Janet Lillian Blake led a fulfilling and wonderful life (1938-2021). She was a beloved mother, wife, sister, aunt, cousin and friend to those gathered at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Center Moriches, New York on Saturday March 19,2022. She died in Hobe Sound, Florida where she and her husband James Blake lived for over forty years. She returned home to our loving God after a long bout with cancer. She was victorious in this battle for several years before succumbing and she was always thankful for the support of her loving family, especially Jim who cared for her until a brief hospice stay at the end, and her children Lori Whitlatch Post of New York and Timothy Whitlatch of Virginia and their families. Her brother Bobby Robinson of New York and niece and nephew Kathleen Knoppert and Kenneth Robinson and their families, also of New York, were also always there for her and in her heart, as were all of her loved ones.
The Scriptures were read by Ken Robinson and Kathy Knoppert, Janet’s niece and nephew. Ken read Isaiah 25:6-9, God will wipe away every tear and destroy death forever. Kathy read I Corinthians 13-“the greatest of these is love” which also speaks to the quality of Janet’s love for her family. The Gospel was John 14:1-6 where Jesus says that he is going to prepare a place for us and he will bring us to that place to be with him in eternal life. The grave, the end, is the beginning for those who believe in Christ and live a life of love. We prayed that our loving God will “grant Janet a place of rest and peace where the world of dust and ashes has no dominion. Confirm in us your hope that she will be created anew…to raise her up in glory to live with You and all the saints, forever and ever”.
At the graveside service Janet’s son Timothy Whitlatch gave the Eulogy. (He is top row right end in the group picture). It was a wonderful review of her life as a mother, and as a woman who loved life. Timothy remembered that his mother had a picture with an inspirational saying that she took from home to home with her -“Faith can break the sky in two and let the face of God shine through.” She also had a plaque of a little Dutch boy and girl that she labelled with “Lori” and “Tim.” I was reminded of an antique picture of a beautiful guardian angel with two children, a girl and a boy crossing a rickety bridge, because Tim said that she used to say “Angels with” whenever anyone left her. So this was our time to say to Janet: “ANGELS WITH”. Dearest Janet, the angels are with you and you are our angel now. Timothy ended the Eulogy with “Angels With”.
I am Janet’s cousin and was honored to be asked by her children to preside at her graveside service to commit her spirit to God forever. I last saw her a few years back with the rest of our family’s Florida contingent, our other cousins, Jack and Daniel McGarry and their spouses who lived near Janet on the East Coast of Florida. She was well then and she invited me to her home and we also had wonderful meals and parties with the whole Florida contingent. I was glad to reunite with my New York family to remember her. Because of my faith commitment even before my ordination in 2007 as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, I presided at other family funerals. Notably I helped to lay Janet’s father, my beloved special Uncle, Julian C. Robinson, to rest in the early 1990’s. As our faith filled grandmother, Ella Robinson Weinmann would say, “God’s love for us was from the cradle past the grave to forever.” And so we came together to celebrate Janet with our love as well on this day.
Janet was cherished by a large circle of loved ones, only some of whom could attend this Service of Commendation and Commitment. After the graveside service there was a warm and moving gathering at Buckleys in Center Moriches where those gathered looked at pictures and mementos of her life and shared stories and memories. There was much laughter and tears as the bonds were renewed and Janet was remembered.
At the end of the Service we asked that we take leave of Janet in the “sure hope of life eternal, let us go in peace and live lives of love and hope as Janet did”.
And we prayed the Irish blessing:
Dear Janet and your beloved family and friends,
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of God’s hand” Amen
ANGELS WITH, dearest Janet, Angels With…. Angels With dear family, Angels with….
With so much love from your family and friends
and your cousin, Judy
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
On Saturday afternoon, April 2, 2022, twenty-two members and friends of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida gathered to worship together and enjoy the family of God as they moved toward Easter joy. Our diverse and enthusiastic group ranged from those in their 20’s to our 93 year old senior member, several cultures and all genders and races and colors of the rainbow. As I looked at them I thought “oh, the beautiful face of Christ.”.
In the picture above, Pastor Judy Lee carries our Cross for the Altar table outside the homes of six members who live in the Goodwill Community for the physically disabled in East Fort Myers where we have met several times during the Covid 19 pandemic. Our Church Elder, Mr. Harry Lee Peter Gary (top left) opens his home for our setting up and our faithful member Pearl Cudjoe (top right) makes sure we have a meal for each one attending for our Fellowship Time after Church. Donna Girasi and Kathy Roddy and Stella Odie Ali (not pictured here) also brought wonderful food and desert for our meal time. Also in the picture are Donna Girasi (seated left) who read the Hebrew Scripture and Brenda Cummings (seated right) who read our New Testament Scripture. Next to her is our beloved Ellen McNally who always brings a table full of donated items for perusal after the service. Ellen, who is in her nineties has been doing this since we began our ministry of worship and a meal as Church in the Park in 2007. Mr. Gary and Brenda and Pearl have been with us faithfully since that time as well. Next to Ellen were Kathy Overby and Kathy Lauwagie, our snowbirds from Minnesota. We were so pleased to have them with us. This was a very hot day and all understood as we let them know that in the coming hot and rainy season we would no longer be able to meet outside. As one member said, God will provide a suitable worship space for another time.
We began by singing This is the Day Our God Has Made and asking God through song to Revive Us Again. To bring us back to full life.
Our worship theme this Fifth Sunday of Lent (using the Year A readings with the rising of Lazarus as the Gospel) was praying and interceding for our loved ones and assisting them to live. And, embracing resurrection, including our own rising up from the dead. With our care for others we, and they too, may rise from what keeps us from the fullness of life, now and forever-to rise from the dead. We also had special intentions for the people of the Ukraine and for peace there and everywhere, and for our member Joe Baker, who is currently hospitalized in ICU.
Our Readings were: Ezekiel 37:12-14 where God promises: “I will raise you from your graves, put my breath in you and you shall live.” ; Psalm 130 with the Response ” With You are kindness and plenteous redemption”; Romans 8:8-11 where we learn that the Spirit of Christ lives within us (and so we are empowered to serve one another); and the Gospel: John 11:1-45 where we see Jesus loving his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and Mary and Martha pleading for their brother who dies, and Jesus weeps with the sisters and friends before raising Lazarus from the dead.
The homily by Pastor Judy was a mixture of interactive style and preaching. Members felt free to dialogue with Pastor Judy as she preached and to talk with one another on the themes. This interaction underlined the theme of our job of interceding for and helping one another even as Mary and Martha interceded for their brother. They were extremely upset and simply would not let Jesus go until he did something even after their brother died. The two things Jesus did, crying with them and then actually raising Lazarus from the dead demonstrates what we as a faith community can do for one another and for all who need intervention. When action is not easy we can simply be with one another in our pain. That in itself is a great gift that helps. We reflected together on those we pray for and those we help with our actions and with our prayers. When we feel that we cannot do something to help our loved ones, we can pray, and that too is doing something. As Mary and Martha plead with Jesus to help- and he did, we too can bring the needs of those we care about before our loving God. God, of course already knows the needs of our loved ones, but it is good for us to try to meet those needs and if we cannot to pray, even to plead, to let God know about the pain of our brothers and sisters. Mr. Gary made the point that Jesus asked the family members to take the funeral clothes off of Lazarus. He reflected on how we sometimes put grave clothes on others rather than take them off. He prayed that we may learn to watch what we say and do that puts funeral clothes on others. That we may learn not to judge others but to help them live.
We took time here to call out names of those in need of prayers in our immediate circles and throughout the world. While we will pray together again as we do our general intercessions, right now we can pray, we can always pray. Part of our work for and with others in Christian service, prayer is work as well. And here I reflect that the prayers of our people never fail to move me, and I know they move our loving God as well.
We reflected on the lives of two of our members who make sure that others are helped. We remembered our Grandma Jolinda Harmon who now intercedes for us from heaven, who would always seek prayer and help for those she loved especially if she felt that help was beyond her. And just this week Angie Glover worried about her neighbor, our brother Joe Baker who lives right where we are meeting. She bothered the landlord until they went in and found him in bed in a pool of blood. He was immediately sent to the hospital where he remains in ICU. We prayed for Joe and we thanked Sister Angie for getting him the help he needed and for then visiting him and following up on his care. We talked about the self centeredness that sometimes keeps us from seeing or responding to the needs of our neighbors and loved ones. We asked God’s help to overcome inherent selfishness this Lenten season. We prayed to become God centered and other centered more than self centered. We saw that helping others helps us to rise up and live and prayed to be able to do this so that we too may rise again.
Our prayers included in specific and in general the need to stop violence in our communities and in the world. We centered on the Ukraine but also added many other places in the world including our own community. We sang Thank You God during Holy Communion. And we thanked Jesus for the sacrifice of His life, His body and Blood for us, noting that now we receive His body and blood and we become the Body Of Christ, serving one another. We sang What A Friend we have in Jesus, and affirmed that once again we have Decided to Follow Jesus.
We affirmed that though the road for us , like Lazarus, will lead to death, through Christ there will be and is Rising Again. We thanked God that Easter is coming!
After church we continued our fellowship with a meal and with celebrating our March- April Birthdays including Joelle White,15, and Timothy Vanderwarf,48. We were so thankful that our church family had another chance to meet and worship, and to enjoy such good companionship on the road to Easter.
Below are some of our members enjoying fellowship and a meal.
Thanks Be to God!
Love and Blessings, Easter is coming! Rise Up and Live!
Pastor Judy Lee, Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
On this day when LOVE is celebrated we send you all a love note from God, who is Love. And, we remember your loves with you and share our love with you as well. We want everyone to have a Valentine’s Day Message on this day, so consider this your very own card.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed God’s love among us: God sent God’s one and only Son into the world that we might live through him…..Dear Friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…” I John 4 7-10, 11.) On this day let us say I love you to our loving God, whose creation gives us beauty and order and awe and who loves us completely and fully, and knows us like know other and wants to be in relationship with us. Be loved by God today and always. And let us say I love you to one another.
When we remember our loves on this day, we may remember our grandparents, parents and family members here with us and gone before. We remember their love for us. We remember their sacrifices for us and their ways of giving to everyone, and especially to us. It may well not have been perfect love like God’s love, but it was the best they could do and often perfect for us. And here we are, living to remember their love and to continue loving as best we can. We remember the elders in our Church families and families of choice as well. Below are two wonderful women who went home to God in the past year after lifetimes of love and service and faithfulness in our Good Shepherd Church.
We remember our family members near and far away with so much love.
And our families of creation:
We also remember our lifetime friends, those who are still with us, and those who have gone home to God. We regret that only a few dear and special friends can be included here or this story would go on forever. And love does go on forever.
We also remember the animals who love us so well.
We Remember Our CHURCH FAMILY With Much Love For Valentine’s Day
We close here with remembering all of our loved ones on this day, only sorry that not all can be here in pictures, but be assured that they are here in our hearts.
May our loving God bless you on this Valentine’s Day and surround you with love and peace and joy.
HAPPY ST. VALENTINE”S DAY
With love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
“Im not scared of dying, and I don’t really care, if its peace you find by dying, well, let the time be near…” Blood, Sweat and Tears
Somehow the thinly veiled depressive note of “not really caring” about death comes through the words of Blood, Sweat and Tears’ song. And while it is true as the song says that a baby is born and life goes on after our deaths the resignation to, but not acceptance of, death is a subtext. Most of us do “really care” and many of us do everything we can to avoid even thinking about dying and death.
A lot of our contemporary music and a host of hymns, old and new, capture feelings about death and dying. Dolly Parton sings “I Will Always Love you”, and Aretha Franklin sang “The Day is Past and Gone” a traditional African American hymn about “the night of death” drawing near, praying for safety in the night and drawing into the bosom of God’s love “when we from time remove”. Vince Gill sings “Go Rest High On that Mountain” where he anticipates his brother’s welcome into heaven. Martin Luther King Jr’s favorite hymn was “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”. In hardest times and “when my life is almost gone…And the day is past and gone, Take my hand, Precious Lord, lead me home.” And in the RC Church we sing “And I will raise you up on eagle’s wings…”and “I will raise you up, I will raise you up on the last day.” ( Yo los resucitare….en el dia final. “) This is the chorus of the hymn “I Am the Bread of Life” by Suzanne Toolan, RSM. ( Yo Soy el Pan de Vida). “I am the life, If you believe in me, even though you die, you shall live forever.” This is from the Gospel of John-John 6:35-40; and, John 11:25. Christ followers are filled with hope for life after death, for living on with Love, “in the bosom of God’s love”, as Aretha Franklin sang. Yet even the buffer of faith does not mean that facing death, one’s own or the death of a loved one is easy for anyone.
These songs speak to the grief process in losing a loved one, and to the feeling of death as ‘NIGHT” and then the hope of resurrection as Jesus was raised from the dead, and the sense of a peaceful and even happy afterlife. Yet, it is human to avoid thoughts of death and dying until we absolutely must face them in our lives.
A close friend recently told me that I seem to have an awareness of death that energizes my life. This was in the context of getting important things done while time permits. I am thankful to her for that observation as I have not thought about mortality awareness in quite a while. And, it is an important concept to deal with at various points in life. And it is important to deal with it from many perspectives, for me, most importantly, the perspective of faith.
When I was a Professor of Social Work for 27 years, ( from my thirties through my 50’s at three major Universities and one starting the MSW Program) I sometimes taught a Course called Human Behavior in the Social Environment, or Human Development. My primary teaching was in methods of helping people, in the one to one, small group, or organizational level, mostly individual and group clinical counselling. My specialty was group services and occasionally I liked to teach the Human Behavior Course, underpinning all interventions. I remember teaching that mortality awareness develops over the life span and happens differently for people depending on their life experiences, but that senior citizens are generally likely to develop this awareness most keenly. I was not a Senior as I taught this so I relied on life experiences that heightened my own mortality awareness, like the death of my beloved grandmother when I was twenty, which literally turned my life upside down; and my mother’s sudden death when I was forty-four that cut me to the core of my heart; and the early and difficult death of a dear friend who was like a brother to me in my fifties. Those deaths were deeply hard for me and heightened my awareness of death and the importance of relationships and life. Students would also share their death experiences sometimes happening in childhood and adolescence as well.
We talked about the life-giving potential of death awareness. We also talked about the anxiety and fear and repulsion that exists for some who prefer to forget and deny that awareness in order to cope. However, while I taught that the older years were the special province of such awareness, I was not yet there and could not deeply reflect on it. I can now. And I can attest that there is a very different feel to this awareness now. It is more deeply personal and more deeply challenging and energizing and, yes, more salient and imminent.
There are many recent articles online on Mortality Awareness, or Mortality Salience as some call it. For example, I like Why Being Aware of Your Mortality Can Be Good For You in The Apopka Voice, 7/5/20- https://www.theapopkavoice.com. It highlights the potential for motivation to overcome laziness and procrastination and to experience life the way you want it to be. It also highlights embracing spirituality as a major motivation as a way of accepting death awareness. Many articles talk about belief systems and faith as mitigating fear of death and enhancing acceptance of the reality. One article talks about the development of self-esteem as another key mitigating factor. In other words if we love ourselves we will take care of ourselves and place the emphasis on life, not death even while we are aware of it. For example one might see The Worm At the Core; On the Role of Death in Life (2015) by Jeff Greenberg, Sheldon Solomon, and Tom Pyszcynski on Mortality Salience and something called Terror Management Theory. They see cultural world views including belief systems, and self esteem as helping to return death-fearful persons to a state of equilibrium. A controlled study of 51 persons by Daniel Spitzenstatte and Tatjana Schnell, 2020, shows a decrease in the fear of dying in people who were taught interventions on how to deal with death awareness. In other words learning about death and dying can decrease fear. This includes talking about it and not primarily using denial. (https.//www.doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2020.808737 ). Another important book on this subject is Gratitude by Oliver Sacks 92015,Alfred A. Knopf). These are essays written in the last months of his life which explores his feelings about completing a life and coming to terms with his own death. In it he says, My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return….(life) has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”.
Similarly those who work with and serve dying people, in pastoral care or in professional care of the dying and grieving, or in just being a friend to those facing such fears, are asked to confront their own mortality so they can serve well. An example is given of a medical doctor who avoids a patient who is dying because he feels that he can not do anything to prevent it. The doctor reflects his sadness that he did not at least sit with the patient and allow him to talk and express his feelings about his life and dying. This is important for those of us in ministry and other helping professions, and with those who have loved ones facing death, to note. We can “BE WITH” the severely ill and dying and not have to fix it. And this can happen best when we are comfortable with our own dying and aware of our own feelings about death.
My Reflections on Death and Dying
In my post-75 later Senior years I might say that I have become friendly with death. I can say that death is my friend, I know “she” is always around, yet, it is not the time to welcome her in. Far from being morbid or depressed or fearful of death, I know the time will come when I will welcome her, and my crossing over. I have experienced two cancers that were frightening. Thankfully, both cancers were “cured” by surgery without chemo or radiation following. I faced my mortality head on and quickly and was so thankful to live. I also faced the four cancers my beloved partner in life and ministry, Judy Beaumont, faced. Over almost fifteen years she beat three cancers, and the last one ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia) was not to be beaten. She fought, I fought with her. She went home to our loving God, in God’s mercy, on January 1, 2018. Three life threatening cancers were vanquished and she went on living life fully and joyfully, including in 2012 becoming ordained and serving as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest).
I am full of Life now, my health is excellent and my outlook, especially having found love again, such a miracle, is more positive than possibly it has ever been. I am happy. I am living every day-doing the ordinary, the sometimes easy, the sometimes difficult, and the sometimes extremely joyful things of living and of being the Pastor of our Good Shepherd Ministries. Aging is a series of challenges, mostly not too hard yet. Not being as fast as I was mentally, and physically is not easy for me. Pastoring is a joy and also a major responsibility. I love my family , my friends, my pets, my kitty rescue work which sometimes overwhelms, and most especially my beloved. Yet, I deeply know death is not our enemy. I know that God takes us home when it is (or perhaps will be) just too hard to remain here. Oh yes, when a loved one or even an animal I see in the natural world dies, I am stopped in my tracks. And here I want to stress that for those who have much loved pets, losing one is losing a family member and duly difficult, and in need of comfort. I pray for all of them, I pray that they are with Love, with our loving God, and I pray for those they left behind in loss and grief. I have been there so many times by now that I know deeply how they feel. I do not know what it is like to die, or to cross over , to make my transition into eternal life. But I have been with loved ones to that border. As both a person and a Pastor, many times I have shepherded some of my beloved people, and beloved pets too, as far as I could go. And many more times I have comforted the grieving, and lived my own grief. And, as I have described elsewhere, even as Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:4-9) and it changed his life completely, I experienced the miracle of seeing the risen Judy Beaumont and it filled me with love and with the assurance of life eternal. It turned the “night of death” into the day of love for me. ( The reader may see, for example, my book “The Courage to Love and Serve: the Life Story of Rev. Judith Ann Beaumont-A Roman Catholic Woman Priest And A Saint For Our Times” (2020: Outskirts Press: pp. 292-302), where I describe the fruitful life of service and the fruitful death of Rev. Judy Beaumont, and her post-death appearance to me while blessing a newly ordained deacon at a RCWP (Roman Catholic Woman Priest’s) Ordination. So my Christian faith, and this miraculous experience, has given me a hope of rising again that will take me to the grave and rising, of others, yes, and to my own dying and rising.
In the last year or so, my blog https://www.judyabl.blog has described several difficult losses of my loved ones, and those I serve pastorally in love, and several funerals where I was called to preside. Despite my faith and belief in the resurrection, the reader will see how much I continue to love and miss these dear people. Accepting death as a friend does not mean that it is ever easy to accept the loss of a loved one. But it does mean that one can fully appreciate the fruitfulness of their lives and their entry into the life to come. And it does mean that there can be a real awareness that love does last forever.
So if you are reading this and are facing life threatening illness, or dying and death head on, take heart. There is nothing to fear, for our God is Love and the love we have in our hearts for our loved ones, and theirs for us, will last forever.
Happy Valentines Day-Love is FOREVER ,
Love and blessings, Pastor Judy Lee,
Good Shepherd Ministries of SW Florida
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Jean was a beautiful woman of remarkable vibrant vitality and a love for life and family and friends, and active sports from her early years until her recent passing (March 16, 1942-December 27, 2021). In early December Jean was admitted to the hospital somewhat against her will as she never trusted the medical system, after her son, Chris, found her suffering. This move saved her life as she had sepsis from a foot wound and she underwent difficult systemic treatment. She also seemed to have suffered small strokes leaving her unable to speak well or use her hands, rise or walk. As she was recovering these abilities she was transferred to a rehab facility that was not very good. Her sons, Jeff and Chris Bauer made sure she was transferred to the best facility available. She began to take hold and seemed to start the road to recovery well. Then, despite being fully vaccinated with the booster but immunocompromised due to her sepsis and treatments she was diagnosed with Covid19. A day later she passed from this world where things had become too hard to bear to the arms of our loving God.
And, oh, the difference to us….
Jean and I were close friends for 57 years and it is very hard to accept that she is gone from us. There is a great void that she had filled with love and bright, sometimes questioning conversation. Her opinions were always strong and there was no doubt as to what she was saying or feeling. But she was also thoughtful and listened and considered well as she spoke. And when you needed her she was right there. Her vitality lit up the world for all who knew her well. Her love was loyal and unwavering, and, for her, those she loved were always first. We shared our Christian Catholic faith in common. She strongly believed in the Risen Christ and the eternal life offered to her through Christ. She was a faithful attendee at weekly Mass in Washingtonville, and at times she attended daily Mass as well. I know that her loving friendship goes beyond the grave until we meet again in the presence of our loving God who does not ask us to bear what we cannot bear. I spoke to Jean a few days before she passed. She was so thankful for the love of her sons and family but she was upset as she saw the length of the road back as daunting and she could not bear immobility or having to depend on others for basic needs. I think God heard her and she is home free and whole with our loving God now. We can rejoice in that. But our profound sadness is in missing her and her love for us.
Jean and I met when we were 22 and 23, after we graduated from Hunter College, CUNY. We had not known each other at Hunter but it was an initial bond between us as we learned how to be social workers and serve foster children and families at the NYC, Bureau of Child Welfare, Division of Foster Home Care (DFHC). We had lunch together frequently and our friendship developed. We would bring lunch and eat in the park or go to little Italy for a special meal. Sometimes she would get the car and we would go to Nathans in Coney Island. We had many jokes about our co-workers and supervisors and could often be seen giggling like kids. She called one boss Casper Milk Toast, and another Hands short for Ugly Big White Hands. Because she drove, she had an Upstate territory that she loved. She was also asked to help deliver the Christmas gifts to all of the children the agency served. We did this together and enjoyed every minute of it. She also assisted me when I worked with teenage foster girls groups, especially when we went on trips. We helped each other to give our best to the children we served.
When inter-agency softball teams were formed they had to be co-ed. Jean and I were the only women on our team and she could out hit and out catch any of the men. They were busy watching her play so they may not have been at their best games. Jean was a talented athlete who especially loved skiing. She tried to teach me and my husband, John, how to ski but I had little talent for it. Watching her soar downhill was a beautiful sight to behold. She was adventurous and even tried flying lessons. She was also a great bowler, but no one in the group could keep up with her.
Our friendship developed outside of work and we had a little group consisting of Jean and me and John and his brother Peter and our friend, Leo Andrews. Her childhood friend Barbara Walsh accompanied us on a trip where we went boating at the Delaware Water Gap. None of us were great at this and we landed out of the boats with our legs scraped by the rocks and the water rushing more often than not. But we had great fun. Sometimes we would stop by her sister Lily’s Italian and Greek Bakery and have delicious goodies. Sometimes we would go to her family home in Fort Lee where her gracious mother would make us fabulous Italian meals. There we would also meet her oldest sister Nella and the girls and sometimes her brother Richie. Over time I felt this wonderful family was my extended family too.
Our favorite outing was to Rockaway Beach and Inlet where we would enjoy the beach and then go clamming. Once we forgot a bucket for the clams. Jean saved the day by stuffing the clams down the front of her swimsuit, much to our laughter. Later she made us spaghetti with our own clam sauce. She moved to Union Street in Brooklyn and our fun continued. She loved driving her Volvo and she helped me deliver my young cousin Jackie from Coney Island to East Brooklyn to see her father. Jackie will never forget how Jean facilitated this important relationship for her.
I left the agency to pursue my MSW in 1967 and by then Jean and I were inseparable friends. John and I joined Jean in her summer trips to the family home in San Lorenzo in Banale in the Italian Alps near the beautiful Lake Molveno. We loved seeing her parents and Nella and the family there as well. We loved that beautiful mountain town framed by the prominent church steeple and the clouds in the sky. We loved our side trips with Jean and exploring the Alto Adige and Dolomites with her and her father Eligio while her mother and Nella prepared wonderful meals.
The Agency paid for our Master’s studies and Jean took her MSW at Adelphi a little later. She then enjoyed working creatively with Senior Citizens groups. But what called Jean most was the desire to be a mother. It was wonderful when she met Gene Bauer and they married. They were truly a handsome couple. I enjoyed being her Matron Of Honor and Gene’s brother Dick was the best man. When Gene and Jean moved upstate to Washingtonville Gene would meet me in the city and drive me up to spend the weekends with them. He appreciated that I had been a PAL worker too. Jean loved Washingtonville and the beautiful piece of land and her house. Her love was poured into gardening and landscaping and cooking her wonderful Italian cuisine, and caring for her various kitties.
Once the children came in 1976 and 1977 her love was lavished upon them. She loved each very different son fully and unconditionally. Her job as mother was the one she loved the most. I loved seeing her play with the boys, especially in the snow. I remember also the happy times when Jean brought the boys to visit me in West Hartford when I taught at UConn School of Social Work. We loved taking nearby trips and it was a pleasure to see the boys so happy in their discoveries of the world. With Jean’s love and creativity, it is no wonder that Jeff and Chris are such remarkable men today. When they married well and the grandchildren came it was Jean’s greatest joy to be with them. Nona was her favorite title.
Jean told me about each of her wonderful grandchildren with love and pride. She told me about Jeff’s family visiting her and her trips to Washington including her last trip to see they youngest girl make her First Holy Communion. That trip was very hard on Jean physically but she loved every minute of it. And visiting Chris and his family in NYC and the Hamptons was the highlight of her later years. Jean was the unusual woman, these days, whose life was her family, and all profited from her love.
Jean loved visiting in Florida since we moved to Fort Myers in 1998. We enjoyed many times at the poolside and at the beach. Jean was at my side in support when I was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest in 2008. She helped with our Good Shepherd Ministry here as well. When my life partner and her good friend, Judy Beaumont, died of leukemia in January of 2018 Jean understood the depth of my grief. She came to stay with me in February when we had the Memorial Mass and Celebration of Life and she literally got me through it.
Then Covid came and we could not see each other again, even after the loss of Gene in February of 2021. Yet we maintained our strong mutual support on the phone, always enjoying our long talks where we would remember to laugh. She would want you to remember the good times, and remember her love, and remember to laugh. She is loving us always.
With Love and Prayers,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Church,
Fort Myers, Florida
January 1, 2022
Christmas With Good Shepherd ICC and Revs. Judy Lee and Marina Teresa Sanchez M, Roman Catholic Women Priests
What a joy it was to celebrate Christmas with the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida. This is a joyful and spirited worshipping community served by Roman Catholic Woman Priests and it has been active since 2007. It began as “Church in the Park” and developed into a community worshipping in a house in central Fort Myers bought to use as a church with living space for homeless individuals or families as well. That building was sold in 2017 as our founding co-Pastor, Judith Beaumont, RCWP was preparing to go home to our loving God and she became our guiding Angel on January 1, 2018. We then met in a condo in central Fort Myers but could not continue during the pandemic. At this time the two regular Pastors are Rev. Dr. Judith Lee ,RCWP and Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia, RCWP. We also have guest Pastors to assist from time to time and wonderful church members. like Pearl Cudjoe, and Carol Schauf and Harry Gary and Kathy Roddy who assist in our gathering outside during this Covid pandemic. This Christmas gathering was held outside where several of our members live in East Fort Myers. And, on this day we also celebrated the December 19th 70th Birthday of our church elder, Mr. Harry Lee Peter Gary.
We began with “Oh Come Oh Ye Faithful” as this lively group of young and old, all shades, cultures and sizes and orientations and life statuses, has been faith-full over many years.
And of course we chanted our usual hymn This is the Day our God has made, and later, we claimed the ground and one another and ourselves as “Holy Ground”. The readings were the Christmas readings including Isaiah 9:1-6 from the Hebrew Scriptures read by our Jewish friend and visitor, Donna Girasi, (the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…) and Psalm 96 lead by Mr. Gary and Titus 2:11-14. We added Luke 1:26-38 before the readings in order to include the call of Mary read by Carol Schauf and the Gospel of the day was Luke 2: 1-14- the journey of Joseph and Mary to the stable and the call of the shepherds to follow the star. We responded with SOON AND VERY SOON we are giong to see the king. And we ended with a rousing chorus of Go Tell It on the Mountain- that Jesus Christ is born!
Pastor Judy’s homily was “Do Not Be Afraid”. When Mary, and Joseph, and the Shepherds experienced the astonishing presence of God illuminating the birth of Christ they were troubled (Mary) and down right afraid, (Joseph and the Shepherds). Yet, each responded with a desire to do God’s will and to welcome the Christ-child, Jesus whose birth would be the entrance of God into our human existence in a new way. God would become one of us, and show us how to live our lives as God intended. And, to bring justice and peace into the world. Pastor Judy looked to the young women in our gathering and said that Mary was also a young girl, maybe in mid adolescence when she was called to be Jesus’ mother, the bearer of God. Each of them, and each one present,is also being asked to bear God, to be Theotokos, God Bearers, to bear Christ to the world….does that scare us? How will we each respond?
She looked at the young men, and all of the men, and asked how it would be to raise someone else’s child? To do what they hardly understand if God asked. And she asked all of us if we could just leave our work and get up and follow and then go and tell what they saw, as the shepherds did. The shepherds were likened to having a good but “lower level” not so easy job, like working at McDonald’s. One person added “they froze their butts at night”. And, we spoke of how God chose the ordinary people, working people, and the poor to share the word about the birth of the Christ-child. God chose to begin the miracle of living on this earth among God’s believing people, among those others call the “lowly”. But they were just the right ones to bear Christ to the world. And so are we. We looked at many things that make us afraid these days including illnesses and drive by shootings and financial stress. Those gathered spoke out, and we took a moment to name and to pray for the loved ones harmed or killed by shootings. And we looked at trusting our loving God when we are afraid. We ended by putting our fears aside, trusting God’s goodness and welcoming the Christ-child, welcoming Love who came down to us, and bearing that great LOVE to the world.
After the homily and singing Soon and Very Soon we prayed together. Our intercessions were guided by those gathered and also healing prayer was requested. We raised our hands over one another and the Pastors prayed at the side of each one.
All were invited and welcome to the Table of Jesus and we sang Silent Night and then Thank You God as holy communion/the Eucharist was received.
We concluded with Go Tell It on the Mountain and agreed to be Christ Bearers to the world around us.
Then we gathered afterward to celebrate Mr. Gary’s 70th Birthday and to receive Christmas gifts for each one gathered. Below Debbie Carey and her daughter Joelle gather with Mr. Gary and myself to lead in singing Happy Birthday.
We also remembered our dearly departed in our prayers and this dear family remembered their mother Linda Maybin and their Grandmother, Jolinda Harmon who are also our guiding Angels now.
Above Brenda Cummings and Ellen McNally and Stella Odie-Ali and Pearl Cudjoe sit with Pastors Judy and Marina Teresa on each end. All together our faithful provided a wonderful Christmas and Birthday celebration for us and we welcomed the Christ of Christmas into our lives and hearts, promising to “Go AND Tell” without fear or hesitation. It was a truly wonderful Christmas gathering.
MERRY CHRIST-MAS to all,
Love, and blessings,
Pastors Judy and Marina and the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Jesus Is Near: An Inspiring Visit To A Church Served By Roman Catholic Woman Priests in Thurmont, Maryland
On Sunday November 14, 2021 I was privileged to visit and provide the homily at a church served by Rev. Dr. Marilyn Rondeau, RCWP and other woman priests of the Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community in Thurmont, Maryland. This is one of the satellite churches of the Living Water Community in Baltimore, Maryland. It was formed with the catalyst of a faithful and amazing LIving Water member, Mary Hollomon who continues to support and sustain the Thurmont worship community with her selfless service. This satellite church and its core worship group meets in person while the larger “main church group” of Living Water served by several RCWP woman priests meets on Zoom during this Covid Pandemic. While not all Roman Catholic Women Priests have developed worship communities, The Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community stands out in developing and planting enlivened churches.
I was moved by the zeal and Christ-filled love of the Thurmont Living Water congregation that meets in Harriet Chapel, a beautiful historic Anglican Church set in the foothills of the Catoctin Mountains resplendent with Autumn’s gold, rust and red colors. The Chapel was built in 1828 and three Presidents of the United States also worshipped there: Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Lyndon B. Johnson. As the gifted Music Minister, Teresa Ichniowski, led us in the processional hymn All Are Welcome, the communal energy of this diverse group of members was palpable. It was matched only by the uplifting spiritual energy of Rev. Marilyn whose love for the people gathered was expressed in her voice and welcoming comments.
In the picture above Rev. Marilyn Rondeau gathers with core members after church. Rev. Jackie Clarys, RCWP and I are in the back row and Lay Leader and Eucharistic Minister Mary Holloman is on the left rear.
The readings for the day were what have been called end times or apocalyptic readings essentially saying: God is in charge and all shall be well. Daniel 12:1-3;Psalm 16:5,8-11; Hebrews 10:11-14,18; and the Gospel-Mark 13:24-32. The Gospel assures us that when we face times that are devastating, and feel like the end, Jesus is near, at the door. The theme for the day therefore was in times of trouble, on any scale, local or global, from personal to catastrophic “Jesus is Near” and to claim the fullness of life in such times, open the door and welcome, flee into the arms of, the presence of our loving God. It changes everything.
Interestingly, this Sunday, November 21, 2021 is the day of Christ the King of the Universe/Cosmos, when we celebrate the reign of Christ in this world. The apocalyptic readings are again in Daniel (7:13-14), and in Revelation(1:5-8) where we now see that at the last, bottom line, Christ reigns. In the Gospel (John 18:33b-37) Jesus clarifies that his kingdom/kindom is not of this world and that he came to testify to God’s truth. Indeed, in all he said and did he showed us God’s truth is LOVE. In the TV Mass of the Diocese of Venice, Florida today on EWTN, a young Priest from St. Agnes Parish in Naples ,Rev. Krystof Piotrowski, urged us to dream of the world where Christ would lead. He acknowledged that it is sometimes difficult to see that Christ is in charge when there are so many atrocities of injustice and violence, especially toward the poor, minorities of color and marginalized. Ultimately it is up to us who are the hands and feet of Christ now, the Church, the Body of Christ to work hard on establishing this world of love and justice. Pope Francis describes this world of love and justice and our jobs so well in Fratelli Tutti , his 2020 encyclical describing social friendship and how we are all brothers and sisters in Christ no matter religion, color, income, culture, caste, gender, sexual orientation or any other area of difference. I urge you to read this deep and marvelous statement of gospel truth.
I will now include my homily: Jesus is Near. Just click on the link.
In the group picture of the Thurman Community above my beloved cousin Jackie Weinmann Marion is in front of me. She is also a member of The Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community and they sang a rousing Happy Birthday to her. Below are Jackie and I are celebrating her Birthday together.
A Blessed Birthday Cousin Jackie, and many many more!.
And once again I thank the wonderful church at Thurmont for inviting me to worship with them. In the picture below Rev. Marilyn and I stand at the altar after the Mass.
Bless each one of you this Sunday when Christs reigns throughout the Universe,
Let us do the work to make this happen,
Love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic COmmunity of Fort Myers, Florida
God Loves and Sustains Women-As for the world….Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest Sunday November 7, 2021
The Scriptures for today, the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, are some of my favorite holy readings clearly proclaiming God’s love for women, and for children. In the Hebrew Scriptures, I Kings 17:10-16 we hear about the widow at Zarephath and the prophet Elijah. The context of the story is the prophet Elijah’s utter dependence upon God for his existence and the obedient faith of both Elijah and the woman. In the midst of a complete and devastating drought and famine in the area Elijah was sent to a widow to sustain him, in turn, he called upon God to sustain the woman and her son. Elijah met the widowed woman as she gathered kindling wood for a fire. He asked her for a cup of water and a piece of bread. She let him know that she had only a handful of flour left and that after she cooks it and she and her son ate it they would die. Elijah continued to ask for the bread but told her that she would have enough left for her and her son and that the flour and oil jars would remain filled. She and her child would not die. Indeed, that is exactly what happened. The woman made him his bread and she was sustained with flour and oil, and also had the assistance of Elijah who lived with her for a time. The obedient faith of the prophet and the widow yielded what they needed to survive.
Usually this reading is used to underline our dependence on God and the need to be faithful and obedient to God as Elijah was. Indeed that is a point in the story. But let us look at this widow. In ancient Israel widows often had no means to sustain their lives. They did not go out and work and if there were no adult males in their lives to support them they could easily die. Yet God provided for this woman and her son through Elijah who also needed the woman’s assistance to survive as a prophet. Clearly God loved and cared about this woman and her child.
It was built into the Law in Judaism that widows and children must be cared for. For Jews that faithfully followed the Torah, there was in fact an obligation to care for the widows and the children. It was not up to them whether or not they gave to assist the widows, it was obligatory. ( The Jewish Social Work Forum, 1990, Erich Levine, The Ethical-Ritual in Judaism: A Review of Sources on Torah Study and Social Action). The sum set aside was not large but if all gave it the widows and orphaned children of the group would be cared for. It was a job of the prophet to let the King and the faithful know clearly when they were not obeying the Law, not caring for the poor and widowed and orphaned and that God was not pleased with this. Hence the prophets were often killed. Elijah was one of the last prophets still alive under treacherous King Ahab and later under his son Ahaziah who was worse than his father.
This lovely example of God sustaining the widow and the prophet, or women and children as well as the prophets, emphasizes that God deeply cared for women and children, and the presence of the prophet assures us that God was displeased with behaviors that were about greed and profit and self aggrandizement when those in power and those who follow them do not care for the poor, women and children.
Additionally the Psalm of the day, Psalm 146:7-10 assures us that our God “secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry….raises up those who were bowed down, loves the just, protects strangers and the fatherless and the widow God sustains…” How wonderful is this news. This is Who our God is! Sadly it is not who people, including those who say they follow God’s ways, always are. The reading from the book of Hebrews tells us that Christ died to take away the sins of the people, and will bring salvation to those who eagerly await him. ( Heb 9:24-28). We minimize the meaning of “sin” and what Jesus the Christ did when we think of sin in narrow moralistic personal terms, like the salacious sins on the afternoon soap operas or movies or in the News. Sin is when nations and those in power and those who support those in power make no provision or totally inadequate provision to care for the weakest among us, for those who cannot earn equally and “take care of themselves” on par with others. Sin is in omission as well as commission and sin is when a whole half of the human race is treated as less than the other half. One of the greatest sins throughout history is the lesser treatment of women in every culture. From Ancient times, to Jesus’ times, to our time, we woefully and willingly sin against women and children and others not able to become economically and socially independent. This is in part because we do not think of “the other half”, we do not have a raised consciousness about poverty and who is poor and why. And in part because we, like the priests Jesus admonishes in the gospel, are full of self interest instead of genuine, caritas, interest in others who may “beg at our doors ” or silently bear their lots. And when their lots are not borne silently we are even angry that they may protest to let us know what is happening. I would say that Jesus called it well in the Gospel of the day.
In the Gospel today (Mark 12:38-44) Jesus strongly admonishes the scribes, the priests, who enjoy importance in the community but “devour the houses of widows”. Wow! Yes, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day stole from the poor and Jesus called them on it. And Jesus would say the same to church and other religious leaders of this day who parade about wanting attention and honor but do little to attend to the poorest among us. And Jesus would say the same to us as individuals who do not attend to the needs of our neighbors who are in need whether these neighbors are right down the street, or in other countries and cultures. Whether they be neighbors who cannot pay their water and electric bills, and school children who are hungry and thirsty, or neighbors who do not have a community well or source of water or enough food to eat. Whether we look globally or locally we can find those who not only ignore but do violence to the widows and orphans and the poorest among us. I love Jesus especially when he does not mince words, and this passage is one in which he is very clear about the violence done to the poor and women by even the religious authorities and those who claim to be religious. Can you hear what Jesus would say to those of us whose action and inaction hold women, who are the majority of the worlds poor,g in “their place”.
One has only to use a search engine or google the U.S. Census Bureau and poverty adding women, children, minorities of color and culture-African-American women, Latinas/os, Asian Pacific, Alaskan and Native American women, and the LGBTQ community and those with disabilities, to see that all of these groups are the poorest among us even in this land of plenty. In an article entitled The Basic Facts About Women in Poverty (2020) by Robin Bleiweiss, Alexandra Cawthorne Gaines and Dana Boesch, (https://www.americanprogress.org) we learn that globally and in the USA women are much more likely to live in deep and abject poverty than men, and women of color, Latina and or Alaskan and Native American women and African American women, and disabled women and Lesbian or LBGTQ women are more likely to live in poverty than men of their own groups and majority women and men. OXFAM points out that the majority of the world’s poor are women and that in no country in the world is there economic equality for men and women. (oxfam.org/en/why-majority-worlds-poor-are-women/). Women make only a portion of the dollar men make in the USA, for example ( Bleiweiss,Gaines and Boesch, 2020). Majority women make 82 cents on the dollar, Latina women make 54 cents on the dollar, Native American and Alaskan women make 57 cents on the dollar and Black women make 62 cents on the dollar. Additionally women with disabilities and LBGTQ women have much higher rates of poverty than their male counterparts. Reasons for this are related to the entrenched gender bias in the culture and in occupational segregation, low paying jobs, unpaid caretaking roles of women, homophobia, and lack of support for women in the workforce, among other things. Structural gender bias and structural racism and sexism depress wages and limit opportunities for women of all sorts. Yes, some of all groups break the glass ceiling and do very well in post-industrialized countries but the facts of women’s place in even the most progressive nations attests to the increased poverty of women over men. And globally in many places women and children are suffering most from the lack of basic needs like food and water and shelter. The Jesus who admonished the Scribes would have a lot to say about all of this, but how often do we hear preaching on it? Perhaps women are in a sense an invisible minority throughout the world and in religious structures that also may deny women the priesthood, as in our Roman Catholic church today.
And, finally, in the second part of the Gospel today (Mark 12: 41-43) we have Jesus praising the extremely poor widow who put all she had in the treasury. So often we take away that we should give until it hurts and not only from our abundance, and that is true and consistent with what Jesus asks of His Followers-to give it all. But, he is also lifting up a woman, a very poor woman and saying that she is in high honor as a part of the kingdom of heaven that he is bringing to us. Yes, we note with admiration that she gave it all away. And we can try to emulate that , whatever it takes from each and all of us, and from the church that seems to hold onto wealth very closely. But let us not miss that the heroine of the story for Christ is a poor woman. And so we can look to women, and to the poorest of women tor guidance as to how to live our lives as Christ followers and as decent human beings. I can remember as I grew up in a household headed by women and we were, by this world’s standards, poor. Yet there were riches there that are hard to find now. In my home and in my highly integrated poor and working class neighborhood and in my church, women were leaders and women were strong. Women showed us how to love and how to care for the least among us, and yes, women gave it all. And I know it now as well through my Good Shepherd Church community. Poor women are among those most generous and most giving of our group. Let us learn this day to do what Jesus did, and praise the women among us, including and especially those who have the least economically, who give it all away. Amen.
God Bless all women and all of you,
Love and Blessings to you all,
Pastor Judy Lee, RCWP,
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community , Fort Myers, Florida
November 7, 2021