Thursday, August 29, 2019

Mary of Nazareth: Liturgical Leader and Apostle in Early Church,, Queen in 900's and Passive Woman in 1500's

Mary with arms raised 300 - Mary as Leader

From 250-650 women and men portrayed with equivalent authority among Jesus movements around the Mediterranean.
Mary, mother of Jesus, was depicted with arms raised posture as a leader and an apostle.  This image appears in the catacomb gold glass, Rome, Perret, Cataombes, pl. 4:32.101, 

A. Kateusz, in  Mary and Early Christian Women offers striking images and texts of women apostles who preached,  evangelized, baptized and presided at the table. These women officiants were "variously called presider, bishop, priest, presbyter, deacon and minister."  (p. 10.) 

Roman Catholic Women Priests are walking in the footsteps of our sisters in the early church, deconstructing and reconstructing a renewed priestly ministry in a disciple of equals paradigm of inclusivity and partnership. 

Mary as queen - 900, Maria in Pallara Church, Rome. Wilpert, Romischen Mosaiken, pl. 226

Mary as passive woman Early 1500's, Antonio Solario painting, Rome. CC-BY-SA Jakob Skou-Hansen, National Gallery of Denmark.

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) Ordination of Shelley Gilchrist, Palm Coast, Florida, August 28, 2019- Homily and Photos

Bridget Mary: We rejoice as we gather to celebrate the ordination of Shelley Gilchrist as a deacon.

Shelley ‘s call is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus to celebrate the holiness of life and creation as the face of the holy among us. Shelley has come to this special evening in a lifelong desire to serve others. Whether befriending the outcast in elementary school to her current occupation as a chaplain for hospice, Shelley has been called to a ministry of presence; a desire to stand beside the most vulnerable among us.  She served as an educator in public high schools and was often a person of support for the kids who had been branded with a label.  She holds a master’s degree in Fine Arts and has had more than three years of theological training.  Through CPE, Shelley was introduced to Diane Dougherty and the Federation of Christian Ministries. In her pursuit of Commissioning, Shelley met her dear friends and mentors Miriam Picconi and Wanda Russell. While attending their faith group, Shelley began to experience the love and prophetic ministry of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.  Reading our mission statement of inclusivity and justice struck a deep chord in Shelley’s heart.  After a period of discernment, the call to serve and work toward full equality for women in the Church was clear and palpable.  She asks for your prayers as she begins her service as a deacon in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. “Here am I, God, send me,” is her daily prayer.

In our second reading, St. Paul commends Deacon Phoebe as a leader and missionary in the community of Cenchreae near Corinth. Phoebe was entrusted with the mission to proclaim Paul’s letter to the house churches in Rome. Her patronage assured Paul of financial support, hospitality and prestigious connections. This seems to indicate that Phoebe was a well-educated woman of independent means. Paul’s letter implies that not only did Phoebe use her resources to help him, but she also assisted people who were suffering, poor and oppressed. It seems evident from his commendation that Phoebe’s preaching, and ministry made a powerful impact on Paul and on the first century Church in Rome.

Contemporary scholars conclude that women leaders like Phoebe, Junia and the other women greeted by Paul in Romans were apostles, missionaries, and leaders of communities equal to and independent of Paul. They hosted eucharistic celebrations in their homes and spread the good news as followers of Jesus.

 In Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership, Dr. Ally Kateusz reveals representations of Mary Mother of Jesus in texts and images in the extracanonical gospels that provide evidence of her as an authoritative leader of the apostles, high priest and bishop. Her research shows evidence hidden for centuries by patriarchy on the role of women in the early Church.  In fact, there are two artifacts that depict women and men in a gender –parallel liturgy inside two prestigious churches - Old Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the second in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

In fifth century Celtic Ireland, the stories of St. Brigit of Kildare portray her as a bishop and abbess of a double monastery of women and men, married and celibate who served the needy and who celebrated the blessedness of creation.

So it is evident that from the beginning Jesus called women to be disciples and treated them as equals, and women have served God’s people  as deacons, priests and bishops in the early centuries of Christianity and are doing so today!

Shelley: Who doesn’t love a great story? From our childhood days of bedtime books to the very intricate “who done its” on Britbox, we love to suspend our disbelief and enter the narrative of a well-told tale.  Jesus knew this.  His parables are colorful, simple, complex and life giving. Scripture is jam-packed with stories of intrigue and in the case of our gospel reading, human suffering.  Growing into a girl of about 12 or 13, the “story of the woman with the issue of blood” began to demand my attention.  One couldn’t escape her; she appeared in all three synoptic gospels.  I could not fathom how horrendous this affliction must have been!  In Sunday school this part of the narrative was hurried over, however, and the emphasis was on the incredible faith of the woman and the power of Jesus to heal. But I know now there is more for us; much more.

Let’s enter the story.  Jesus had just returned from a rigorous journey which included calming stormy seas and exorcisms.  This crowd welcomed him enthusiastically.  They knew him and waited expectantly for his teaching and companionship. During the welcoming, Jairus appeared at his feet; a ruler from the synagogue! Weeping he said, “My daughter, my only daughter who is but twelve years old is dying. Please Jesus, please come to my home and heal her!”  Jesus heard the sorrow and trust in Jairus’ voice and quickened his pace toward his home.

But there was another soul desperate for the love Jesus offered.  She could not travel with the crowd. She was unclean and had been for twelve excruciating years.  It is not lost on a reader that Jairus’ daughter was twelve and had not yet entered puberty; she was clean.  The woman, who may have been two or three times her age, had been hemorrhaging for twelve years; she was unclean.  There were twelve disciples, twelve tribes of Israel, but the head of those tribes and the “The Twelve” did not face the monthly shaming of menstruation, let alone twelve years of such agony. Is that irony intentional?

The laws of purity or who was in and who was out, were established long ago in the book of Leviticus. Women were considered untouchable for their entire period and seven days following.  I am hopeful that enough women were in sync in Israel’s villages that camaraderie of women shared stories and maybe even told some jokes about their men.  This strict stigma of uncleanliness even covered childbirth. If a woman were lucky enough to deliver a male child, she was considered impure for 40 days.  If one had a girl, well, you were cloistered for eighty. This very God-given natural cycle; essential for the continuation of all creation, was deemed unclean by the priestly patriarchs. Their mindset; “I don’t understand this…it’s weird and scary.  We don’t live with this, this thing, so it must be wrong.” Sigh. Did mothers pass babies around at arm’s length and with kid gloves? Was there a “first class” curtain separating parts of their humble abodes?

Returning to our woman in the gospel, how did she exist from day to day? Was she within her sister’s household in some hovel in the back? Was food passed under a curtain or door?  Did she try to cleanse herself? If she did, where? How many times did her caregiver need to wash her own clothes just for providing the bare necessities for another? But what if there were no sibling? When thinking of her I feel her profound sense of loneliness and quiet desperation.

 Late one morning she heard a ruckus and calls from many of “Jesus, Jesus!” She must have quietly peeked out and realized it was that rabbi! It was this Jesus, whom others had said could bring hope, peace and yes, even healing! She had spent every last bit of her tiny inheritance seeking help from doctors, but nothing worked.  Maybe, just maybe if she could meet him or even touch the tassel from his prayer shawl she might have respect and inclusion from her village? But the crowd was moving more quickly now and she must hurry to catch a glimpse of this Jesus!  Breathing hard, she pulled her emaciated body up, grabbed a cloak and hesitatingly walked to the edge of the crowd; no one noticed her. “I can, I will do this” she thought and head down, nudged her way to the back of the rabbi. Closing her eyes and offering a quiet prayer to YHWH, she took hold of that worn, narrow, knotted rope. And then there was something. She took a quick inhalation of breath and she felt a spark, no, it was like a strong connection; like seeing an expected loved one from afar. Her breathing finally began to slow and she nearly stood upright. She heard a voice said, “Who touched me?” The sound of Jesus’ voice had the energy she felt. The crowd was standing very close to Jesus and now she hoped she would not be noticed.  But the teacher repeated, “I felt the power go out of me.” The Divine love in Jesus had connected with the purity of love within the “unclean woman.” As this woman knelt before Jesus and words of apology came tumbling from her, Jesus looked her in the eyes, took her hand and said gently, “Daughter, go in peace. Your faith has made you whole.” Imagine the gasps of the crowd.  Jesus, a rabbi, was not concerned about being unclean. Jesus saw this woman and she truly saw him. Richard Rohr states, “Jesus rejects violence and passivity.” Jesus did not just walk away and say, “Please stop berating that woman.  That is not a loving way to behave.” Jesus acted and so must we.

We know we have not yet shaken off the patriarchy that attempts to silence women, not just in the Church but in the culture as well. This mindset of dominance leads to abuse and at the very least being called “nasty” by some.  But with our growing numbers, voices and commitment, that lie is beginning to change. We will no longer be passive. We are letting go of our egoistic selves and seeing the Divine in each other.   We are prayerfully discerning how we can best light that spark of connection into a growing and holy fire of passion and light.
This is the story we are writing.  And I am living, tangible truth that stories can take unexpected and exciting turn. We are somewhere in the middle of this narrative and the best is yet to come.

Bridget Mary: In the Spirit of Wisdom Sophia, we affirm our sister Shelley, who is called to serve God’s people as a deacon in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Let us continue our Ordination Rite in a spirit of deep prayer and joy!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Looking for a Church Home in Sarasota, Florida, Visit Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community , Saturdays, 4 PM, Liturgy

For more information about Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community visit:

PRESS RELEASE: Newly Ordained Priest, Shanon Sterringer ARCWP, from Fairport Harbor , Ohio to Celebrate Mass of Thanksgiving on September 15, 2019 at 1:00PM

Bishop Mary Eileen Collingwood ARCWP (right) and Christine Mayr Lumetzberger RCWP (left) ordain Shanon Sterringer ARCWP a priest in Linz, Austria

Shanon Sterringer, Fairport Harbor, OH, was ordained a priest through the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), in Linz, Austria on August 3, 2019.  She will celebrate her first Liturgy of Thanksgiving on Sunday, September 15, 2019 at 1:00 pm at the Community of St. Hildegard at 630 Plum St. in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  
Shanon’s historic ordination took place near the Danube River with priests present from three countries, including two ordaining bishops: Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, RCWP (Austria, 2002, Founder of the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement), and Mary Eileen Collingwood, ARCWP (Cleveland, Ohio).   Dagmar Braun Celeste, RCWP, former First Lady of Ohio, was also in attendance.

Dr. Sterringer earned a Ph.D. (2016) in Ethical and Creative Leadership from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio; DMin (2012), M.Div. equivalent (2010), and a MA in Theology (2007) from St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Wickliffe, Ohio; MA in Ministry (2011) from Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio; and a BA in Religious Studies (2003) from Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio.  Prior to following her call to ordination, Shanon served as a certified Lay Ecclesial Minister and Master Catechist in the Diocese of Cleveland.  She is an adjunct faculty member of Global Ministries University and the People’s Catholic Seminary, and a commissioned member of the Federation of Christian Ministries.

Rev. Dr. Shanon Sterringer will be joined for the dedication ceremony on September 15, 2019 at 1:00 pm. by Bishop Mary Eileen Collingwood, ARCWP, and other ordained women.  Following the opening liturgy, there will be a ceremonious “ground breaking” for the future Hildegard Herb Garden Project, expected to be completed by September, 2020.  The church will be open after the liturgy for a public open house. For more information, please email

Monday, August 26, 2019

Hildegard Haus Dedication - Liturgical Presider-Dr. Shanon Sterringer ARCWP, Prayers and Rituals of Dedication - Mary Eileen Collingwood, ARCWP

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - August 25, 2019 - Presiders: Kathleen Ryan, ARCWP, and Bernie Kinlan

Kathleen Ryan, ARCWP, and Bernie Kinlan led the Upper Room liturgy for August 25, 2019. Kathleen's homily starter is below the readings.

Opening Song: Namasté by Mark Hayes 

Reading from Kitchen Table Wisdom

We are, in a certain way, defined as much by our potential as by its expression. There is a great difference between an acorn and a little bit of wood carved into an acorn shape, a difference not always readily apparent to the naked eye. The difference is there even if an acorn never had the opportunity to plant itself and become an oak. Remembering its potential changes the way in which we think of an acorn and how we value it. If an acorn were conscious, knowing its potential would change the way that it might think and feel about itself. The Hindus use the greeting “Namaste” instead of our more noncommittal “Hello.” “Whatever your appearance I see and greet the soul in you.” Most of us don’t realize the extent of our influence on others and the potential of our inner world of attitude and belief to affect them. Sometimes we can best help other people by remembering that what we believe about them may be reflected back to them in our presence and may affect them in ways we do not fully understand.

These are the inspired words of Rachel Naomi Remen, daughter of the Holy One. We affirm these words by saying AMEN

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke

Jesus said to them, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what can I compare it? It is like the mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in the branches.”

And again he said, “To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

These are the inspired words of Luke, a disciple of Jesus. We affirm these words by saying AMEN (Luke 13: 18-21)

Kathie’s Homily 

Jesus was born in the Middle East. His theology/philosophy/culture/ was Eastern. When we read his parables and reflect on his words, we must remember who is sitting in front of him, he is speaking to people who understand his metaphors and cultural stories. They too were Easterners. You and I hear Jesus’ words with our western logic. We may have lost much in the translation. Today’s gospel is a good example of losing something important in the translation.

We hear mustard seed and think of a small seed and how big it grows. What great potential. Maybe the mustard seed story reminds us of the old adage “Out of little acorns mighty oak trees grow.” However, when those who were listening to Jesus heard him talk about the kingdom being like a mustard seed they most likely thought-mustard seed? Really? They knew that mustard seed grew into a pain in the neck weed that took over their gardens and fields. Mustard seed did not grow into lovely trees but into scraggly bushes that ruined crops.

While they are thinking mustard seed-Jesus gives them another example-a small amount of yeast mixed with three measures of flour.

Three measures? What is a measure? I don’t know anything about baking bread, so I always thought a measure must be about a cup full. Three cups filled and overflowing. Sounds about right. Turns out one measure is 50-60 pounds of flour. Three 50 lb bags sitting on your lap filled and overflowing. Not exactly a great image. 

What might be the message Jesus is teaching in these two examples? I am going to push the envelope here and suggest perhaps Jesus is saying: 

You and I are like the kingdom of God--sometimes a pain in the neck mustard seed, scraggly and out of control but still important to those looking for shelter. Sometimes we are a little yeast mixed with three measures filled to overflowing producing more than enough for everyone. You and I are the kin-dom of God- we are more than enough.

Jesus reminds us over and over who we are, how we are loved, and what great potential we have. We need to continue to remind each other of our potential, who we are and how we are loved. Namaste.

Blessing: May you recognize the God in you touches everyone you meet. May you know and accept your potential as gift. May the mustard seed and yeast in all of us grow- increasing love throughout the world.


Closing Song: Go Light Your World by Chris Rice