Jennifer Marie Marcus was ordained a priest and Terese Rogodanzo-Kasper, a deacon today in Detroit. The ceremony took place at the Nativity Episcopal Church in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. More than 100 people filled the church to capacity. This was Michele Birch-Conery's first ordination as a newly-ordained Bishop. Her homily is below. Barbara Billey of Windsor Canada assisted Michele and Janice Sevre-Duszynska served as the MC. Photographer, Guilia Bianchi captured the event. See Giulia's work at Nausicaa Giulia Bianch, www.giuliabianchi.com
|Terese Rigodanzo-Kasper, deacon and Michele Birch-Conery|
|Jennifer Marie Marcus, priest and Bishop Michele Birch-Conery|
Homily by Bishop Michele Birch-Conery, Ph.D.
We are especially graced in the privilege given to us, today, by the Reverend Diane Morgan in offering us sanctuary and hospitality, for our ordination, in the sacred space we engage here at First Nativity Episcopal Church. Diane continues in a line of blessed people who have found a place for us, while we are exiled from the sacramental spaces of our Roman Catholic Church. Our first ordinations, in 2002, began on a river, the beautiful blue Danube, and thereafter, in North America, in 2005 and 2006, respectively, we ordained our women deacons and priests first, on the St Lawrence River and, lastly, on the Ohio River. Thereafter, we have been received most often by pastors from the United and Episcopal Churches, although we have been received, discreetly, in many other sacred spaces. Here, the generosity of rabbis, priests and ministers as well as good people, found in temples, inns and church houses has served us well.
What could be more ecumenical than the gifts offered from good heartedness of other holy people, who respond to God’s prophetic call when seen and heard? And so it is with you who gather with us today. You have come to give witness to the ordination of Tee Kasper to the diaconate and Jeni Marcus, to the priesthood. But you are also participants in a Sacramental encounter with the Divine and it is from that presence living in us all that the complete anointing of these women begins. The intensification of their spiritual journey forward, from within communities of the priestly People of God continues today. However, today marks a turn in their journey that will embrace the mystery of the Divine indwelling with us, well into the future. And so we, in our international community of Roman Catholic Priests who continue the ordination of Roman Catholic women, thank you for gracing us in this way.
In this Episcopal Church, we also stand on the holy ground of the prophetic women, who forged a new path for ordained women by responding to their call to ordination heard, from within the Episcopal Church. On the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, July 29, 1974, eleven women were ordained by a supportive Episcopalian bishop, who was unlikely to be in conflict with their next convention, when the issues about women’s ordination would come up again. The ordinations took place in Philadelphia and the years leading up to it as well as the aftermath, tell a story that quite parallels our own. We, too, have gone ahead with ordination in prophetic obedience to the Spirit, breaking an unjust canon law. At the time of their ceremony a moment came where it was customary to voice reason why they should not be ordained. In answer, the ordaining bishop simply responded to objections by stating “We are acting in obedience to God, not men. The time is now.”
In 2014, these women celebrated the anniversary of their 40th year. They told of slow progression in the overall acceptance of ordained women, particularly in equity and credibility in leadership. They recounted problems finding pastoral positions to embrace the full scope of their talents and capabilities, above all, the spiritual gifts they bring. From their experiences, they bring energy and wise advice for those continuing the ongoing struggle. “We were privileged to take that step. Someone had to do it and it was our time, “stated Carter Heyward. “We were ready in every way, though the Church was not ready.” Her advice is to stay because of how the church does and does not empower women to be fully who they are. At the same time, she favors the celebrating every gain along the way.
We stand on the shoulders of such women and one such woman from our own Danube 7, ordained in 2002, is with us today. She is Dagmar Celeste from Ohio. Dagmar always brings with her a sense of the deeply graced originating power of our movement when she comes to our ordinations and other events.
And so it is into the deeply graced reality of such women and our own women who have come before us that we gather. We are grounded in mystical and spiritual realities of the Church since the origins of Christianity. We are grounded in the time of the prophets and holy women and men of the Old Testament and in the tradition of Holy Wisdom. From this holy ground, we will ordain Terese Rigardanzo- Kasper and Jennifer Marie Marcus.
|Jeni and Tee lie prostrate; Michele says prayer after Litany of the Saints|
Tee brings a long dedication to music ministry. She has responded to pastoral needs in several parishes, schools and hospitals and is completing theological study through the People’s Catholic Seminary. I have come to know Tee as a compassionate woman who brings a lightness of being and optimism that easily moves into humor and joy. These are personal gifts that enhance the quality of experiences in any community and I am grateful that she brings these to our Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) community.
Jeni, is a feminist who understands herself as a church reformer. She is a Civil and Employee Rights’ Attorney and a Political and Social Justice Activist. She advocates for LGBTIQ equalities and has been a member of many change making groups, within and outside the Church since Vatican 2. She is set to complete a Doctorate of Ministry degree with Global Ministries University. I have come to know Jeni as an open- hearted forthright person, who generates passion for justice amongst us when we lag a bit, in focus and energy. Her energy and high spirits enhance our ARCWP community, just as she energizes many other communities especially amongst other denominations, in a true spirit of ecumenism.
I also know both Tee and Jeni in their extraordinary giftedness and alertness for hospitality, an attitude of heart rooted in the practical competencies that community hospitality often requires. In this they are humble and often unrecognized servants. In these gifts, their communities and ours are truly blessed.
In speaking for herself, Tee says: “In being grandmother, I embrace the Feminine Divine and the mystery of this unfolding.”
In speaking of herself, Jeni says: “ I have always believed and worked for social justice in accordance with Jesus’ gospel message of reaching out to the poor and marginalized. In ordination I am pleased to stand as a prophetic witness for positive change, within our beloved Church.”
Like Tee and Jeni, we in the ARCWP must embrace the prophetic witnessing realities of our difficult calling, at this time of change in Christianity and in our global and cosmic world communities. We are presented with mysteries that we must live into and for which we have no completed maps to follow. Our journey alone and together can only unfold from one day to the next. Our strength is in our solidarity. We know that we must support each other’s growth and, in the less developed parts of ourselves, pastor each other as midwives of grace. We know that we go forward as companions in empowerment and that we are strengthened in the joys brought to us by living embedded within communities of equality.
|People extend hands during consecration of Eucharist|
We know that we stand for a renewed model of ordained ministry that is non-clericalist and inclusive of all. All are welcome the table. In liturgical practice, we encourage full participation of the community as much as possible in decision making about liturgy and about the development of the community. But we are still in a middle position regarding women’s leadership, in any community, and so need to be seen and heard at the table of worship and in the gifting of any Sacrament. We also know that we may have to relinquish much, while remaining true servants and leaders in where the future is to bring us.
In all of these changes, we know that we help in bringing about change for the poor and the marginalized and in particular for women, most immediately. Women and children represent 70% of the world’s poor. Positive change that challenges gender oppression is essential to redress centuries of female servitude globally.
Our brother Francis, in Rome is justifiably a popular servant of the people. He has referred to such service as entering the terrain of the “field hospital.” In such a place, there is no doubt that the full range of what could be needed for broader societal change for the better would be uncovered. Here is the place where those who have been silenced and rendered invisible have dwelt for centuries. Here is also the place of our neighbor, down the street and those filling our hospitals, every kind of hospital and every kind of woundedness. Here is the place where there is no shelter or safety and where we enter the realms of cosmic suffering. Here we find pain that cannot be easily assuaged. If we bring our priesthood and the priesthood of the people, fully into this space, we will engage a radical calling that embodies the gospel of Jesus, but to an extent we may never have conceived thus far in the widened, gaping awarenesses it would bring.
Here is where grieving and healing can abound. Here is the invitation to us and most especially to our women being ordained today. Tee and Jeni are called to know the sorrow of the suffering people, as well as the joy of the transformations that must come from the spaces we inhabit, from the spaces of the field hospital and this for the sake of the transformations of our cosmic universe begun already now.
I conclude with a short prayer from the Talmud:
Do not be daunted by the world’s grief
Do justly now
Walk humbly now
You are not obligated to complete the work
Neither are you free to abandon it