Today we rejoice as the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordains Julie Corron and Denise Hackert-Stoner as priests. We rejoice that the holy shakeup is alive and well in the Upper Room Community and in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Ten priests have been ordained in seven ordination in this sanctuary! (invite ARCWP and Upper Room Community to stand up or wave arms) as a witness to the birthing of the Spirit among us!
Now let us reflect on the unique prophetic vision of the 2 women we will ordain today:
Julie believes that just as our cells make up our bodies, we are all part of our God. As a result, we all have the privilege and obligation to care for each other. As a newly endorsed chaplain with the Federation of Christian Ministries, Julie lives this in her work as a hospital chaplain, being present with and bearing witness to the pain and joy and suffering and love of patients, families, and staff. Today, a day that sometimes seemed would never come, Julie answers her call to ordination with a joy-filled heart, grateful for her companions on this path.
Denise believes that we grow into our true selves not only in the momentous occasions of our lives, but also in the small, everyday occurrences, the chance encounters, passing fancies, and the choices we make on a daily basis. For her, every moment offers the potential for growth, every day opens as a sacrament, filled with the possibility of Divine encounters. It is in this spirit that Denise, who has recently earned a Doctorate in Ministry, has created a program of accompaniment for children in their spiritual growth. In the spirit of celebrating our becoming the people we truly are, Denise answers her call to ordination with joy and amazement.
Julie and Denise chose our inspiring readings for today.
In the Gospel of Mary, we encounter Mary Magdalene as apostle to the apostles. She is the one who teaches the male disciples what is hidden from them because Christ spoke within her. But Peter’s words “Did he choose her over us?” echo through the centuries.
As Meggan Watterson writes: “There is no hierarchy in the spiritual world. We are all equal and we are all equally trying, in our own crazy ways to love ourselves enough to see the good that is right here with us…Maybe we are all Peter. when we question how we could possibly deserve a love that is right in front of us. Maybe Mary was more loved by Christ than any other because she knew she wasn’t separate from his love in the first place. She is the woman who knew Christ by heart.” Meggan Waterson, Mary Magdalene Revealed, pp. 185, 197
When we open ourselves to a love that is a power inside us, we can push through any darkness to bring forth a new birthing of Spirit-empowerment in our words and actions each day.
Visionary woman and activist, Valerie Kaur, said that when we breathe together and push together, we build a solidarity rooted in revolutionary love that liberates and transforms us.
Since 2010, ARCWP has been pushing through the pain of the birthing process to create a new model of priestly ministry in a community of equals. As companions in this struggle, we are being set free, as we breath and push together through patriarchal resistance to birth inclusive communities where all are loved, all are blessed, and all are welcome.
We are pushing through a priest-dependent model of church in which “Father knows best” to create people-empowered ecclesial communities who minister to the needs of all and in which all voices are heard. In this sometime messy birthing process, we are learning to embrace the imperfections, the holy messes in our ever growing, evolving movement and faith communities.
We are pushing away from a medieval theology focused on fear and sin, to discover a rich diversity of contemporary theologies that promote the love of the Holy One revealed in the teachings and example of Jesus. He taught that the God of justice and liberation sets us free to love and to set others free. The wise words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mary challenge us not to bind ourselves with rules and laws we don’t need: “Do not lay down any rules beyond what I determined for you, nor give a law like the lawgiver, lest you be confined by it”
Like Mary Magdalene we are pushing through a centuries-old fear of women’s spiritual power, to create new models of spiritual leadership rooted in mutual partnerships in ministry. As Christ’s relationship with Mary Magdalene disturbed Peter, our women priests movement continues to threaten the hierarchy of the RC Church. On June 1, 2021, in the new Updated Code of Canon Law, Pope Francis officially placed the ordination of a woman in the same serious crimes category against the Church as the sexual abuse of a child.
But the good news is that women priests in people- empowered communities will never stop pushing through the darkness of sexism in the hierarchical church to live Gospel equality now.
Some people think women priests are a Catholic revolution because we are breaking the laws of the Church by ordaining women. I believe women priests in inclusive faith communities are a holy shakeup of love that is healing and transforming the Church, making us one heart in Christ! Let us rejoice that together we are liberating theology, renewing sacramental ministry, turning the patriarchal pyramid upside down and creating a discipleship of equals! Amen, Alleluia!
Julie and Denise will continue our homily sharing now:
In our first reading, Robin Meyers proposes that we trade the certainty of orthodoxy for “a path that [is] not obvious, sensible or safe…not to save our souls but to restore them.” In an increasingly secular age, answering the call to ordination may not seem sensible, especially if you are a Roman Catholic woman whose ordination means immediate excommunication. Yet here we are, brimming with joy at the prospect.
Meyers reminds us that in the beginning, it was experiential for the followers of Jesus. They didn’t have to read about the life of Jesus because they were actually there. And what does the gospel tell us that life was like? During his short life, Jesus healed the sick, he talked to women, he fed the hungry, he challenged authority, he taught that the Kin-dom of God was at hand. It can be that way again. It can be that way for us, right now, if we’re willing to let go of certainty and salvation. We can heal the sick. There are lots of kinds of illness and lots of kinds of healing. I can’t heal through the laying on of hands or by writing a prescription, but I can listen to a troubled soul. We can talk to, and show respect for, those who are not valued by society—refugees, minorities, the mentally ill, the homeless. We can feed the hungry and there are so many hungry these days. We can continually challenge authority and the bigots and the bullies around us. And we can live as though we believe that, in the words of one of my favorite songs, “Right now heaven’s right here.” Thank you for sharing that with us today.
In one of the oldest passages from scripture, the Exodus story tells us that “The prophet Miriam, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.’” Exodus 15:20-21
In this passage Miriam is described as a prophet, and she was a prophet. But as it happens, she was also a priest. On the muddy banks of the Sea of Reeds, the Egyptian slave drivers lying defeated at her feet, she leads her community in a liturgical celebration of song and dance. She calls the people together to recognize as a whole community the great thing that has happened, so that before moving on to whatever may come next, they can fix that event in their hearts, mark it in their history, make it part of who they are becoming.
Like Miriam, we as women priests are crossing a muddy marsh. Hot on our heels are the centuries of fear and hatred that have kept us from our calling, kept us in our place. In a Church which views only baptized males as worthy of priestly vocation we have by default been deemed unworthy. Just this summer the Vatican reiterated this unjust claim.
Nevertheless, here we are. I would ask that all of the ordained men and women in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests present in this church right now please stand….. thank you. It is on your shoulders and the shoulders of the 72 sister priests who have come before us that we stand today. And from our high perch as you hold us up we can see the shore. And on that shore stands the Church as it is called to be: a Church of people who walk the way of Jesus; who welcome everyone, who recognize and honor the gifts and vocations of all, regardless of gender, age, race, or sexual orientation. And even though the mud and weeds of inequality still try to pull us down we keep our eyes on that shore. And like Miriam, we have packed our tambourines and are leading the dance.