Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Pope's Catholic Problem: Women Priests, but we love him! In U.S., Western Europe, Argentina, Brazil: Support for Female Priests Growing in South America!
 Bridget Mary's Response;
Yes, women priests are Pope Francis' Catholic problem, but we love him because he stands with the marginalized which includes women, who are two-thirds of the poor. Together we reach out with the compassionate heart of Christ and challenge our church to embrace our sisters as true equals in our family. 
Bridget Mary Meehan,
In the US, Western Europe, Argentina and Brazil, support for female priests outweighed opposition. But in Mexico, Poland, the Philippines, and the two African nations, opposition outweighed support.
left to right ARCWP  Olga Lucia ALvarez presents Deacon Marina Teresa  Mejia Sanchez for ordination as first Afro-Colombian Priest in Sarasota, Florida on Jan. 18, 2014. .www.ARCWP.ORG
On gay marriage, respondents backed the church. Support for same-sex marriage outnumbered opposition in only two countries: the US and Spain. Everywhere else, opposition outnumbered support. In Argentina and Brazil, the margin was very tight.,,,

A St. Valentine’s Day Reflection-The Hunger for the I Love You with Rvdas. Olga Lucia and Judy

45b45-dscf0715This insightful blog is from our sister priest, Olga Lucia Alvarez Benjumea of Colombia,South America.  She wrote it in March of 2010 and shares it with us now. I have edited the English sometimes loosely but the thoughts are all hers.She is saying that all of us prodigal daughters, sons, parents, spouses, partners and friends are longing for love and affirmation from our loving God and one another. Thank you, Rvda. Olga Lucia!
As I read Olga Lucia’s beautiful words I thought about a young person who is part of my church. She rarely attends as she is fearful in crowds and was agoraphobic, remaining in her room for many years, until fairly recently when caring,love,began to thaw the iceberg that became her heart. She was abused physically and emotionally by an angry father until he finally left the home. She left school after the ninth grade. She began hearing voices in later adolescence. She hardly ever left the house. Her family attends our church and I had intermittent pastoral contact with her over the last few years. But something happened to bring us closer together. My surgery for the GIST(slow growing low level malignant tumor in my stomach) a year ago caused me to stop and reflect on many things. I reviewed my ministry and I identified that this one young adult was neglected by me in the midst of those clanging cymbals that made a lot more noise. I wanted to try harder to reach her-God laid her on my heart and I could listen to my heart because I was not very active nor running around with the ministry or life.  I also realized that I could no longer take care of my large aviary adequately.
I guess that I had reached her enough for her to come out of her room to greet me and express her pleasure that I was getting better when I visited her family. That was a big step for her. I spent some time with her and asked if she liked birds and if she thought she could get to my house and help with the birds. We were both amazed as she thought she could, and she did come to learn how to do this. She was gentle and happy with the birds and she enjoyed this job. We talked a little each time she came. She was able to accept a referral to the Mental Health Center and also to begin seeing her general practitioner. She opened herself to the possibility of other friendships very slowly but surely. We saw the iceberg melt. We saw the fear recede. We saw a whole person developing with courage and in response to caring. Recently there was a setback when a physical problem required serious medical intervention. She tried to retreat and move back into the iceberg again.  But soon she started coping with it “because you and my doctors and my friend are so persistent”. It is such a blessing to witness her growth into life. For Valentines Day we gave her a card with pictures of the kittys and birds in it. Today she brought me and Pastor Judy Beaumont a beautiful card that said “People as kind and as loving as you are God’s Valentines to the world. Happy Valentine’s Day”.  And in her own hand she wrote:” thanks for all the help and support. You both are wonderful. Happy Valentine’s to both of you and the birds and cats are great, I love them.”  Wow-unfrozen by love! How wonderful to experience it. Rvda. Olga Lucia is right!
love and blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee,ARCWP
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
The Hunger of the I Love You in The Parable of The Prodigal Son                                            by Rvda. Olga Lucia Alvarez
This text ,Luke 15:11-38 would call it the hunger of the “I love you”. When you have never had the warmth of a hug, a kiss, a loving detail, we become sullen, hard, frozen as icebergs.  But if you meet this friend / or that support, this companions kind hand, that solidarity , that fraternity, you realize what you’re worth when someone cares.  If you were a block of cement you’d melt like the opening of a  a dam. See it fall lovingly, soft or hard, crystalline buds cascade of love and “I love you” spontaneous, fearless, free as the wind.
Some have had the experience of being concrete blocks, others perhaps never were, but one day the love they lost or never had, for whatever reason, unfounded fears,  frozen by fears, by blockages in training, block out the experience of love. But like the prodigal son,  and others somehow recognize and realize that in the house of my Father/Mother there is affection, a party, gestures of love hugs and kisses, and large or small details in pretty paper the bonds of love are wrapped. After thinking a while, we push and we run, with an open heart willing to melt in the loving embrace that receives and welcomes us because we are their daughters and sons and to God we are alike.
There are so many heartbreaks, causes of many diseases, and family violence.  There are so many broken homes that create icebergs. Yet God’s great love is without fear and without reserve. You are melted by it and you feel violence, hatred and revenge that has brought us so many dead giving way and relenting.
It is the responsibility of all of us, of you and I of all who were born to ask for forgiveness, because this world, this life, and being distracted in our internal conflicts, we have not been able to  sweep, shake and make ourselves as new. If you are sensitive to what I am saying here, I say it is because you have encountered the love of God, sometimes in another person.
Women and men need affection,it  is the love of God that moves us to love. But, just as we know it, we are afraid.  We may need a messenger to show us the face of God.
You have to be hungry for the “I love you”, you have to give them to receive them, you have to break the ice.
Leticia, I care about you, Get well; William;! I love you, Teresa, you’re great! Laura, God gave you that smile, so beautiful!. David! I hug and kiss you, Maru, thanks for the “I love you” I love you too, Camilin, Maria; my teachers, I love them! Diego! You’re the most beautiful thing God has given me in life, your presence, your friendship! Machelina, sister and my friend, how nice to have you in this life. Camilo, Inés, Benton, were thankful for that company. Blanca, Catalina, Charo, although they are far they are closer.
My life wants to be a hymn to life, I ask forgiveness for the times I have not loved, and I’ve offended, for the times I made you suffer and grieve someone this close or this far. To my family, my ancestors, my mother Earth, Air, Water, Fire, because I have abused them  by not loving them and taking care of them as I should. I love you, I love you and I thank you.  My greatest expression of love, commitment and responsibility towards all , is to show the face of God, that you recognize and find. May we, as we are, big, small, old or young, see the face of God.  Run eagerly seeking your love and experience “I love you” like the prodigal son.
Thank God my spirit, because as they say, that when someone writes  the soul walks. Mine escaped and went to recess and enjoy this day. .
Olga Lucia Alvarez B                                                                                                                                                        Rvdas. Olga Lucia and Judy
Bogotá, March 9/10

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Join One Billion Rising on Friday February 14

Newly ordained Deacon Mary Sue Barnett,
Priest, Mary Theresa Streck and Deacon Maureen McGill

Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP priest, is the Co-founder of Ark Community Charter School in Troy, New York.  Her school is participating in the One Billion Rising event on February 14, 2014 to advocate for justice for women in breaking the chain of violence toward women. View this inspiring video of the students in Ark Community Charter School practicing the dance for tomorrow’s event.  We are very happy to spread the word about this important statement and social justice event. We stand in solidarity and are greatly inspired to see today’s youth dancing for justice in our world. Here is the link to the video of the students, enjoy and be inspired:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Catholic Women Ordained In Sarasota, FL

Credit Yoselis Ramos / WUSF

Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan (center) stands with two newly ordained priests, Maureen McGill (left) and Marina Teresa Sanchez Mejia (right).

Catholic Women Priests Ordained in Sarasota

The sun shone like a beacon through the windows of the St. Andrew United Church of Christ in Sarasota. It started off like a regular Catholic mass but instead of men wearing the deacon slashes as they walked down the aisle it was women.
This is not a regular mass. It is a ceremony for ordaining women priests and deacons. Two women were joining the more than 145 women priests around the world. They are members of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. It’s a part of a movement that started in 2002 with the ordination of seven women at the Danube River in Germany. They were ordained by an episcopal male bishop whose own ordination was not considered valid by the Roman Catholic Church.

Actually, the Vatican punishes women who seek ordination with excommunication. It’s a crime against the church and excommunication is the most severe penalty. But that does not intimidate this group of women. Maureen McGill of Pensacola is one of them. She was ordained a priest in Sarasota.
McGill found the association through the internet after leaving the Catholic Church for a few years.
"At that point, nobody in the family was going to church. We were just done with church," McGill said. "We had a bad experience at my mother's funeral and we just left."
To McGill, this community felt right.
 “I was home but there was none of the rigidity, there was openness to women, openness to birth control, openness to divorced Catholics, openness to gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual people," McGill said. "It was a totally open experience and I think that’s what I had been looking for for 67 years.”
But this group is not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.
 “The Diocese of Venice does not recognize them at all. It’s just a group of people making a claim that’s just not valid within our church," Frank Murphy, spokesman for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, said.
A recent poll conducted by Bendixen & Amandi for the Spanish-language network Univision, showed Catholics internationally are split on a variety of issues including gay marriage, divorce, and abortion. Specifically, 59 percent of the Catholics surveyed in the United States believed women should be ordained into priesthood.
Pope Francis has said the door of allowing women in the priesthood is closed. McGill understands that doors close…
“But they open, they do open. And if you knock loud enough and hard enough and keep going at it, that door might open," McGill said.
Some folks like Murphy don’t see that door opening anytime soon.
 “I think that the ordination of a woman to priesthood, I think it involves a teaching of the church which is for men only at this point in time," Murphy said, "and I think it will continue to be that way.”
Even so, McGill holds out hope as she jokes often with her husband.
 “He said the other day, ‘you’ll never live to see women completely accepted in the church’ and then he looked at me and he says, ‘given your genes, you probably will live to see it,’" she said, "and I will crawl to the Vatican with my walker if I have to on that day if they do accept us.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fan Into Flame the Gift 
of God Which Is In You
The young people of our Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community are setting the church afire with their examples of faithfulness and excitement in learning and living the Gospel. When asked how they witness to their faith they are initially stumped and then they can identify helping others, bearing other’s problems, being peacemakers and studying to do well at school. This is not easy in a neighborhood where violence is ever present and others may drop out of school and family life. Sometimes there are problems and bumps in the road large and small. One family was struck with tragic illness of one member and these youngsters did more than children are expected to do in being there for that member and the stressed adult caretakers. Economic realities are hard yet these young people do not ask for much. They are clear that most important is love and they are grateful for their parents and grandparents. Most significant for the youth who have remained with us over the years is that adult family members come to church with them. They are not just sent, they are led by parents, grandparents, aunts and Godparents. Instead of withdrawing from church as so many do, they come to church faithfully and to our Sunday classes where they share their lives, share God’s love with all present, and work at learning how to follow Christ.

They are not fully aware of how much joy they bring into the lives of their church family members with their smiles, and participation in the liturgy and in the life of the church. We are happy to support them as they work hard at success in school and having fun as kids should have. Most recently we were amazed as all of our young people elected to move forward to Confirmation at the end of April, the week after Easter. (On Easter our three youngest children, the triplets who are 5 and a half, will be baptized).The enthusiasm of our youth led about ten of our adults to elect Confirmation as well. Yesterday we held a joint Confirmation class with the young people and the adults. As Timothy was told by Paul to fan the flame of the gift of God in him by the laying on of hands by Paul and the community, our young people are leading their elders into the laying on of hands and receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit not only in Confirmation but in every day life. We are blessed with wonderful families and young people!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Thank you Call To Action for posting this  beautiful prayer:

Loving God,
You who created each of us in Your own image
and who called us together in community,
We give You thanks for the gift of marriage
and for the many couples
whose love and commitment to each other reminds us
of Your never-ending love for humanity.
We thank You for all the different types of marriages in our world:
young couples beginning a life together,
as well as couples celebrating decades of love,
re-married couples and those who found each other later in life,
couples whose marriages are recognized by our state and our Church,
and same-sex couples who are denied that recognition
but who continue to bravely model love and commitment in the face of discrimination.
We thank You for the many kinds of families
that are strengthened by these marriages:
families of biological children and adopted children,
blended families and families of choice,
as well as couples without children who work together
to nurture communities of love and justice.
This week, as many are observing National Marriage Week,
we ask You to pour Your blessings onto every marriage
regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Make each marriage one of love, respect and peace.
Guide each couple as they strive to be an example of your love in the world
and surround them with family and friends
who honor and celebrate their commitment.
Help us support marriage and family in all of its diversity
and guide us as we speak out against oppression in our Church.
Lead us toward the day when all loving unions will be seen as sacred
and all couples will have the support and recognition of their faith communities.
We pray this in the name of Jesus, who called us to love one another as we love You,



At the beginning of December, I announced in these pages and in a letter sent to all of our parishes and missions that our diocese would welcome any input from the faithful as they might wish to the questions sent by the Holy See at the request of Pope Francis on marriage and family life in our day.
Over 6,800 people responded, taking time to fill out the survey, often taking significant additional time to add comments to the online version or by filling out the survey on paper and submitting it (written submissions were subsequently entered into the online survey). What Gallup, Pew or the other polling companies would give for nearly 7,000 participants in what was basically an opinion poll!
The timeline was short, too short, but all the responses were received, reviewed by members of the Diocesan Pastoral Council, results shared with the Presbyteral Council and then in mid-January forwarded by me to the appropriate office in Rome which is planning for the two synods which will discuss marriage and family life in our day in October of this year and October of 2015.
At the time, I promised to share the responses with all who took the time to respond. That is what I will attempt to do here, though in something of “shorthand” since the print-out of everything exceeded 3,000 printed pages. Therefore, what is impossible to share in a medium such as this is all of the “free-form” comments which I would characterize as serious, lacking in polemics, sincere, and reflecting little of the polarity which exists in the Church today. I am very proud of what was said, how it was said and who said it.
Before you start looking at the numbers, there are several things which you need to keep in mind. The survey responses generally reflect the “choir,” those people who faithfully attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, if not daily. They do not represent the feelings of those who have fallen away from the practice of their faith, are angry or frustrated or feel alienated by the Church. How I wish I could have heard from them as well, but given the short time line mandated by the Holy See for input, the only vehicle for informing God’s people of the survey was through those in church or some others who take the time to read this blog, the diocesan Facebook or Twitter, or our diocesan website.
Having said that, I think the thoughts of those who no longer practice their Catholic faith – particularly those concerning our pastoral practice on marriage - were well-represented by the people who did respond. Overall, the Church which I am privileged to lead has some real concerns about precisely the matters which the Holy Father wished tested. Our overall score as institutional Church calls for something of an overhaul of our “common core teachings” (couldn’t resist – sorry!).
Also, please keep in mind that we had to take the sometimes very foreign language of the incoming survey and translate it best as we could into words, terminology and concepts which educated American Catholics could understand. I would give our instrument a B+ or an A- in clarity. Please also note that the overwhelming majority of respondents are older-generation Catholics, most of whom are married and are regular church-goers. Young singles and married couples numerically are not as well-represented.
If you wish to see the statistical results from the survey in the diocese, simply click here.
Summarizing the free-form comments and responses was a more challenging exercise but I think I can do them justice with the following comments:
1. There was very strong support for the notion that marriage (which I believe they understood as sacramental marriage) is between one man and one woman.
2. Having said that, it was also clear that the respondents felt that the Church needed to be prepared to better respond to the reality of same-sex marriage and wished that those engaged and involved in such relationships believe the Church to think them bad, sinful, or drum them out-of-the-corps.
3. The respondents generally tended to suggest that the Church needed to be kinder and gentler to those who identify themselves as gay and lesbian, be less judgmental and more welcoming.
4. Very clearly stated was the opinion that an adopted child of same-sex parents should be treated in the Church exactly the same as a child born of a traditional marriage between a man and a woman.
5. The respondents felt very strongly that something needs to be done to reconcile and welcome back the divorced and remarried beyond the present annulment process, about which there seems to be confusion. The mistaken notions that an annulment renders children of the first marriage illegitimate and that simply being divorced excludes one from the sacramental life of the Church indicates that as a local Church we need to do something soon to educate our people better on these two points.
6. The media takes a hammering in the survey results, largely because it is seen as the force majeure for challenging traditional concepts about marriage and family life. They render alternate lifestyles legitimate in the eyes of our respondents and perhaps are so strong that they will effectively negate anything done to support traditional notions of marriage and family life.
7. The respondents strongly said that the Church needs “to wake up and smell the coffee” on cohabitation. It is commonplace and there are some reasons for it which can not be summarily dismissed, such as economic realities.
8. Finally, on the matter of artificial contraception the responses might be characterized by the saying, “that train left the station long ago”. Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium suggests the rejection of Church teaching on this subject.
So, a natural question is “What next?” The survey results raised issues that can only be resolved by the universal church and ultimately by the Holy Father himself. I gather from what I read that our results are not markedly different from those being reported elsewhere around the world. I hope that the effort to canvas the thoughts of the People of God in this diocese, which was unique in Florida, will be helpful to those who will soon gather in synod with the Holy Father.
But there are pastoral results from the survey which we can attend to and I hope we will. I have made it known that I will not tolerate any discrimination or anything which smacks of the punitive to children of same-sex couples. I think all representatives of the Church’s many ministries can be kinder, gentler, more welcoming and less judgmental of those who find our praxis and preaching on marriage and family life to be at odds with their experiences. We need to address clearly that divorce itself is not something which bans a person from reception of the sacraments and that annulments do not illegitimize children born of previous marriages. Working with our diocesan Marriage and Family Life Office and with our priests and deacons, we can either begin or strengthen the process of healing for many in the Church.
Finally, if the “choir” is singing this anthem, imagine what we might have heard had we had the time and access to those alienated, fallen-away, hurt or frustrated. Pope Francis’ call to hightail it to the trenches, to the difficult and smelly parts of the people of God to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ is not only a call to serve the economically impoverished but the spiritually impoverished, so often of our own making. God bless you and our efforts.
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