|Ordination of Julie Corron as deacon on right and Denise Hackert-Stoner as deacon on left, Albany, New York|
Bridget Mary: Today we rejoice as we celebrate the ordination of Julie Corron and Denise Hackert- Stoner as deacons in the Upper Room Community in Albany, New York. This is our 8th ordination here in this sanctuary with 10 ordained members in the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Communiy!
Even though the ordination of women was one of the things that Julie found most exciting when she was introduced to the Upper Room, she did not immediately feel called herself. It took a trip to the Holy Land, walking where Jesus walked and connecting to his message of love in a new and deeper way, for her to hear the call. She steps forward today in prophetic obedience to the Spirit’s call to live gospel equality in all areas of our lives, including all ministries of the Roman Catholic Church. Julie doesn’t consider herself much of an activist but she fervently agrees with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” That’s why, as members of the baptized in a discipleship of equals, ARCWP serves God’s people in ordained ministry in communities of faith like the Upper Room, leading the way toward a new paradigm of inclusivity and partnership today.
As a nature photographer, who enjoys extreme closeup, the picturing of small things, Denise is accustomed to looking at the world in detail. Butterfly wings, Dragonfly faces, Hoverflies—the tiny stitches in the quilt of creation get her attention. "So it was quite surprising to her that her call came large, in a loving, human voice that simply asked if she felt called to walk the road to priesthood. After a brief period of resistance, Denise took the first steps, and has not looked back.
In our second reading St. Paul in Romans 16 commends deacon Phoebe and greets prominent woman apostle Junia as well as a list of women ecclesial leaders including, Julia. Women leaders like Phoebe, were not assistants to the apostles, but rather were apostles, missionaries and leaders of communities equal to and independent of Paul.
Contemporary scholarship today reveals a treasure trove of evidence of women in inclusive church ministry. Ally Kateusz, in her new book, Mary and the Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership offers a long list of women apostles, baptizers and preachers. From the beginning of the Jesus movement texts and images show women functioning as priests and bishops. For example, two ancient artifacts depict women and men at an altar table presiding at a gender parallel liturgy inside Old Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
The bottom line is that women did what men did in the early church even though this evidence has been hidden through centuries of censorship. Today we are reclaiming the original spirit of the followers of Jesus as we live inclusivity and partnership in a community of beloved disciples!
In the gospel, Jesus prays for those he is sending out into the world, “Protect those whom you have given me—Consecrate them….” Today Denise and I officially join that group. And while I can’t speak for Denise, I for one am very glad of the prayers. And yet you don’t need to be ordained to share the message of Jesus with the world, the message of love, the message of peace, the message of justice. That’s one of the first things I learned from the Upper Room community, that we are all consecrated, we are all holy, we are all tasked with carrying Jesus’ message. This life of faith in the world is not a spectator sport.
How each of us carries that message is as unique as we are. Whether you distribute lawn signs welcoming immigrants; feed the hungry; or sit with those who are learning to hear the still, small voice within, you are all messengers of Jesus’ love. You are the Face of God. And I am so very blessed to know you and witness your good works in the world.
In today’s first reading, Mary Oliver asks “Who made the world?” and opens a winding, grassy, meadow trail that eventually leads to the Divine. The only required skill for following that trail is the ability to pay attention, to really look at things, to take them in, and to see the Holy in them.
In his book “The Universal Christ,” Franciscan theologian Richard Rohr says, “God loves things by becoming them.” In these six words, he opens our eyes to the Holy all around us. The people we meet, the ones we will never meet. The grizzly bear lumbering its way through the tundra, the hummingbird sipping nectar in the garden. The earth beneath our feet today, the cosmos spinning out of the past into the future. We are all of us at our core, sprung from Divinity.
The Holy One is here. The Kin-dom is now. This is the good news. The grasshopper eating sugar out of the poet’s hand may or may not have realized it, but she was a full participant. The first-century Rabbi named Jesus did realize it, and used up every drop of his wild and precious life proclaiming it.
Bridget Mary Meehan: Let us rejoice that we are recreating a more open, vibrant and inclusive Roman Catholic Church in Albany, New York as we ordain Julie and Denise women deacons called to serve the community of faith here. Walking with Phoebe and the thousands of women deacons who have gone before us, we proclaim the kindom is now right before our eyes as justice flows like a river and we rise up to live Gospel equality. Amen Alleluia!