Saturday, September 12, 2015

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community Homily Starter and Liturgy with Co-Presiders Priest Kathryn Shea ARCWP and Deacon Janet Blakeley, ARCWP

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary, and Extra-Ordinary Times- Homily Starter- Kathryn Shea, ARCWP
So, for those of you know me well, I am a plan girl.  Last weekend, I knew I was going to be out of town at a conference in Orlando most of the week.  So, I worked on the liturgy, and researched a lot about the meaning of the Readings, and pretty much nailed down my Homily Starter.  Everything is in writing.  I’m prepared.  
Yesterday was the last day of the conference, a Child Protection Summit, of over 3000 people in Florida devoted to the child welfare of children in the foster care system.   After the morning workshop, I decided to leave early and skip the keynote speaker.  I was tired.  I had a lot of agency work to do back home.  As I was walking toward the elevator to go to my room to get my things and check out, a strong voice came in my head that said, “GO TO THE KEYNOTE!”  Don’t you just hate when that happens?   I was like, “Really?, really?  I want to go home!”  But, I have learned to not ignore that voice.  So, I went to the keynote.  And it changed my homily starter for today, and in some ways my life.  Who knew?  Well, apparently, God did.
The keynote speaker was Laura Schroff, author of a book called “An invisible Thread”.    She started by telling us an Ancient Chinese proverb:  “An invisible thread connects those who were destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance.  The thread may stretch or tangle.  But, it will never break.”  Her story is nothing less than amazing.  So, I want to read you the beginning of her book.
               "Excuse me, lady, do you have any spare change?"  This was the first thing he said to me, on 56th Street in New York City, right around the corner from Broadway, on a sunny September day.   And when I heard him, I didn't really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noise-the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I 
walked right by him, as if he wasn't there. But then, just a few yards past him, I
stopped. And then-and I'm still not sure why I did this-l came back.  I came back and I looked at him, and I realized he was just a boy.  Earlier, out of the corner of my eye, I had noticed he was young. But now, looking at him, I saw that he was a child-tiny body, sticks for arms, big round eyes. He wore a burgundy sweatshirt that was smudged and frayed and ratty burgundy sweatpants to match. He had scuffed white sneakers with untied laces, and his fingernails were dirty. But his eyes were bright and there was a general sweetness about him. He was, I would soon learn, eleven years old. He stretched his palm toward me, and he asked again, "Excuse me, lady, do you have
any spare change? I am hungry."  What I said in response may have surprised him, but it really shocked me. "If you're hungry," I said, "I'll take you to  McDonald's and buy you lunch."  "Can I have a cheeseburger?" he asked. "Yes," I said.  "How about a Big Mac?"
"That's okay, too." "How about a Diet Coke?" “Yes, that's okay."  "Well, how about a thick chocolate shake and French fries?" I told him he could have anything he
wanted.  And then I asked him if I could join him for lunch. He thought about it for a second.
"Sure," he finally said.   We had lunch together that day, at McDonald's.
And after that, we got together every Monday. For the next 150 Mondays.
His name is Maurice, and he changed my life. Why did I stop and go back to Maurice? It is easier for me to tell you why I ignored him in the first place. I ignored him, very simply,
because he wasn't in my schedule.”

She had many friends who told her she should not keep seeing him.  It was dangerous.  She could be killed.  He was not her cross to bear.  But, she replied, “He’s everyone’s cross to bear.”  She did not see him as a cross.  She saw him as a gift in her life.  So,  what I have learned from this is, taking up your “cross” in life and following in the footsteps of Jesus is really not a burden.  It’s a gift.  Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Take the first step in faith.  You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”  

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community
Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time – September 12, 2015
Co-Presiders:  Kathryn Shea and Janet Blakeley
Music Minister:  Mindy Lou Simmons

Today’s theme – “take up your cross, and follow in my footsteps”

Greeting and Gathering Hymn: “All Are Welcome” #414, vs 1,2,3,4

Presider:  Let us pray as we come together to break bread and share in the banquet of love in the name of God, our Creator, of Christ, our liberator, and of the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier.  ALL:  Amen.

Opening Prayer
All: God of life, wholeness and holiness, you who direct all creation to its complete fulfillment in Jesus, the Christ - open our hearts to the message of the Gospel so that your peace may rule in our hearts and your justice guide our lives.  Loving God, bless all of us gathered here and all those of our community who are not with us today.  We ask this of you, our brother Jesus, and our Wisdom Sophia.  Amen.

Penitential Rite
Presider:  Creator God to whom all hearts are open, no desires unknown, and from whom no secrets can be hidden, cleanse our hearts by the inspiration of Holy Wisdom. 
ALL:  We take your Word into our minds and hearts. Open them to new understanding.
Presider:  We ask for the grace to continually acknowledge our need to grow in goodness and caring for ourselves, for others and for our earth. 
 ALL:  We accept your love and understanding of the frailty of our human nature.  
Presider:  And we join with you, Jesus the Christ, believing the strength and insight of the Holy Spirit will lead us to deeper dedication to justice, equality and peace in our world.   ALL:  Amen.

 All: (with an outstretched arm):  God, the Father and Mother of mercy, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, he bonded the world to you. He sent the Holy Spirit among us to give us the wisdom to love you - and the strength and compassion to love one another.  Loving God, teach us the virtues of pardon and peace so that we may – in turn – learn to forgive each other for our failures to care for one another and for our planet Earth.  We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother and of the Holy Spirit, our healer and comforter.   Amen.

Glory to God
ALL:  Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth.  Creator God, heart of the universe, we thank you for the breath of the Spirit at work in everything that exists, everywhere in the cosmos.  Jesus, Child of God, Healer God, Teacher God, you free us to live in your love.  You make us strong; you show us your mercy and love.  You are one with the Creator, you hear our prayer.  You are the Holy One.  You are united with us.  You are our faithful friend.  We are one with you, Jesus the Christ, with the Holy Spirit.  We are created in God’s image giving Glory to God our Creator.  Amen.

Liturgy of The Word
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9      
Psalm:  116 - Responsorial:  I will walk with our God in the land, the land of the living.  #825 (Modified) 
Second Reading:  James 2:14-18  
Gospel Acclamation:  CELTIC ALLELUIA!  (sung)
Gospel Reading:  A reading from the Gospel according to Mark 8:27-35

Shared Homily
What is Jesus asking of us?  What does it really mean to “take up you cross and follow me?”

Profession of Faith
ALL:  All: We believe in God, the Creator of the universe whose divinity infuses all that exists, making everything, everywhere, sacred.   We believe in Jesus, the Christ, who leads us to the fullness of humanity.  Through him, we become new people, called beyond the consequences of our brokenness.  We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Wisdom who keeps the Christ-vision present to all those who are searching for meaning and wholeness in their lives - and the Sustainer who heals and energizes us when our spirits may grow weary in our journeys.  We say: Amen to courage, to hope, to truth.  Amen to the partnership and equality of all people of different genders, races, and faiths.  We believe in a world of justice and peace for everyone, everywhere, with no exceptions.  In all of this, we surely believe.

Prayers of the Community
Presider:  We are people of faith.  We believe in the power of prayer.  We believe that we send blessings to those who are struggling and who need to experience hope; to those who are grieving and need to be comforted in their loss, to those who are facing medical challenges that they be granted hope and healing. We bring the needs of people throughout our world to our gracious and comforting God.
After each intercession, the response is:  Compassionate God, hear our prayer.
For what else shall we pray?
Presider: Healing God, you faithfully listen to our prayers. We ask you to strengthen us in our caring for one another and in our works for justice, equality, and peace, and in our service to those living on the margins.   We make this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.

Offertory Procession and Hymn:  “We Are Called” # 628, all verses

Preparation of the Gifts
Presider:  Blessed are you, gracious God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made.  It will become for us the bread of life. 
ALL:  Blessed be God forever. 

Presider: Blessed are you, gracious God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands.  It will become our spiritual drink. 
ALL:  Blessed be God forever. 
Presiders:  Pray my friends that as we celebrate this breaking of bread and blessing of wine we accept more fully the mission as People of God by actively following in the footsteps of Jesus, and living our response to God’s call. 
ALL:  Blessed be God forever.

Gathering of the Gifts: All are welcome around our family table
ALL: Gracious God, we are united in this sacrament by our love of Jesus Christ and we are in communion with all who proclaim your power and mercy to those who are marginalized and oppressed.  May we love tenderly, do justice, and walk humbly with you.  May we live as prophetic witnesses to the Gospel.  We ask this through Jesus, the Christ.  Amen.
Presider:  God dwells in each one of us.                All: Namaste!
Presider:  Let us give thanks to the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.
                  All:  With hearts full of love, we give God thanks and praise.
Presider:  Sacred Spirit, we recognize your presence among us as we gather at our family table.
           All: Fill us with reverence for you, for one another, and for all your creation.
Presider: Let us lift up our hearts.
                        All:  We lift them up to the Holy One, living in us and loving through us.

Eucharistic Prayer
Voice 1:  Gracious God, source and sustenance of life, redeeming presence to the pain and brokenness of our world, Holy Spirit who enlivens all that exists, we beseech your healing power upon us and all for whom we pray today.  We join together with our community, with all creation everywhere, with all those who have gone before us and live in the eternal now as we sing:

ALL:  We are holy, holy, holy X3, we are whole.  You are holy… I am holy…We are holy (Karen Drucker)
Voice 2:  We ask you to enliven anew in our hearts the empowering grace of your abundant Spirit, who infuses us with these gifts of bread and wine with the transforming energy of life, to nourish and sustain us in all times and especially in times of need.

Voice 3: Christ of the Cosmos, we rejoice that You, who are More than we can imagine or dream of, dwell in Mystery beyond all comprehension. We remember that it was you, who said: “Anything I have done in the name of the Creator, you can do, too…and even more.”

All:  O God, let your Spirit of life, healing and wholeness come upon these simple gifts that we have brought from the fields and laid on our table -- this wheat, gathered and grown and this wine, fruit of the land.  May she make them holy, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus, our brother.
(Please all extend hands as we recite the consecration together.)
All:  We remember the gift that Jesus gave us on the night before he died.  He gathered with his friends to share a final Passover meal.  And it was at that supper that he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them saying: take this, all of you, and eat it.  This bread is you; this bread is me.  We are one body, the presence of God in the world.  Do this in memory of me and all I have taught you. [Pause]

In the same way, he took a cup of wine, again said the blessing, and gave it to his friends saying: take this, all of you, and drink it.  This wine is you; this wine is me.  We are one blood, the presence of God in the world.  Do this in memory of me and all I have taught you. 
Presider:  Jesus, who was with God “in the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth,” is with us now in this bread.  The Spirit, of whom the prophets spoke in history, is with us now in this cup.  Let us proclaim this mystery of faith.
All:  Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ lives in us and through us in the world today.

(Please place your hand on the shoulder of the person to your right)
Voice 4:  In memory of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we offer you, God, this life-giving bread, this saving cup.   We thank you that we are in your presence and serve you.  May all who share this sacred meal be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit.  And may that Spirit, that Wisdom, move freely in our lives as well as she did in the life of Jesus.

Voice 5:  God, remember your church throughout the world, help us grow in love, together with Francis, our Pope, Bridget Mary, our Bishop, and all your family everywhere - especially those who live on the margins of church and society. Remember also all those, living and dead, who touched our lives and left their footprints on our hearts.  We remember especially….(mention names, if you like).

ALL:  Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, gracious God, forever and ever.     Amen (sung). 

The Prayer of Jesus
Presider:  Let us join hands and raise our voices as we say the Prayer Jesus taught us:
ALL:  (sung)  Our Father and Mother…….

The Sign of Peace
Presider: Jesus, you said to your disciples, “My peace I leave you; my peace I give you.”   Look on the faith of those gathered here today and ….
All: Grant us your peace.  By the example of Jesus and with the strength of your Spirit, help us to spread that peace throughout the world, to everyone, everywhere, no exceptions. Amen.
Presider: May the peace of God be always with us, and let us extend that peace to one another by holding hands and singing “Peace Is Flowing like a River.”

Litany For The Breaking Of Bread
Presider: Loving God,
ALL:  You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will live justly.
Presider: Loving God,
ALL:  You call us to be your presence in the world. We will love tenderly.
Presider:  Loving God,
ALL:  You call us to speak truth to power. We will walk with integrity in your presence.

Presiders:  This is Jesus, who liberates, heals and transforms our world.  All are invited to partake of this sacred banquet of love.   ALL:  We are the Body of Christ. 

During-Communion Hymn: “One Bread, One Body” #348, all verses, using God for Lord

Meditation Hymn after Communion: “Be Not Afraid” #430
Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion

Presider:  May wonder and thanksgiving fill us, may compassion fully fill our beings, that you may heal the numbness that continues because of our society’s injustices. May you know that you are loved and may we continue to be the face of God to one another.  Amen. 

Community Prayers of Gratitude

Closing Prayer
All: May our hearts be glad on our journey as we dream new dreams and see new visions.   

May we all live and work for peace, justice, and non-violence in our hearts for ourselves and our brothers and sisters -  whoever they are and wherever they are.

May we learn to bless and honor and hold in reverence the Earth and one other.   Amen.

Closing Community Blessing
(Everyone please extend your hands in mutual blessing.)
ALL:  May our gracious God, bless us all gathered here, in the name of God our Creator, in the name of Jesus our Liberator, in the name of the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier as we care and minister to one another, and all those we meet, in love.  Be with us as we continue on our path and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, for we are the face of God to the world.  Amen.

Closing Hymn and Commissioning: “Go Make a Difference”  # 504 verses 1,2,3

Presiders: As we leave here in the peace of Christ, let our service continue in all that we do.
All: Thanks be to God. Let it be so!

Catholic activists raise ordination issue as pope's U.S. trip approaches

The Pope’s Unforgiving Message of Forgiveness on Abortion By Jill Filipovic, New York Times

...."Instead of treating women as adults who make their own decisions, the pope condescends to “all the women who have resorted to abortion,” saying he is “well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision.” The threat of excommunication, at the very least, makes the church’s views on women’s rights clear. Offering forgiveness is a softer version of the same judgment: that the millions of women around the world who have abortions every year are sinners. Inviting women to feel shame and guilt for their abortions isn’t a mercy; it’s cruelty.

Which doesn’t mean some women don’t feel very real guilt or regret around abortion; for some women, post-abortion emotions are complex.

But women primarily feel guilty when they experience stigma and a lack of support for their choice. In telling women that they can be forgiven during this one year, the pope plays on the ambivalence and embarrassment that can come from silence around abortion. He sends the message that Catholic women, who, according to surveys have abortions at roughly the same rate as non-Catholic women, should feel ashamed."

Friday, September 11, 2015

"5 Minutes with Pope Francis" by Mary Eileen Collingwood, bishop-elect, Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, National Catholic Reporter

NCR's new blog series "5 minutes with Francis" poses the question: If you managed to meet up with Pope Francis during his U.S. visit -- and you had his full, undivided attention for five minutes -- what would you say to him?

Mary Collingwood, ARCWP
Mary Eileen Collingwood, bishop-elect, Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests:
Recently, someone asked what I would say to Pope Francis if I were given five minutes of his attention. I replied that I preferred the question in reverse form, considering that I am to be ordained a Roman Catholic bishop in September. What would Pope Francis say to me if he were given five minutes of my attention? 
I am a Roman Catholic Woman Priest who has been ordained without Vatican approval, but within the line of apostolic succession begun by the valiant effort of an unnamed male bishop in good standing with Vatican authorities. I belong to the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), who recently elected me one of three women to be ordained as bishop this September in Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love." 
Many do not know about this reform movement within the Catholic church. Yet the international women priest movement numbers upwards of 210 ordained priests and deacons who are called to prophetic witness in living the Gospel message of equality, inclusivity and justice in the Roman Catholic tradition. Our mission is to live the life that the Gospel mandates, prodding the Roman Catholic church onward to become the church it is called to be by our living witness of faith in action. Our membership continues to increase in numbers as the Spirit moves within the hearts of women and men who have accepted this prophetic role in the life of the church we love.
Perhaps Pope Francis will ask: "Why do you insist on following this call that is not approved by the Vatican authorities, and still believe you are living the life the Holy Spirit has called you to live?"
And I will answer: "I am committed to the revolutionary thought that the Spirit is alive and works within the hearts of women and men in ways the current structures do not recognize. The social mores of the church, the leadership and policies of the church, the teachings of the church, the holy Scriptures of the church, and the lack of the divine feminine image within the church's expression, mirror the attitudes and mindsets of the male population and are devoid of women's voices, women's spiritualities, women's wisdom, women's experience, and women's leadership.
The current policy of the church excludes women from ordination and is not compatible with Jesus' exhortation to honor the equal dignity of all people. Our call to serve the marginalized and the least among us is a call to serve those who comprise that population, mainly women.
The truth of Jesus' teaching that men and women are equal in imaging the divine among us, which includes ordaining women to the priesthood, must be embraced by the church as foundational to its mission. If it chooses to continue on its present path ignoring this reality, the problems of poverty, warfare, human trafficking, just wages, capitalism and global warming will never be solved, as these issues in society are disproportionally oppressive to women.
Women priests within the Roman Catholic tradition are shining a light on what the future holds for Roman Catholicism. Sharing the gift of our lives now, as ordained women, becomes a living example of how the Church can evolve for later generations."
Throughout history, there have been women who have stepped out of the box and offered their lives and divine messages for the inspiration of all people. This is a prophetic vocation which demands courage and vision, and I have accepted it for the good of my Church.

[Editor's note: Our first contribution has special distinction, as it was originally submitted for the print publication. It is this opinion piece that gave NCR the idea for the 5 minutes with Francis blog series.]

"If Pope Francis Really Wanted to Fight Climate Change, He'd Be a Feminist" by Katha Pollitt, The Nation

"The world will never be healed of its ecological ills as long as women cannot control their fertility."
Bridget Mary: I agree with Katha Pollitt that Pope Francis' blind spot is women. Until  Frances embraces women as equals in every area of life including women's right to control their fertility, the Catholic Church will contribute more to ecological destruction, then lead the way forward. Women are half of the human race and the church's teaching on birth control is wrong. If women priests and married priests were decision makers, responsible family planning including artificial birth control would be a virtue, not a sin! 
"According to a recent report from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California, San Francisco, providing family planning to the 225 million women around the world who want it but can’t get it could meet 16 to 29 percent of the necessary decrease in greenhouse-gas emissions. Doesn’t meeting a desire that women already have seem a strategy more likely to succeed than turning the world vegetarian or keeping the new middle classes in China and India from buying cars and taking vacations? Educating girls, keeping women in the workforce, and providing good healthcare for women and children are crucial human-rights goals that also reduce the number of children a woman has....
....As climate change heats up, it’s women who will bear the brunt of it, because they are the majority of the world’s poor. Especially in the developing world, they’ll be contending with drought, food shortages, flooding, and forced migration, along with increases in the usual brutalities like rape, violence, trafficking, and war. Under such circumstances, to deny them the ability to control how many kids they bring into the world is to condemn millions of women to the hardscrabble desperation that the pope says he wants to prevent."

"Women Spirit Rising" Slideshow: Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests: Changing the Catholic Church, 1 Priest at a time, 1 Community at a Time

Media Contacts: Janice Sevre Duszynska ARCWP
Bridget Mary Meehan 
In this beautiful slideshow you will see photos of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests presiding at inclusive sacramental celebrations and living our renewed priestly ministry as mystics, prophets, and midwives of grace.  Our Holy Orders are valid because our first bishops were ordained by an anonymous male bishop in apostolic succession. We are disobeying a man-made unjust church law that discriminates against women in order to bring justice and equality to the church we love. We are a holy shakeup of Women Spirit Rising! Enjoy and share with your friends and justice seekers! Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP, 
Special thanks to  Donna Rougeux, ARCWP and Barbara Billey, ARCWP who created this slideshow and to our members who shared their photos. Also, deep gratitude to Karen Drucker for the fabulous song: "Woman Spirit Rising"

"Rights vs. Realty: Reflection by a Roman Catholic Woman Priest" by Rev. Dr. Barbara Billey, Priest, ARCWP, "Woman Spirit Rising Windsor," Slideshow

The 2015 Distinguished Visitors in Women’s Studies University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada Rights vs. Realities: Reflections of a Roman Catholic Woman Priest Rev. Dr. Barbara Billey, Priest ARCWP, Sept 11, 2015 

 Thank you, Missy for your heartfelt introduction of me, Renee and the Friends of Women’s Studies and all of you gathered here for the invitation to speak at this important event for women and for our community. I imagine each of you could tell a story that would fit with this year’s theme “Rights vs. Realities.” This evening, I offer my reflections from the perspective of a Roman Catholic (RC) woman priest. Ten years ago, I dreamt I was at Blessed Sacrament Church in the west end of Windsor where I attended Mass weekly for most of my youth into my early adult years. A full-bodied, Black woman stands at the front of the church singing a solo, but no sound comes through her accomplished and powerful voice. In the RC tradition, communion is the time when we eat unleavened bread called a host. We believe this is the real presence of Jesus Christ, made sacred and served to us by a male priest. In my dream, I, not the priest, come with communion to my husband and father who are sitting in their pews. Instead of the dry, hard host, I offer them rich, dark chocolate, but they refuse to take it. I return to the pew behind them and, with great delight, ravish the chocolate. Five years later, I began my journey on the path to ordination. Many of you may have heard about the recent Porter airlines incident where an Orthodox Jewish man refuses to sit next to a woman on a plane; his religious freedoms and rights trump her human rights and freedoms. If the RC Church could be described as a plane, women are refused a seat at the table of worship as ordained persons. We can’t even get a boarding pass because we don’t have a penis. The reality is that women in the RC Church have no rights to be ordained as deacons, priests or bishops. Our right to fulfill our sacred calling to support the empowerment of people in their spiritual life is denied. This is not right! Why? Biological determinism. According to Church authorities, in the divine plan of creation “the woman” is an image of God’s creative powers and motherhood is her natural destiny. Furthermore, spousal imagery in scripture is used to justify subordination of women to the role of the “bride” of Christ and of the Church. Only the bridegroom as male can be a priest ‘in persona Christi’ or in the person of Christ. This convoluted logic and abuse of scripture has been the death knell for women’s ordination. Sadly, we, with many of our sisters in other faith traditions suffer gross discriminations and violations of our human rights, which harm our soul life and have devastating effects on our psychological well-being. They lead to abuses and oppressions of all kinds that extend to society as a whole. Such papal positions are also contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established by the United Nations in 1948. The much beloved Pope Francis recently encouraged European parishes to open their doors to receive refugees from Syria. He has also been a staunch advocate of the poor and with respect to gay priests says, “Who am I to judge?” These are hopeful developments for our RC Church and society. Unfortunately, many of his positions aren’t helpful for women. In this the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis recently invited women who have had abortions to seek forgiveness from their priests. What about men’s role, or lack thereof, for this decision? What about a woman searching her conscience and making an informed, albeit difficult decision? This perspective is completely unconsidered. Pope Francis asks us to respond compassionately to the poor. Largely women and children in developing countries, he could ameliorate their suffering by lifting the ban on contraception. Despite a significant body of knowledge with respect to women’s religious and spiritual experience, promulgated by prominent women theologians for well over 50 years, Pope Francis asks the Vatican to generate research on theology of “the woman,” as if we were objects to be studied like a bug under a microscope. Along with two popes who preceded him, Francis also maintains the tight seal of excluding women from ordination. God have mercy on us! Unfortunately, civil rights compete with religious rights leaving women and other marginalized groups without protection. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has no provision for discrimination that occurs in religious institutions or faith traditions. In the U.S., the recent Religious Freedom Act gives the right to discriminate against GLBTQ persons based on religious beliefs. For Christians, Jesus was a human being sent by God to model for us Divine wisdom, love and compassion. He was justice-seeking and suffered a brutal death because he spoke against the oppressive religious and political systems of his time. The RC Church’s position on women and ordination flies in the face of Jesus’ practice of equality and inclusivity as seen in the Gospels. He focused on the marginalized, who in 1st Century Palestine were usually women, immigrants, and disabled or poor persons. Based on Jesus’ behavior, we can conclude that for God, biology is not destiny. The institutional RC Church is embedded in patriarchal power structures that have existed since the second century. In 1st and 2nd century house churches, women broke bread, led prayers, and built community with followers of Jesus. For 1200 years thereafter, women were deacons, priests and bishops, evident in archives recently found by anthropologists. However, Church Fathers have been unrelenting in their 2,000 year oppression of women, have rendered us invisible in history and have imprisoned us by decrees and dogmas with no hope of fulfilling our God-given right to equality in the church, in ways that matter to us. According to the Vatican, the decision against women’s ordination remains definitive and “infallible,” despite a 2014 Pew survey that indicates 68% of Roman Catholics are in favor of women priests. The irony is that Jesus never ordained anyone. These unbending papal positions have had considerable negative consequences on the entire community of the faithful. Women are treated as subordinate, both in law and in fact, by the Church’s ordained representatives. In addition to the worldwide sexual abuse scandals by male clergy, many Roman Catholics, especially women, have left the church, never to return. On July 29, 2002 seven women were ordained Roman Catholic priests on a boat in the Danube River in Germany by bishops in good standing with the Vatican. Shortly thereafter, two of the Danube Seven, were secretly ordained by male bishops, also in good standing with the Vatican. These women ordained others and the RC women priest movement was birthed, expanding to our present day of over 200 women deacons, priests and bishops, internationally. We have with us today Michele Birch-Conery, the first woman in Canada to be ordained a RC priest, now living with us in Windsor. A retired English and women’s studies professor, she will be ordained a bishop next Thursday in Philadelphia, the day before Pope Francis arrives there. 

 In the Association for Roman Catholic Women Priests, a stream flowing from the originating Roman Catholic Women Priests, we have preserved the beauty of our faith tradition while responding to the spiritual needs of people in our times. We are not the “same old, same old”, add women and stir. Our contemporary model of priesthood is non-hierarchical, non-clerical and inclusive, faithful to Jesus’ message of equality and justice. Many of us are doing justice work, pastoral care, fostering faith communities, and engaging inter-spiritual dialogue. As an Association spread across three continents – United States, South America and Canada – we make decisions by consensus and all members, including bishops, have equal power. In our Windsor Heart of Compassion Faith Community, we follow the rites of the RC Church in our liturgies and other sacraments, but integrate inclusive language and contemporary theologies, including feminist, liberation and evolutionary consciousness. We are a discipleship of equals, companions of empowerment, everyone sharing in prayers, reflecting on the Gospel and blessing bread and wine. Although we are not welcome as priests in the institutional Church, we have not left the Church. We are creating, with others in our faith tradition, a renewed Roman Catholic Church and a just society. Our ordinations are illicit (illegal) but valid because we are ordained in apostolic succession, in a long line of priests going back centuries. Even so, many of us are excommunicated by the Vatican or said to have excommunicated ourselves for breaking a Canon Law (1024), which stipulates that “only a baptized male validly receives sacred ordination.” For women priests, excommunication means we have no rights in the RC Church, to marry, receive communion or a funeral. This law contradicts another Canon Law (849) which states that “Baptism is the gateway to the sacraments.” Thus the precondition for a valid ordination is not being male; rather, baptism into faith in Jesus Christ. The personal consequences for prophetic obedience i.e. following one’s conscience are often dire – broken marriages, rejection by children, families and friends, and expulsion from jobs in RC institutions, to name a few. We are not paid for our ministry and work long and hard, locally and with our international movement. In the five years preparing to be a priest, I have had my own challenges, particularly with my husband and family, but thankfully they are gradually softening their positions. For me, the demands of ministry can sometimes be overwhelming when balanced with my need to make an income; however, the rewards have clearly exceeded the costs. I’m following a deep, inner instinct and this brings contentment and peace. Many people say, “Thank you for your courage. It’s about time this happened.”A few comments, written mostly by men, are unkind, to say the least. What is the vision I have for my priesthood? People often ask, “What do I call you?” Certainly not Father Barb. I think of myself as an urban priest and compassion activist, less a leader in the traditional sense of priest and more a facilitator of encounters with the Sacred. I’m deeply interested in healing, empowerment of women and recovering the Divine Feminine, often using all genres of the arts as a bridge to soul space. I engage my ministry on both sides of the border with Michele and Jeni Marcus, a deacon, transgendered person and lawyer from Michigan. A major focus in ministry and my doctorate has been the Wisdom Women Circles of Compassion Initiative, funded, in part, by a small donation from the Sisters of St. Joseph of London through OPIRG, our sponsoring organization. Thus far, there have been two parts to the project: Adoption of the Charter for Compassion by the City of Windsor, and Female Youth Circles of Compassion. In the Female Youth Circles of Compassion initiative, Michele and I prepared female youth, ages 16-24 years from five, faith traditions to share experience and to create art with young women within each of their traditions. They explored the presence of wisdom women in their faith traditions, in contemporary society and within their lives. Each person created art that symbolized their wisdom woman. The central contemplation revolved around the question: What would your wisdom woman say about how to cultivate compassion, in your faith tradition, at school, with family and friends and in our larger community? The facilitators returned to us with wisdom they had gathered and gained. The Women Spirit Rising in Windsor You Tube will give you a glimpse of the project and how it relates to our ministry. (You-Tube) In the WWCC initiative, when compassion was the centre of the conversation for the young women, there was unity within diversity. They discovered a connection through trust and vulnerability. Tears were shed about abuses suffered and desires unfulfilled as a result of being women in society and within faith traditions. In describing the process of creating a clay pot, Missy who represented the Christian tradition said, “How symbolic. How relevant. We’re beat up, molded, cut up, ripped up, pieces of us taken away, but they never break us down. As women we embody infinite possibility.” Out of pain, the young women generated ideas about how to bring more compassion into their lives and into our Windsor community. Our time together was revelatory and empowering. As in the RC tradition, we heard that women in the history of other traditions had been hidden. The discussions provided fuel to fire on-going compassionate, justice work, whatever our individual realities. Each woman embodied the voice of wisdom and, in our way of being together. Much more went on in these groups than time allows for me to share. On Mon, March 23, 2015 Compassion in Action Windsor, represented by Michele, Lina Chaker, a communications student at the University, and me, appealed to Windsor City Council to join hundreds of cities across the world to adopt the Charter for Compassion and to proclaim Windsor a Compassionate Community. The essence of the Charter is to treat others as we would like to be treated, a statement rooted in centuries old wisdom that encourages good will among people across diverse religious, ethical, cultural and spiritual traditions. The Charter was conceived through theologian, Karen Armstrong’s vision for a compassionate world. In 2009, she gathered notable religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu to form the Council of Conscience. They received input from thousands of people around the world to craft the Charter, which has been embraced by individuals, cities, regions and nations, as well as people in business, the arts, education, and health care. In May 2011, the City of London, Ontario was the first city in Canada and the second in the world to adopt the Charter and to proclaim London a Compassionate Community. They now use the principles of the Charter to inform their City’s strategic direction, leading to innovative, compassion initiatives that are sensitive to the needs of their citizens, especially the most marginalized. After vigorous debate by Windsor City Council, Mayor Drew Dilkens broke a tie vote to defeat the motion. Unfortunately, the only female member on Council had the most opposition to the Charter’s adoption. However, we are not defeated and plan to gain more community support before returning to Windsor City Council. You’ll find more information on the Charter and how you can get involved in our brochures. I ask you to consider signing our paper petition or on-line petition, and to join us when we approach Council again later this fall. We’ve also run out of funds, thus any financial support would be gratefully received. By way of closing, I want to return briefly to the dream I shared with you at the beginning. Now as a RC priest, I realize this dream reflected the state of my psyche as a woman in the RC Church: I had no position of authority; I was subordinate to the male priest, my husband and my father; and I had no voice. On the exterior, I was accomplished in my profession, economically secure and had satisfying relationships, but like many women whom I encounter, for years I suffered an unexplainable malaise and anxiety. Jungian psychologist, Marion Woodman writes about the Black Madonna appearing in the dreams of men and women as symbolic of the lost Divine Feminine. I believed the Black woman in my dream was singing but there was no sound coming through her voice. I realize now that she was indeed singing with all the power of a woman who has overcome oppression and is one within herself. I simply didn’t have ears to hear her. None of us did: my father, my husband, the priest or the RC Church. We were fogged in by our socialization, with no awareness of the subtle and overt levels of oppression we were engaging. The prophetic aspect of my dream was that I dared to serve communion, not the traditional, bland host; rather, that which awakens and satisfies the palate, and can rarely be refused by most women – chocolate. RC women priests, and some of the men who join us, are recovering our heritage as wisdom women and keepers of the Feminine Sacred, making the RC tradition more palatable, especially for women. Far from aligning with the male patriarchy, we are creating a new reality that is contemporary and inter-spiritual, where all are welcome regardless of marital status, race, religion, or sexual orientation. We are taking back our rights because it’s the right thing to do, not for ourselves alone, but for and with all spiritual seekers, within the Church and our wider, local and global communities. I dare to say this is what Jesus wants us to do. As a psychotherapist, I spend most of my day listening to peoples’ stories. Thank you for hearing mine and I hope that it has affirmed yours. May Wisdom be our source and guide.