“This obstacle is an obstacle of culture, of tradition, of church,” says Zeman. “It’s that kind of an obstacle that really causes you to say, ‘OK, I’m jumping off the cliff here. And as I jump off this cliff, I’m asking you, God, to help me because I know you have called me.’”
In the face of those obstacles, not every womanpriest can afford to be as bold as Zeman, who isn’t affiliated with the mainstream Catholic Church. Unlike Zeman, women who have been ordained as womenpriests or deacons but can’t speak out for fear of retribution—losing their jobs with the church, facing discrimination in their mainstream Catholic communities—are called “catacombs” by the rest of the womenpriests, an allusion to early Christians who held mass in secret in the catacombs of Rome.
Working as a youth leader and keeping her calling silent was an isolating experience for Rolenc. It wasn’t until she was invited to play drums at Zeman’s ordination that she saw the potential for community. “It was the first time I’d seen women on the altar like that. Feeling accepted—that was the biggest part. Being around women who were aliens like myself, that was the best feeling.”
At the end of the ordination service, Houk and the Lutheran minister of Good Shepherd hold the new deacon’s arms in the air as she faces the congregation. Rolenc, with her curly hair and quick grin, looks like a wrestling champion on stage, arms held up by the refs who have watched her battle it out and win. Behind her are banners that depict famous women in the church, including St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the “little flower” who wrote, “If I were a priest, oh Jesus, with what love I would give you to people.” In this moment, Rolenc is joining two lines of succession, the spiritual family trees of both Bishop X and the women of the Catholic Church..."