Janice Sevre Duszynska ARCWP at SOA Vigil, Nov. 2011. He co-presided with Janice at 2010 SOA liturgy but did not go public until 2011
Bridget Mary's Response: I give thanks for the prophetic witness of Franciscan priest
Fr. Jerry Zawada who courageously co-presided with Janice Sevre Duszynska at a Eucharistic Liturgy at SOA Vigil in 2011. His witness for justice and equality will be
forever remembered. Although harshly punished by the hierarchy, Fr. Jerry
persisted in his witness for women priests. (see photo of Fr. Jerry in a wheel chair,
holding a sign calling for women priests.
May Fr. Jerry's witness for women's ordination encourage priests
around the globe to walk in his footsteps and and support women priests.
St. Jerry Zawada, may you inspire courageous action for peace and justice.
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP, www.arcwp.org
..."it was an SOA Watch liturgy in November 2011 that would lead to Zawada's formal
removal from priestly ministry. That year, he joined woman priest
Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who was ordained in 2008 through the
Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, in a liturgical service
for more than 300 people.
He later told NCR that he also concelebrated with Sevre-Duszynska,
a close friend and fellow activist, in 2010.
Following the 2011 liturgy, Zawada said that the service presented him
the opportunity to "support the movement" for women's ordination, an issue
he said he has given consideration to for "quite a long time,"
adding that the structure of the church "needs reshaping."
"Whatever consequences come for me, I'm willing to accept," he said of possible
punishment for his participation.
In March 2014, he received a letter from the Vatican's Congregation for the
Doctrine of the Faith that removed him from ministry and directed him
to "a life of prayer and penance." As part of his removal, he was
restricted from presenting himself in public as a priest or
celebrating the sacraments publicly,
something his provincial at the time Franciscan
Fr. John Puodziunas said he hadn't done in recent years.
The letter didn't deter Zawada's support of women priests, or married priests,
and he took comfort in supposed remarks from Pope Francis
to a group of Latin American nuns and priests
that should they find themselves under doctrinal scrutiny,
"do not worry. Explain whatever you have to explain, but move forward."
Even as age weakened his body, his spirit to continue his vocation remained strong.
"Every single one of my dreams at night are dreams about living and sharing life
with the poor, with people who are destitute, and I sense I have a strong
calling for that," he told NCR in March 2014.
Zawada demonstrated in 2013 against construction of a nuclear weapons facility
near Kansas City, Missouri. In the span of five days in March 2015,
he was among those arrested at protests against nuclear weapons and
drones in California and Nevada. In recent years, he desired to return to
the border to assist immigrants.
"He was a Franciscan and follower of St. Francis to the end," his longtime friend
Franciscan Fr. Louie Vitale told NCR, the two frequent companions during
protests against nuclear weapons, drones and wars and conflicts.
"He greatly loved Jesus and the chance to follow a nonviolent Jesus and
exemplify Franciscan values of living simply and sharing resources," said Kathy Kelly, a Chicago peace activist and co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Zawada's belief in nonviolence led him across the globe: Guatemala, Iraq, the
West Bank, the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona and Texas, and
numerous military bases and facilities across the country.
His friends and fellow activists remember Zawada as a humble servant of humanity
with a droll sense of humor, a gentle man with a heart large enough for all and
incapable of offense, a priest who most identified with the down and dejected.
Whether Central American refugees at the U.S. border, those caught amid
war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the poor and gang members of Chicago,
the imprisoned and others decades-deep in the peace movement,
Zawada was a friend to all.
Franciscan Fr. James Gannon, provincial minister of the Franciscan Friars of the
Assumption BVM Province, in Franklin, Wisconsin, called his fellow friar
"a prophet for peace and justice."
"He always would say he believed what he did was God's will.
And that was his faith, that he was following God's will," Gannon said.
[Brian Roewe is an NCR staff writer. His email address is email@example.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @BrianRoewe.]