Sunday, January 19, 2014

Homily: The Magnificat: Mary’s Prayer Empowers Us In Our Struggle Against Sexism” Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

Today justice is rising up for women in the Catholic Church in Colombia and in the United States.
Today the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests will ordain 4 women to serve inclusive Catholic communities where all are welcome to receive sacraments.  
Marina Teresa Sanchez is a 46 year old highly dynamic community activist and married woman who has two sons and a granddaughter.  She has pursued the cause of human rights, justice for women and for Colombians of African descent her whole life. Her degrees are in early childhood and community education and theology. In the 1990's she participated in global women's conferences in Brazil, Vienna and Beijing, China. She worked with local priests in several base communities. She was a missionary to Ecuador for three years where she studied Theology and served women and children and the outcast. Since 2005 she has animated, represented and served the very large community of Afro Colombians in Cali. As Marina Teresa gathers with this community around the Eucharistic table, they will reflect the liberating presence of God at work for justice on the altars of their lives.
Maureen McGill is a married woman with two daughters and 5 grandchildren. She is a retired lawyer who spent most of her practice advocating for abused and neglected children. She has served in almost every phase of church life including director of religious education, lector, and Eucharistic Minister.  Maureen will lead liturgies at Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, provide pastoral care for residents of nursing homes in St. Petersburg and continue her advocacy role for those in need.
Like deacon Phoebe, whom St. Paul praised as an outstanding leader in Romans 16, our newly ordained deacons will continue to hear the cries of the vulnerable and work for justice for the marginalized.  
Rita Lucey of Orlando, a member of Pax Christi, has been married for 61 years. She is a mother of four and grandmother of nine.  As a human rights activist Rita spent six months in federal prison to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas. Because of her witness for justice issues and her experience in prison she has advocated for women in prison and has also served as a Hospice Volunteer for 25 years. As a deacon, Rita will continue her witness for peace through prison ministry, and as a human rights activist in Amnesty International, Pax Christi, and the United Nations Association.
Mary Bergan Blanchard is a widow, mother, grandmother, writer and a practicing Licensed Professional Counselor. Her early years were spent as a Sister of Mercy, where she taught in diocesan schools and spent one year on mission in Lebanon working in a Palestinian camp. She left the Order to teach the disadvantaged in Boston where she promoted racial integration and began a neighborhood group to promote social justice. After retiring, Mary and her family moved to Albuquerque where she served the Risen Savior Catholic community for twenty years as a Licensed Professional Counselor. As a deacon, Mary will develop liturgies for inclusive home church celebrations."
In our Gospel today, Mary, mother of Jesus, proclaims that God raises up those who are exploited, the victims of poverty, discrimination and violence in church and society.
Mary’s prayer of praise, the Magnificat, reveals her solidarity with the lowliest and the hungriest. In this prayer, Mary is an apostle for justice, a symbol of strength, comfort and empowerment for the disinherited and marginalized of the world. Her prophetic message gives hope that the oppressed will triumph over poverty, abuse and domination and that they will experience the justice promised to them by God. The poor and marginalized are the blessed ones, not their oppressors. Award-winning theologian Elisabeth Johnson sums up God’s liberating action in these words: “God protects the poor, noticing their tears, while challenging the comfortable and the proud to conversion, to genuine discipleship, even at the loss of their own comfort. The divine intent is not to take revenge and so create a new order of injustice but to build up a community of sisters and brothers marked by human dignity and mutual regard…Imagine the world according to the defiant Mary’s Magnificat, invites African writer Peter Daino: a heavenly banquet and all the children fed”(Elizabeth Johnson,  Truly Our Sister, New York, Continuum, 2009, 269-271)
In the spirit of prophetic obedience we remember the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero who said in 1977: “Peace is the fruit of justice….(There will be peace when) there is no repression, when there is no segregation, when all people have legitimate rights, when there is freedom, when there is no fear”.  As validly ordained women priests we long for such peace and justice for the world and for ourselves in the church. 
Pope Francis reminds us that a prophet is someone who listens to the word of God and reads the sign of the times. He said: “When there is no prophecy amongst the people of God, the emptiness that is created gets filled by clericalism…All those who are baptized are prophets: let us not forget God’s promise, let us not tire of moving forward.”
I agree with our beloved Pope. The church must once again reclaim the prophetic voice of the people of God, the sense of the faithful.  
Our international Women Priests Movement is one of the contemporary prophetic movements of our time.  We are visible reminders that women are equal images of God. I believe that on a deep, mystical level women priests are beginning a healing process of centuries-old deep misogyny in which spiritual power was invested exclusively in men.  Churches that treat women as second-class citizens contradict the fundamental spiritual equality of women in the Bible: “Humankind was created as God’s reflection: in the divine image God created them female and male God made them.” Genesis1:27
Our ordinations are acts of justice to move the church to live its mission of human equality as the Body of Christ on earth. The Catholic Church must break free of machismo and affirm women’s sacredness and full participation as equal partners in ministry including ordination.  As Pope Francis said in a recent interview in La Civilita Catolica, “Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed.”
The sad reality is that women are among the lowliest and poorest in our world.  The laws and policies of the Vatican have a major impact on women’s lives around the globe. If the church discriminates against women and excludes them from serving at the altar, then it perpetuates the abuse, rape and exploitation of women throughout the world.  We must make the connection between the denial of women’s decision-making authority in religion and the abuse and violence that millions of women suffer around the globe.
In solidarity with other church renewal organizations, the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests challenges church laws that fail to value the experiences of women and  their full human rights. The Vatican fails to treat women as free moral agents who are fully capable of following their consciences in decisions that affect their lives.  One example is the ban on artificial birth control.  If the institutional church utilized the gifts of married priests and women priests, this rule put in place by celibate males would be quickly lifted!  
Yes, Pope Francis, we agree it is time to listen to the prophetic voices of the faithful in the church for liberation and justice, and move away from the domination of a deficient, patriarchial  hierarchy.  Mary’s Magnificat offers a stinging indictment of a powerful hierarchy that clings to outdated structures that keep women subordinate in our church. The full equality of women in church governance and ministry is the voice of God in our times!
Women priests, Pope Francis, are following your advice and moving forward in prophetic obedience to the Spirit calling us to live human equality in our church now! The Magnificat: Mary’s Prayer empowers us in our struggle against sexism.
Now we ordain our beloved Sisters: Marina Teresa, Maureen, Rita and Mary. The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests rejoices that 4 women , called by their communities, will be ordained today to serve God’s people.  May we be a “holy shakeup” that will bring justice, compassion and love to our church and beyond!
Bridget Mary Meehan, D.Min., a Sister for Christian Community, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2006. She was ordained a bishop on April 19, 2009.  Dr. Meehan is currently Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program for Global Ministries University, and is the author of 20 books, including   Living Gospel Equality Now: Loving in the Heart of God, The Healing Power of Prayer and Praying with Women of the Bible . She presides at liturgies in Mary, Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community in Sarasota, Florida. Dr. Meehan can be reached at and


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