Thursday, June 6, 2019

Challenges Women Face on Path to Priesthood in Roman Catholic Church - My Story- by Shanon Sterringer ARCWP

I was watching a video (from a respected catechetical organization) last night of a young, charismatic guy, maybe a seminarian, defending the magisterial position against women's ordination. He was "explaining" that priests make great sacrifices for their ministry - which I would agree that they absolutely do - and that women simply want the "glory of ordination" without the sacrifice. Of course he ended his little exhortation by reminding women that our greatest call is to motherhood and we should be content with that. I had to do some deep breathing/grounding exercises (followed by an alcoholic beverage) after I finished watching his video. I feel compelled to respond (big surprise!) because this is not an isolated statement made by one individual. It is a generally accepted attitude.
I love my girls more than my own life and there is not a day that goes by that I do not thank God for blessing me with them. I could not ask for more beautiful, loving, caring, smart, funny, amazing daughters. I am extremely proud of all them. My being their mother, however, does not negate or diminish my call to ordained ministry. If anything, I believe it enhances it because I have learned, through loving and caring for them, what sacrificial love entails. The institution is unaware (by intention) of the sacrifices women make to follow our call. I struggled with this decision for over a decade. Some of you, friends on my page, are well aware of my struggle because you have loved and supported me as floundered between, "I'm leaving the church to be ordained... I can't leave the church, I love the people too much... I'm leaving the church to be ordained... I can't leave the church, I've worked too hard for what I've accomplished... etc..., etc..." I struggled with these emotions behind the scenes while I filled the expectations placed on me to complete degrees, diocesan training, parish programs, and so on. I spent every holiday and special event at the parish, as did my family, as we tried to balance my ministry with our personal lives. My husband and daughters have loved and supported my call to ministry every step of the way, and continue to. It goes without saying that women make the same sacrifices as men to follow our call in regards to years of formation and education (I should add, the women pay for their theological training, it is not supplemented like the male clergy), endless hours of parish ministry, etc. The difference, for women in saying yes to the call is that it costs us our jobs, diocesan connections, professional and personal relationships, reputations, we are vulnerable to threats (sometimes realized), and we are mocked by the very men who claim to be standing "in persona Christ" in their own call. So, to answer this accusation that women desire to enjoy the "glory of ordination without the sacrifice", I suggest these men (and women) consider walking a few steps in our shoes before passing judgment...

Shanon Sterringer, Ph.D., D.Min, MA Theology, MA Ministry, BA
Christian Minister and Holistic Wellness Advocate

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