Saturday, January 3, 2015

Homily by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP : Ordination of Georgia Walker as a Woman Priest in Kansas City, Missouri on Jan. 3, 2015

left to right Colleen Simon, Susie Roling, Georgia Walker, Bridget Mary Meehan, Henry Stoever Prayed the Eucharistic Prayer at Ordination Liturgy

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, the glory of Our God is rising on you.” Sisters and brothers in Kansas City, Missouri today we celebrate the glory of our God arising in this community as we ordain Georgia Walker, a prophetic woman of peace and a leader who has worked with justice seekers from all races, ages and creeds.

In solidarity with a growing chorus of voices, we are piercing the darkness of hatred, racism, and sexism. Malaysian Muslim activist, Zairah Anwar sums it up: “God cannot be God if God is unjust.” (Calling on Faith to Defend Women's Rights)

The Feast of the Epiphany reminds us that God’s family includes everyone. God’s love is infinite, boundless and embraces all and is in all beings, all creation, all of us. We are called to live as co-luminous revelations of our God in our world in everything we think, say and do each day!

The Good News is that God cannot be put into a box, and, that God is calling women to serve the people of God in inclusive, empowered, egalitarian communities today.

Georgia chose this day for her ordination because she entered into the Sisters of St. Joseph on the Feast of the Epiphany, so it has many special memories for her. Georgia writes: “It feels special to me because of the strong image of light...not just a reflective kind of light marking the incarnation of Jesus as God's LOVE in the world, but a kind of luminosity shining out from us as the embodiment of the Divine in our world. As co-heirs and co-creators, we are compelled to bring hope and dignity to all without exception, especially those who are on the margins of our church and society.”

In 1985, Georgia Walker experienced a major conversion and became a Roman Catholic. For twelve years she was a Sister of St. Joseph during which time she pursued course work for a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. She is now the co-founder and Executive Director of Journey To New Life, an agency that specializes in serving homeless men and women who suffer from addictions, mental illness and chronic health conditions as they come out of prison. She currently serves on the Board of Peace Works-Kansas City, engages in nonviolent civil disobedience and volunteers at a local Catholic Worker house. Ordained a deacon in July 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio, she is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry Degree.

Georgia plans to minister as a priest with men and women in five Missouri state prisons located in the Kansas City-St Joseph Diocese. In addition, she hopes to begin meeting with individuals in Kansas City who are interested in creating a local inclusive community where all will be welcome at the table and all will be co-equal in their participation in liturgy, service and governance

In an article by Joshua McElwee in the National Catholic Reporter, Pope Francis announced the increased presence of five women on a prestigious theological commission.” The women,” he said, "are the strawberries on the cake, but we want more." The presence of the five women, the pope said, "becomes an invitation to reflect on the role that women can and should play in the field of theology." (“Pope tells Vatican Theological Commission to respect diverse views”)

On December 16th, 2014, after a major investigation into the lives and ministries of U.S. nuns, the Vatican issued a positive report affirming the Sisters for their selfless service to the people of God—which reflected the social justice agenda of Pope Francis.

Kudos to the thousands of Catholics who stood in solidarity with the nuns, writing letters of support to the Vatican and showing up at nun-justice rallies! What an example of justice rising up in the community of the baptized!

While Pope Francis recognizes inequality as the root of social sin, there is a disconnect in his mindset. I cringe at some of his jokes – for example, telling nuns not to be “old maids” or “spinsters”, and using phrases like “strawberries on the cake” to refer to women theologians.

In my view, our beloved pope needs some strong feminist friends to help him transform his chauvinistic view.

As baptized members of the church, we are all related, family, sisters and brothers. Therefore, we cannot be separated or thrown out of the church by excommunication. Even though Bishop Finn has threatened Georgia with excommunication, he cannot cancel her baptism. Let’s recall that Joan of Arc was declared a heretic, burned at the stake and later canonized a saint. And, Pope Benedict canonized two formerly excommunicated nuns Mother Theodore Guerin and Mother Mary McKillop. Therefore, one could say that he made excommunication the new fast tract to canonization!

Like a deer caught in the headlights, Cardinal O’ Malley defended the indefensible sexism in the Catholic Church in his recent 60 Minutes interview with Nora O’Donnell. He said: “If I were founding a church, I’d love to have women priests. But Christ founded it, and what he has given us is something different.”

Cardinal O’Malley and the hierarchy cannot continue to blame Jesus for the sexism in the Catholic Church because it contradicts the life and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and the Vatican’s own scholarship!

In 1976, the Pontifical Biblical Commission released a study examining the exclusion of women from the ministerial priesthood from a Biblical perspective, stating: "It does not seem that the New Testament by itself alone will permit us to settle in a clear way and once and for all the problem of the possible accession of women to the presbyterate."

Check out Jimmy Carter's most recent book, "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Oppression,” published by Simon and Schuster and reviewed by woman priest writer and activist, Janice Sevre-Duszynska, in the Dec. 5th edition of National Catholic Reporter.

"Carter who supports women's ordination and women's equality in all religions, finds it 'ironic' that women are welcomed into many professions 'but are deprived of the right to serve Jesus Christ in positions of leadership,' as they did in the early Christian churches. Such 'sustained religious suppression of women as inferior or unqualified," he said, "has been a major influence in depriving women of equal status within the worldwide secular community as spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The former president reminds us that Jesus, breaking the taboos of his time, treated women as equal to men, and that these details are reported in Gospels written by men."

I believe that on a deep spiritual, mystical level women priests are beginning a healing process of centuries-old misogyny in which spiritual power was exclusively invested in men. In order to be equals in our church at this moment in history, we need to open all positions to women including ordination as an issue of justice. Women priests are a holy shakeup whose time has come!

Women often weep when they attend a woman-priest led liturgy for the first time. All, including divorced and remarried, LGBT and former Catholics, those of other faiths or none, are welcome to celebrate sacraments in our inclusive communities of equals.

Let me share a few recent examples of how the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests is a luminous manifestation of God’s all-embracing love serving the people of God today.

Recently, one of our catacomb deacons called to tell me about her new ministry. A catacomb deacon or priest is one whose identity is not revealed because of her position within the church. She ministers quietly until the time comes when she can go public with her ordination. We have catacomb nuns as well as pastoral ministers who cannot go public for obvious reasons. One of our catacomb sisters lives in a nursing care facility and no one knows that she is ordained. One evening, a nurse came to her and asked if she would pray with and anoint a person who was dying. She went immediately, held her hand and prayed with her until she died. The nurse told her later that something inside her moved her to ask our catacomb sister to pray with this woman so she would not be alone.

On Nov. 30, 2014, Maureen McGill, a priest who co-presides at Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community and an Ecumenical Catholic Community in Florida, officiated at the blessing of the marriage of a gay couple, George and Paul. The two men were married in another state and asked Maureen to bless their marriage in Largo, Florida.

As co-pastors in their Heart of Compassion Ministries, deacon Barbara Billey and priest Michele Birch-Conery of Windsor, Ontario Canada collaborate with religious leaders of many faith traditions and with community groups in fostering the empowerment of disenfranchised persons living in Windsor's inner city, including offering memorial services for the poor and marginalized. As part of this initiative, they are inviting women of all ages and religious traditions into Wisdom Women Circles of Compassion to discover their personal and political voice, leading to activism towards systemic change for the most vulnerable women in their community.

Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea, who is the first ordained woman in Colombia, South America co-presided with a married priest at his 11 year-old granddaughter’s First Communion. Mari Jose describes her beautiful day in these words: "My grandfather, who is a married priest, and my mom give me Holy Communion. Olga Lucia explains why they give me Communion: ‘''For Father Gerardo as grandfather and priest, and Maria Elena, as a mom, it is they who in the home have cultivated the seeds of faith and Christian values, Maria José "'.

There are many more stories of women priests and our inclusive communities living as the light of God’s love in our midst.

Now we look forward to more stories of Georgia Walker rocking the boat in a holy shakeup here in Kansas City, Missiour! As you know, she has been a leader in the efforts to remove Bishop Finn, who was convicted of failing to report suspected sexual abuse allegations.

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, Georgia Walker. The glory of Our God is rising on you, in you and all around you in the people of God as you witness for peace, equality and justice in our world.

With Joyce Rupp, we affirm you as “a Light-bearer for others, a clear window of ...eternal starlight.”

Namaste! !

Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min., a Sister for Christian Community, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2006. She was ordained a bishop on April 19, 2009. Dr. Meehan is currently Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program for Global Ministries University, and is the author of 20 books, including Living Gospel Equality Now: Loving in the Heart of God, The Healing Power of Prayer and Praying with Women of the Bible . She presides at liturgies in Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida. Dr. Meehan can be reached at

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