Questions About Roman Catholic Woman Priests? Thirsting For the Living Water
This writer and Priest so appreciates your reading this blog. It is written with love for inspiration and information. There is a deep thirst within us that responds to the Living Water that Christ gives in his teachings, in Himself, and in his time here on earth. I love trying to capture that and share it with you. But for those who may pass this blog by because they do not know what on earth a Roman Catholic Priest who is a woman is, or what the Movement is about, or because they find us unacceptable given the Church’s denial of the “ability” to ordain women, I would like to make some resources available to begin to answer your questions. As a former Master’s level University Professor of 27 years I have confidence that learning can open both minds and hearts. So if you are open to learning, I will recommend some websites and books here. By now there are several books about and by Roman Catholic Women Priests, but I will highlight three here. And I also welcome your thoughts and questions.
In today’s Lenten reading we learn that Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). In his Lenten reflection for today Pope Francis notes that:
“By accepting the Law of God in our heart, one understands that, when one does not love one’s neighbor, to some extent one kills oneself and others,because hatred, rivalry and division kill the fraternal charity that is the basis of interpersonal relationships… And Jesus is aware that it is not easy to live the Commandments in such an all-encompassing way. That is why he offers us the help of his love…”(( CNEWA Lenten Reflections, p.32, From the Angelus, 16 February 2020).
Roman Catholic Woman Priests would like to help fulfill the promise of Church as Jesus intended it to be: inclusive and loving of all, without exception. We would like to claim the “fraternal charity” and the kind of love that affirms the dignity and worth of all human beings, including women who may also be called by God to a variety of jobs to realize the kingdom/kin-dom of God on earth, including calls to the Priesthood. As Jill Peterfeso notes in her book Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church ( Fordham University Press, 2020:p.8):
“Womanpriests do what they do because they hold separate and seemingly opposing beliefs. While they believe that Roman Catholic traditions are too precious to lose, they also believe that Catholic women deserve the opportunity to serve the church through the ministerial priesthood. By getting ordained illegally and disobeying Vatican teachings, womenpriests are declaring that sacraments are important, priesthood is important, and the Roman Catholic Faith is important….Quite simply, the RCWP Movement believes that positive change for Roman Catholicism demands the inclusion of women in priestly office”.
To put it more simply and to the point I quote Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, “We are not leaving the church we are leading the church”- to necessary reform that affirms the dignity of all people, women, divorced people, the LGBTQT community, and every single human being in her or his difference or relationship to man-made church law. All are included, all are welcome-no exceptions. Or as Pope Francis says, despite his, perhaps reluctantly, “closing the door” on women, “when one does not love one’s neighbor, to some extent one kills oneself and others…” Jesus consistently and beautifully always put people above the finer points of the law. He healed on the sabbath, and picked corn on the sabbath when hungry. And so we seek to follow Jesus in affirming all human beings, and all of Creation, even if we must, therefore, break some of the man-made laws of the Church (particularly about which gender only can be ordained) to affirm the Law of Love that God commands. With Christ’s help we seek, like him, to fulfill the law of LOVE.
Below is the cover of the book cited by Jill Peterfeso that is well worth your reading if you’d like to know more about Roman Catholic Women Priests. On the cover is Rev. Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York who was ordained along with Gloria Carpeneto of Maryland and myself on July 20,2008.
Another book I love and recommend is the discussion of the Movement and the first compilation of the stories of some of the earliest priests:
Women Find A Way: The Movement and Stories of Roman Catholic Womenpriests ( Edited by Elsie Hainz McGrath, Bridget Mary Meehan and Ida Raming, VBW Publishing, 2008).
In this book we are invited to “Meet Roman Catholic womenpriests who are shaping a more inclusive,Christ-centered,Spirit-empowered Church of equals in the twenty-first century. All are welcome at the sacred Eucharistic table. Meet women bishops ordained in full apostolic succession who continue to carry on the work of ordaining others in the Roman Catholic Church. Meet women who are seerving the People of God in many ways including house churches and parish communities,hospital and hospice chaplaincy,anointing of the sick and elderly,and ministering with the homeless. Roman Catholic Womenpriests are leading the Catholic Church into a new age in which the identity of priest reflects the experiences of women….”
In my last blog I referred you to the powerful chapter by Bishop Patricia Fresen in this book: “A New Understanding of Priestly Ministry: Looking At A Church in Crisis.” It also has a leading chapter by the first ordained women priests: the Danube Seven. My call to the priesthood within my lifelong call to serve the poor, the different, and the “outcasts’ is included in the book and all of the twenty-three chapters tell stories you will not want to miss.
And, finally I want to heartily recommend the book written by one of our strongest supporters, our Priest Brother, Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Catholic Priest for forty years: Male Supremacy In the Catholic Church: An Insider’s View ( 2020, released January 2023 : ISBN 9798436033976). This is a critically important book that could have only been written by a male Priest. We are so thankful for his support and all that he has risked and lost to support us.
Fr. Roy said: “….An all-loving God created everyone of equal worth and dignity. There are no exceptions! This memoir, written by a Catholic priest for forty years, addresses the injustice of male supremacy, sexism and the spiritual abuse of women in the Roman Catholic Church….In 2012, he was expelled from the priesthood because of his public support for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church”. May God bless our courageous brother, Roy Bourgeois! Do consider getting this book, I think you will find it challenging and perhaps cherish it as I do.
Bless you as you listen to the voice of God within and seek to learn,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries, Fort Myers, Florida
A Prophet Without Honor: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Instead of giving up comforts or conveniences for Lent, what would happen if you decided to take a stand for something important, even essential, that you believe. What is the penalty for leading a life of standing up for what you believe? What is the penalty of prophetic obedience and prophetic disobedience?
Our Gospel reading for today leads us to Jesus’ own experience of rejection in the town where he grew up and worked as a carpenter. In response to his powerful speaking and many miraculous healings the people say in disbelief ” Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22) and in another place, “Is this not the carpenter?” (Mark 6:3). And in response to this clear rejection “Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth, ‘Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place’ “( Luke 4:24). And, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor”(Mark 6: 4). Mark’s Gospel continues: “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith”. ( Mark 6: 5-6).
James Martin,SJ in his wonderful book Jesus: A Pilgrimage ( Harper One, 2014) discusses Jesus’ experience in his hometown of Nazareth at length. He says ” They cannot get over the fact that someone from their hometown is saying and doing these things. They move quickly from amazement to anger. Jealousy may have played a role as well.” Reflecting on Mark 6 where Jesus includes his relatives and his own house in the list of faithless “rejectors”, Martin says: ” Imagine the combination of sadness and pity he must have felt uttering those words before his closest friends and family (Martin: p.122).
And so we are reminded that Jesus faced major rejection of his message and, ultimately, of himself as he lived out his call to preach, to reach those even outside of his Jewish community, to include those hated and on the margins like the lepers, the tax collectors, and the Samaritan woman at the well, to heal, to bring to life, and to redefine and underline what was important in the law and in the faith-LOVE. Fully human and fully God, he was rejected not only for what he said and did but ultimately for Who He was. It is no wonder that he looked at Jerusalem and wept. And he said “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” ( Matthew 23:37). This suggests Jesus’ heart was broken long before the Cross, and we know that in time he expected that he would be handed over to the authorities and killed, and that he would rise again in three days. His disciples barely understood this, and at the end, denied him and left him, except for the women. And yet ultimately they too gave their lives for Him. And we, as we seek to follow Him, following the call of the Holy Spirit within us, are also faced with decisions that require courage and wisdom, perhaps even more courage than conventional wisdom.
One such major decision and action of conscience for almost 300 women who have been validly ordained in the Roman Catholic Church since 2002 is the decision to become ordained contra legem. (Against the canon law of the RC Church). The Church’s penalty for this is ex-communication. That is, to be denied the sacraments of the church. Since ordained priests who are women can consecrate with the people of God, they are not ultimately denied Holy Communion-either the Eucharist or the communion that is holy with the people of God. But they are excluded from receiving this in the traditional Church. So many of us miss our parishes and may be rejected in them. Those who were part of religious communities or working directly within the Church have also been removed from membership and from participation. For some, that is a loss of all their lives have been until that point as well as economic and social security. For all of us, we have lost a part of our lives that we have loved and that, ironically, called us to serve . And yet when we consider the rejection of Jesus our situations pale by comparison and we can understand a little more of what Jesus went through as he was rejected.
As I contemplate the “penalties” for being a Roman Catholic Woman Priest and for some of our supporters I am strongly reminded that we are simply following in Jesus’ footsteps. This day in our Lenten readings we see Jesus’ response to the doubt and rejection of his ministry and of himself. Jesus has just read the Isaiah 61:1-2 passage in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth. He tells them that “The spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of the sight of the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). He adds “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. And the people in his hometown respond, in today’s vernacular, “”Who does he think he is?” As well, the Roman Church seems to say to its ordained women “Who do they think they are?” Simply we are people called by God to serve in the priesthood and we accept the call, no matter what happens because of this acceptance.
Below there are two pictures. The first is of Bishop Patricia Fresen of South Africa ordaining Diane Willman in 2021. The second is the cover of a book written by Fr. Roy Bourgeois in 2022 (ISBN 9798436033976). Both of these priests are examples of those willing to lose everything in order to follow conscience and in order to take a stand for that which is essential in their understanding of the Gospel. Both lost their religious communities and their status in the church for supporting the ordination of women to the priesthood. Both are extraordinary examples of courage under fire-the fire of the Church against those who question and break their man-made unjust laws for the greater good.
Patricia Fresen, a South African Dominican nun and Professor of Theology at the National Seminary in Pretoria studied theology in Rome for seven years and also earned her Doctorate in Theology in 1996 through the University of South Africa. From 1999-2003 she was on the Faculty of Theology at the Catholic University in Johannesburg. While studying in Rome in the 1980’s and teaching in Johannesburg in the late 1990’s she experienced her own call to the priesthood. Learning of the ordination of seven women on the Danube in 2002, she was ordained in Barcelona in 2003. In 2005 she was ordained Bishop. As a result of her ordination she had to leave her beloved Dominican community and everything in her life behind and live in Germany for several years. She became the International Program Coordinator for Preparation for the Priesthood for RCWP. She was the primary bishop for the ordination of women in the United States of America and we are so grateful for her guidance. While she is finally home in South Africa now, her life of courage, ministry and service remains an inspiration for all of us. She is working on her biography but her chapter in Women Find A Way, ( VBW Publishing, 2008) A New Understanding of Priestly Ministry (pp.28-35) captures the essence of her response to her call to the priesthood and her views on priesthood. I urge the reader to read this. The following comparison of racism in South Africa and misogyny in the Roman Church is thought provoking. She says:
“I was born and bred in South Africa…I grew up in the racially segregated society of South Africa, where people were forcibly separated by law. However, things were changing in South Africa and there was a growing awareness of how wrong apartheid was. It was the Black people themselves who began to take matters in their own hands. We all know that this is usually the way in human society. It is not the oppressors, the ones with all the power and privilege, who come forward to put things right; it is the oppressed, who become aware of their oppression and aware that they need to band together and stand up for their rights, often at great cost. They are the ones who overturn the systems of oppression and bring society one step closer to justice and the recognition of human dignity and human rights.
I never dreamed that my experience of the breaking-down of racism in South Africa would, in part, lead me to where I am today: and ordained Roman Catholic bishop whose journey to ordination has led me to stand up against unjust church laws…”
Of the growing participation in the Movement she adds: “What is at work here is the sensus fidelium, the inner sense of the faithful, that this is the right way to go and that the Spirit is leading them in this direction. The people are ready. The time is now.
Could we be in the midst of an evolutionary leap in the life of the Church-a leap which is part of the reconstruction of the Church, the Church of tomorrow, the Church that we believe is closer to the community Jesus had in mind?”
Below is the cover of the book written by Father Roy Bourgeois. As the cover suggests, the book tells it like it is. Many times in his life Fr. Roy took courageous moral stands that brought penalties of arrest and jail and prison time. This stand, the active support of women’s ordination set him apart from his brother priests and from Canon Law. Many male priests have supported us privately, but Fr. Roy stood with us publicly , marching with us, preaching in support of us, and risking everything for what he saw as right. He said:
” As a Roman Catholic priest, I found meaning, joy and support in my ministry. One day, however, I did the unspeakable: I called for the ordination of women. This angered not only many of my fellow priests but also then Pope Benedict XVI. I received a letter from the Vatican stating that I was “causing grave scandal” in the church and that I must recant my public support for the ordination of women. For me, this was not possible. Believing that women and men are created of equal worth and dignity and that both are called by an all-loving God to serve as priests, my conscience would not allow me to recant. Therefore in 2012, after serving as a Catholic priest for forty years, I was expelled from the priesthood and my religious community of longtime friends (p. vi).”
He adds: “Polls show that the majority of Catholics in the United states support having women priests in their churches. They believe, as I do, that the problem is not with God, but with an all-male clerical culture that views women as lesser beings than men. It saddens me that the majority of Catholic priests I know and have worked with for forty years see women as a threat to their power.
Being expelled from the priesthood for trying to reform the Catholic Church was very painful. I had never before experienced such rejection. But I have no regrets about what I did. This experience gave me a glimpse of what millions of people go through every day on a much deeper level because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation…(p.ix)”
The following is part of his letter to the Vatican after being warned to recant in 2008,
” Where there is injustice, silence is the voice of consent. Therefore I call upon all Catholics, fellow priests, bishops, Pope Benedict, and all Church leaders at the Vatican to speak out clearly and boldly about this grave injustice being done to women in our Church.”
I urge you to get Roy’s book and to read it thoughtfully. Indeed he is right- silence is the voice of consent. Whether it is support for the priesthood of women, or the realization that all lives will matter only when Black lives matter, or other issues of justice, it is necessary to speak and act for justice. As Fr. Roy concludes:
“I don’t know what can be more important than working for equality in society and in our faith communities. In this struggle, we can all do something” (p.102).
Thank you, Bishop Patricia Fresen, and Fr. Roy Bourgeois for showing us what it means to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow Jesus. Thank you for your courage all Roman Catholic Women Priests, Thank you, Jesus, for giving it all away for us, thank you for teaching us what love in action looks like.
All honor and love to all prophets who gave it all away for justice,
Bless you as you find your voice and act in small and large things,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee,
Good Shepherd Ministries of Fort Myers, Florida
Let The River Flow: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
OUR Lenten readings today equate the flow of water- rain, snow–flowing water– to the words of God. The water falls and makes the earth fertile and fruitful and the words that come from God will not return to God empty but accomplish what it was sent to do- make the earth and those who hear and heed the words fertile and fruitful as well. (Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 34:4-7; Matthew 6:7-15). How fruitful are you feeling these days, are God’s words raining down on you? Do you hear, see or feel them?
So how do we “hear” God’s words? We listen to the rain fall, that is, take time to attend to God in nature, to the magnificence and awesome-ness of our Creator God, our Father-Mother God. Nature is all around us from the city streets and tall canyons of buildings, to the purple sky and tiny flowers in the desert, to the boats bobbing on the sea and the seabirds playing and diving into them. To the warm hands and smiles of those around us– to the music of the spheres. We listen for God’s voice in the voices of those around us. Those who love us and care for us are indeed the voice of God to us. Those who are hurt or upset or frightened and in need of our caring, those who have lost so much and need help to survive are also the voice of God to us. And yes, sometimes our surroundings are not so loving, then we allow God, and even seek God, to be our comfort and our joy- as the Psalm says our God is “close to the broken hearted and those crushed in spirit God saves.”
In the Gospel of John (1:14) we learn that Jesus, the Christ, is the Word of God made flesh and dwelling among us. The Holy Scriptures are also the word of God. We are so blessed to have them to teach us. So, even as we walk with Jesus, we also turn to the Holy Scriptures and read and pray with them daily. One does not drink or use water once in a while but daily and regularly. The Holy Bible is full of messages from God in all of its pages from Genesis to the Torah, the Law, the Prophets, like Isaiah, all of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
The Gospel today is Jesus teaching us how to pray (Matthew 6:7-15). We call this “The Lord’s Prayer”. And as we pray it we are asking for the kin-dom/kingdom of God to come on earth, (for us to help bring justice and peace to this earth) and for everyone on this earth to have their daily bread (and water), not just ourselves. We are asked to forgive others as God forgives us. What a wonderful formula for growing and being fruitful. So indeed as water is all around us and makes the world fruitful, God’s words are all around us. They are written and spoken and visual words-words we can see all around us. As water is necessary for life, so are God’s words in all its varied forms necessary for life. How do we listen to God’s words?
There are many little periodicals to help us structure Scripture reading. For example, in the daily scripture magazine Living With Christ , livingwithchrist.us
we can follow the daily Scriptures used in the Roman Catholic and other Christian churches daily. In today’s readings there is a piece by Sr. Melanie Svoboda, S.N.D, that says it very well:
“Water is a very apt image for God’s word. Why? It is essential for life. It is graceful and ungraspable. It cleanses and rejuvenates. In fact, when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, he described his teachings as “living water”. It’s easy for us to take the blessing of water for granted. Let us rekindle our reverence for water by being mindful of every drop of water we use today. Then we can try to be less wasteful of water. We can also educate ourselves on water shortages in our world.( My words-Like for example, the horn of Africa that experienced its longest drought in 40 years in 2022 and experienced its fifth consecutive failed rainy season. And, in the US, Florida and 41.35 % of the lower 48 and Puerto Rico are now officially in drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor). And finally we can take time just to be with water-a river, an fountain, or even a single glassful-and give thanks to God for this great gift. Gracious God, thank you for the water of your word and the water of our earth.”
May we appreciate water, may we glide like these ducks and swim and dart and play in it. May we be careful not to waste it and cherish it. May everyone have enough of it to drink and use and enjoy. May we pray for those in drought and may we do something , including send funds to agencies and organizations serving those areas where people do not have access to water.
Let the River Flow is a beautiful contemporary song and hymn. Check it out with google or your search engine. The words include: “”Let the poor man say I am rich in Him, Let the lost man say I am found in Him…let the dead man say I am born again, Let the river flow. Let the river flow!
And may we read, listen and watch for the loving word of God all around us.
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of Southwest Florida
Like A Watered Garden: Lenten Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today in our Lenten readings we are told that if we remove oppression from our midst, curtail malicious speech, “bestow bread upon the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted” light shall rise for us in the darkness, gloom shall be like midday and our strength will be renewed. “….You shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails….”(Isaiah 58:9-14)
What a beautiful image that is– life blooms from us and around us and light and life-giving water flows from us.
If only we do something to alleviate the suffering of those who suffer most-perhaps those who have the least, perhaps those who are forced to leave their homes and become immigrants, those who lose everything like those in Syria and Turkey post earthquakes and in Ukraine as war continues ravaging and wiping out whole cities, communities, families and lives. Perhaps those who live under the bridges here in Fort Myers as they continue to recover from Hurricane Ian, perhaps those who have faced the personal ravages of life and health and mental health, economic, and relational issues and can’t seem to get out of poverty and homelessness. Perhaps those who are bereaved or just plain lonely… and those living in Nursing Homes and simply those managing alone. Our texts are saying instead of giving up food or conveniences we are to give love and life to others who need them most for whatever reasons.
This follows yesterday’s reading in Isaiah that clarifies the “fast” God wants of us, is not giving up meat or candy but living lives that enact the gospel for the poorest and most oppressed among us: “This, rather , is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly,…setting free the oppressed….sharing our bread with the hungry and sheltering the oppressed and the homeless…” (Is 58:6-9).
There is a woman named Chris Miller who has organized groups of local volunteers and restaurants to feed the hungry in Lion’s Park here every Friday night. She and her beloved husband Rick Judy started with our Good Shepherd Ministry in 2007 and continued their feeding program after our Ministry left the park and began serving in a building we purchased for a church, lunchroom and shelter in 2009-2010. We are so blessed to be part of the flowing water that nourished the seeds of their ministry that has continued long after us and bloomed so fully and beautifully. Even when Chris lost Rick to cancer she was able to continue their ministry and every Friday night the hungry are still fed in Fort Myers. Tonya Van Scoy who started feeding in the park with a youth group before us and then joined with us also continued a regular feeding program on Saturday nights until recently. Indeed “their light breaks forth like dawn”!
There are many wonderful examples everywhere of people who are moved by the Spirit of God to serve one another. Recently, a Mom and her daughter, Jennifer Mosseso and her Mother, quietly started bringing home made food and Panera Bread food to Hurricane Ian victims living under the damaged Matanzas Pass bridge to Fort Myers Beach. A tent city had grown up there. When the Press heard of it they showed how these two women not only brought food but made caring relationships with those suffering. Their compassionate behavior also prompted the Town and County to do something more for these tragically displaced people. One only hopes that they were not just moved away or “out of sight” but moved to good shelter and next steps leading out of their homelessness. Yes, neighbors helping neighbors are a beautiful expression of the “fast” that God is asking of us this Lenten season. They are a “spring that never fails” and plenty comes from even the “parched land” around them. (Is 58:11)
Today we also read of Jesus calling the tax collector, Matthew aka Levi, to follow Him. And “Levi got up ,left everything and followed him”. Tax Collectors were a hated class in Jesus’ day and they were often accused of fraud and cruelty. They were shunned by most of the religious establishment and ordinary people. Today we may hate unwanted and unrealistic taxes just as much but we usually don’t blame the tax collector. And today we realize that the taxes paid can also provide food and shelter for the poor and hospitals for the sick and schools for children, and so on. Not so then when the taxes went to the occupying Roman government and were not put back into the local economy. The critics of Jesus aligned the tax collectors with sinners and accused Jesus of eating with “tax collectors and sinners”. Jesus tells them that he came to”call sinners to repentance”. Too bad, though, the haters of Levi and other tax collectors did not seem to know that they too were sinners. Nor did they apparently get up right away and follow Jesus as Matthew did or throw a party for Jesus to attend in joy for being called to follow.
Pope Francis reflecting on this in “General Audience, April 13, 2016 said :
“Like the tax collector Matthew, each of us relies on the grace of the Lord despite our sins. We are all sinners, we all have sins. By calling Matthew, Jesus shows sinners that he does not look at their past, at their social condition, at external conventions,but rather opens up a new future for them. I once heard a beautiful saying: ‘There is no saint without a past and there is no sinner without a future”. This is what Jesus does. There is no saint without a past and no sinner without a future. It is enough to respond to the invitation with a humble and sincere heart. “
So as we look at our lives and activities in this Lenten season, and as we are tempted even as Jesus was when he began his ministry ( First Sunday in Lent- the Temptation of Jesus-Matthew 4:1-11) to lead self-centered lives instead of serving God’s people, let us be thankful that we are called to follow and to serve by a God who knows us and loves us and delights in our attempts to serve.
BLOOM where you ARE, BLOOM!
Love and Blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee
Good Shepherd Ministries
Don’t Give It Up- Give it Away!~ Lenten Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
The cactus flowers outside of my house remind me that we are about to enter the Lenten Season.
The Lenten season asks us to do some difficult work to set our lives aright. We are to identify that which may be dry and arid and
not so pretty within ourselves and our world-and work to set these things aright. The cactus is not usually considered beautiful, it
is dry and rangy and has thorns. Yet it also produces the most beautiful and surprising flowers.
Likewise we are far from perfect, as noted in my earlier blog, and yet our lives can produce the most beautiful flowers.
There are blooms of caring and compassion, there are blooms that are kind actions and reaching out to others in difficulty or pain,
there are blooms of seeking justice and peace inclusively, for ALL people, no matter what!
Sometimes we are more like the thorny cacti and sometimes we are the beautiful flowers.
Lent begins today, on Ash Wednesday. It is a time of following Jesus for the forty days before his horrendous death and glorious resurrection, it is a time of taking stock and acting differently when we fall short. The imposition of ashes in the form of a Cross on our foreheads is a symbol of the transience and brevity of life and a renewed chance to embrace the Christ who rises from the dead. It is a time of conversion, or turning it all around. In grade school we may give up candy or ice cream or chocolate or something we like. But as we mature in the faith and move toward becoming full- grown Christ-followers, we focus more on reviewing our relationship to our loving God and others and our inertia in doing what we can do to build the kin-dom of God on earth. We then move to giving more of ourselves in any way that we, uniquely, can give. So Lent is not so much a time of giving up things that may become priorities in our lives, but on giving ourselves once again to the God who loves us and to the people all around us, both near and far, who are in various types of need.
“Even now, says our God, return to me with your whole heart…rend your hearts,not your garments,and return to your loving god. For gracious and merciful is God,slow to anger,rich in kindness,and relenting in punishment”. (Joel 2:12).
“A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” Psalm 51).
“Be reconciled to God…Behold now is a very acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation.”( Corinthians 5: 20-6:2)
“When you pray, go to your room, close the door,and pray to your Father in secret…”
In this time of prayer and renewed giving let us remember those struggling throughout the world. Let us get up,
go out and do what we can.
This year I am most moved by the work of CNEWA, Catholic Near East Welfare Association ( A Papal Agency for humanitarian and pastoral support).
The work they are doing in war ravaged Ukraine is nothing short of amazing. This is but one of their endeavors to provide rescue
work, medical support, food and shelter as well as training and education with all forms of practical help in the Middle East,
where earthquakes have just caused over 30 thousand deaths, and in Northeast Africa, India and eastern Europe.
If part of your giving this Lent is to give to charities you might consider this:
http://www.cnewa.org/ in addition to your favorite charities.
I also humbly suggest that you may be interested in my reflections of other Lenten seasons:
Just go into http://www.judyabl.blog and put a title in Search, or even the word “Lent” or a date–
“It is Lent:Choose Life-Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest”, 2/18/2021
“Finding the Road to Renewed Joy: the Lenten Journey of One Roman Catholic Priest” 3/11/2021
and then you might check any of these dates 3/5/2014; 3/5/2014; 2/19/2015; /2/17/2016; 3/1/2017;3/7/2020.
Pope Francis, in his Ash Wednesday Homily of 2014 said:
“With its invitations to conversion, Lent comes providentially to awaken us,to rouse us from torpor,from the risk of moving forward by inertia. The exhortation which God addresses to us through the prophet Joel is strong and clear:’Return to me with all your heart’ (Jl2:12). Why must we return to God? Because something is not right in us, not right in society, in the church and we need to change,to give it new direction. And this is called needing to convert! Once again Lent comes to make its prophetic appeal, to remind us that it is possible to create something new within ourselves and around us, simply because God is faithful, always faithful,for God can not deny God’s self, God continues to be rich in goodness and mercy, and is always ready to forgive and start afresh. With this filial confidence, let us set out on the journey!”
So, indeed my friends, let us set out on the journey with hope,
Be Blessed, If feeling dry, be a Cactus Flower,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida
Perfect??NOT Me! : Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today in the Readings for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time we hear a daunting and possibly puzzling section of the Sermon On The Mount when Jesus tells us to be perfect: Matthew 5:48-“You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. “Oh my”, is my response, “I can’t even approach that!” No amount of trying or good works or good thoughts or hopes can make perfection out of this flawed instrument. If I even stub my toe I cuss up a storm and I am not always charitable in my thoughts of others, or doing as much good as I can, no matter how much I try. This is not false modesty or humility it is just the truth of me as I experience it. I am sure that those who know me well, or have lived with me could also chronicle my faults. Yes, they could also chronicle the goodness that the grace of God has granted me and I am so thankful for that. But perfection, at least according to Webster is quite another thing. “As good as it is possible to be”, “having all the required or desirable elements…” “complete”,” being entirely without fault or defects” as in a perfect diamond. The expression “A diamond in the rough” describes most of us.
Yet our Loving God has made each one of us “perfect” and brand new as we enter this world. In Genesis 1:31 God says of all of God’s creation “It is very good”.
Below is Rev. Olga Lucia Alvarez, ARCWP Bishop of Colombia, South America being blessed with a cross on the forehead by a little girl in one of her communities
This is our newest family member, Julian Dennis, son of Zachary and Paige Robinson, son of Ken and Lisa Robinson, son of Robert Jay and Barbara Robinson, Son of Julian C. and Frances Robinson. Julian C., my beloved Uncle, was one of the three Uncles who were fathers to me. I am so happy to see his name carried on!
Yet, like the first of humankind, our choices sometimes also make us less than perfect. And sometimes too, life is very hard on us and we are pushed and shoved by many circumstances into less than perfect responses-sometimes, downright evil responses. Here in Florida last week, a six year old boy carried a loaded gun to school and shot his teacher point blank. She is struggling for her life. He did not like her, felt angry, and the gun was available and he knew how to use it. How on earth did so much go wrong by 6 years old? What was this child’s life like? We do not know. I pray for this teacher and his frightened school mates, and for this boy and his family. I pray healing will take place all around and that love not rage will rule. I wondered if he was lovingly taken to church or Sunday School? I wonder if he had ever known God’s love or family love. I wondered why a loaded gun was available to him? I believe that God understands the lack of perfection in all of us. And, God forgives. That is a WOW!!! Even on the Cross, Jesus said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). And the forgiveness is there even when we do know vaguely or fully what we do. Human beings are usually far from perfect as life goes on. So why then does Jesus ask us to be “perfect”?
Now we remember that “perfect” is an English word and its meanings in English are what I have cited above. We also recall that Jesus was a First Century Jew who spoke Aramaic. So we need to understand the meanings of “perfect” in Aramaic and we need also to look at the context in which Jesus is quoted as saying this in the Gospel (Matthew 5: 38-48). George M. Lamsa in Idioms in the Bible Explained (Harper and Row, 1985:p.51) says that “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 means “All inclusive, or to know all lines of a trade”. Rocco A. Errico in …And There Was Light ( Noohra Foundation, 1998, 102-104) explains that flawlessness and infallibility are not close to the Aramaic term gmeera which Jesus uses when he is translated as saying “Be perfect”. GMEERA means perfect in the sense of complete, thorough, finished, full-grown, mature, accomplished, comprehensive, rounded out and all inclusive. Note one word in Aramaic can have many meanings and context is important.
It resonates with me that Jesus is talking about maturing in the faith-becoming a full grown Christian. To be a mature Christian is to grow from focus on the self-“I am saved” “I am forgiven” “I am loved by Christ, I am loved by God”- to “I love all of God’s children no matter who they are by race, culture, good or not so good choices, nations, languages, sexual orientations, ages, incomes or lack of them or any other factor. I am concerned with the “Other” not myself, and my service and love are for the “Other”. I am doing my best to work for justice and peace on earth. Violence reigns these days as never before, and as a full-grown Christian I hope not to add to it in word or deed. But, yes, I fail at this and need God’s grace to continue to growing in the faith. We do not come full grown into the world or into Christianity. We must work at growing. We must find experiences that help us to grow in the faith. A church, a group of dedicated Christ-followers, family and friends, a place to pray and commune with God, a favorite place in the woods, or by the sea, or on our roof, or walking in the city or countryside, time to read and pray with the Scriptures and to “Have a little talk with Jesus, to tell him all about our troubles-he will hear our beck and cry, and answer bye and bye” according to one old hymn. We have a responsibility to work toward faith maturity, and if we neglect this we may be at varied stages of arrested development. We can not fully love either our neighbors or our enemies, we get stuck on ourselves and our own problems, and we are far from perfect.
And in the day’s Gospel text Jesus also asks us to literally “go the second mile”. If we are asked to go a mile, go another one, if we are asked for a tunic, give a coat, give to those who ask of you…and so on. The mature faith is a second mile faith. We strive to do the most that we can not the least. Recently here in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian we continue to hear about whole families and whole communities that are left with nothing at all. The best stories accompanying this news are the stories of neighbors and strangers reaching out and taking in those who are lost and bereft, and giving all they can to help. Thankfully there are many stories of this sort. But do we need a hurricane or a disaster to make us so attuned to the pain of our fellow human beings? Or can we rely on the love of God within us to truly do the right thing? Can we pray to go the second and yes, the third mile?
Errico notes that “What Jesus desired of his disciples was a thorough comprehension of the task that was before them. Because they were to face much opposition and many clever people, they needed to be wise, alert, gentle, unaffected, and courageous. These disciples were to be…all-inclusive…. Insiders and outsiders was not to be part of their understanding.” Errico reminds us that before Jesus told his disciples to be perfect, he had taught them ” Love your enemies,bless anyone who curses you, do good to anyone who hates you,and pray for those who…persecute you…so you may be children of your Father…who pours down his rain upon the just and unjust. This is the perfection to which Jesus referred. And, just as God does not discriminate but is ‘all-inclusive’ so his children were to show the same nonexclusive nature as their heavenly Father” (p. 103). He continues: “Perfection is a loving presence. It is the loving presence that is all-inclusive….This is God in action.” we are to be like our loving God who blesses “the good and the bad, the just and unjust”. This is the PERFECTION that God wants of us.
So, my friends, let us strive to be perfect in loving one another-NO MATTER WHAT!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
The Good Shepherd Community in Fort Myers, Florida
It Was A Banner Year For The Ordination of Women to the Roman Catholic Priesthood: Yes, This Already Exists
Last year, 2022, was a banner year for the ordination of women to the Roman Catholic Priesthood. World wide, since 2002, there are almost three hundred Ordained Priests and Deacons in the line of Apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church. In 2022, nine well prepared women were ordained Priests and eight were ordained Deacons and one a Bishop through the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement, RCWP. We welcome all of them to the RCWP inclusive community of equals.
The names of the nine women ordained as Roman Catholic Priests in 2022 are: Rev. Teresa Elder Hanlon of Alberta ,Canada-4/30/22, Bishop +Jane Kryzanowski Presiding; Rev. Katie Nimcheski of Albany, New York-June 4, 2022-+Bridget Mary Meehan Presiding; Rev. Donna Johnson-Smith of Olympia, Washington-July 30,2022-+Bishops Jane Via and Suz Thiel Presiding; Revs. Mary Ann Matthys and Phillis Sheppard of Albany, New York-8/27/2022-+Bridget Mary Meehan Presiding; Revs. Vieda Baker and Denise Bernt of Portland, Oregon-9/10/22-+Suz Thiel Presiding; Rev. Rosemary Robinson of San Francisco, California +Bridget Mary Meehan Presiding; Rev. Elaine Pfaff of Corolla, North Carolina-October 10,2022-+Bridget Mary Meehan Presiding.
On October 22,2022 in Coralville, Iowa Rev. Martha Sherman was ordained Bishop-Presiding Bishops were: +Nancy Meyer, +Jean Marchant, +Mary Keldermans and + Jane Kryzanowski.
Below we see: On September, 10, 2022- Ordination of Veida Baker and Denise Bernt as Priests in Portland Oregon, +Suz Thiel Presiding Bishop and Priests of the Western Region of the United States.
The Roman Catholic WomenPriest Movement was launched on June 29th, 2002 in a ship on the Danube River near Passau, Germany when seven exceptionally well prepared women were ordained to the priesthood. Their names were: Dr. Ida Raming, Dr. Iris Muller, Dr.Gisela Forster, Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, Adelinde Roitinger, Dagmar Celeste, and Pia Brunner. They were ordained by two male bishops in good standing with the church who passed on Apostolic Succession with the laying on of hands. Hence, they were really and validly ordained. The excommunications that they, and we, sustain due to ordination is a penalty we do not accept. For nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and the call to serve the people of God. Revs. Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and Rev. Dr. Gisela Forster were ordained Bishops in 2003 by three valid male Bishops. Hence Apostolic Succession and valid ordination are now passed down to us by our own women Bishops. When the male Bishops who brought RCWP into being initially are deceased their names will be revealed. At the original Episcopal Ordination one of the male Bishops said to Revs. Christine and Gisela: “…This is not for you, but for bringing ordination to all women in the world who desire to become priests…Don’t sleep, don’t do ‘nothing’, don’t think this is enough. Be active as Bishops, go to the people and to those who need you.” (From “The Start: the Danube Seven and the Bishop Heroes”, by Gisela Forster, pp.9-13 in Women Find A Way-The Movement and Stories of Roman Catholic WomenPriests,2008, Edited By: McGrath, Meehan and Raming, VBW Press). Going to those who need us is exactly what all of our nearly 300 ordained do every day. We have a variety of ministries and churches throughout the world. We are simply Priests who serve God’s people throughout the world.
And we are a part of a long history of women clerics in the Church since the beginning. As these charts by Dr. Dorothy Irvin, PhD, (Pontifical Doctorate in Theology) theologian, Biblical archaeologist and scholar shows there were women who were Deacons, Priests and Bishops in the early church. On the bottom of the first chart which appears in a 2007 calendar, she includes some of the women ordained on the Danube in 2002). Dr. Irvin has also compiled The Archaeology of Women’s Traditional Ministries in the Church including her calendars and writings, also called The Rebound.
Dr. Irvin said “The archaeological evidence shows women as receiving ordination and experiencing ministries on par with men”.
AND AGAIN IN THE PRESENT TIME:
I was ordained in Boston, Mass. on July 20, 2008 along with Revs. Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York and Rev. Gloria Carpeneto of Maryland. Rev. Dana Reynolds and Rev. Dr. Ida Raming were presiding Bishops. We all remain active in our ministries and churches. Since then I have been the Pastor of the Good Shepherd Ministries and Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida. Our church is a diverse group of women, men and children, old and young, who represent all colors and cultures and sexual orientations. Many were homeless and formerly homeless, and poor and well to do worship and serve one another and the community together. Due to Covid 19 and other factors I am not regularly celebrating Mass now but our community remains and I am still Pastor. It is the joy and fulfillment of my life. Below I am with Rvda. Marina Sanchez Mejia and some members of our Good Shepherd Community after Mass pre-Covid when we could still meet inside. More recently we have met outside.
Below are Priests and members of the Good Shepherd community gathered for the priestly Ordination of Rev. Marina Elena Sierra Sanchez of Colombia, South America with the Presiding Bishop Andrea Johnson at our Good Shepherd Church in February of 2017.
Long Live all who serve throughout the world, long live Priests and Pastors and Ministers and all people who live to serve God’s people, LONG LIVE Roman Catholic Women Priests among them!
We are hoping to redress injustice in the man-made rules of the modern and post modern Church denying ordination to women, and challenge mythology and lack of knowledge of the roles of women in the Priesthood since the church began by spreading truthful information. If knowledge is power, then we must know.
We are not new, and we ARE here. Women Priests exist NOW in the Roman Catholic Church. Come, get to know us and spread the truth so every year is a banner year for women priests in the Church, and every year speaks to justice in the church and in the world we serve.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida
Unity and Peace: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
Today, Sunday February 5, 2023, over 100,000 people gathered in Juba, South Sudan to hear Pope Francis preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of love, hope, peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and UNITY! Through the miracle of technology this number was multiplied to infinity by all those able to watch or listen to this landmark effort on various religious tv and media networks like EWTN. Imagine more than 100,000 people hungry for the good news gathered in person, to hear the Gospel! Finally, there is some sense in the world’s priorities -we see a momentary rival to attendance at a football game for the hunger for our living God!
But there were two greater miracles on this day: In Pope Francis’ current visit to Africa including the Republic of the Congo and the South Sudan, we see Pope Francis pleading for peace and unity in a war torn country full of the pain of displacement and hunger, the latter due to the fruits of war and also famine. We see the compassion of Christ for the people who are hungry, displaced and frightened.
And, remarkably, we also see an unparalleled sign of Christian Unity as this visit was both an Apostolic journey on the Pope’s part and an Ecumenical one, for the leaders of the Episcopal and Presbyterian Churches joined with Francis in his plea for peace and unity. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the leader of the Church of Scotland, Ian Greenshields, worked together and held Ecumenical Services to make this happen. So we see here an unprecedented and most beautiful example of Christian Unity for the cause of peace and hope in a war torn land. http://reuters.com/world/africa/pope-francis-wraps-up-south-sudan-trip-urging-an-end-violence-2023-02-05/
On the sign shown above telling of Pope Francis’ visit, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I pray that all may be one” (John 17: 20-21). Yet we painfully know that Christianity is divided into innumerable factions throughout the world. And, with the fruits of these wars, the kin-dom of God is impeded as we fight amongst ourselves. We fight as people of various views, cultures, races and nations and as Christian denominations. In I Corinthians 1: 10-13 we see Paul asking “…One of you says ‘I follow Paul’, another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another ‘ I follow Cephas’; still another ‘I follow Christ’. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you….” From the beginnings of Christianity until now we see divisions in the church.
But in a minor miracle, from February 3rd-5th, in Southern Sudan, we see Christian Unity, not only symbolically but actually. How many of that huge crowd gathered to hear Pope Francis in Juba today were actually Roman Catholic, how many Episcopal, how many Presbyterian, how many other Christian faiths and Muslim or even of no faith? We can never know. Yet all gathered and the Holy Communion of Christ was offered to all, and reverently and eagerly received. For those three days unknown numbers of Christians and others joined to hear the Gospel, and witness the love of Christ. http://vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2023-02/pope-francis-south-sudan-visit-solidarity.html
In his homily Pope Francis empathized with the pain of the South Sudanese people who have been living with tragic violence for over 40years and most recently are trying to recover from horrible civil war, who are living daily with the fruits of war- displacement, hunger and fear . One source notes that there are 7.7 million people in South Sudan and 7 million of them suffer with hunger. So those gathered were hungry for the Gospel, and many also, perhaps for food. All needed hope for their future.
Pope Francis began: “….I gather here with you in the name of Jesus Christ, the God of love, the God who achieved peace through his cross; Jesus, the God crucified for us all; Jesus, crucified in those who suffer; Jesus, crucified in the lives of so many of you, in so many people in this country; Jesus, the risen Lord, the victor over evil and death. I have come here to proclaim him and to confirm you in him,for the message of Christ is a message of hope. Jesus knows your anguish and the hope you bear in your hearts, the joys and struggles that mark your lives, the darkness that assails you and the faith that, like a song in the night, you raise to heaven. Jesus knows and loves you….every cross will turn into a resurrection,every sadness into hope, and every lament into dancing”.
Indeed the music at this Mass was so beautiful and the liturgical dancing was so moving as sadness was turned into hope. We felt as one with our brothers and sisters in Juba. There was solidarity with the people of South Sudan and all Christians and all people who seek hope and justice. Pope Francis went on to preach on the Gospel of the day Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth….” and ” You are the Light of the World”. Salt both flavors and preserves, often in a subtle manner. Salt is also a metaphor for wisdom. One does not have to do big things to flavor life with a little salt that brings out the flavors of what is before us. But one has to bring the compassion of Christ to the darkness, to be the light when all seems hopeless. Francis charged the Church in Juba with continuing to be the light in the darkness caused by the ravages of war and famine. Indeed, light will show the ways to recover as all need food and homes and peace. He saw them as “those who unleash love and belief in God.” He concluded “May hope and peace dwell in South Sudan”. ( One can find this and all of his homilies on https://www.popefrancishomilies.com )
Pope Francis also spoke with women and noted the exemplary life of African Saint, St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita, patron of modern Sudan and human trafficking survivors. Her life is a statement against the brutal history of slavery as when she was but a child in the Sudan she was captured from her village by Arab slave-traders and enslaved in another part of the Sudan. She endured four cruel slave masters before being bought by Italians who brought her to Italy where she was declared free and treated kindly. She eventually became a Canossian religious sister whose gentle kindness, joy and devoutness touched all around her . She was called Madre Moretta, (Black Mother). Her Saint’s Day Feast is February 8th.
Pope Francis also praised the women of the church that he met in South Sudan. While we still wish that he would extend this genuine concern for women who are oppressed to Roman Catholic Women Priests who are now excommunicated priests throughout the world including in South Africa, we recognize him for his love and compassion for all of the people of South Sudan, and Africa. We go one step at a time and we applaud this wonderful effort at Christian Unity.
Thanks be to God!
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith AB Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of Southwest Florida
The Will To Live- A Parable of a Cat: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God…..” (Luke 12:6-7-NIV) and in the New American Bible, the translation reads “Yet not one of them is neglected by God”. Both versions go on: “In fact, even the hairs on your head are counted! Don’t be afraid: You are worth more than a whole flock of sparrows”. Another very close version of these words of Jesus are also recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 10:29-31. Clearly, Jesus was interested in conveying the importance of all living things to our loving God, and in telling each of us to remember our importance to God. We are known and we are loved by our loving God. Pause a minute and let that sink in.
Later in Luke 12 (27-29) we are also reminded that The splendor of the lilies and flowers of the field is God’s gift of clothing to them, we are not to worry about what we will wear or eat or drink, because God knows our needs…and provides for all living things. We are to focus on building the world as God intended it -where all needs are met and no one is left out or left behind-for justice in its truest sense-and this is called ” seeking the kingdom of God” which Jesus came to enact, enliven and promote. And we are invited to follow Jesus in this, and in what it takes to make this happen.
But when we are worried about not having our basic needs met, or feeling that no one cares about us, or we just can’t find our way, we may waver in our work for the kingdom to come and become focussed on ourselves in a way that is not healthy for us or for the rest of the world. My guess would be that most of us have sometimes thought “I just feel like giving up”- “It’s all too hard for me”. And it is then that Jesus reminds us how much we are remembered and loved by God.
Even at our lowest, even when most discouraged or frightened or in despair over our lives we are encouraged by Jesus to take heart and buy back into life-to hold fast to the God-given will to live. To LIVE- to really live not go through the motions-not to give up- for God has not frogotten or neglected even the tiniest bird, and we are so known and loved that every hair on our head is counted by God…Wow!
Now buying into life and living every day to build the kingdom of God-the world as it was intended with true justice for all-is not at all easy when things are difficult in our lives. But, as is noted in the passages above about the sparrows and the flowers of the field, we have a lot to learn from all of God’s creatures and creation in trying to do this.
So now I will tell you Frankie’s story to open your heart and to encourage you. Frankie’s full name is Frank Sinatra Cat and he is an older cat with startling blue eyes who has lived most of his life outside and at the mercy of people who would feed him and give him the barest of shelter. Below is Frankie as he is now, but he almost did not make it to this state of health.
I first met Frankie about ten years ago when he followed some other cats to the place where I put out food for the kitties abandoned in the woods behind my house. I love my lake and all of the trees in back of my house. As you may have read in other blogs it is my peaceful and holy place. But I hated the fact that the woods behind the houses on the next street over, across the lake, were full of unwanted cats and kittens. Some had already found their way here, and finding my kitties sitting outside in the sun enjoying their days, attracted them. I felt I could not add any more but one was so persistent. Potsy actually started living on top of my screened lanai until he fell in. By then my cats knew him and in he came. The plight of the cats broke my heart and my cat population and my catching, neutering and adopting out some of them grew accordingly.
The other cats Frankie followed eventually went their own way except for Brooklyn who found his way in by finding and engaging me whenever I stepped out of the house. Brooklyn and Frankie looked very much alike, Siamese, tabby and white, large and blue eyed. But Brooklyn did not like Frankie. He would fight horribly with him and despite my trying to intervene, actually chased him away. One reason I let Brooklyn in was so that Frankie could still come and eat. But Frankie was no where to be seen for several months. Then, over a year later I saw him down the street being fed by some neighbors. He stayed near their garage but did not live with them. Sometimes he sat happily outside of the garage. Sometimes they went away and he did not eat for days or longer. He just laid nearby and waited. Another neighbor and I fed him at those times. So he knew us as people who did care about him, but he was no longer one to approach people. Maybe in our terrible rainy seasons he did stay inside of their garage, maybe not. But he kept on eating there as he could for years. He never came back to visit me at home- perhaps still fearful of Brooklyn, who sadly passed away with neurological disease rendering him unable to walk, in 2020.
About a year and a half ago an ill cared for young cat who lived outside in front of a house where he was sometimes fed developed an awful case of sarcoptic mange. The poor little fellow was covered in scales so that he was unrecognizable as a cat. I saw him once near Frankie but was not even sure what kind of animal he was. I wanted so much to help him but then he disappeared until another neighbor saw him near his “home” and called Animal Control. The officers from Animal Control captured him and said it was the worst case they had ever seen. He would be put down. We were all so saddened by this.
I was worried about Frankie as he was near this little fellow. In a few weeks Frankie disappeared from the place where he ate down the street. We all thought he had died. But, lo and behold, one day he appeared on my front porch. (There are other stories of cats coming here when ill or dying but I will not tell them now. Somehow cats know who will help them. I think maybe God leads them to help). He settled in under a chair and did not leave. He was also infected by the killer mange. But it had not gone quite as far as with the little cat. I built trust with him by feeding and talking with him. Soon he laid down and could not get up. So I was able to get him to our wonderful and caring Vet, Dr. Terry Sutton. Below is how Frankie looked when he got here. The mange covered all of his color and was spreading fast.
Dr. Sutton immediately, skillfully and compassionately went about the challenging process of treating him. From the start it was touch and go. After an initial hospitalization I brought him back for treatment regularly for four months as he continued to live on the porch. He was clearly trying to eat and fighting for his life. In that time we were so gratified to see that his mange was indeed cured. But he languished and tests revealed that he was in the final stage of Feline Aids. His eyes clouded over and he lost his sight. But he was still fighting to live. He would not give up. It was amazing.
I was able to house him in my Aviary,also connected to the house, as he could not bother or get near the birds and it was a sunny, safe and warm spot. There, he slowly improved each day.
His color came back and he could negotiate the area quite well without seeing. He was still fighting and began to eat quite well. He related to me increasingly well, but not closely. When the next awful rainy season came he was flooded out and he came into my bedroom adjourning the aviary and lived under the bed. It took about four months until he came out from under the bed into the rest of the room and in and out of the aviary. He began to actually start enjoying his life and was playing like a kitten!
It took a few more months until he found his way throughout the house. And in the last few months he found his way out of the cat door and he sits on the lanai with the other cats. And, his eyesight has improved. He can see shapes now and perhaps more. He can negotiate the whole house and the lanai. He is a happy cat who simply fought to live and did not give up. He has fit himself into the kitty group here and has a place where he is loved and accepted. I think the urgent,compassionate and immediate care from Dr. Terry Sutton saved him and reinforced his will to live. And the meeting of his basic needs and care here made it possible for him to succeed. But what was amazing was his will to live: he was covered in scales, then weak and blind but he fought on. And here he is today: one happy kitty.
If you have troubles and waver in the will to continue on and really live, take heart. God provides for all of God’s precious creatures and you are even more precious to God than you can ever understand.
Rev. Dr. Judith AB Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries of Florida