From the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) (See: www.arcwp.org)
October 27, 2015
CONTACT: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, media, email@example.com,
Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan, firstname.lastname@example.org,
During this Holy Year of Mercy the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) asks Pope Francis to Reinstate Sr. Letetia Rawles (known as Sister Tish) who is 67 and critically ill as a Sister of the Precious Blood. She is stricken with the debilitating illnesses of multiple sclerosis, end-stage liver disease and Type 1 diabetes. For the past two years she has lived in an assisted living facility in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sister Tish followed her conscience, was ordained a catacomb woman priest on April 18, 2015, and was dismissed from her religious congregation on Oct 22, 2015 after 47 years of selfless service to the people of God. Why such a drastic punishment? She became a woman priest.
“I felt called to the priesthood since childhood,” said Sr. Tish. Inspired by encounters with other women priests, she began the journey to priesthood several years ago. “I thought that before I die, I want to fulfill God’s call and my life-long dream to become a priest,” she said.
At present, she ministers to the suffering and dying in the assisted living facility where she resides. “It feels like I am walking on holy ground as I anoint the hands of the dying, pray with them, and preside at their funeral Masses.” She also celebrates Eucharist in inclusive liturgies in underground house churches.
Her nun’s story began in 1968, at age 21, she entered the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and spent 22 years with them before transferring to the Sisters of the Precious Blood. While with the Incarnate Word Sisters, she taught grade 3 through 8. She also earned her Masters degree in guidance counseling.
When she transferred to the Sister of the Precious Blood in 1990, she worked as a clinical supervisor in mental health and as a chemical dependency therapist. She has been member of the Precious Blood Sisters for 25 years.
On Sunday, Oct. 25th, 2015 in a speech closing the historic Synod on the Family, Pope Francis declared: “Today is a time of mercy.” Here is an opportunity for Pope Francis to put his words into action. This tragic dismissal of Sister Tish cries out to heaven for justice and compassion. We ask Pope Francis to revoke the dismissal of our beloved Sister Tish, a nun cast out of her order, because of the harsh punishment of Vatican excommunication.
The full equality of women in the church is rooted in the Gospel. Certainly this is not how Jesus, who embraced women, would act.
Moreover, we call on Pope Francis to lift the excommunications of all women priests, our supporters and all Catholics who follow their consciences.
Bridget Mary Meehan's Response:
I ordained Sister Letetia Rawles, (known as Sister Tish) a deacon on July 19, 2014 and a priest on April 18, 2015 in Cincinnati in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.
"Sister Tish , a compassionate woman of deep courage, followed her conscience to be ordained a priest in service to God's people. Although seriously ill herself, Sister Tish performed her priestly ministry quietly in the Assisted Living Facility where she resides. She anointed the sick and prayed with the dying ,some of whom were alone and in need of spiritual comfort. Her ministry of loving kindness to the suffering is at the heart of Jesus' call in the Gospels. I pray that Pope Francis, who said "Today is a time of mercy' will show compassion to Tish who was separated from her Order involuntarily because she became a priest. Like Mother Theodore Guerin and Mother Mary MacKillop who were excommunicated by their bishops and later declared saints by the Vatican, SisterTish is a holy, prophetic women serving God's vulnerable people. She should be able to continue to serve God in the Order she loves as a priest in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. (Catacomb ordinations happen in rare circumstances when the individual presides at sacraments out of public sight in service to a special community or serves a specific need. Often they work for the institutional church, like a diocese or are a member of a religious order, so they cannot minister as a deacon or priest in public because they would be fired. )
Bridget Mary Meehan, a bishop serving Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.