..."One year ago, as a way to honor both her mother's vision as well as her own calling to the priesthood, Durkin Dierks endowed the Lucile Murray Durkin Scholarship Fund for Women Discerning Priestly Ordination. The fund, which is operated through the Women's Ordination Conference, offers small grants to women who are enrolled or accepted into an undergraduate or graduate studies program, and is primarily directly to women who wish to be ordained Catholic priests, including Ecumenical Catholic Communion priests or Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
Though Durkin Dierks acknowledges that the scholarship will not offer large sums of money, its greater purpose is to acknowledge that Catholic women are called to the priesthood. "It can serve as an encouragement to those who may not have the means to pursue and fulfill their inner vocational voices," she says. "It will signal for young women their right to answer their calls and become well educated to do so."
Lucile Murray Durkin with her daughters, Ellen (Mary-Cabrini) Durkin, Frances Durkin Colletti, Sheila Durkin Dierks and two of her seven grandchildren, John Dierks and Alice Colletti (Courtesy of Sheila Durkin Dierks)
This past July, Women's Ordination Conference announced the first three recipients of the scholarship. Two of the women, Elaina Jo Polovick and Lisa Cathelyn, are currently pursuing Master of Divinity degrees at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara in Berkeley, California. The third recipient, Sarah Holst, is a Master of Divinity student at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Each woman received a renewable gift of $1,000.
For these women, even a little bit of hope and encouragement can go a long way. Though each has a different vision of how she might minister, they are all aware that they are seeking to serve an institutional church that does not view their callings as valid. Unlike for Catholic men who are discerning the priesthood, church leaders will not rejoice in, pray for, or support their vocations. Unlike their male seminarian classmates, they will face significant financial hardship as they pursue their vocations. Each of them is accruing steep loan debt, and none of them expect to find well-paying jobs in ministry — if they find jobs in their vocation at all.
The possibility of employment in a Catholic setting seems especially unlikely for Sarah Holst, since she is seeking ordination with the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement. According to a 2007 decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Holst will face automatic excommunication for receiving sacred orders from Roman Catholic Womenpriests."
Bridget Mary's Response: I rejoice in this great news that the Lucile Murray Durkin Scholarship Fund for Women Discerning Priestly Ordination provides financial support to women called to ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. People's Catholic Seminary offers an alternative, affordable program geared to new models of church that are evolving liberating, empowering and inclusive. www.pcseminary.org