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. .
“I will make roads through all the mountains and my highways will be raised up… because they are on their way from afar…Shout for joy you heavens! Exalt you earth! For YHWH consoles the people and takes pity on those afflicted….Does a woman forget her baby at her breast, or fail to cherish the child of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you. Look and see: I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands….”( Isaiah 49: 11-16 excerpted TIB). How blessed are we that our loving God regards us as a mother regards her children and will never forget or abandon us. I am struck with the feminine voice of God here. There is no love like a mother’s love and that is God’s love for us. But it is even better, because, the prophet allows that human mothers may forget their children, but our loving God will not forget Her children.
So no matter what happens on the road, we may well experience affliction, we may get ourselves into trouble and forget the way, but we will not be lost and we will not be harmed and we will find the way back into God’s loving arms. Indeed we also ponder the return of the “prodigal son”( or daughter as we are to put ourselves in the story) in Jesus’ parable of the two sons in relation to their father who deeply loves and welcomes home the one who did everything wrong (Luke 15:11-31). If during this Lent we can confront where we have turned away, God is so eager to welcome us back. This is also what King David sings of in Psalm 51 when he responds to the counsel of the prophet Nathan after his adulterous encounter with Bathsheba. “Because of your love and your great compassion wipe away my faults (other translation- “transgressions”);wash me clean of my guilt;…for I am aware of my faults/transgressions….O God, create a clean heart in me, put into me a new and steadfast spirit….be my savior again, renew my joy, keep my spirit steady and willing; and I will teach transgressors your ways….” : Let us pause and think that over.
Pope Francis said about the start of the Lenten season, Ash Wednesday: “Ashes are sprinkled on our heads so that the fire of love can be kindled in our hearts”. He points out that “Our earthly possessions will prove useless, dust that scatters, but the love we share–in our families, at work, in the Church and in the world will save us, for it will endure forever.”
Are you feeling that love in yourself, in your life? Or has your love dried up and shriveled with so many things choking it out. Sometimes my daily life is all I can manage. There is also the daily care for over 20 abandoned and sometimes ill cats, living inside and outside. I am blessed to have a young man, Gaspare Randazzo to help me with these chores a few days a week. And out of this work together he has maintained his mental health and completed his GED and obtained not only his first jobs but a car. Yes, my every day contains loving but there is so much more I can do to love. I am praying with you that love will come alive as lent progresses.
It strikes me that as we find love and renewal with our loving God, then our joy flows over to others to reach and thereby teach and heal them in their pain and trouble. We then share our loving God and God’s ways with others. We do not simply feel better ourselves, we share the love we have been so freely given -we let the light shine!
The words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 49 tells of God’s relationship with “the suffering servant”, the Israelites. And the promise and love described here is for the whole people of God, of Israel, who will be (and were) returned to their land. We also see it as applying to Christ as Master Teacher, best love and friend, and, yes, as suffering servant,and to ourselves and all who inevitably face suffering and all manner of troubles on our journeys. Christ Jesus who knew knew no transgressions suffered fickle rejection and the extreme punishment of the cross and he rose three days later destroying death forever as foretold in Isaiah 25. The final and stark reality of death is one that only God could address and God did this through our loving Jesus, the Christ.
I have been struggling with thoughts of retirement from Ministry- not ministry in general but from pastoring my Good Shepherd congregation which continues over time whether we meet regularly or not! It simply continues as the people of God. I am well beyond retirement years. In order to pursue ministry full time I retired from a career as a Master’s level University Professor (of Social Work) of 27 years. I retired again from jobs serving the youth of Lee County in the Middle Schools, and instead in 2007 Judy Beaumont and I developed Good Shepherd Ministries where we worked full time for as long as we both could. Now my work with GS Ministries and Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community here in Fort Myers is part time, at least some of the time. Other times it takes all I have to give. I am blessed to have friends, Judy Alves, Rena Kopp and Carol Schauf who share ministry with me, and Ellen McNally who encourages me even in the midst of her own grief at losing her beloved husband Jack. And I am blessed to have seasonal supportive help in Rev. Judith McKloskey, RCWP from Missouri and part time help from my Associate, Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia though she also must work full time. ( Her job is also her ministry. In her CNA job at the local hospital’s covid rehab ward, she was able to anoint and pray with our beloved Jack McNally as he lay dying of Covid).
I am so grateful for their help, but I get tired and that is a major struggle for me. Part of that struggle is being tired in natural ways, but part of it is wrapped in the grief of losing my life and ministry partner, Judy Beaumont. Part of being tired is also facing what it is like not to be young anymore. Part of it is realistic and part of it is giving up. What I have confronted this Lenten season is the part that is just giving up. I am praying to let that go! And then I find instead renewal of my spirit and the strength and will to respond to the needs of my people, of God’s people, all around me. As they call on me I can respond. I can anoint and visit the very sick. I can bury the dead and console the grieving. I can counsel the young and those with very difficult problems. I can be there for God’s people. I think as every Pastor knows deep inside- there is no full retirement. (Indeed, every Christ follower knows this). Nor need there be for God gives the strength to do what is needed. There can be a slowing down as needed. But once called and committed one simply cannot ignore the needs of God’s people. So here is how I just “kept on keepin’on” as pastor and minister of the Good News in the last few months.
In Isaiah 25 the promise of life is broadened for “all peoples”. “On this mountain YHWH omnipotent will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food, a banquet of fine wines,…On this mountain God will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, the shroud covering all nations, destroying all death forever. God will wipe away the tears from every cheek….On that Day it will be said, ‘This is our God, this is the One for whose liberation we waited. YHWH is the One in whom we have hoped! We rejoice exultantly in our deliverance, for the hand of YHWH rests on this mountain!” (Isaiah 25: 6-9 excerpted TIB). God is there on the mountain, in the midst of our troubled times and even our giving up, God is destroying all the ways we find to die while living and death itself in its finality through Christ who rose again vanquishing death itself. God is offering us life NOW and FOREVER! Wow! We are so blessed!
Here indeed is the joy of my salvation, for I am joyful in God’s presence-in creation-in nature; in quiet and contemplation so I can write; and mainly when active in the lives of God’s people whom I am privileged to love and serve.
Here I am with Felice and her baby Daniel and sister Maya. I am so thankful for the young that God has given me to love and sometimes guide.
Above I am blessing our friend and Good Shepherd supporter, Stella Odie-Ali before she undergoes a difficult medical procedure. On this same day I anointed our dear GS member Ann Palmer, who was in Hospice care weeks before her 91st Birthday. GS member Judy Alves assisted me with this as did about twelve members of Ann’s family. What a loving family surrounded her. Ann’s singing of “This is Holy Ground” and saying of Jesus’ prayer was loud and clear and beautiful to hear. Ann was a most special member of our GS Church. As a traditional and cradle Catholic and community Matriarch she found the ministry of two women priests to be “just what she was waiting for”. She attended Mass, services and all of our gatherings as she was able since my Ordination in 2008. She loved the children of the church especially and always donated funds for ice cream for them. Everyone looked forward to her gentle and happy presence. Finally her great heart began to wear out and two weeks after her anointing she was peacefully taken home to God. Pastor Judith McKloskey and I did the graveside ceremony, commending her great loving spirit to our loving God forever.
Jesus also takes us aside and asks us to rest with him. This is the little lake behind my house where I renew my spirit every day as I feed and visit the ducks, water birds and turtles. This is my best time with God as I give thanks for Creation. And below I am at Fort Myers Beach also renewing my spirit with Creation.
Last week we met with Mr. Gary and Roger Richardson and Quay Crews and Joe Baker for Eucharist and anointing and for planning our first outside church gathering since Covid 19 invaded one year ago. We consulted with many church members including Jolinda Harmon, Brenda Cummings and Kathy Roddy. Our plan is to meet outside of Gary and Quay’s home at Goodwill Housing in East Fort Myers. This will be on Saturday March 20th,2021. If anyone is in the area and interested in joining us, please get in touch with me and i will give you the details. All will be welcome!
Thank you for sharing a little of my Lenten journey. I would love to hear about yours and keep you in my prayers.
Love and Blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Fl and
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers
Yesterday , February 17,2021 was the first day of the Lenten season or Ash Wednesday. It is the day Christians gather to begin the forty day journey with Christ to the Cross and to resurrection, to ever new life. We begin assessing our lives and admitting to the many ways we can find to move away from God and God’s ways to focus on ourselves alone and to avoid opportunities to show love to God and to our neighbors. We take to heart, to the depths of our hearts, the words of the Prophet Joel: (Joel 2:2-18 The Inclusive Bible Version-Priests For Equality)
“Even now-it is Your God who speaks-
return to me with your whole heart,
fasting, weeping, mourning.
rend your hearts, not your garments.
Return to Your God, who is gracious and merciful
and ready to forgive…..”
We pray Psalm 51 together asking;
” God, create a clean heart in me,
put into me a new and constant spirit.
Do not banish me from Your presence,
do not deprive me of Your Holy Spirit.
RX Have Mercy O God, in Your goodness
Be my savior again, renew my joy
keep my spirit steady and willing;
Open my lips,
and my mouth will speak out Your Praise.”
Just take a moment and ask where has your joy gone lately? Because of Covid isolation and the personal things each of us face, life can often be described more as drudgery or obligation than joy or willing and ready spirit, filled by God’s Holy Spirit. We thank God for the opportunity to come together as best we can, some only by zoom, some in small groups, and some alone, to focus on what is happening in our lives and spirits. We thank God for this time of Lent to get our bearings again. To ask God for the joy of salvation, for the wisdom and strength to clear out the debris and begin again in love of God and follow Christ as he makes his way toward the inevitable cross-and then-to the life beyond the cross. How we all need that life!
We hear from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth: (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2) that we are ambassadors for Christ,”as though God were making the appeal directly through us. Therefore we implore you in Christ’s name:be reconciled to God…..As Christ’s co-workers we beg you not to receive the grace of God in vain…..’Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of Salvation!”
And why not now? Why not now to reignite the joy of salvation within ourselves and our communities. Indeed, NOW is the acceptable time….and Thank God for NOW!
When we receive the ashes on our foreheads there are two sets of words that may be used: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” To remember our mortality and our fragility-perhaps easier to do in the midst of this pandemic when there is loss at every level including loss of life, all around. And “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. I choose to say “Repent and believe in and live the Gospel”. In the original sense of the word “believe” living and following is implied but in our modern language believe can be divorced from actions- so I remarry it. With both sets of words at the imposition of ashes, we are reminded to turn our lives around, to get them back on track where they have fallen off and to “live Jesus” as the Salesians say. I do beleive that there are those who are living in grace and living lives full of Jesus. But I also know how easy it is for my own life to fall off the track as I remember grief and loss more than life and joy-and as I put myself and my “needs” above the needs of God’s children in a suffering yet so beautiful world. And so I am thankful for the ashes, for the time to remember to put God and all God’s creation first again. I am so thankful.
When the sign of the Cross in ashes is placed on the forehead, those receiving it are saying “I love you Jesus, and I am sorry for my sometimes shoddy behavior and uneven faith”. And because it is an obvious sign , they are willing to live their faith out loud, in public, visibly. And yet in the Gospel (Matthew 6:1-6,16-18) Jesus warns us not to “practice your piety before others to attract their attention; if you do this, you will have no reward from your Abba God in heaven.” He tells us to give charity quietly, without trumpets, and simply, and to pray in our closets in secret, not for public attention, and not to moan if we are fasting or making other sacrifices for the kin-dom of God to come on earth, and “our God who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” Leave it to Jesus to tell it like it is and give us a way to handle the ways even our good acts can go off track.
We shared the wise words of Pope Francis in his Lenten Tweet and meditated upon them. We ask you to do the same:
“Today we bow our heads to receive ashes. Lent is a humble descent both inwards and towards others. It is about realizing that salvation is not an ascent to glory,but a descent in love. It is about becoming little”. vatican.va/contentfrance
LET US CONTINUE THIS DESCENT TOGETHER during this blessed Lenten Season.
And, moving to today’s readings (Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; Psalm 1; and Luke 9:22-25) let us choose LIFE over death, every time and in every way we can. “Today I have set before you life and success, or death and disaster… Deuteronomy ” CHOOSE LIFE…. “Happiness comes to those who delight in the Law of YHWH (God)….They’re like trees planted by flowing water-they bear fruit in every season….YHWH watches over the steps of those who do justice; but those on a paths of violence and injustice will find themselves irretrievably lost… (Psalm 1)” Well we might desire and try to live following the law of loving God first in our lives and loving others like ourselves, but now is a time to assess how hard that actually is and how we can with God’s help live more closely to the spirit of the Law Jesus gave us. And we can assess too the ways in which violence and injustice may flow from our mouths if not from our hands. Jesus tells us in the Gospel to deny ourselves and follow in his steps. If we are honest with ourselves, how hard is that?! He adds that if we lose our lives for his sake we shall find them.
.Let us find our lives this Lenten season, rediscover them where they have become lost in daily living and struggles, or even find them for the first time. What a wonderful opportunity we have this Lenten season to find our very lives, to choose life! To what Pope Francis said:” It is about becoming little” I humbly add “It is about becoming Love”.
AMEN , AMEN.
Here are some moments from the past about becoming Love for the world- May each of us find our own way of doing and being this this Lenten season
With love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A.B.Lee
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Ordination of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in Boston on 1/23/21 and Reflections On the Sunday of The Word of God 1/24/21
Yesterday, January 23,2021, at 2PM marked the Priestly Ordination of Deacon Jane Audrey-Neuhauser by RCWP Bishop Jean Marie Marchant, MDiv, DMin of The Spirit of Life-A Catholic Community of Justice and Joy in Weston, Mass in the greater Boston area. While only a few RCWP clergy and close family members were in physical attendance, most of the large Eastern Region RCWP members and other RCWP members and community members participated via ZOOM. Rev. Jane Audrey Neuhauser was called to priesthood many years before the RCWP Movement developed in 2002. She served faithfully in Boston area churches in many capacities and elsewhere. She looks forward to developing her own worship communities. She also resides in the Orlando area of Florida for several months a year. As a Deacon she participated with our Good Shepherd Community with myself and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia here in Fort Myers, Florida in 2019. She is filled with joy at her Ordination and humbly and eaagerly looks forward to serving all of God’s people, especially those at the margins, as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. Our loving prayers and deepest Congratulations to Rev. Jane Audrey-Neuhauser, the newest Priest in the world-wide RCWP Movement, numbering nearly 300 Ordained women with some men.
Reflections on Today’s Readings and the Homily by Pope Francis
How fitting it is that the Scriptures of this Sunday, January, 24th 2021, ( Mark 1: 14-20). also called the Sunday of the Word of God, center on the call of Simon(Peter) and Andrew, James and John from their jobs as fishermen to follow him. This is seen as the call of the first disciples and also as the call of all followers as disciples. It is seen as both a call to vocations and to the vocation of all the baptized to serve an inclusive loving God and one another, to imitate Christ. We remember that Simon was married and later Jesus will heal Simon’s mother-in-law, ill with fever, and she will get up and serve him (Mark 1:29-39).Clearly from the beginning both men and women received and responded to the call, and the healing, of Jesus. The writer of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, also records that as Jesus died on the cross “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there” (Mark 15: 40-41). ( The Gospel of John has Mary, his mother and Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene near the cross (John 19: 25-26). . Then the same women who were watching him die, brought spices to anoint his body in the grave. They were told that he was no longer there! (Mark 16: 1-8). Later (Mark 16: 9-11) it is recorded that Mary of Magdala was the first person Jesus appeared to and she went and told the other disciples immediately, but they did not believe her. For wonderful commentary on this and the book of Mark the reader might see “On Your Mark: Reading Mark in the Shadow of the Cross” by Megan McKenna,Orbis, 2006). Luke 24: 9-11 also reports this. Matthew (28:1-10) also records Jesus encountering Mary of Magdala and the women to their great fear and joy, and telling them to “Go and Tell” his brothers , thereby making Mary Magdalene the first Apostle to the Apostles. Then ( Matthew 28:16-20). Jesus gives the disciples the Great Commission to ” go and make disciples of all nations….”
And so Jane Audrey Neuhauser and almost three hundred other women have responded to the call of Christ to serve as Priests and make disciples of ALL nations, despite the man-made doctrines in Canon Law saying that women can not be priests. if Jesus can call all people, then all can become priests. Roman Catholic Women Priests are ordained contra legem but validly in a line of succession provided by the first male RC Bishop(s) in good standing who ordained our first priests and bishops. (Their identity will be revealed upon their deaths as they are still in good standing).
In the Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica today Archbishop Rino Fisichella President of the Pontifical Council on the Promotion of Evangelization presided and read Pope Francis’ written homily as Pope Francis suffered with Sciatica and could not preside.(Let us join in prayer for Pope Francis with this painful condition). At the end of the Mass the Archbishop presented copies of the Bible to a large group of recipients who would be Lectors that included women, men and children in preparation for Confirmation. Particularly moving was his giving a Bible in Braille to a woman Lector who is blind. To read the Word, to share all Holy Scripture, and specifically Jesus’ words, is now open to all Lay ministers in the church including women. Yet the human powers-that-be still withhold the Priesthood from women despite how Jesus and the Gospel writers (Canonical and non-Canonical- see the Gospel of Mary, for example) included them clearly as Jesus’ disciples and Apostles. THANK YOU women, and Jane Audrey-Neuhauser for answering the call despite “official rejection” with the love of Jesus the Christ guiding you.
Pope Francis in his brilliant and beautiful homily said that the first meaning of what Jesus said at the start of the Gospel of Mark is “The time is NOW, the reign of God is near, God is Near”, is that a new day has come. We must turn around our lives (repent) and get them following God’s loving lead in service to all especially the outcast of our times. Jesus has ushered in a new time, a time of God’s Way as exemplified in the life , death and resurrection of Jesus. To enable us to follow, to do this GOD IS NEAR. To see all of this Homily see: https://www.popefrancishomilies.com. When the Archbishop read Pope Francis’ Homily the translation given by a Religious Sister included words that spoke directly to me. “God is with us” not far away somewhere, very near to guide and to console us especially when we feel alone. The word “con-sole” was defined con-solo- with the alone. I reflected on how we as women priests are often alone in our obedience to the Call since the “Church” Magisterium reject us. So often our people, those who call us and those we serve are with us, but this is in a surround of rejection that creates an alone-ness unless we stay NEAR to our loving Jesus, to our God, to our CALL.
In addition we are all living in a time of greater alone-ness due to the restrictions of Covid 19. For our Good Shepherd Community in Fort Myers, Pastor Marina and I do still minister to and with various members and do outreach to lost and struggling folks, but we do this almost one by one or one by a few as we can not meet as a church together. Many have told me they sorely miss our gathering. Even Jane’s Ordination was not able to be held in a packed church although the Zoom feature made a large attendance possible. And in our own personal lives there are so many who are now literally alone from one end of the week to the other. There is something about in-person encounters that exemplify the nearness of God in the Gospel, and this is often through the nearness of others. And so now, more than ever we must embrace the loving God Who is Near as we continue to take the challenge to Come follow Me and “Go and tell”.
Our prayers are for all who seek to follow the God Who Is Near, and to feel this loving presence, no matter what. And then to reach out to someone else who is feeling all alone and share the Presence of God.
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee,
Part of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida in January 2020, Pre-Covid
I have been reflecting on the loving gifts I have received this Christmas-expressions of love never cease to amaze me. Some were small material gifts thoughtfully matched to who I am or what I like and some were gifts of calls and cards and messages sending love. They were especially important in this year of Covid19 when we cannot travel to be with our loved ones. And they were especially important to me this year as it is my third Christmas without my partner in life, love and ministry- Rev. Judy Beaumont.
(We were both ordained Roman Catholic Priests through the Roman Catholic Women Priest -RCWP-Movement that began on the Danube river in 2002. After many years of service and compassion particularly to the homeless and outcast we were both called by our local community to also serve as Priests. We were already serving our Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida and we became Co-Pastors of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers. I was ordained in 2008 and Judy Beaumont was ordained in 2012. Over 400 persons joyfully participated in her ordination. Our service continued with a new sacramental dimension supported by our varied and loving community.)
On New Year’s Day, Jan 1, 2021 Judy began the New Year by leaving the suffering of AML Leukemia behind and going home with Love. Her life is now eternal and she remains our guiding star and angel. As all who lose loved ones know all too well, the Holidays, and even the most Holy days can be a difficult time, a time of remembering and a time of missing and a time when there is one foot in the past and another in the present. So love expressed at Christmas is particularly important. Yet Christmas is ALL about Love. God’s tremendous love for us. A beautiful Christmas song popularized by the Jars Of Clay and available on Youtube is entitled Love Came Down At Christmas. (It adapted by the jars of Clay but was written very long ago by Christina Rosetti- 1830-1894 with a Traditional Irish Melody). The words say it all:
“”Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas; Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine….
Worship we our Jesus, But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token; Love be yours and love be mine,
Love from God to all of us, Love for plea and gift and sign”.
When we embrace the love of God at Christmas we are never alone and never ‘Unloved”, though we remember the loves of our life who have gone before us. Those of us in older years may often say: “There are more of my loved ones in heaven than on earth”. Some may even say “ALL of my loved ones have now gone before”. There is a poignant sadness in that, yet a hopefulness. I ask you to remember love with me now. The love we were blessed with, and the love we are still blessed with- and most especially the Love that came down at Christmas.
As a special gift I am sharing here Chapter 12 of my book about Judy’s life of complete loving service. There are Chapters that are written by Judy and Chapters about what she accomplished and how she struggled and served. A few Chapters are about our life together as well. This is one of those Chapters. If you care to read this Christmas chapter, it may whet your appetite for the whole story. It is appropriately entitled “Every Day Is Like Christmas”. Click on Download if you would like to read it.
Here is a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/author/judyleejudithablee
A Blessed Christmas Season and a New Year in which you know without a doubt that you are loved-most especially by the Love that came down on Christmas. Let us remember to be the hands of Love this Christmas and always.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee
Co-Pastor of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community and Good Shepherd Ministries in Fort Myers Florida
Our Good Shepherd Ministries Community celebrates the amazing life and mourns the loss of Jack McNally (John W. McNally, 1927-2020) who went home to our loving God after a month long struggle with Covid 19 on December 5th, 2020. His Funeral Mass was today 12/12/2020 at the church he loved, St. Cecelia’s Roman Catholic Church in Fort Myers. The Eulogies were led by his loving wife of 47 years, Ellen McNally who served always at his side including volunteering in our Good Shepherd Community with him faithfully since 2007. Ellen firmly said that she shares his joy in being fully alive with God now.
In view of Covid guidelines only those close to this wonderful couple were able to attend sitting six feet apart and wearing masks, yet this beautiful church was filled with love as Jack was remembered. St. Cecelia’s Assistant Pastor, Rev. Frank Hanlon honored Jack’s request to have the theme of the day and the homily centered on Church on the Margins. He pointed out that although Jack served on the margins and felt that he too was on the margins of the church, Jack’s life of selfless service was right in the center of Jesus’ heart and Jesus’ teachings and the Gospel message. Jack’s life long commitment to serving the poor and outcast enabled him to empathize and identify totally with the poorest among us even for his Funeral Mass. Joe Irvin Pastor of Bootstraps Ministry in North Fort Myers and one of Jack’s closest friends, and I joined Ellen in eulogizing this special man.
Jack and Ellen McNally , to the right of Rev. Judy Beaumont and Good Shepherd member Nate Chester( both preceding Jack to eternal life) in the above picture, were beloved supporters of our Good Shepherd Community serving the poor and homeless in Fort Myers since 2007. They were with us when we served up to 150 people in Lion’s Park and remained with us when we served both outside and inside through 2010, and when we moved our hot meals, services and Mass inside our House Church and transitional home for the homeless on Central Avenue from 2008-2017. Jack and Ellen brought and cooked meals and organized their whole neighborhood at Country Creek in Estero and the CTA (Call To Action) group to do the same so we were never without a hot meal. Perhaps more importantly they were the presence of love as they interacted with all who came to eat and have fellowship with us. Our Community members cried upon hearing of his death.
In this collage(top left) we see Jack as a youngster in his class in the poor country school house where he had his first eight years of learning in rural Nebraska. Another picture shows him in the US Navy and from there he was sent to Notre Dame where after two years he entered the Seminary. There is a glare from the glass(top right) but we see him as a very young man saying his first Mass. He served a poor rural community for four years then served in inner-city Detroit where his love of the poor and outcast continued to grow. When he was in his mid forties he met a Religious Sister also serving that parish and another very special love happened. He received a dispensation from his vows, and she from hers and they married in 1973, serving together ever since. ( The pictures are faded, but there is one of their wedding day and one taken a bit later). Their love continued in a marriage of three, including Christ at the center for all of their 47 years together. All who came in contact with them felt the joy and centrality of Christ in their love and service.
Ellen talked about Jack’s kindness to all and his ability to always keep his word as well as his love of service. She pointed out that Jack served as a volunteer in Lee Memorial Hospital for twenty-eight years. And he also served similarly for many years in Pontiac General Hospital in Michigan. In Lee Memorial he was a loving presence for those waiting anxiously for news of their loved ones during surgery. It is possible that he was exposed to Covid 19 there as he was at his post until it was no longer possible due to the pandemic.
For me there are four concepts that describe Jack McNally: Ultimate kindness; prophetic service; courageous persistence for justice; and a presence of love. First, I echo Ellen’s description of his kindness. It was palpable in any room he entered and with all people. Our Good Shepherd people were calmed and drawn by his often quiet yet smiling, warm and kind presence.
Joan Chittister says the following about prophets (P. 22 in The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage, 2019 Convergent Books):
“The prophetic tradition is clear, We are not here simply to succeed today. The prophet will persist for as long as it takes to make the present what God intends it to be as well as to prepare the future to maintain it. We are here to seed the present with godliness so that others may someday reap the best of what he sowed.”
That is exactly what Jack McNally did throughout his life of service to those in most need. Godliness was what you felt in Jack’s presence as he quietly served and cared for all around him. Indeed, “as long as it takes” was his whole life of 93 years, for he persisted in challenging injustice until the end, and we are so blessed that he has helped so many of us to maintain a present that is as God wants it to be: full of love, compassion and justice. And, yes, this took special courage-courage to live at the margins with all who live there, not just visit it occasionally. Jack lived a life of courageous persistence in enacting and working for justice for all God’s beloved people.
And, finally as we remember Jack we are struck by love. Jack exuded love for those he worked with and served. His was a reflection of Christ’s love and all were blessed in his presence. And Jack and Ellen together were dynamite for prophetic justice. Their love reached out to all around them, enfolding all in love. “JackandEllen” seemed often to be one word as their love was a unity in Christ’s love. And here I want to speak of their love for one another as it was an example for all couples who love, and for all who love. there was ample space for independent activities within their relationship but their service together was also remarkable.
I like the words of Henri Nouwen (from Bread For the Journey, Harper, 1997). I hear them as Jack speaking to Ellen. “Ellen” he whispers to her,
“Hope and faith will both come to an end when we die. But love will remain. Love is eternal. Love comes from God and returns to God. When we die , we will lose everything that life gave us except love. The love with which we lived our lives is the life of God within us. It is the divine, indestructible core of our being. This love not only will remain but will also bear fruit from generation to generation”.
“Ellen” he continues with Nouwen’s wisdom filled words, but his own love,
When we approach our deaths let us say to those we leave behind, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. The love of God that dwells in my heart will come to you and offer consolation and comfort”.
I know Ellen is feeling that love, and I offer it as well with Nouwen, to all who sustain profound loss.
Thank you Jack McNally for showing us the way to love.
Thanks be to God for his life.
Rest in peace and rise in glory dear Jack. Well, he already has!
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee, Good Shepherd Ministries of Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee,RCWP
Starting with this Sunday we enter the season of Advent. All over the world in big cities and small towns, in the church and in the secular world, in all countries and cultures and with all languages, the preparation for Christmas-the coming of Christ-begins.
We bless the circular Advent wreath with its three purple candles (for Christ’s royalty through the lineage of King David) and one pink candle for Joy-the 3rd Sunday is Gaudate (joy)Sunday. The circle is God’s unending love and the candlelight is Christ, the light of the world). At each week’s lighting the Presider may say: “Be still before God and wait patiently” (Psalm 37:7). Those present may reply “So I wait for you, God, my soul waits, and longs for you….for with you is abundant love and full deliverance”. Psalm 130:5-7).
Each Sunday we light a candle. They symbolize Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. And the readings of the day are about watching and waiting and light and darkness, loss and redemption, miracles of healing and and walking the walk. We are challenged this first week not to “fall asleep on the job”, to “stay awake” as we await Christ’s coming. (The Gospel is Mark 13:33-37).
Theologically, we await the coming of Christ in three ways. First, the celebration of Christ’s historic birth in Bethlehem , God’s entrance into history/herstory in human form- God as one of us! And that is always a WOW! to contemplate. Then, we become alert to seeing God in the events of our every day lives, God -With-Us and God among us-especially in the faces of all around us-especially the poor and the outcast whom we need to see to serve. And finally, we hope for the Second Coming of Christ when God’s kin-dom will finally fully be enacted on earth.
Today, Pope Francis, from St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, reminded us that there are two key words in today’s readings: closeness and watchfulness. The Hebrew Scripture reading from Isaiah 63 and 64 reminds us that God is with us as a parent is with a child, and as a potter works with the clay, so God is our potter and molds and shapes us, each one uniquely to be what we are called to be. Paul reminds the church in Corinth ((I Cor 1:3-9) that God is with us, faithful until the end, giving us all we need to follow Christ. In his homily today Pope Francis reminded us to actively invite Christ to come with us as we watch and wait and serve. Christ is always with us but our acts of invitation help us to KNOW that. So Advent is to be a time of active listening, waiting and inviting and acting with God in our midst.
In the secular world , especially this year with the anxieties and langor of Covid 19, elections, racial and other tensions, and myriad troubles,Christmas-waiting actually began early in November. People all over expressed the need for cheer, for uplifting, for joy and an end to darkness and sadness. Well before Thanksgiving there were Christmas Carols on the radio and Christmas movies on TV and the decoration of stores and homes with bright lights and Christmas themes long before Advent officially began-four weeks before Christmas in the church year. I am late in my neighborhood in getting my Christmas lights up as I only began the day after Thanksgiving. The light is literally and sorely needed this year so I am now hurrying. I do have a lit Cross on my house to break the darkness as we have no street lights here and it is a wonderful symbol of light year round (except on Good Friday when I shroud it). People tell me it means a lot to them to see it. But there is nothing like every house displaying Christmas lights in the dark night here. The world waits for Christmas.
So this Advent season let us light the candles of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love as we await the Light of Christmas. And let us see the light in all of the faces around us and be glad.
While we can not worship in close contact this year let us hold one another in spirit and in love.
Let us bring light and joy to one another.
And let us serve one another.
Let us have a little Christmas every day.
Watchfulness and charity will arouse us, according to Pope Francis, and praying,serving, and loving will bring Christmas near every day. Let us watch and wait and serve.
A Happy Advent to all.
Love and prayers,
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia,RCWP
and the people of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, FLorida
Today we celebrate the reign of God in Jesus Christ-the Shepherd King- “the Solemnity of Christ the King”. The word “KING” is alienating to many and comforting to some. It speaks of God remaining in charge of this endless cosmos from time immemorial and present in our troubled world. It is reassuring to think that “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet”! But “King” also brings images of opulence, subservience, paternal(istic) power, and, sometimes, arrogance.
Instead the readings of the day are about the humble good shepherd who makes sure not even one is lost, or sick and alone ,or hungry or unsheltered and our responsibility to make sure this is so. Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17; Matthew 25: 31-46.
In the Gospel (Matthew 25) Jesus says that those who ACT lovingly toward others actually provide care to Jesus. Those who feed the hungry, give the thirsty a drink, welcome the stranger, clothe and shelter and care for those who need care, and visit the lonely and those in prison will inherit the “kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world”. Most importantly, this is not a far away kingdom-or kin-dom- it is what we co-create with God on earth here and NOW as well as what we anticipate throughout eternity. The Epistle of the day, I Corinthians 15: 20-28, assures us that all who die in Christ shall be brought to life again as Jesus who gives life now and forever even ” put death under his feet”. For many of us experiencing loss this Holiday time the prospect of becoming part of forever with our loved ones lifts our broken hearts. And serving those around us now brings new meaning and joy.
This giving of self and much needed material and spiritual goods brings God’s kin-dom “on earth as it is in heaven” and gives total meaning to our lives. We experienced a little of this yesterday as we made our Thanksgiving visits to community members.
Yesterday, 11/21/2020, with the help of groceries provided by Lamb Of God Lutheran Episcopal Church in Estero, Our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers team distributed food and funds and other items for Thanksgiving to 15 of our Good Shepherd families. Kathy Roddy and her friend Angie and Carol Schauf and I were honored to visit with our friends who warmed our hearts with their own deep thank- fulness to God for their lives, and homes and for our visit. The unbounded joy of each one with the exception of one family who was very sick and unable to come outside at the moment, fearing covid, filled our hearts. With them, I talked on the phone and through the door and as we left the door opened to receive the offerings we brought. I am encouraging them to go to the ER but they are afraid due to their immigration status. They do not believe strangers are really welcome here. Even my words of assurance are not enough. Please pray that they will get the help they need.
How good it was to share the faith and hopes of each one visited. Kris Nasi lifted our hearts with his hopes for a gentler and more caring USA when our new President takes office. His love of his cat Hootie, with him before he finally got the home they now share, also moved us.
When Kathy and Angie visited Mr. Gary, our Good Shepherd church Elder, they reported that despite having just been through painful surgery and coping with both isolation and a wheelchair, Mr. Gary exuberantly shared God’s love and goodness with them. When we visited Mary and Brenda (above) as well we were met with unswerving faith and hope despite illness and isolation.
We also think of the selfless self-giving of our Associate Pastor Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, a Nursing Assistant, who works regularly with Patients who have Covid19 on a Rehab ward at Gulf Coast Hospital. This week she was able to visit and anoint our beloved Good Shepherd supporter Jack McNally who can barely walk as Covid lingers on. No Priests are able to visit during Covid. Jack was not on her service but she got special permission to enter his room and serve him. He was so responsive and thankful as was his wife our CTA President Ellen McNally who is home in Covid quarantine and cannot visit him. Please keep them and all who have Covid and their selfless caretakers in your prayers.
We are so thankful to witness the kingdom/kin-dom of God on earth in the lives of our Good Shepherd Community members. We pray that each of us may experience the true “high” of God’s kin-dom on earth as we serve one another, and the Shepherd King, in love.
Happy Thanksgiving and be blessed!
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith A. B. Lee,
Good Shepherd Ministries of SWFL and The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers
Thanks Be To God!