Friday, November 4, 2011

"My Episcopal Ordination" by Marie Bouclin, first Roman Catholic Woman Bishop in Canada

Bishop Patricia Fresen ordains

Marie Bouclin, first bishop of Canada


Marie Bouclin and Patricia Fresen

"Deacon Roberta Fuller says it well: “There were so many bishops in traditional red robes that (the chapel) looked ablaze like an autumn hillside.” The presiding bishop was Dr. Patricia Fresen, a theologian from South Africa now living in Germany and two German women bishops, Ida Raming and Gisela Forster. Ida and Gisela were among the first seven women to be ordained Roman Catholic priests on the Danube in 2002. Three other American women bishops, Andrea Johnson, Joan Houk, and Regina Nicolosi also co-presided. Michele Birch Conery and Rose Mewhort represented RCWP Canada; Dr. Dorothy Irvin, priest Janice Sevré-D. and deacon Donna Rougeux from the US attended on their way to the Roy Bourgeois event in Rome. Several friends travelled from Canada, Scotland, and other parts of Germany. My husband stood by me the whole time, joined by our children: Robert and his wife Chantal, Dan, and Suzanne who also served as official photographer. My dear friends Danielle and Woilford Whissell served as MC and cantor, respectively. Danielle can also take credit for much of the pre-ordination organization, along with Patricia, of course, and her good friends Christel Hildebrand (whom some of you know from the WOW Steering Committee) and Elsbeth Franck. To all of them, and to all who came and can’t be named, meinen herzlichen Dank.

The readings we heard were Wisdom 9:9-12 in which the writer asks God to send forth wisdom, for “she knows and understands all things, and she will guide me wisely in my actions...”; we then sang the responsorial psalm of thanksgiving (Ps 116), and listened to 2 Timothy 1: 6-13. Both were recommended by a liturgist friend because they are often read at the ordination of bishops, with good reason! Bishops Andrea and Patricia preached about the need of a bishop to be first a person of deep prayer, then a fearless preacher. From the Gospel reading (John 15: 12-17) they elaborated on the spirit that should animate both our model of priestly ministry and our communities: friendship. We are to be welcoming and inclusive, treating people as friends the way Jesus did. That is what I retained.

A lighter moment was during the anointing when Patricia was so generous with the oil that it actually ran down into my glasses (and my hair was greasy for a week!). Bishop Regina handed me the book of the Gospels, one that has been signed by all the women bishops of RCWP; Bishop Ida placed the bishop’s ring on my finger, a gold ring made from my elder son’s baptism chain and medal (far too delicate for a boy...); Bishop Joan presented me with my bishop’s cross that was hand-made by my husband’s oldest friend, Stan Snider; Bishop Gisela lent me the staff that she had made for her own ordination because carrying one home would have been a bit of a challenge.

The service was bilingual to honour my bi-cultural roots. We sang in French, English and also Latin. We opened with “All our welcome…” to indicate ours was indeed an open table, and it was indeed a joy to see our Lutheran friends come up for communion. It was also amazing to hear a group of about 35 people sing the Veni Creator almost faultlessly all these years after the reform of the liturgy, but then most of us are old enough to remember the pre-Vatican II days...

The reason for traveling to Germany was to return to the birthplace of our movement, and be ordained at the hands of our first women bishops. Afterwards, my husband and I went on a pilgrimage of sorts to Eastern Europe because it was in the “iron curtain” countries that the first women were ordained in the modern era. It’s important for people to know that there were bishops who were authorized to secretly ordain married men and also women to ensure the survival of the Church in communist countries. Later these people, who had risked their jobs and in some cases even their lives, were asked to renounce their ordination. As many of you know, one woman who refused to do so was Ludmila Javorova, who still lives in the Czech Republic. Traveling there gave me the opportunity to tell people on our tour that we in the West are indebted to these heroic people for reinstating the ordination of women, and that while it is subject to sanctions by the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church, it is not a new phenomenon - it dates back to the 1970`s. "

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