Today,June 20,2017 Pope Francis gave an inspiring speech praising parish priests in various parts of Italy who entered into the dark corners of society and reached out with the hands of Christ by keeping the poor and marginalized primary in their service.
Rev. Dr. Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests responded in her blog that she hoped the Pope would also end the darkness of the church by including women priests in his consideration for Holy Orders. I would like to illustrate the ministry of three RC woman priests,members of Roman Catholic Women Priests, Eastern Region who attempt the kind of service the Pope desires of priests. Even as illness causes a curtailing of services of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Pastors Judy Lee and Judy Beaumont and Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia press on as parish priests among the poor and homeless and marginalized. We present here some of the recent activities of two RC women Priests and then ,for reference, the articles on Pope Francis’ Speech and Rev. Dr. Meehan’s Response.
Here (above) we minister to and with a church member and her family as she deals with hospitalization for advanced cancer and critical corollary problems. Linda has been in the hospital for almost 40 days now and her Health Plan, for those on Disability, is inadequate for discharge planning. Also she has so many Doctors who do not coordinate with each other that she is hardly seen as a whole person and her cancer treatment has fallen by the wayside while the family needs much assistance in negotiating the medical and hospital systems that are critical to her life. Pastor Judy Lee is working with the oldest children and the husband to help them get the best care for her and she is also challenging the systems directly herself. She has helped them apply to two Cancer Foundations for help with daily living expenses so they do not become homeless as their Mom receives treatment. She has anointed Linda with the family present and participating twice and prays with the family as often as she can. This is a family that is falling between all of the cracks and suffering with a lack of real safety net for the poor in America and in this area. Pastoral work with Linda and this extended family of over 20 people includes many helpers from the congregation. This large and close family keeps vigil in the hospital almost daily.
Below Judy Alves is with one of the little nieces who visit the hospital and Judy Alves, a Lawyer, is also the mentor for Linda’s 15 year old twins. She takes them to tutoring, and enriching educational opportunities and monitors school progress while their Mom is so ill.
Here (below) are some members of the Core leadership Group with the three Pastors serving this community after a recent Mass. We must be fed in order to feed the sheep.
Another pastoral activity is helping to prevent homelessness with supporting formerly homeless people in housing and helping them to find new housing when needed. Brenda (left) is seeking housing for her family of two and four pets. Mr. Gary is continually thankful for his apartment in housing for the physically disabled, and Patricia is delighted with her housing in Senior Housing.
Below Patricia shows her home to our parishioners . Patricia lived in the woods for almost two years before meeting our Pastors and then living behind our church for seven months. She remains a member of our community and was confirmed in 2016 along with Brenda and two members of Linda’s family, her eldest son, Quayschaun and her mother, Mrs. Jolinda Harmon.
Two months ago Patricia lost her beloved cat Sarah who died suddenly. Sarah was her companion in the woods and in her church and Senior Housing. (above Pat and Sarah relax in their room behind the church). Pat was truly bereaved at Sarah’s loss and we shared her grief. Last week Pastor Judy Beaumont and I brought her a little kitten that completed her home and family again. Assisting homeless animals often brings joy to our people as well.
Our members( picture below) were delighted to participate in the ordination of Rev.Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez at our church, welcoming a new Pastor who would serve the poor and outcast in Colombia, South America.
Pope Francis, will you welcome your new women Roman Catholic Priests of the Poor as well?
From Radio Vaticana:
Pope Francis pays tribute to “Italy’s parish priest”
Pope Francis pays tribute to Father Primo Mazzolari in Bozzolo, near Cremona – ANSA
Pope Francis pays tribute to Father Primo Mazzolari in Bozzolo, near Cremona – ANSA
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday made a pilgrimage to northern Italy to honor two 20th-century parish priests whose commitment to the poor and powerless challenged many faithful – inside and outside the Vatican – to step outside their comfort zones.
The Pope flew by helicopter to Bozzolo, near Cremona in the region of Lombardy, to pray at the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari, parish priest of a small town, a scholar who wrote about St. Francis and Blessed John Henry Newman, he opposed the Mussolini regime and emphasized the importance of the poor. Sanctioned for a time by diocesan authorities, Father Mazzolari was a friend of Pope John XXIII and praised by the future Pope Paul VI. He died in 1959.
The Pope then travelled to Barbiana, near Florence to pay tribute to Don Lorenzo Milani, a wealthy convert to Catholicism who founded a parish school to educate the poor and workers.
In Bozzolo, Francis stood in silent prayer before the simple tomb of Mazzolari, and then delivered a long tribute to the priest whom he described as “Italy’s parish priest.”
The Pope quoted Mazzolari’s writings about the need for the Church to accompany its flock and recalled his exhortation that a priest’s job isn’t to demand perfection from the faithful, but to encourage them to do their best.
Quoting Mazzolari’s own words he said: “Let us have good sense! We don’t to massacre the backs of these poor people.”
He said the legacy of priests like Don Mazzolari is a bright one that challenges us to leave our comfort zones.
“Don Mazzolari tried to change the world without regrets for the past; he was not one who hung on to the Church of the past, but tried to change the Church through love and unconditional dedication” he said.
Pope Francis warned against those men of the Church who “do not want to soil their hands” and who “observe the world through a window”; he warned against those who engage in what he called “separatist activism” where one runs Catholic institutions like banks or businesses; and he spoke out against the temptation for spiritualism which dehumanizes and is devoted only to the apostolate.
Don Mazzolari, the Pope said, conceived the Church going forth into world in the firm belief that that is the only way to reach out to those who do not come to Church any more.
“He was rightly described as ‘the parish priest of those who are far’ because he always loved those on the peripheries and to them dedicated his mission.
Pope Francis concluded his speech with an exhortation to all priests to “listen to the world”, to “step into the dark areas without fear because it is amongst the people that God’s mercy is incarnate.”
He urged them to live in poverty and said that the credibility of the Gospel message is in the simplicity and poverty of the Church and he reminded them always to treasure the lesson of Don Mazzolari.
Bridget Mary’s Response:
As a movement for inclusiveness within the Roman Catholic Church, we are on the peripheries, serving the rejected, marginalized Body of Christ. When will Pope Francis leave his comfort zone and embrace a church for everyone including women called to Holy Orders? Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, http://www.arcwp.org
Today is celebrated as the Birthday of the Church and it offers each one of us and the church the hope of renewal and revitalization. It offers the earth itself and all of God’s creatures a new chance at life as we are renewed in our abilities and commitments to care for them. We are renewed by the very breath of God that gives life to all. And so we pray:
“Send forth your Spirit, Oh God, and renew the face of the earth!”
And we offer these reflections written earlier but still fresh:
I spent the week breathing in the Gulf breezes and inhaling sea air. Health and strength renews with each breath. And there, and everywhere, I breathe in God’s holy, sacred breath, and I breathe out love, justice ,forgiveness, inclusion and- church. That happens on my best days, I am sure that I also pollute the world with less than elegant breaths and words,actions and thoughts that are sometimes the opposite of all that is good, and very human. But the most beautiful thing is that it is not my breath or even the breath of saints, but the Breath of God that will renew our people.
As I do not return to preaching until next week I am sharing here an updated homily from 2014.
“ ‘Peace be with you. As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you.’ After saying this, Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…’” John 20: 21-22
Jesus left his disciples with the gift of the Holy Spirit. He filled them with his Spirit so they could carry on his work of love, inclusion and justice. Still they were frightened, they had not fully tried their wings to see if they could fly-could really carry on the work of the kin-dom. On Pentecost, this gift came again in a dramatic way enlivening the followers, the men and women gathered together, with the abilities to reach out to peoples of all languages and cultures with the Good News of the living Christ. The Pentecost story in Acts 2 is such a wonderful accounting of how God provides the church the gifts that are needed to include everyone in the church. In the diverse group gathered in Jerusalem peoples of all then known languages and cultures had gathered. Suddenly, as if with the force of a hurricane, all could hear the Good News in his or her own languages, the disciples could preach to everyone! What a wonderful message of unity in diversity and in how Christ and the Church mandates, speaks, breathes, diversity.
In our church the reading from Acts 2:1-11 has been be read simultaneously in African languages and in Spanish and English and Italian. How exciting it is to hear the first Pentecost enacted in this way and to know that our church like the Pentecost church is such a diverse group of followers. Two years ago we were moved as our youth leader, Efe Jane Cudjoe, home from her semester in Viet Nam, South Africa and Brazil reflected with us on her experiences of the Spirit of God in those lands and diverse cultures. She has just finished a year of research and assisting in Medical practice with African-American and other diverse mothers with Duke University in North Carolina. She is now about to begin Medical School at FSU and her finely tuned understanding of diversity and the dignity of each person will enrich the class she studies with. Such deep respect for all people and compassion is the very air she breathes and exhales.
Pentecost is one of the happiest feast days of the Church. We gather with excitement, we wear red and we welcome God’s Holy Spirit once again to breathe life into us so we may be the church that Jesus founded and intended. We are ever mindful of the need for renewing God’s spirit within us, not because it has left us, but because we are so often overwhelmed by life’s events and no longer hear or heed it. We need a fresh infusion, for God Transcendent as well as Immanent can indeed breathe new life into us! An African-American Gospel Song goes: “Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me/ melt me, mold me, Fill me, use me/ Spirit of the Living God, Fall fresh on me”. That is our Pentecost prayer.
Acts 1:12-14 and 2: 1-11
The Spirit comes to the followers of Jesus, the men and women gathered in the upper room, in a dramatic and indisputable manner with what sounded like a “violent rushing wind, the noise filling the entire house.” – not a little breeze this time – something like the hurricane that we know well here in Florida. And how they must have been amazed and afraid! Their spirits were ignited by the Holy Spirit and they burned with the Spirit. Wind and fire, symbolizing the presence of God, filled them and they even began to speak in other languages. Here God gives the church, the first Christians – the power to preach, teach and witness to Christ, Risen, Living and present, and to present the Good News to all people; no matter where they live or what language they speak. And this power is given on the harvest feast of Pentecost (or the Feast of Weeks) celebrated by the Jews seven weeks/50 days after Passover. As such Pentecost is the reminder of the covenant the Jewish people and Moses made with God on Mt. Sinai. Luke is telling his followers that the Spirit brings us a new Covenant as God’s new people – that all people, “Gentiles” are now heirs to God’s promises of faithfulness and love. And we are to preach the Good News everywhere – and especially to the poor, the disenfranchised and outcast of our world even as Jesus came to do that (echoing the purpose of the Prophet Isaiah) and fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic vision: “The Spirit of God is upon me because the Most High has anointed me to bring Good News to those that are poor…..” (Is. 61; Luke 4:16-20).May the Spirit of God be upon us to do this as well. May She renew us to be able to restore the sight of the blind and preach liberty to the captives!
1 Cor. 12: 3-7,12-14 (TIB)
Clearly the Spirit distributes gifts “as She will” – No one, no church, no government, absolutely no one can get in the Spirit’s way of distributing gifts. So, my friends, clearly women – yes, women – and men – young and old of all classes, colors, cultures and languages may be filled and called by the Spirit. I sit here today in deep thanksgiving for that – Amen!
Now here are the gifts Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 12 – but these are just some of the gifts of the Spirit.
- Wisdom in discourse (i.e. teaching/ discussion/communication)
- Knowledge, the word of knowledge
- The gift of healing
- Miraculous powers / also …… as mighty deeds
- Speaking other languages
- Interpreting other languages
- The gifts to be apostles, prophets, teachers, administrators (and, yes, priests!)
Paul reminds us, it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts and many more and distributes them as She will – “as She will”!! (The words for “Spirit” in Greek and in Hebrew-Sophia, Pneuma-breath- and Ruah are feminine). This week, Pope Francis in honest and open dialogue with the nuns agreed to appointing a commission to study the history of deaconesses in the early church and therefore the possibility of ordaining women as Deacons. This is a giant step forward for women, but the scholarly work of this commission has already been done according to a post by Gary Macy on Facebook. So the study should be brief and it will also be apparent that women were not only deacons but priests and bishops in early church history. Others have wisely noted that despite the wealth of material known about this the study will probably be very slow as the truth about women as deaconesses and beyond in the early church opens the door for women as priests. Indeed there are now over 220 ordained women in the Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement of which we are a part. The Spirit gifts us all as She will, not as we or the Church will, and this includes gifts of ministry, service and all that is needed to fulfill Holy Orders.
Let us now think about these gifts – and name in our hearts other gifts given to each of us by the Spirit.
But gifts are not necessarily or even usually given in especially dramatic ways – just God’s Holy Spirit whispering to the spirit within ourselves. The breath of God, the breath of Jesus shared with each one of us. One of our young people, Natasha is discerning her path in higher learning. Sometimes the answer and the road seems easy and clear, sometimes not so easy or clear. We pray for her as she makes her choice of majors and moves toward a career path. And we pray for all those who are finding breathing hard due to illness or despair or being smothered by the difficulties and troubles that overshadow life for those who are poor and those on the margins.
“We all drink of the one Spirit” (v. 13) – and here is the symbol of the living water and water as the giving of the spirit for we are baptized into one body – but it has many different and necessary parts – different gifts. As we USE and DEVELOP these many gifts we can join Jesus the Christ in turning the world upside down!! Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on a group of frightened people and they were no longer afraid – AND THE CHURCH WAS BORN!!
The spirit of the living Christ that Jesus imparted to his disciples after the Resurrection en-couraged and em-powered them to go forth. But the Pentecostal visitation of the Holy Spirit was different, it was dramatic and it was inclusive, for all gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-11). The followers of Christ, now empowered, could reach the whole world through the many gifts that God gives to each one of us, the body of Christ.
And the body of Christ is diverse and of infinite variety. The first Pentecost came with loud sounds – wind and fire – the way that the Spirit spoke to the people of old. Peoples who today are still struggling for peace- those from Israel, Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and parts of Africa, Asia and Rome, Jewish converts and Arabs alike were united by the Holy Spirit. Today the Spirit of God still speaks to the Church in many different ways – and it still says “Peace, Justice, Love and ALL are welcome. Receive the Holy Spirit, be instruments of peace, be re-newed, forgive all, and live!
May God empower us again to bring our many gifts to God’s world. Spirit of the Living God, fall Fresh on us! Happy Birthday Church! Amen.
In an update on conditions in Colombia Rev. Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez, RCWP has informed us that all of the nation’s teachers joined in a strike with parents and students on Tuesday while yesterday they were joined by 5000 indigenous people who also took to the streets for their human rights. Thus far these marchers have not been met with renewed violence and we are thankful for that. Clearly it is a time of massive protest and clamor for basic human rights for all of Colombia’s citizens. We pray for positive responses and not the refrain” the Government has no money”. It is right and just to have a living wage and to be treated justly no matter race, class or position. Two of our Roman Catholic Women Priests are teachers, or working in the school system and the toll on their lives and families for living now with no wages as strikes continue is a problem that literally hits home.
Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia presided at Mass with us at Good Shepherd on Tuesday. As each one shared responses to the text about Paul and Silas singing and praying in the midst of suffering, Rvda. Marina Teresa led us in prayer for Colombia and our sister priests there, and all in need of assistance at this time of turmoil and decisions that are , finally, just for all.
Rev. Judy Lee, RCWP CoPastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida
We are thankful to our RCWP in Cali, Maria Elena Sierra Sanchez for this testimony of what is happening in Colombia currently. We see that teachers are barely paid a living wage for teaching classes of up to 50 students, schools are literally falling apart and there are often no basic materials for the students. We also learn from Rev. Maria Elena that FECODE (the Teacher’s Union) members are protesting in the streets and that their leaders have received threats on their lives and been violently attacked. This is consistent with the experience of our Rev. Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia also originally of Cali, but here now as her life too has been threatened for advocating for the rights of the Afro-descendents of the Playa Renaciente Community. We also see in YOUtube videos the massive protests of the people of Buenaventura where, as Rev. Maria Elena says there is now no potable water, and also unemployment is more than 60% with most of the people living in extreme poverty, We can see on Youtube that many of Afro-Colombian descent are at the forefront of this fight for human rights. Instead, On our TV’s we see the US President meeting with the President of Colombia who assures us all is well there. The Colombian Government response to these massive protests and strikes is that the Government has no money. Because there is not really freedom of the Press in Colombia we do not hear or see the truth in the USA. Rvda Maria Elena also shares that the health care system is in chaos and sorely lacking and she has had an acute infection in her arm that should have been seen two months ago. As a low paid Maestra in a primary school she can not afford high cost private health care. She asks our prayers for Colombia, especially for the poor, the students and teachers, and those of African descent and other indigenous and marginalized groups.
I also add this important corroborating link from Rvda. Olga Lucia Alvarez, ARCWP bishop residing in Medellin and Bogota: One can translate to English using your computer’s translation system:
Rev,. Olga Lucia also says that they can not see peace in Colombia, but do see the selective assassination of leaders!
“Por donde mires, no se ve la PAZ en este país.
Lo mas preocupante el asesinato selectivo de los lideres!!!”
Also Rvgda. Olga Lucia cites this article on the Roman Catholic Bishops of Colombia’s Pacific Coast urging the President of Colombia to recognize and honor pacts with the people of Buenaventura and Choco. It is good to see the Church siding with the poor in this struggle.
We suffer with our sisters in Colombia as they witness this extreme poverty and often violent suppression of human rights. We know with them that the middle class and above there may experience another more prosperous and peaceful Colombia, but in standing with the poor this is their daily view. I was with Pastor Marina Teresa yesterday and she showed me the Youtube videos of the military suppression of the protesters. In one, a small baby was killed as the mostly Afro-Colombian descended protesting crowd in Buenaventura was held back forcefully with full military response. Our hearts are with all of our women priests in Colombia and with Marina Teresa as she weeps from knowing this violence personally and sees it so graphically on YouTube. She says it is like PTSD for her seeing this brought her own threats and persecution back and she became depressed. Yet, she was able to pray and is in church today gathering her strength again.
In Solidarity, and love and prayers,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
For those of us who are used to having some power in our lives-to live more than marginally, to negotiate our worlds, to work, to help others,the experience of powerlessness is a humbling and revealing experience. Aging and illness are two normative times of power loss but hopefully not power outage. And there are other times of crisis and loss and uncertainty in our world and in our private lives where powerlessness overwhelms. I know these experiences all too well lately. A friend recently reminded me as I shared my feelings: “you wrote the book on empowerment-you are not powerless now”. She was referring to a social work approach that I advanced in two texts called “The Empowerment Approach to Social Work Practice: Building the Beloved Community (Columbia University Press,1194 and 2001). I thanked her for being a part of my beloved community and for doing her best to make this community we serve truly beloved-one characterized by compassion, justice, inclusion and basic human needs not found wanting-tall order though that is. It is the same work of faith Christ asks of his followers, and the Law asks of its adherents: tzedakah and chesed, true charity and loving kindness-justice. Unless we hold onto God’s Power we can give up. I see it all around me in those I serve who struggle with issues that would sink the best of us and yet cling to faith. And so I wonder: How can we use those times of powerlessness to return to our true source of power, God’s Holy Spirit and the living Christ within us and all around us?
Here , below, we present the reflections of Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Rev. Chava Redonnet,RCWP who serves the migrant population in New York State and has recently made a trip to Central America. Her reflections on powerlessness are beautiful and right on.
In the readings for the sixth Sunday in Easter we read of the Holy Spirit empowering the Apostles to do some of the things Jesus did: to heal, to preach,to proclaim the Good News. Acts 8:5-8;14-17 shows Philip and Peter and John carrying on powerfully in healing and preaching. And Jesus reminds us in John 14:15-21 that we are in the living Christ and the Living Christ is in us: we are never powerless but need to tap deeply into our Power Source.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers
From Rev. Chava Redonnet, RCWP
Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church
Bulletin for Sunday, May 21, 2017 6th Sunday of Easter
A few months ago, I visited one of our elders from the nursing home in the hospital. A retired pastor, he was struggling with being on the receiving end of compassion. “I’m no longer one of the people who count,” he told me. He was grieving the loss of his power! He had gone from being a person who “mattered,” a person others listened to, with responsibilities and authority, to being one of hundreds of patients, dependent on others for the most basic tasks.
I was thinking that might not be a bad experience for us pastors to have at the beginning of our ministries, rather than, or as well as, at the end.
My experience these past couple of weeks, visiting Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador, then a whirlwind trip to Boston, involved something of that sort of role-reversal. Last night driving home, somewhere between Albany and Syracuse, I realized I felt competent again. Driving in Boston had not been a pleasant experience, and I was coming home minus about half a bumper, with every last nerve-ending frazzled. When at last I was on familiar roads, I began to feel more competent and “myself” than I had felt since leaving the airport in Mexico City, fifteen days before.
Everywhere I went in Mexico and Central America, I was accompanied by people who knew much better than I what they were doing. “Pastora, no!” they would shout. “Chava, watch out!” The first time Tonia’s sister took my hand while crossing the street – as you would with a small child – I realized I needed that. I entered buses confused, not knowing how much money to use, or what to do with it, or what the rules were. I sat in the wrong seat. I dropped my change, not knowing if what I was losing was the equivalent of a few pennies, or a few dollars. I had to have things explained to me, constantly.
But I had people to explain things. I did not have to be afraid of police officers. I had a place to sleep at night, and money to buy food. I had identification. I was a US citizen, thus one of the powerful of the world. Even in my vulnerability, I had layers of protection.
Have you ever thought about what it is like to lack all that? What is it like to live in a country where you don’t understand what’s being said – or how to use the things you encounter, like elevators. How much courage does it take to get through a day when you have no protection but your own wits, and maybe the company of some friends or cousins with as little knowledge of the place you are in as you?
I just want to honor the people who do that. I want to honor their grit and perseverance, the courage they summon each day to keep on going.
Years ago I was praying for a friend. He had just come out to me as gay, after years of close friendship. This was a time in my life when I was “open,” “tolerant,” “accepting” of the gay people in my life and likely thought I was quite progressive for that. But in prayer I received a revelation. God wasn’t tolerating my friend. God was delighting in him. God was rejoicing that he was who he was. God was dancing with joy!
God isn’t tolerating undocumented people, either. God isn’t sympathizing with their plight. God is in there with them, putting one foot in front of the other, keeping on, day after backbreaking day. God is in the voice that whispers inside, “Keep on going, because you count! Your life matters!” God is in that thing inside that fights back, that is in the struggle.
Maybe that’s why I think pastors should experience powerlessness. Senators and congresspeople, too, and judges and lawyers and all of those with voices of authority. We need to know in our bones that being a person that counts is not about titles and authority, but simply about being a person. We need to look at each other like God does – rejoicing, believing, encouraging, celebrating the worth and dignity, the absolute beauty of every person we encounter on this earth. We need to be in awe of each other, aware of the God in ourselves, the God who knows we are each walking around shining like the sun.
Many thanks to Tonia, Ricardo, Simona, Laura, Lizbet, Carlos, Sherlyne, Gustavo, Alfredo, Jose Luis, Enrique, Rosita, Hermana Chebelita and everyone at Shekina for being my teachers, guides, companions and friends on this journey. Thank you for correcting my Spanish and helping me get places on time, for feeding me and driving me, and holding my hand when I crossed the street. Special thanks to Gustavo, my fellow Peregrino Migrante, and to the community of Shekina for being such a shining example of what church can be. May we support each other, encourage each other, believe in each other, as long as we have breath to offer thanks and say “Amen!” Adelante!
Love to all, Chava
“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Words used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal elder, activist and educator from Queensland, Australia.
Oscar Romero Church An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph’s House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620 A member community of the Federation of Christian Ministries
Today in the Gospel, John 14:1-12 Jesus once again tells us the truth and shows us the way to life. How blessed we are in often troubled and uncertain times and personal and familial situations to hold onto Jesus’ hand and not get lost. Getting lost is easy to do in hard times. In this fifth week of Easter, we are reminded that Jesus the Christ Lives and therefore with him we live, now and forever. On this Mother’s Day we are reminded that when a mother faces terrible trouble the family flounders. Yet, we ,mothers, and all of us know, that when we hold on to the Way, truth and Life, we may flounder and get lost at times, but we will be all right. We will return to life. This is for all the mothers who carry heavy loads and sometimes fall under the weight, but get up again and lead their children back to God and life by their love and faith.
This week, a very sick parishioner, Linda M. told me ” I feel that I am getting lost”. Faced with unspeakable pain and a host of trying life problems as well,indeed she was in danger of getting lost. She is now in the hospital in crisis and I was able to be with her for three days. Today her seven children and family surround her with love on Mother’s day. But her condition is such that she is in and out of knowing it. Yet, she does know it. And she does know that God’s love surrounds her and pulls her back from death into life. Her good news was that her cancer can still be treated. Thanks be to God. But the other conditions now engulfing her must be healed first. And, she must gain the strength of spirit to fight again with Jesus by her side. In my first visit on Wednesday, I anointed her with the help of the family and we sang and prayed songs she knew and could hear with the laying on of hands. “Pass me not, Oh Gentle Savior,hear my humble cry, while on others you are calling, do not pass me by”. I reminded her that God is present, surrounding her with love and Jesus will not pass her by. She was able to give her “Amen”. Please join me and her family and loved ones in prayer for Linda, for healing of body, mind and spirit. And extend that prayer to all mothers and all who suffer with illness and other issues and still carry others. I think here of our Pastor Judy Beaumont too, and my cousin Bob’s dear wife, Barbara Robinson, such women of faith. We pray for all families and all mothers who have illness, other issues and too much to deal with-for strength, for healing, for patience and peace and most of all a renewed infusion of love and life. We are thankful for the love of God our Mother and Father and for Jesus who accompanies us on the journey, through the good days, which are many, and the bad days too. Jesus assures us in John 14 that he has not disappeared, he has prepared a place for us to be with him. That is both now and forever and with him we will never lose the Way. Amen!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP,
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
Below also is Rev. Deni Doulos reflections on Jesus: the truth. Amen and Amen!
And Jesus Said, “I Tell You The Truth”
Every time Jesus wanted us to listen to what He had to say, He would say
“truly I tell you“
“verily I say unto you“
“I tell you the truth”
All of Jesus’ parables use one of these phrases, as well as many of His teachings. He wants us to ‘get it’ – that what He was saying is important to us and to our salvation.
And Jesus performed all kinds of marvelous deeds: changing water into wine, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, raising the dead, making the lame walk again, driving out demons, feeding 5000 people with five loaves and two fishes, restoring the ear of the servant that Peter cut off, -things that we don’t see every day – things that people found hard to or couldn’t believe. But Bible tells us that these miracles are true -that Jesus did these things – and reminds us that He also said “I tell you the truth”.
In this day and age, we have a hard time finding someone who will tell us the truth. Events are sensationalized, we hear lots of ‘fake news’ or ‘alternative facts’, and some people just outright lie and expect us to believe them. It is very hard or almost impossible to know what is true anymore.
But there is one person who we can always believe – who speaks the truth to us, no matter what – and that is Jesus. “I tell you the truth” was, in fact, the essence of Jesus’ mission and ministry.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus says in today’s text,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)
He said this to the disciples on the last night He shared a meal with them – the time we call ‘The Last Supper’. Can you think of anything more reassuring? More hopeful? More promising?
In spite of the betrayal by Judas and denial three times by Peter that would come in that evening, and the trial Jesus would be facing, he reassured this band of followers, saying
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1)
And He says the same thing to us!
We, like those disciples, have our doubts, weak resolve and often wander off the correct path. Jesus told the truth about the cruelty of people to others, the hatred that tears us apart, the shortcomings that bind us together more than any ties of nationalities, ethnicity, or politics ever could. But once again, Jesus reassures us:
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2)
Jesus’ “I tell you the truth“ revealed more about God, about that love and forgiveness that is offered to us; the ‘truth’ about God’s plan for salvation for each and every one of us. When Jesus told the ‘truth’ about God, it was never quite what we expected.
For those convinced they were righteous and blessed by their piety and goodness, Jesus warned,
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full” (Matthew 6:5).
For those who put their faith in human efforts, in the power of the sword and political might, Jesus announced before the great Temple Herod had completed,
“I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another, everyone will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2).
For those proud of their rigid oppressive religion, Jesus reminded them that there would be no grown-ups in heaven:
“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
For those who said God could only work in certain ways and through certain people, Jesus told the ‘truth’ about a God who could work
and with whomever
God wants us!
Each and every one of us!
No matter what!
Jesus came to tell the ‘truth’, and this truth both surprises and sets us free – free for God to take us to places that we’ve never been before and couldn’t get to without God.
All we have to do is follow the teachings of Jesus.
Praise be to God!
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 14 May 2017
Here we present a letter to Pope Francis by Michele Madigan Somerville who writes with insightful analysis and challenges Pope Francis and all to consider both married priests and the ordination of women as Roman Catholic Clergy. This is originally published on http://www.indie.com I hope that Michele Madigan Somerville knows of our presence as over 250 validly but illicitly ordained Roman Catholic Women Priests serving all over the world and growing daily. This is the letter in its entirety and it is well worth the read.
Thank you, Michele Madigan Somerville!
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community , Fort Myers, Florida
Essays on Religion, Faith and Sprituality by Michele Madigan Somerville
Friday, May 5, 2017
Thoughts on Religious Vocations: An Open Letter to Pope Francis I
May 5, 2017
His Holiness, Pope Francis PP.
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano
Most Holy Father:
I write to you as a Catholic mother, wife, writer, teacher and student of my own Roman Catholic faith. I write this as “an open letter.”
Like so many of my fellow Roman Catholics, I pray, this week, with a special focus on vocations.
Like so many of my fellow Roman Catholics I have celebrated, lately, the possibility that you may be considering loosening the celibacy requirement for our priests. While recognizing that some who are called to the priesthood view celibacy a gift, I know that for many priests, celibacy is not a gift.
I know that we already have married priests in our church, and that for (roughly) the first half of Church history, priests married. I know too that most of our married priests come to us from other traditions as “vir probati.” Having served as priests in their original traditions, they convert, undertake preparation for Holy Orders and are ordained into the Apostolic Succession by the Vatican.
I come to thinking about the question of married priests with a belief that sexuality when infused with respect, commitment and love, is a gift from God. As a Catholic poet, I have long admired the sacred eroticism found in the verse of our Catholic mystic poets. Erotic love has the potential to remind us of God’s passion love for us. Sensuality, which, of course goes beyond sex, permeates Catholic life.
As a woman married for more than thirty years, who has been blessed with three (now grown) children, and who has persevered in a marriage that has, at times, been profoundly troubled, I can attest to the power marriage can have to catalyze spiritual growth, and increase maturity, gratitude, devotion and faith. So too, has being a parent intensified my faith and belief. I have, for example, always loved, enjoyed and respected children. But motherhood increased my concern for the earth children born today will inherit, that created world Your Holiness so lyrically praised in Laudato Si !
For these reasons, I celebrate the possibility that we might soon see more and more married priests serving on our altars.
As a feminist Catholic, however, I feel conflicted.
I believe that to explore the ordination of married priests casting even a glance in the direction of the many women who are called to ordination sends an excruciating message to Catholic women and the world beyond The Church.
I know that Your Holiness has affirmed Saint John Paul II’s teaching that the door is closed on the discussion of ordaining women, but we are a Church of miracles and I continue to pray for the day girls holding their mothers’ hands at Sunday mass will no longer have cause to feel somehow unfit to answer the call to ordination.
I believe that the tradition of upholding papal rulings of Your Holiness’s immediate predecessors and the fear of schism account for the refusal to even allow a dialogue among Catholic scholars and theologians of the question of ordaining women. I am no expert on my church but I love to read and I know that almost always the choice to silence opposition in questions of justice is a response driven by fear.
Still, I hold out hope that a shift in the Vatican’s disposition towards married (male) priests might, in time, lead to a more expansive view of ordaining women. I hold out hope that the Divine light of a pure truth might, in time, push through the door the advance of married priests has left a bit ajar.
I understand that increasing the number of married priests will facilitate the assigning priests to regions where Catholics currently lack access to sacraments and the celebration of Mass. That is so very necessary; ironically, in many of those priest-free communities, it is women who are keeping Catholic faith and tradition alive. Are they not fit for ordination?
I am familiar with the argument that excluding women from the priesthood not a matter of “fitness.” Canon Law clearly requires that ordinands be “baptized men.” That same body of (Canon) law also prohibits married men from serving as priests.
Saint John Paul II broke Canon Law as it pertains to ordination when he began to allow married priests from Eastern Rites and Episcopal traditions to become Roman Catholic priests.
I know that arguments advanced by Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II, and promulgated via Saint Pope John Paul II’s 1994 Apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacredotalis put an end to the debate about ordaining women. But we kept talking.
Your Holiness has reiterated the claim that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women.
I believe the Church does have the authority to ordain women, and that the Church not only has the authority to ordain women, but also the obligation to do so.
I recognize that it falls to the Magisterium (the teaching Office of the Church) to distinguish, for the benefit of Catholics, between man-made (ecclesiastical) law and Divine law” (law handed down by God). The Magisterium currently holds that Divine Law prohibits the ordination of women.
“Divine Law” can change, because we know that Divine Law has, on rare occasions throughout history, changed.
A strong tradition whereby Supreme Pontiffs uphold teaching promulgated by their immediate predecessors exists in our church, but I believe this tradition is a poor reason for perpetuating injustice and bigotry. Certainly there is some teaching advanced by your papal predecessors which Your Holiness would refuse to uphold.
Like so many Catholics and non-Catholics I celebrate your readiness, Your Holiness, to put God and conscience before (both civil and ecclesiastical) politics.
A Church that refuses to ordain women, has no standing in preaching against bigotry. How can we (The Church) condemn misogyny and prejudice with so great a log in our eye? Are we not called to teach by example?
As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” “an unjust law is no law at all.” The Church is not a state. I believe a Church which emphatically embraces a “separate but equal” approach its most holy sacraments compromises or forfeits entirely its right to condemn sexist, “separate but equal” and discriminatory practices in our temporal, political world.
I believe that all injustice goes against Christ.
The law which stipulates that priests must be male is an unjust law.
I notice that many people both within and outside of the Church do not fully see how strong the principle of the female divine is in our Church. I am thinking of the powerful legacy of our women Church doctors and saints, and our devotion to the Mary. I think these have kept many Roman Catholic feminists who might otherwise depart the church, engaged and active in Catholicism.
We (women) are often reminded, by proponents of a male-only priesthood, that there are many ways in which women can serve in our Church. These do not much mitigate the long and deep discrimination at hand.
It is true that strength of the presence of the Female Divine Principle has been forcefully present in Catholic scholarship, worship and art. It is true that there are many Roman Catholic women who do not object in the least to the bigotry keeps an all-male priesthood in place. However, with all due respect, Your Holiness, I have come to believe that Vatican’s failure to rigorously address the issue of women’s ordination is a sin.
We cannot engage in oppression engaging in it. We cannot claim moral high ground on matters of social justice when we practice sexism and misogyny in our own church. The secular world needs to hear our voice of justice and peace but when it comes to discrimination against women, our fish appears to the world to rot from the head down.
In the past year, you have said so much about the need to increase women’s leadership in the Church. I was so grateful to see so much discussion of women in Amoris Laetitia. Your Holiness has not been blind to the extent to which women’s work is already keeping churches afloat and operating. Your Holiness has taken special note, radical note, really, of the gifts of women.
But I am not sure that any man, even one so full of devotion and love as Your Holiness, can understand how it feels to be a girl growing up in a church, asking for the first time, “Why are there no women priests?”
I have been blessed with the opportunity to sponsor three young women in Confirmation and, truly, discussing the all-male priesthood with the confirmands in my care has been discouraging and demoralizing.
In New York City where I live, women deliver the Eucharist to the sick, clean churches, teach in Catholic schools, minister to the sick and dying in Catholic hospitals, serve as cantors at mass, proclaim readings on altars and distribute the Eucharist at mass. Even in very conservative parishes, one sees more women than men on altars and in the pews. In recent years, I have had the great privilege to take part in masses in Europe and in Mexico where, even in very traditional Roman Catholic communities, I have seen more women than men both on the altar and in the pews.
In one interview a few years back, Your Holiness characterized women as “the strawberries on the cake.” I confess, that I would probably find this remark charming coming from Your Holiness, were it not for the backwards and excruciating tradition of our Church to persist in declining to honor the priestly vocations of women.
News broke this week that the president of my nation will soon enjoy an audience with Your Holiness. Donald Trump is a man who has shown profound disrespect for the poor, school children and women. How I wish our Church might have full moral authority to chastise Donald Trump for his bigotry and misogyny. How I wish there were no log in our eye.
I believe that if the world survives the current United States president, the Vatican will , in time, ordain women.
When it becomes an economic necessity and the survival of the Church depends upon it. And not a moment earlier.
I wish it were otherwise. I wish justice and not expedience might be the cause for such a shift.
I am often asked, by non-Catholic friends about the Vatican’s reasoning for refusing to honor the vocations of women who are called to serve as priests. I answer that because they are Christ’s semblance on earth, priests must, according to Catholic teaching, be men.
But Jesus was also a brown Palestinian Jew who came of age in the Temple. Why, then, does the Church ordain red-headed Irishmen and uncircumcised Nigerians?
I note the claim that there were no women “apostles.” But there are places in the New Testament (Paul) where women are called apostles. Most Catholics agree that there were women disciples.
I mention the concept of the Church as “mother,” and that priests are called “the bridegroom” of the church., that nuns are often been called “Brides of Christ.” Are not all priests, in some metaphorical senses, spouses of both Christ and the Church? Christian scripture and cosmology are rich with metaphor. The metaphor of the bridegroom, lovely as it is, assumes a taint when it is used in the service of prejudice.
As a poet I know that poetry should expand our souls not to bind us to injustice.
Some traditional Catholics point to the order of the priests of Melchizedek, who was called to the priesthood but not born into it (born being more the norm). The Jewish priesthood of antiquity was indeed restricted to men, but Christianity discarded much of Jewish religious in short time. Jesus of Nazareth labored on the Sabbath, ate at unclean tables and prayed with women—all of which were forbidden by Jewish law. And the Hebrew priests were not rabbis; they collected tithes and presided over the Temple. The modern-day Jewish counterpart to a Roman Catholic cleric is a “rabbi,” the word Magdalen is believed (by Christians) to have used in addressing Jesus.
Catholics who favor a woman-free priesthood like to cite the putative absence of women at The Lord’s Supper (The Last Supper). Were women present at the last supper? Those who claim to know for certain speak dishonestly. The Gospels do not tell us that women were absent from The Lord’s Supper. As a woman who has prepared a Passover Seder every year for the last three decades, I find it hard to believe that no women were present for the blessing and breaking of the bread. Women have special obligations relative to Preparation Day and the Pesach meal. (Who cooked?)
It seems important for those accepting the argument that women were absent from the Last Supper “on faith” to bear in mind the margin of error involved (problems of translation, the “as told to” aspects of the scriptures, etc.) in documenting this holy event, and that men shaped by their time—the Roman Empire, The Dark and Middle Ages, the Western Europe of the Inquisitions—presided over the translating and codifying of the Christian Bible.
When, while explaining to non-Catholics the reason for our all-male clergy, I come to the Canon Code aspect of our failure to ordain women, I explain that the Canon Code—the same body of law that forbids the ordination of married men—forbids the ordaining of women.
I tell non-Catholics who query me the truth; there is no legitimate justification for denying women Roman Catholic ordination. I tell them it goes against Jesus.
Recently, in the United States, women held a protest dubbed “a day without women.” Women took to the streets. It was problematic. Poor women with employment outside their homes lacked the liberty to join. Teachers of children felt obliged to work that day. Women with small children, and women who take care of children—whether their own or the children of others—found themselves constrained.
This “ Day Without Women” occurred at the beginning of the second week of Lent. The timing prompted me to wonder how a Lent without women might look?
What if, in the name of Jesus and his Mother Mary, all Roman Catholic women and men joined forces to give up church for Lent?
What if women and their allies decided to give up singing in church choirs, teaching in Catholic schools, attending mass, tithing, serving on altars, receiving sacraments, preparing students for sacraments, working as administrators, cleaners and secretaries in churches and working in church-sponsored ministries. What if women gave up Church for Lent? What if all Catholic, feminist women, who would, no doubt, enjoy great support among their male allies, decided, on moral grounds and in Christ’s name, to be absent from mass?
What if every Roman Catholic feminist in the world were to give up tithing for Lent?
The synoptic Gospels do appear to inform us that Jesus of prayed with women, travelled with women, included women in his ministry, was accompanied by women as he died on the cross, and was greeted by woman on the morning of the Resurrection.
It is not just women who wait outside that door Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI slammed shut, Your Holiness. Jesus is standing at that door.
I am not an expert on my church. I am a Catholic mother, wife, poet and teacher. I write to knowing that such addresses as this one are highly “unorthodox.” I recognize that Your Holiness is unlikely to read these words.
I wish to express my gratitude for all that Your Holiness has done to bring authentic Christian teaching to our contemporary world.
Michele Madigan Somerville
New York City, US
May 5, 2017
Ordination for Eastern Region of Roman Catholic Women Priests April 29,2017 Catonsville, MD. Way to go Marilyn! Congratulations and Blessings!
Rev. Dr. Marilyn Rondeau was ordained on Saturday April 29th by Eastern RCWP Bishop Andrea Michele Johnson at St. John’s United Church of Christ, Maryland.
Deacon 2016 ORDAINED PRIEST: April 29, 2017
Marilyn E. Rondeau, Ed.D., is a native of Greenfield, Massachusetts. After college, she moved to Maryland where she spent her career in teaching and administration in parochial and public schools. Currently, she serves as director of Administrative I programs on the university level. She felt the “tug, tug, tug” toward priesthood from a very early age. When she was introduced to Living Water Inclusive Catholic Community in Baltimore, she knew that her inner voice drawing her toward priestly ministry had found a home. Marilyn received her Ed.D. and M.S. in Urban Educational Leadership from Morgan State University, a M.Th. from Global Ministries University, a B.A. in History from the College of Our Lady of the Elms, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Education with a concentration in Guidance and Counseling from Johns Hopkins University. In ministry, she will use her service-oriented background to foster social justice that benefits the disenfranchised. Marilyn can be reached at email@example.com
Rev, Marilyn Rondeau writes:
My Dear Sisters,
April 29, the day of my ordination, was the happiest and most Spirit-filled day of my life. As I gazed out into the church that afternoon, I saw a wonderful picture of diversity and inclusion — a true expression of the Divine Presence.
During my journey to ordination, all of you, in one way or another, lifted me up by your words and comforted me with your prayers, love and support. I am not certain that my feet are firmly touching the ground yet; I am certain that all of your are a blessing to me—you stir my heart!
Abundant love and gratitude,