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
Here are two recent articles affirming change in the Roman Catholic Church in the direction of inclusion for all of the baptized who are prepared and called, specifically for women in the priesthood. While Australian Bishop Long recognizes that all of archaic clericalism needs to be changed before it can happen, he affirms the importance of women in the Roman Catholic priesthood. He applauds Pope Francis for bringing new wine to the church and considers women in the priesthood as another hope for new wine in the church even as the old wineskins of tradition and structure are also made new so they can hold the vital new wine.
This is from LifeSite News, lifesitenews.com, by Dorothy Cummings McClean, 10/23/18.
In the second article we get the viewpoint of a young female Husite Catholic Priest as she is seated as the only female at the Church’s World Congress for Youth. ARCWP Bishop Bridget Mary’s comment is that hopefully next year RCWP Priests who are now over 264 strong throughout the world may be seated and contribute to this important Congress.
Clearly women RC Priests are already here! (This picture is illustrative and only a part of one section of Roman Catholic Women Priests International- the US Eastern region.)
The Holy spirit of our loving God will call whom She will-let no structures impede God’s call. Here’s to new wine in the Church!
Blessings, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Pastor good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
Leslie Frances Handy,60, and Celie Katovitch, 29, were ordained transitional Roman Catholic Deacons in a sacred and joyful traditional Ordination ceremony at the Stony Point Conference Center in Stony Point, New York by Bishop Andrea Johnson of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, Eastern Region on October 14, 2018. Each woman is well prepared for the diaconate by life,service, ministerial and educational experience and will serve into 2019 in their respective communities of Baltimore, Maryland and Rochester, New York.
Fran Handy, as she likes to be called, has led a life of service. She was a religious Sister for many years before returning to lay status and continuing to pursue opportunities to serve God’s people. She holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and is completing a Master’s Degree in Theology and Pastoral Service at Global Ministries University. She is a part of the Living Waters Inclusive Catholic Community in Maryland and will serve as Deacon with them. She is married to Mimi Giguere, works a full time job and lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her passion is to serve the poor, the outcast, children and families and the LGBTQ community.
Celie Katovitch of Syracuse, New York, has ministerial experience as an ordained Pastor in the Unitarian Universalist Church before returning to Roman Catholicism and membership in the Spiritus Christi Catholic Community in Rochester, New York. Her undergraduate degree is in Philosophy, Peace and Justice from Gettysburg University. She holds a Master’s of Divinity Degree from Harvard University Divinity School(2013) and is also a graduate in Spiritual Direction from the Haden Institute(2018). Her commitment is to serve the poor and disenfranchised.
We are truly blessed and happy to have Fran and Celie as Deacons in the Roman Catholic Women Priests, Eastern Region.
The first picture below is of Deacons Celie and Fran with Priest Jackie Clarys.
The second is all of the Eastern Region priests who were able to be in attendance at this joyful celebration.
The Ordination followed the Retreat of the Eastern Region’s clergy at the rustic and beautiful Stony Point Center from 10/12-14. On the first night we celebrated the lives of two of our priests who died this year: Judy Beaumont and Claire Gareau. Priest Gloria Carpeneto who had been Claire’s mentor told of her gentleness and service and her love of baseball. And I, at times tearfully, shared two poems about the life of unceasing compassion, prayer and service led by Judy. In a truly moving celebration of their lives we shared the grief of loss and the hope of lives lived entirely for and with Christ in love and service.
In the picture below our Colombian priests, Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, Judith Bautista Fajardo and Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez sit at the memory altar and consider the lives of Judy and Claire.
As Judy Beaumont and I went to Colombia four times to assist the priests there having our Colombian priests at this Memorial Celebration was particularly meaningful.
The topic of the Retreat was “Claiming Our Prophetic Voice and Witness” structured on the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus in John 4. Our retreat leader was Amy Wellborn who was amazing. We applied this truly exciting story to our individual lives and to our mission as Roman Catholic Women Priests. One of the questions we considered was: “We also pondered the questions; How do we speak to power? How do we read the signs of the times? How do we create bridges to the future? and How do we embody the gospel message?”. As Roman Catholic Women Priests we are wondering if witnessing and being a new model of church is our prophetic call?” We did not find all of the answers but generated energy to pursue these important questions by our work and caring interactions.
How blessed we were and how fitting it was to end this important retreat with the ordination of two new Deacons! Celie and Fran, Fran and Celie,Bienvenidos, Welcome! ANd Bendiciones, Blessings! You remain in our hearts and prayers as you continue to serve our loving God.
This is the quilt of our names made by our Priest Barbara Beadles. Our departed members lead us at the top of the quilt.
THANKS BE TO GOD!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP