about God’s love – God’s love of the whole world, God’s immense, all encompassing, amazing love! And this love gives us the hope of rising again and of learning to love as Jesus did, to love the WHOLE WORLD!
John 3:16-17-“Yes, God so loved the world as to give the Only Begotten One, that whoever believes may not die, but have eternal life. God sent the Only Begotten into the world not to condemn the world, but that through the Only Begotten the world might be saved”. (The Inclusive Bible, Priests for Equality Translation). God so loved the world that God gave….God’s Only Begotten Son....
When I first moved to Florida my next door neighbor was a woman who was battling brain cancer. Her name was also Judy and we immediately loved her. One night she came next door in great pain and we helped her back to bed and stayed with her until she rested. A few days later she was watching her favorite Buffalo Bills game. When I dropped by she said she had a question for me. There was a sign at the Football game that said “John 3:16” What was that? I was happy for this opportunity to explain God’s love to her and assure her of it. She thought a while and she said “I do believe”. I was joyful with her. I asked to pray with her and affirmed that her life was eternal. Indeed, we die but we live on with our loving God. As Christ rose from the dead we too rise and join Christ whose love never lets us go. Judy D. was very much amazed and , I think, relieved. And I was amazed that the opportunity to share the good news came from a sign at a football game! Yay, Buffalo Bills!
God so Loved the World– this Sunday of Joy is based on God’s embracing each one of us, AND all the world. Ours is not a small, or national or parochial faith, or mainly a personal faith, but it extends with God’s love to all the world. Yes, each of us can rouse ourselves on this Sunday as individuals, families, communities, groups, and nations but weneed to know that our God’s love belongs to ALL the world.
On this Sunday, 3/`4/2021 Pope Francis celebrated Mass with the Filipino/a Community at St. Peter’s in Rome commemorating the 500th Anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines. He said that he was taken with great joy as he watched women. men and children in their native costumes dance down the aisle to begin the Mass. (The third largest number of Catholics in the world reside in the Philippines while many Filipinos/as live throughout the world witnessing to their faith in Christ). In my own life a wonderful Filipina woman was my great role model in faith: Virginia Maniti Williams, a Methodist Deaconess and wife of the African- American Pastor of my youth, Rev. Melvin G. Williams. Beloved Virginia visited me in Florida after Pastor Mel’s death over 20 years ago, and she is home with our loving God now. She then shared with me how she struggled first with women as Pastors in the Methodist church , then with accepting the LBGTQT community as Pastors. At first she could not accept this but as she got to know women and LGBTQ Pastors of deep faith and service, she was moved to accept the pastoral service of all people to our loving God. She concluded that those who love and serve our God with all their hearts and loved their neighbors as themselves not only should but must be given the opportunities to serve within all churches calling themselves by the name of Christ. She was way ahead of her times. Her love was the love of Christ within her and it shined brightly. I pray today for the spreading of that love.
Pope Francis noted in today’s homily that God’s love is the good news, and is the heart of the Gospel “because God loved, God gave…” And it was not words, an idea or doctrine that was given but it was Jesus whom God sent to show us how much God loved us. He said that God cannot help but give God’s whole self to us. “In Jesus we see the face of God’s love”, he said. We can pray that because of God’s love within us we too will become capable of giving.
Here, I expand with many of our Lenten Gospel readings, in Jesus we see the acceptance and inclusion of all people and not only the religious or “righteous” , we see what Pope Francis calls self-giving not selfishness. We see Jesus with tax collectors who were despised, we see him with women, even “sinful” women of other cultures that no one would speak to, we see him with those ostracized and set aside in chains, freeing them, loving them. We see him making no exceptions and putting the law in perspective by healing the blind, the mute and the lame, even on the Sabbath. The law of God is the law of Love, not a bunch of rules to be blindly followed while people suffer. The law of love leads us to the light. The Pope said that lovers exemplify self-giving over self-preservation. “Couples in love love each other so much that they give their very lives for one another”. And this is the way God loves us-and all the world. ” Love always gives of itself and shatters the shell of our selfishness”.
Pope Francis’ Trip To IRAQ March 5-8: A Living Example of Christ Loving the World
Pope Francis then recalled his trip to Iraq last week. He noted his own joy at the joy with great abandon of the Christians who greeted him in the Hariri Soccer field where he held Mass openly for ten thousands of Christians. He said that there and everywhere the people who suffered so much rejoiced and were glad! Pope Francis made an unprecedented trip to Iraq despite the coronavirus, and the highly precarious security situation, and threats against his life. There, oblivious to his own safety, he visited the many sites of terrorism and slaughter of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis and reached out in peace and love to people and leaders of all religions and cultures. He said that he hoped ” the world would take a journey from conflict to unity.” He noted “How cruel it is that this country, the cradle of civilization, should have been afflicted by so barbarous a blow, with ancient places of worship destroyed”. He noted that thousands of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis were cruelly annihilated by terrorism and others forcibly displaced or killed”. This is a link to wonderful pictures of his journey to Iraq. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/05/world/middleeast/pope-francis-iraq-pictures-html.
What was particularly moving to me was his meeting with the Ayotollah Ali-al-Sistani, the leader of Iraq’s Shiite Muslims. He walked to the Ayotollah’s humble home and sat with him on wooden chairs for 45 minutes speaking of the situation of all faiths in Iraq. After the meeting, the Ayotollah spoke publicly for the safety and freedom of Christians and all minorities. Also particularly moving was his Mass at St. Joseph’s in Baghdad where he celebrated the Mass in the Chaldean Rite, another unprecedented move of love. But most exciting was seeing the joy of ten thousands of Christians gathered at the Soccer Field where he moved among them in his “Popemobile”. He brought such hope to them, and such joy.
May our love be renewed as we too embrace the love of God for the whole world, and do our best to work for acceptance, tolerance and , yes, unity of all the world this Lenten Season.
Bless you as you continue through Lent with joy and love,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee, Pastor Good Shepher5d Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
** Please remember that we are meeting outside for the first time since Covid 19 came on this Saturday, March 20th at 1 PM. Ask me for details if you are able to join us and join us please in prayer and spirit. .