Yesterday our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers gathered to celebrate the Second Sunday in Ordinary time where the Gospel is the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-11) but it was no ordinary celebration for many reasons. First, it is never ordinary when God’s people gather for worship and fellowship. Then,we were blessed with having our visiting Priest from Kansas City, Missouri, Rev. Judith McKloskey celebrating with Pastor Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia and me.And it was also the the Sunday before the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees, both celebrations so relevant to ur community members. And, last but not least on this day of celebrating the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana, we also celebrated the marriage of our member Maya Rismay to Lamar Cummings. They were married civilly after Lamar graduated from FGCU in December but wanted the blessing of the Church and the community of Christ which we were delighted to give. We also had five birthday blessings to give. What a joyful day of celebration for our community.
Thirty-seven people attended, ranging in age from 1 to 84, black, white, Hispanic, biracial,male, female, gay and straight, well and ill, and the economically poor, formerly homeless, well off and in those between. This included eight people whose families were recent immigrants and some fleeing from oppression from several countries. Fourteen of those attending were under the age of 25 and our hopes for the future of the church were revived. Hank Tessandori who acts as our Deacon said a prayer related to Martin Luther King’s dream. He acknowledged that the times we now live in are not embracing the dream of the unity of all and the dignity of each one, but to be here in this small space with our church helps us lift our hopes once again. Kathy and Bill Carpenter who visited from Cape Cod Mass said they were delighted to be with us and part of the diversity of our church. They attend RCWP priest, Rev. Marie David’s Community in Harwichport and Kathy is studying to be a priest in the Apostolic Catholic tradition.
The Hebrew Scripture text of the day shows our loving God “espousing” God’s people, calling them “My Delight” as young marrieds may call each other (Isaiah 62:1-5). The original Epistle reading (I Corinthians 12: 4-11) emphasizes that God gifts each of us and the gifts are to be shared in the community-not for self but for the community. Our Epistle was I Cor. 13 where the nature of love is beautifully described. In the Gospel Jesus begins his public ministry at a wedding where the wine runs out at his mother, Mary’s request. What he does is amazing, not only does he fill 6 huge jugs used for ritual cleansing with the best wine of the event, thereby saving the dignity of the bridegroom’s family, but he metaphorically substitutes plenty, abundance and joy for an emphasis on legalisms. He BECOMES the best wine that was saved for last. The love and compassion and outreach to the poor, the foreigner, the “unclean” and outcast that follows in his ministry and his challenging of rules that may cripple rather than free shows us what the people of God should do and be-living for love and justice so that we too are God’s delight like Jesus.
The blessing for Maya and Lamar Cummings fit naturally in after the Homily. The love of the young couple embraced all there.
And afterward we enjoyed a nutritious and delicious hot meal cooked by Kat6hy Roddy. And the bride and groom cut and served their cake. And a Birthday cake was served for the five who had birthdays as well. The love of this community was palpable and something we could each take home and savor.
Our next gathering for worship will be on March 2nd.
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
It is with great joy that we report that Dianne Willman, 44, was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest on 1/19/2019 in Klipkerk at Mosaiek, Fairland, Johannesburg, South Africa at 2PM South African time. Bishop Patricia Fresen of Roman Catholic WomenPriests (International RCWP) was the ordaining bishop.The sacred ordination following traditional form was attended by loved ones and supporters filled with the Spirit and happiness for her and for the Roman Catholic Church sorely in need of renewal and new servant leadership. Rev.Caryl Conroy Johnson of the USA, Eastern Region of RCWP also attended the holy Mass. The Mass of Holy Orders is essentially traditional except that the ordinand prostrates herself before the altar and not before the bishop.
Dianne’s ordination to the priesthood fulfills a call that Dianne first experienced as a child attending Catholic School near Durban, South Africa. Before university studies Dianne spent a year of discernment within a religious congregation, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood. Although life with this Order drew her, her passion for social justice that is lived in the world was the stronger call. She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Natal and her Masters Degree in Law at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is currently completing the final stages of a Masters degree in Philosophy/Theology/Spirituality and is undergoing training as a Spiritual Director.
She has worked for 20 years in various legal capacities. During 2012 she served for four months as legal aide to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. She participated in the UN Commission on the Status of Women dedicated ato the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality. This opportunity deepened her insights in the connections between religion and gender. Dianne is amember of Catholic reform groups like We Are All Church, South Africa. She is also a retreat facilitator and serves on the Board of an integrated spirituality Center known as Bohareng.
A defining moment regarding the priesthood came to Dianne while on a pilgrimage to Israel in 2004. As she walked where Jesus walked she affirmed her call to priesthood. She knew she would fulfill the call when the time was right and purchased her stole , chalice and paten in trust and anticipation. After completing the program of discernment and preparation with RCWP she was ready to answer the call with “with God’s help I am ready”. Her intimate love for Christ and God’s people will now include her continued fight for the dignity, respect and equality of all people and sacramental ministry. Her courage to do this contra legem but with valid Holy Orders guides her every action. Although the personal cost of answering the call is high, on a broader level Dianne strongly believes that the need for action to usher in a new era of the Spirit is higher, where it can be seen that women can represent the image of Christ and all are welcome at the Table. Having experienced life in a country that suffered under the oppressive laws of Apartheid, serving as a lawyer, and loving a church that forbid her priestly participation Dianne is willing to transgress Canon Law because, like the laws of Apartheid, it is unjust law. She believes that such law cannot in good conscience be justifiably obeyed. She stands willing and able to serve God’s holy people, all of them, as a Roman Catholic Priest.
Congratulations Reverend Dianne and thanks be to God!
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Ministry of SW Florida, USA
Changing Times: Vermont Catholics Express Support for Married and Female Clergy and South Africa is About to Have Another Roman Catholic Woman Priest
On 1/11/19, in the wake of the pain and trauma of clergy misconduct and sexual abuse Bishop Coyne in Vermont held a town meeting style gathering for the input of parishioners in his diocese. According to vermontdigger.org in an article by Kevin O’Connor, over 75 people attended and were satisfied with a good dialogue from Bishop Coyne. Several people wondered if the Church could get at the causes of this kind of behavior and crime. One man asked if one of the causes might be that the Catholic church does not allow married or women priests. Bishop Coyne responded: ” I think you could make that argument”. Heartened, the man continued: “If a woman can conceive and give birth to a child of God, they(women) should be able to say Mass”. There was no direct answer noted to this, but my response is “Let the people say AMEN! ” and perhaps they did!
Here is a link to this good article:
I do not know if the Vermont group was aware but there ARE NOW over 265 Roman Catholic Women who have been validly ordained to the priesthood through the Movement of the Spirit called Roman Catholic WomenPriests. This Movement began on the Danube River in 2002 and continues strong today. To catch up on this news the reader might be interested in Women Find A Way edited by Ida Raming, Elsie McGrath and Bridget Mary Meehan 2008, AND look in the Archives in this blog and in Bridgetmarys.blog where there are many accounts of the history and activities of Roman Catholic Women Priests world-wide. There are also other books by individuals who are Roman Catholic Women Priests and many articles that google can send you.
One of the newest women on the path to priesthood is Dianne Willman of South Africa. She will be ordained to the priesthood on Saturday January 19th by Bishop Patricia Fresen also of South Africa and a mentor to international priests and priests from the USA since 2003. We will tell Dianne’s story in this blog after her Ordination, and the story of her courage and faith is something to witness. This is Deacon Dianne Willman in South Africa.
And this is one of the groups in the USA: Some Members of The Eastern Region which includes Priests from South America:
To our friends in Vermont: check it out- there ARE Roman Catholic Women Priests! We are here!
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
The God-Bearer: In Memoriam Pastor Judy Beaumont, Roman Catholic Woman Priest, on the Feast of Mary, Holy Mother
It is altogether fitting that we remember the life and death of Rev. Judith Beaumont on this day,the chief of Marian feast days. On this day, January 1st, Mary is honored as Theotokos- God- bearer and we are challenged to be like Mary in our lives: God-bearers. On this day one year ago, Rev.Judy Beaumont left this world to unite with our loving God, and all the saints and angels. Holy, holy of days for a faithful God-bearer to go home. This is also the World Day of Peace, and Judy Beaumont’s life was dedicated to love, peace and justice.
Her activism spanned decades but was most prominent in Trident 9, a 1981 Plowshares Action in which the participants entered the Naval Base in Groton, Connecticut, rowed out to the Trident Submarine and splashed blood on it. Not only was the Trident a symbol of world destruction, but of injustice as the cost of even one Trident Sub could feed most of the hungry of the world. She spent 7 months in prison for this action and during that time she enacted women’s prison reform*.
Judy Beaumont’s life was devoted to acts of justice, compassion and peace. Her dedication to the homeless spanned over 35 years of service in homeless Shelters and serving the homeless here in Fort Myers, Florida as part of our Good Shepherd Ministries. Her patient and care-full work helped permanently house over a hundred homeless individuals and families who loved her dearly as she loved them. When this humble woman of compassion and courage became ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in January 2012 over 400 were at her Ordination, many of whom were the poor she served. She bore Christ to the least of God’s children and was rewarded with their love.
Today at noon on Catholic Television (EWTN) Pope Francis’ 2017 January 1st Marian Mass was aired again. His beautiful homily focussed on a few key phrases in the Gospel of Luke. The Scriptures of the day are:Numbers 6:22-27 when God blesses God’s people through Moses; Psalm 67 where we ask God to bless God’s people and the people of all nations to praise God who embraces all peoples; Galatians 4:4-7 where Paul notes that Jesus was born to ransom Israel and to adopt all of the peoples of the world.
The Gospel-Luke 2:16-21 shows the “lowly shepherds” finding the baby Jesus lying in a cow’s manger with Mary and Joseph hovering over him. The shepherds become the first apostles/ambassadors making known to everyone with great energy and praise of God, the presence of Jesus. And “All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Pope Francis said that we are called to be amazed-we must never lose the capacity to be amazed. In amazement we see a child lacking all abounded in love. Jesus’ life is a gift that gives us a chance to make a new start-even for the “lowest” amongst us. And, to focus on his mother Mary we are again amazed at God’s action in entering humanity-the baby was one with her and as she takes him in her arms,cuddles and feeds him we see a woman loving God and God’s loving oneness with humanity. God is not a distant creator of the cosmos, God is one with us through Jesus, hence through Mary who said “Yes” to God. Jesus rests in his mother’s lap who is also our mother now. ( From the Cross he gave her to his disciple John and also to all of his disciples).
Pope Francis notes that “God’s love is both maternal and paternal” and is always with us-never distant. (My response is that it is a small step here to embrace God as both Mother and Father!). Francis says that “God believes in humankind and becomes one of us in Jesus. Be amazed at the God of surprises! Remember the moment of your first belief, your first faith. Faith is an encounter not a religion”, says Pope Francis. And our faith includes a mother that gives birth to Jesus, and to all of us as God’s children. We must allow her selves to be gazed upon in love as Mary gazes upon Jesus. “Especially when our lives are entangled in the tightest of knots, Mary is gazing upon us in love seeing not sinners but children. The eyes of Mary reflect the beauty of God.” Mary gazes into Jesus’eyes and reflects his light. She says, “take heart I am your mother”. The maternal gaze instills confidence and faith, it is a bond formed with God that creates us as whole persons. Her gaze helps us to see ourselves as God’s children united as church moving beyond diversity to unity in Christ. We must be a church of loving tenderness and we cannot be lukewarm.
Mary never points to herself but only to Jesus and to God’s children. Our human family is built upon mothers. Maternal sentiment amazes us and this maternal love is especially lavished upon the poor and the “least” among us. We can pray for God to help us see as Mary did looking on the face of Jesus with such great love. Help us to see as You do. And help us to have the heart of Mary, the heart that treasured everything related to Jesus- starting with the shepherd’s praise.As we follow Mary in the gospels we see that she is present whenever she is needed-with her cousin EliZabeth, helping the newlyweds at the wedding at Cana (and perhaps helping Jesus too there- to start his public ministry) and finally at the Cross and grave. Pope francis continues: “Mary is the mother of consolation and words are not enough for consolation-presence is needed”. (I can certainly relate to this as I live my grief at the loss of Judy Beaumont yet embrace her in her new life- presence is all.) Francis says that we must allow ourselves to hold the hand that held Jesus’ hand with hope and sweetness. So let us allow ourselves to be taken by the hand and introduced to Life. Especially when we get lost and forget a mother’s affection, when we become angry and bitter and malicious. Let us renew ourselves in God’s Mother love.
Pastor Judy Beaumont never viewed people as sinners and she embraced even the most difficult among us as a child of God. Sher gazed upon each one with love. Her patience was often beyond what the best mother could offer and she would not hesitate to do the most difficult ordinary thing for her people- counting endless pills for those who would be sick because they could not manage their own medicines, sorting through piles of donated clothes to find the best things for each person, always offering them a choice. Making all the contacts needed for a hot meal to appear at every church gathering. And serving herself though exhausted on her feet. Filling out endless applications for services. Waiting with them at endless lines where dignity was at a premium, And listening as some raged on about their lives and real or imagined upsets. How like Mary she was reflecting the eyes of Jesus to all and offering God’s tenderness with her beautiful smile. I was so blessed to have her as my life and ministry partner. I rely on her spiritual presence to smile upon me with love and guidance. We were so blessed to have her as our co-Pastor at Good Shepherd-and now to have her as our saint and angel. When we meet on January 19th for Mass and our gathering we will light a candle for her in Memoriam, but we will not be surprised that she is there blessing us and praying for us.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
In this glorious Christmas season where a little more good will than usual abounds and heartens our journeys it is good to think about the church that Jesus planted in and as a result of his birth, life, death and resurrection and ministry. Church from the bottom up is what Jesus did and what he instituted. He moved among the people, all people, but especially the poor and sick and lame, the stigmatized and the outcast. And, there he sowed the seeds of the kin(g)dom of God.The church planted so long ago lives on now and is still growing from the bottom up, sometimes despite our attempts to enforce top down rules and regulations, something Jesus never did. He simply welcomed all whose lives he touched to love our God and our neighbors as ourselves. thanks be to God for the Jesus Christ of Christ-mas!
Here is an excellent article on the “People’s Magisterium” and an introduction to a wonderful documentary film By Michael McKinley Religion Editor coming from NCR online and an excellent response to it by ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan.
Be Blessed as we move forward together as church into 2019,
thanks be to God!
Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, DMin, DSW, MSW
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida
“I never thought I would enjoy a Memorial Service, but I sure enjoyed this one”. These were the words of one of our Good Shepherd Church “Elders” Mr. Harry Lee Gary after the Memorial Service and Celebration of Life for Nathaniel Chester, II, on Saturday December 15, 2018. All of the people around him from Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Nathaniel’s family, and clergy and members of several local churches heartily agreed there was great joy in this celebration. St. Phillips C.M.E church on Lillie Street, Pastor Nicholas O’Neal and former Pastor Maurice Gilmore provided the worship space and led in the celebration. Nathaniel’s brother Michael Chester, also a Pastor, and all of Nathaniel’s family also had roots in this church. Together this rainbow hued group lifted one another in reflection, memory of Nathaniel, scriptures and song. Ten members of our Good Shepherd church family attended and were represented by Pastor Judy Lee for reflections. The joy that Nathaniel expressed so often in his life permeated all who were there to celebrate his life. Whether it was the joy of visiting family members and friends and sharing a meal with them, or the joy at the wins of the Dallas Cowboys, or the joy he often shared in church with his booming singing and Scripture reading voice or his “sing it over” as we sang the Amen, Nathaniel’s joy was the hallmark of his life. We can think of Nathaniel’s joy too as we celebrate Gaudate, Joy, Sunday the third Sunday in Advent today.
Nathaniel was one of our earliest Good Shepherd Church members who began with us in Church In The Park in 2007. He was a Cape Coral High School graduate and served in the Air Force. But his mental health struggles led to homelessness by the late 1990’s. He ended his homelessness when he moved into our Joshua House (Jesus’House) in 2008 and moved into and maintained his own housing after getting his life back on track in 2010. The journey for Nathaniel had many moments of joy and joy was in his very nature, nourished early by a loving faith filled family and church background. But also sorrow and struggles with mental illness and alcohol challenged his journey. The loss to early deaths of both parents and an older brother, Harvey, weighed heavily on Nate’s heart. And he wrestled with voices and delusions, many religious, using beer as medication until he was able to connect with Lee Mental Health Services and accept help. The tie with Good Shepherd, his new church family held him fast for many years.
below is Nathaniel (maroon sweatshirt) on the day he moved into Good Shepherd’s Joshua House-11/24/08.
Below,prominent in the blue suit Nathaniel is making his Confirmation in 2014 along with 16 other members of Good Shepherd. Nathaniel worked at being a loving Christ follower. Sister Pearl Cudjoe remembers that Nate always gave her a few dollars for the orphanage in Africa after church on Sundays. Stella Odie Ali one of our Board Members remembers the wonderful greetings and hugs Nate would give when she met him in the community. Brenda remembers sharing her cooking with Nate and how much he enjoyed it. Joe remembers him as a good room mate at Joshua House and a good neighbor in their community now. Our deacon Hank recalls Nate’s warm greetings and energetic singing. Family members remembered a loving, laughing, enthusiastic man who made them happy when in his presence. He tried to love like Jesus.
Almost miraculously for the first seven years that Nate was with us, Nathaniel used the Mental Health Center and stayed on his meds and off alcohol- until late 2015- 2016. The precipitants were not clear but then the illness, non-compliance and using beer to medicate returned with a vengeance and caused him and those around him untold mental suffering. Pastor Judy Beaumont with great patience and caring helped him to manage his funds and maintain housing and both Pastors accompanied him into and out of the mental hospital for stabilization and he was able to return to mental health time and again in the recent years. His very dear younger brother Pastor Michael helped him and walked with him as much as possible as well, but the torments of the illness were very strong. Recently he was off of his meds and the illness raged causing upsetting behaviors in the community. He also went off of his diabetes and blood pressure medications. In the midst of this tumultuous period Nathaniel was suddenly “missing” for three days, and it was learned that he died in his home on December 4, 2018. All who knew him were shocked and saddened that he passed at fifty-four years of age. When I addressed those gathered in the church I too remembered Nathaniel’s gifts of love and joy and then I shared the only way I understand it: when our suffering is too great, be it physical or mental, God comes and says “Suffer no more, I will take you home with me”. I shared the words of Jesus in John 14;1-3: “Do not let your hearts be troubled: trust in God”;trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms;if it were not so,I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you,I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going”. With God’s grace and the help of Good Shepherd and many others Nathaniel had gone from homelessness to a home. And with the grace of God he also went home to God in the midst of suffering his voices and now he suffers no more. I led the congregation in singing “Amen” with everyone doing Nate’s part “sing it over”. We felt we could hear his voice singing it over with us. To a sometimes hard life well lived- Amen! It will be sung over with God forever. It lifts sadness to know that Nathaniel is now home again, this time home with God forever and he is finally free of torment. His joy can be complete. The joy Nathaniel freely expressed in his life was present in the singing, worship, and reflections about Nathaniel’s life. We all left with hearts lifted by remembering God’s grace in Nate’s life and our own lives and enjoying again the joy of Nathaniel Chester,II.
Now Thank We All Our God: The Community Gathers In Thanksgiving with Pastor Judy and Pastor Marina Teresa, RC Women Priests
Members and friends of The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida gathered on Saturday 11/17/2018 to give thanks to God and to bless one another with love and joy. This very special community is made up of formerly homeless, homeless and a variety of other members who are dedicated to compassion and justice for the poorest among us. The celebrants for the traditional Mass were Pastor Judy Lee,RCWP and Rvda. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia,RCWP. After a joyful worship service in which all join in consecration and all are welcomed to the Table, we also enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast prepared by Kathy Roddy and we celebrated several birthdays as well. As one member noted “the family is here together”. Twenty-three of us of all cultures and colors and life situations ranging in age from one year to 89 years with five young adults present as well were able to gather and also to pray for those who were not with us due to illness, death or other reasons. We prayed for the sick among us with a laying on of hands. We reflected that our dearly departed members including Co-Pastor Judy Beaumont, RCWP and Linda Maybin, Gary Knafla, Claire Powley,Mike Murray, Robert Swanson and several others were truly with us in spirit. And we welcomed Nancy Chism of Naples, Florida and “JG”,another newer member to our midst. We noted that several members from the 2007 Church in the Park and also from our Good Shepherd Church in the House were present and enjoying their homes and being together over the years. Some had come through life threatening illnesses and some were still battling cancer, brittle diabetes and other illnesses, some still struggled with how unbelievably hard loss is, and some struggled with how the future will be for them. But all expressed thanksgiving and hope.
The Readings for the day were Deuteronomy 8:7-18; Psalm 67; I Corinthians 13-9 and Luke 17: 11-19. In the Hebrew Scriptures we were reminded that it is our God who meets our needs and Who guides and sustains us through the wildernesses we face in life. There are many dangers in the wilderness, but God protects us from harm and fear and actually feeds and nurtures us in the hardest of times as well as in the best of times. Some of us are going through the hardest of times now. (We can think of our own lives and also of the people in the Caravan from Central America, and the people in the wild and all consuming fires in California). And we reflect on God with us through those hard times and we are thankful, even despite the difficulties and sometimes because of them, that we know that God still has our back. We are not alone and we can’t do it on our own. Yet, no matter how strong it seems, Evil will not prevail. God is still with us. Thanks be to God.
In I Corinthians 1 Paul tells the church in Corinth that he is thankful for them, for witnessing their considerable spiritual gifts in action. Pastor Judy reflected on how thankful she is for the good Shepherd church members who live the gospel and serve one another and others in great need. And like Paul, she noted “God will strengthen you until the end. God is faithful.”
Our Cook Kathy
And finally In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives us the parable of the ten lepers. All were healed when they asked Jesus to heal them, all were made whole. But nine went on their way while only one, a foreigner, a Samaritan, came back to say thank you. In fact, he could hardly contain his thanks and joy. Jesus said that this man’s faith had indeed saved him. And, our faith in the midst of strong troubles not only in times of smooth sailing, is what is healing us. We see that Jesus is touching all of us, and healing us- making us whole- even in the midst of trouble-we are made capable of love and joy on every level of our being. And the people said AMEN!
I only wish I could have captured the looks on the faces of those gathered as we sang “Thank you, God” together. It was from the bottom of our hearts and souls.
There was also a special joy in welcoming Phyllis’s newest grand child Derrick, almost one. And also in sharing the hopes of some of our younger members.
We closed our worship with a spirited variation of the hymn “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” with She’s got the whole world in Her hands- God, our loving Mother and Father, is carrying us and our world. And finally WE have the whole world in our hands-it is our job to care for the environment, for all God’s creatures,and for one another. And we are so thankful for the opportunity to make church together and to do this as a church community.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP