Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Deacon Donna Rougeux-My Journey to Rome With Women's Ordination Activists and Fr. Roy Bourgeois


Left to right:
Priest Ree Hudson,
Deacon Donna Rougeux,
Fr. Roy Bourgeois,
Priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska

It was a sunny warm day in Rome Italy and I was surrounded by progressive thinkers of the Catholic Church. We went to a small theatre in Rome and showed Pink Smoke Over the Vatican with Italian subtitles. This was followed up with a press conference. I was very proud of the statements that were made during the press conference by Fr. Roy, Erin Hanna, Janice Sevre-Duszynska and Dorothy Irvin. Janice and Roy were interviewed individually by Associated Press after the press conference. We were surprised that the news people followed us when we marched to St. Peter's Square.

There I was walking toward the Vatican for the very first time in my life and I was dressed in an alb and a deacon stole holding on to the WOC banner that said "Ordain Catholic Women." I would have never predicted that my first trip to Europe would have been as an activist in a movement for women's ordination in the church! I am so new to the movement but have been on an unbelievable and exciting, life-giving journey empowered by the Holy Spirit from the first moment of stepping foot into the preparation program to become a Roman Catholic Woman Priest. I went to Rome with the "Rosa Parks" of our movement-Janice Sevre-Duszynska. I was in Rome to support the Prophet of our movement-Fr. Roy. Dorothy Irvin, theologian,archeologist accompanied us on the trip educating us and taking us to important historical spots. I was surrounded by great people from CTA, WOC, and
womenpriest.org. This was more than I could ever dream of. I had many moments on this trip when my emotions stirred within me and I was overcome with thankfulness for the experiences I was encountering as they unfolded. This was a trip of a lifetime. And there are pictures in many newspapers of the events I participated in-just in case I forgot my camera.

As I sit here at home reflecting on my trip I hear Bridget Mary's encouraging words in my head: "You and Janice are participating in historical events." I think Bridget Mary is right and it is such an honor and a privilege to be part of this movement that is influencing the Church and moving it to a better place. This better place supports women and men who answer God's call to the priesthood and the people of God are empowered to follow their baptismal calls to fully participate in the liturgy and the work of the church. This is a place where all are welcome at the table and inclusive language is used. A community of equals are encouraged to love and serve God in the church and the community in this place.

The week in Rome also included going to the Basilica di Santa Prassede and seeing a mosaic of Bishop Theodora. I had seen Dorothy Irvin's slides before coming to Rome so as soon as I spotted the mosaic I recognized it and was filled with joy to personally see this indisputable evidence of the presence of women as priests and bishops in the early church. The same thing happened inside of me when I was in the catacomb of Priscilla and saw the fresco of women celebrating the Eucharist. We also visited a church that has part of the tombstone of St. Monica, Augustine's mother. The most memorable new knowledge that I gained from Dorothy Irvin had to do with St. Monica and made this visit to the church with her tombstone quite important to me.

Dorothy asked me if I had read The Confessions by Augustine. When I told her yes, she asked if I remembered the part where Augustine talked about Monica being a priest. When I told her with surprise that I did not remember anything like that in the book, she told me that book six talked about Monica giving people communion. Luckily I found a copy of the book online and just as Dorothy said, Augustine talked about his mother giving people communion! "In accordance with my mother's custom in Africa, she had taken to the memorial shrines of saints cakes and bread and wine, and was forbidden by the janitor. When she knew that the bishop was responsible for the prohibition, she accepted it in so devout and docile a manner that I myself was amazed how easy it was for her to find fault with her own custom rather than dispute his ban." Can you guess which bishop was forbidding Monica from continuing with her custom? It was Augustine's teacher, Ambrose. Monica gives Ambrose all the credit for converting Augustine to Christianity so it seems she thinks Ambrose can do no wrong. "When she learnt that the famous preacher and religious leader had ordered that no such offerings were to be made,... she happily abstained. ...Yet it seems to me, Lord my God-and this is the conviction of my heart in your sight-that she would not have yielded easily on the prohibition of this custom if the ban had come from another whom she did not love like Ambrose. For the sake of my salvation she was wholly devoted to him, and he loved her for her deeply religious pattern of life." Monica was a priest! Dorothy Irvin says she has read things that lead her to believe that Monica was a bishop! How bittersweet it is to think of Monica abstaining from her custom because of her high regard of the man who led her son to Christianity.
One of my favorite songs is Requiem and is sung by Eliza Gilkyson. The song came to my attention when I heard it being sung in a very moving part of Pink Smoke Over the Vatican. A beautiful phrase in the song has the following words: "Mary fill the glass to overflowing, illuminate the path where we are going." These words express my sentiments about my first trip to Rome. Mary filled my glass to overflowing and illuminated the path where we were going. I am filled with thanksgiving to God that I have been called to step into this movement at such an exciting time and I am filled with respect and gratitude for the women who have blazed the trail and have given their lives in working toward women's ordination. I stand on their shoulders as I accept the torch that they pass to me and pray that I can continue this good work with dignity and grace doing all that I can to work for reform in this church that we love too much to let it be destroyed and distorted. This trip has blessed me with great inspiration and hope for the work ahead.

2 comments:

Mike said...

"I was in Rome to support the Prophet of our movement-Fr. Roy."

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves(Matthew 7:15)

Mike said...

"The week in Rome also included going to the Basilica di Santa Prassede and seeing a mosaic of Bishop Theodora. I had seen Dorothy Irvin's slides before coming to Rome so as soon as I spotted the mosaic I recognized it and was filled with joy to personally see this indisputable evidence of the presence of women as priests and bishops in the early church."

Wives and mothers of clergy were once given titles such as "Diakonissa" and "Episkopa". There is no evidence that these women were literally bishops or deacons. In the case of Theodora, she was the mother of Pope Paschal.