Sunday, July 13, 2014

Homily: "Called to Be the Compassion of God" by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan/ ARCWP Ordains Two Women in Indianapolis on July 13, 2014

Today we rejoice that the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests will ordain 2 women in Indianapolis, Indiana:

Mary Weber, a former Sister of Providence, is a wife, mother and grandmother. She became a Providence Associate recently after spending a year in formation studying feminist theology as well as providence spirituality. Prior to retiring she worked as a licensed social worker, an accredited hospital administrator and a Pastoral Associate. Mary is a volunteer chaplain at a nursing home where she has ministered for 10 years. She plans to establish a house church and assist at an inclusive community already established in Indianapolis.

Annie Watson, a former Sister of Mercy, is also a wife, mother and grandmother. She was a Special Education Teacher and advocate for Special Needs children and adults in Kentucky.   She has served as a religious educator, youth minister and pastoral care minister.  Annie is currently working on a theological certificate program in preparation for ministry as a deacon.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus reveals that God is a God of compassion who calls us to be the compassion of God. The Beatitudes are a call to action to serve the excluded and oppressed and to transform unjust structures that cause poverty, abuse and inequality in our world.  Jesus led a paradigm shift away from a religion that focuses on rules and rituals to one that emphasizes living compassion and doing justice. Jesus led by example, crossing boundaries and creating a community of empowerment that included lepers, tax collectors, women, children and the walking wounded of his times. He embraced all especially the poor, the hungry the grieving, the oppressed, while promising abundance, liberation, comfort, and peace  in God’s tender love. So, too , we are called to be the face of our compassionate God today. This is a great challenge in a world in which global inequality is the norm for millions of people especially women and children.

In a recent essay in NCR's Global Sisters Report, St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson observes that there is no country in the world in which women  are equals, but the following statistics are indeed cause for a wake up call:

“Women, who form half of the world's population, work three-fourths of the world's working hours; receive one-tenth of the world's salary; own one percent of the world's land; form two-thirds of illiterate adults; and together with their dependent children form three-fourths of the world's starving people."

Yale trained theologian, Jamie L. Manson believes: "Women's ordination isn't simply about making women priests. It's about helping church leaders recognize that if they were to include women in their leadership as their equals, they could truly be a powerful force for economic and social justice for women and children throughout our world.”

In his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, former President Jimmy Carter links sexism to a misinterpretation of religious beliefs : "The most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls, largely caused by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare."

 Consistent with the Gospel, this is the reason that the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests’ vision is justice: for the poor, the marginalized, for women outside and in the church, especially women priests. We support all who work to promote human rights for the oppressed in our world and we take public stances on social justice issues


The hierarchy must stop using religion to discriminate against women. “Injustice anywhere”, as Martin Luther King pointed out is “a threat to justice everywhere." In exploring the relationship between the primacy of personal conscience and fidelity to the institutional church, Benedictine Joan Chittister warns of the danger of becoming "institutional robots."

Two recent incidents illustrate oppressive tactics by the institutional church to intimidate the followers of Christ who are living prophetic obedience to the Spirit today.
In the first incident, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph fired Colleen Simon who distributed food to the homeless after learning that she is a same sex marriage.

 In the second example, Lillian Lewis of Three Oaks, Michigan who  was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest on June 1st was told by Kalamazoo Bishop Paul Bradley that she and all who attended  the litugy would face excommunication from the Catholic Church.

Two courageous saints Mother Theodore Guerin, and Hildegard of Bingen practiced prophetic obedience by following their consciences. They lived the Beatitudes, stood up to bullying by their bishops, and endured severe punishments including excommunication and interdiction. We are proud to walk in their footsteps today. 
Mother Theodore Guerin, was born in France and came to the Indiana in 1840 to found an American version of the Sisters of Providence. She believed in the equality of women and in one sense could be described as a “radical feminist.” She would not submit to the bishop when he wanted to take over the control of her order.  On one occasion, the bishop locked her in the rectory closet until her sisters set her free. She once said “Woman in this country is only one fourth of the family. I hope that through the influence of religion and education, she will become at least one half--- the better half.”
Amen, St. Theodore Guerin, your struggle for equality for women continues today in all the justice movements of our times!

St. Hildegard of Bingen was born in 1098 in Germany and became a Benedictine abbess.  A prophetic visionary, poet, musician, and reformer, she embarked on four preaching tours challenging the corruption and abuses of the Pope and hierarchy. The following exhortation, entitled “Flame of Anger, expresses her “holy outrage “toward the local archbishop who had placed her community under interdict because she disobeyed his order to exhume the body of a man who had been excommunicated and buried in the monastery cemetery.

“You ask why I disobey you, my bishop;

I answer in a spirit of prayer,

As I hope you did too in addressing me.

I, the Abbess, disobey, and all my sisters choose to disobey,

Because in such obedience is only darkness.

In our disobedience is light for our spirits,

So has God shown us.

I am not just disobedient,

I am outraged.

A thunderstorm of outrage shakes my soul.

In God’s truth I say to you:

‘You are wrong and we are right.’

We are obeying Christ,

We are following Christ,

We choose not to insult Christ,

As obeying you would force us to do.

Because of what you call our disobedience,

You have forbidden us to sing our psalms.

You have deprived us of the Food of Life.

You have cut off the streams of life, the sacramental graces.

God told me to tell you this also:

Beware of closing the mouths of those who sing God’s praises.

‘Who dares to de-string the harp of heaven?’ …:

(Excerpts from Letter to the Bishop written by Hildegarde of Bingen aged 80)

 St. Hildegard, what a mentor, you are in the ministry of irritation!

Like St. Hildegard of Bingen, Deacon Phoebe, apostle Junia and the women leaders in the early Christian community, our women priest-led communities are birthing a new church of loving partnership and spiritual unity that is rising from within the heart of the community of faith. We are experiencing the healing of the divine feminine and the sacred masculine drawing us into a deeper oneness in the God-Presence everywhere among us and beyond us. As ministers of hospitality, we invite all to receive sacraments at the Banquet Table of infinite love. As we grow in evolutionary consciousness we are called to be cosmic co-creators, spiritual mystics and prophetic activists with mountain-moving faith. The words of Jesus echo in our hearts as we live Gospel equality now:”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, they will have their fill and blessed are those who are persecuted because of their struggle for justice, the kindom of heaven is theirs.”

In 2002, seven women, who were ordained on the Danube River, started a “holy shakeup” a spiritual renewal initiative within the Roman Catholic Church. Our first women bishops were ordained by a male bishop in apostolic succession. Therefore, we have valid orders

Now there are close to 200 in the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement serving inclusive Catholic communities in 35 states in the United States, as well as in Canada, Europe, South Africa and Latin America.

As you are ordained today, Mary and Annie, may you be the compassion of God as you live the Beatitudes. May you foster vibrant, mystical and justice seeking communities of faith. May you reflect the feminine face of God healing, loving, and serving, the people of God. May you be the power of love, embracing all, in the cosmic dance of creation.

Additional links:

Women priests say no to global economic inequality and no to gender inequality.

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