Women priests promote tolerance, ‘cupcake ministry’
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office employees hold cupcakes delivered by ordained priests Miriam Picconi and Wanda Russell as part of their “cupcake ministry” to recognize and appreciate public servants.
Photo provided by Miriam Picconi
By Laurie Hahn
Published: Saturday, August 24, 2013 at 5:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.
[It’s been more than a year since Miriam Picconi and Wanda Russell were ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests as Catholic priests, and their “Inclusive Catholic Ministry” is going strong.
“We truly welcome everybody to the table,” Russell said. “We are interfaith; we don’t try to impose our beliefs on others. Our group has Jewish, Baptist and Catholic members. It’s so refreshing to see people of different backgrounds discussing issues and coming to the same concerns about the essence of faith.”
Their Inclusive Catholic Ministries of Palm Coast inter-faith theology discussion group meets on Wednesdays at their home, and they hold mass on the third Saturday of each month.
“We want to emphasize what we have in common rather than what divides us,” Picconi said. “Jesus preached acceptance of all people. We’re going to what was the essence of Jesus’ message.”
That acceptance includes their willingness to perform same-sex marriages and outdoor ceremonies, which are not permitted in the Roman Catholic Church. They said they also don’t believe in telling their congregation how to think, vote or plan their families.
Picconi and Russell were ordained April 14, 2012, by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. There are approximately 150 women priests in the world, according to the New York Times, and a recent NYT/CBS News poll found as many as 70 percent of U.S. Catholics believe women should be allowed to be priests.
But the ordination of women remains forbidden by the Catholic Church. Pope Francis recently said Pope John Paul II’s statement in 1994 that the church has no authority to ordain women as priests is final, so “that door is closed.”
The ordination of women is considered by the Catholic Church to be an “infallible teaching,” which means the faithful cannot dissent and the subject is not open for debate.
Picconi and Russell regret the church’s stance, but not their decision to continue to serve.
“We’re not extreme or radical feminists,” Russell said. “It’s important for all churches to realize that women are people too. … We believe that all people are created in God’s image.”
The women, who became friends in 1981 when Picconi was appointed as a youth minister at Russell’s church, are retired from previous jobs — Picconi was in a religious order for 25 years and Russell is a retired social worker — but that doesn’t mean they’re taking life easy.
On Sunday, they will preside at an interfaith worship service at Castle Otttis in St. Augustine; they also speak at Sunday school classes and officiate at weddings, baptisms, funerals and retreats. They also offer spirituality workshops and counseling.
And there’s the “cupcake ministry,” in which they deliver baked goods to law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services or others — to show their appreciation.
“These public servants risk much for us and get too little thanks,” Picconi said. “We want them to know how grateful the faith community is for all they risk for us.”
Picconi and Russell said they are always trying to find ways to respond to the needs of the community.
“When we find people who are hurting and are broken in spirit, how do we respond? How do we find the needy people?” Russell asked.
Picconi added: “Ministry isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life.”Contact Russell at 502-320-6814 or firstname.lastname@example.org; contact Picconi at 502-320-6817 or email@example.com