Today the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and the Community of Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community rejoices because we are ordaining 2 women, Sally Brochu and Kathryn Shea as priests, and Lorraine Sharpe Meyer and Renee Dubignon as deacons.
The God who is revealed at Pentecost is a Holy Shakeup God who will not be kept in a box either by religious or political authorities. On Pentecost, we meet a God of many tongues who breaks through barriers and empowers all. As David Henson writes:
“On Pentecost, God gives the divine voice to the languages of a bunch of nobodies and a crowd of commoners. It is an act of liberation, both for humankind and for God.”
(David Henson, “The Divine Protest of Pentecost: The Politics of Language and Respectability”)
Like the early followers of Jesus, we, in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and in Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community, are experiencing the unleashing of spiritual energy and power, a “Holy Shakeup.
Here we are giving birth to inclusive faith communities in the Catholic Church today.
Here we welcome all including the marginalized and excluded to receive sacraments.
In this “Holy Shakeup, we are creating a new model of church, a non-clerical, egalitarian community of the baptized.
Here we encounter a liberating God who is definitely out of the box!
“As one of my favorite nuns, Sister Joan Chittister, reflects: “The Holy Spirit is a wild thing breathing where it will, moving as it pleases, settling on women and men alike”
In the Gospel, Jesus said: “Any who are thirsty, let them come to me and drink. Those who believe in me… from their innermost being will flow rivers of living waters. “
Let these words sink into your soul. What Jesus is saying is that each of us is a fountain of life, filled with abundant gifts of the Spirit. Each of us is empowered to be channels of God’s peace, compassion and justice that will transform our world.
Thomas Merton said in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: “At the center of our being is a point or spark which belongs entirely to God. This is the pure glory of God in us” and “the gate of heaven is everywhere.”
Now I will share with you the stories of 4 “Holy Shakeup” women, on fire with Spirit energy and Pentecost exuberance to transform our church and world.
I now realize “Holy Shake Ups” can come at any point in life. I never called them by this name, but looking back, this is clearly what took place. Holy Shake Ups are when the Spirit speaks to you and tells you to speak out, sometimes against great power, against injustice. This might be for just one child, one family, one community, one nation, one world.
I felt the Spirit working through me as a source of healing power as a very young woman. Shortly after giving birth to my beautiful daughter, Melanie, I became a Lamaze teacher and established a “birth coaching service” in Lexington, KY for women who had no one to be with them during labor and delivery. These were primarily poor, single, young, and sometimes sexually molested girls and women. The women did well, were grateful, bonded better with their babies, and ultimately the hospital was forced to change their policies about how they treated these women.
I am especially committed to young children with mental health and behavioral disorders and those prenatally exposed to alcohol. I challenged state governments in both New York and Florida to establish a diagnostic and intervention clinic for this vulnerable population and was awarded funding to establish a fetal alcohol clinic in both New York and Florida.
I consider myself a Spirit-filled, social justice, Holy Shake up woman.The Spirit of the Holy One led me on paths of resistance to our country’s immoral stockpiling of nuclear arms and immoral invasion of Central America in the 1980’s. The Spirit shook me up a bit when I landed in jail a few times for civil disobedience, or what I prefer to call “divine obedience”.
I embrace Holy Shake-ups and have learned they are part of the fiber of my being. And now, I continue this life-long passion to serve as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest where I commit to working for social justice as long as I have breath left in me.
As I answer my call as validly ordained priest in the Roman Catholic Church and within the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, I want to be an active part in this Holy Shakeup! My role is not one of visible protest but of a quiet presence that prayerfully holds all who are called to this ministry of afflicting the comfortable.
My call to this ministry of presence and empowerment began first as a mother, then grandmother and now great-grandmother. I was not a perfect mother but I tried to provide each of my precious ones with roots and wings, to acknowledge their goodness, to encourage their growth in becoming fully who they are meant to be. They in turn went out to live their lives with purpose and in service to others in our broken world. This presence extended to 4 more grandchildren who came into my life in my 60’s and whom I helped raise for 10 years.
For 15 years in the 70’s & 80’s, I was a co-owner and treasurer of a mid-size construction corporation. My responsibilities included overseeing all financial matters but also included setting salaries and wages and benefits for our employees. I insisted on equal pay for equal work which I saw as a matter of justice.
After the sale of the company, my ministry of presence was lived out professionally as a Certified Chaplain. Over 23 years I walked with people who were suffering and struggling with life’s challenges. These became moments of grace and mutual blessing. Being invited into this sacred space by another human being is pure gift and an opportunity to remind them of their goodness and God’s unconditional love for them, from which they can draw strength.
As I live out my call to priesthood, my ministry of presence and affirmation extends to all whom I meet - with no exceptions - and I see the Face of God in them.
In Florida, marriage is now legal and can be celebrated by all couples whose great gift from God of mutual love and commitment to one another needs to be celebrated. I have officiated at many weddings over the years, and recently, I was asked to officiate at a wedding of a gay couple who have lived their faithful commitment to one another for 35 years. I accepted with great joy and told them I would be honored to officiate.
My ministry of faithful presence extends also to my partner in life, Janet, where we as individuals and family are sacrament to one another. Our hearts and our home are open to all who enter.
Lorraine Sharpe Meyer descibes her Holy Shakeup in the following words: During my early life I followed the rules, stayed within the lines of my family, my church and religious community. But the Holy Spirit was always pushing. Each time I hugged a person with leprosy, or kissed one dying with AIDS or dementia, another of my walls came down. I found in these beloved of God, my moments of greatest happiness. I discovered I was no longer in a fortress but in a ballroom. I had learned the two-step and was now working on the waltz. Then suddenly I discovered the possibility of woman priesthood. The cha cha cha, for me?
As an ordained woman, I don’t know where the ballroom will be but I think I know what my dance partners will be like. A few months ago when I was visiting the Center of Hope in Venice, Pastor Jim McClelland said to the homeless and volunteers who were gathered, “Look at the person next to you and say ‘You are called to be Christ for me.’” I turned to my left to see a young man, unshaven, unbathed, raggedly dressed with few teeth and matted hair. He looked up from his downcast eyes to search mine when I said to him, “You are called to be Christ for me.” A tear fell on his cheek. He soon disappeared from my sight into the gathering, but my soul danced. I know where I’ll find Christ, my dance partner. She and he will be dancing on this green earth, God’s ballroom. May my partners and I always help each other find the rhythm, not be embarrassed by our cha cha cha, feel esteemed and welcome.
Renee Dubignon, has a background in law enforcement and worked as a detective with the New York City Police Department. Renee, also known as Ronnie, lives in Holiday, Florida. She attended NYU and Hunter Graduate School. Ronnie worked in Harlem for youth services to develop a youth action unit. Her primary ministry was working with the New York City Police Department to overcome bigoted behaviors. She designed and implemented a citywide cultural diversity program tailored for each community. Ronnie counselled city officials and police officers who faced emotional challenges including paranoia and suicide. Ronnie testifies that it was her deep faith in God’s love that guided her in her pastoral care of those in need of liberation from the negative effects of crime and evil.
She describes her relationship with Mary and the centering presence of Spirit love that comes from the Rosary. “I have a calming spirit that aids me in helping others heal. God uses me as a vessel to heal physical and psychological problems,” she writes “This is my calling.”
She envisions her diaconate ministry as building a deeply spiritual diverse community of compassionate loving multi-cultural congregants. Her vision of the holy shake up is to serve people who are seeking a universal understanding of God and humanity and to carry out the missions of Christ through the healing of all.
As we ordain Sally, Kathryn, Lorraine and Renee today, we rejoice our call to be “Holy Shakeups” for justice and equality in our church and world every day of our lives!
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,
Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP,