Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Women's liturgical role: Lessons to be Learned" by Jeannine Gramick, National Catholic Reporter

Discussion at the 2016 International Conference of
Priest Movements and Reform Organizations
 (photo by Amanda Fenton)

"It was a remarkable collection of forty individuals, most of whom had labored for decades in church reform under two papacies that looked upon reform as anathema. Many carried bruises and battle scars quietly in their hearts. They met in Chicago last October, an international network of priest associations and reform groups. The priests' groups hailed from Germany, Austria, Ireland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Australia, and the U.S. The reform organizations also came from these countries, as well as Italy, Argentina, and the United Kingdom...."

..."Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery, a founder of the Association of Catholic Priests, and Kate McElwee, co-executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference, suggested that the group celebrate the Eucharist without any main presiders. The group would sit in a circle, around an altar table, with different people praying various sections of the liturgy, but with the whole assembly reciting the Eucharistic prayer. This, they felt, would be a sign that gender is no barrier among us. Furthermore, the action could be interpreted according to the opinion of each participant...

And the opinions expressed were thoughtful and wide-ranging. A few who had disagreed with the suggestion made in Limerick that a male priest and a woman preside at the Eucharist, felt this latest suggestion for the manner of praying was "OK." One priest said this was an opportunity to practice the inclusivity we preach. Another disclosed, "When I celebrate Eucharist with students, I invite a woman to co-preside. I view this proposal as a compromise."

..."Then a flood of anguished feelings came from some of the women who felt the "clerical culture" was responsible for the power of some over the equality of all. Deborah Rose-Milavec, executive director of FutureChurch, pleaded, "I hope we don't decide on the backs of women again; this is so painful because it makes me feel that I am not part of the Body of Christ."
Another woman said that her community prays this way every week and she felt sad that a ritual meant to show unity was effectively divisive. Gloria Ulterino, a representative of RAPPORT (Renewing a Priestly People, Ordination Reconsidered Today), felt "very discouraged" as she never "anticipated such disagreement in this gathering." Gloria, together with Deb, Kate, Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, and Marilyn Hatton, a representative of Women's Ordination Worldwide from Australia, drew up a letter, asking their brothers at the conference to "risk stepping out and acting courageously for women's full equality in the Church."
As in Limerick, I was disappointed that the proposed Chicago solution did not satisfy the group as a whole, even though all expressed genuine gratitude for the discussion. At the end of the conference, most prayed in the manner proposed, while about 10 people respectfully stayed apart and prayed their own prayer..."
Bridget Mary's Response:
At this international meeting, we witness a gathering of progressive leaders divided, yet in respectful conversation on women's liturgical role in the Roman Catholic Church.  We are  obviously at different places in crossing a bridge from the institutional ban on women priests to a discipleship of equals model where the baptized are empowered to celebrate Eucharist. 
We are experiencing a great diversity of opinions and practices as we journey across the bridge of new life and renewal. Women are already assuming liturgical roles in different places -particularly in alternative, inclusive Catholic communities. It is a step forward that some of our bishops and priests in leadership roles in Ireland, Austria and elsewhere are walking toward gender equality. 
  Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida has  ordained and non-ordained presiders who work together to  create the liturgies each week. The entire community prays the Eucharistic Prayer and shares in the dialogue homily. 
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,

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