|Michele Birch Conery ARCWP|
At the first parish to which I was sent in Peru, with Joe (Pepe) Devlin, there were 2 priests and myself as a deacon, and then John Hunt left for his mission with the American military in Rome leaving Pepe as the sole priest for 75,000 - and most were Catholics. Even the Mormons still wanted to get their kids baptized for different reasons. Now Pepe was up to doing 5 or 6 masses on Sundays and I would conduct a few “celebrations” with Eucharist (skipping the magical part), but still 1 priest to 3500 even sounds easy. And if there wasn’t a problem with a shortage of Peruvian priests, the Canadian Oblates began to import from the Peru delegation some of the best and most promising priests.
The option for the institutional church is not to minister to the faithful, to make the sacraments available to all, “to evangelize from the poor” (something DeMazenodian in that echo), to stand up for The equality of all persons including the more than 50% who are women, and In the context of a global community to respect the Divine in other revelations (except of course Rap music).
More and more there are laity with theological backgrounds, and certainly lay persons (male and female) whose spirituality is deep and healthy.
But the option of the institutional church is to close down parishes (communities) and put the clergy in mega parishes as the great dispensers of the sacramental goodies. And too often the clergy are imports from the Third World who are attracted to the comfort and finances of the North.
Two weeks ago, Rev. Dr. Michele Birch-Conery died in Windsor, Ontario. Michele was part of our Corpus Priest community on the Island and her theological formation was guided by Francois and Connie. Michele was indeed Dr., not from one of those Kellogg’s theological seminaries in the USA, but a true academic scholar and a university professor. Michele was ordained according to the RC rite and served a small community here on the Island. She was invited to live In southern Ontario and was subsequently ordained as a bishop in the Women Priests Movement with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.
Michele, and the other ordained women in Canada, would have been excellent pastors in our parishes but their calling and their abundant gifts were denied and condemned. I believe their ordinations were valid, the only aspect missing in their CV’s was testicles.
Obviously, it is not a shortage of priests that is the problem but rather how to pull the wool over the eyes of the leaderless flock and convince them that the male celibate clergy (knowing that celibate is interpreted in a very wide sense) is vital for pastoral ministry.
And the flock wanders off. If it were not for recent immigrants from traditional Catholic countries there would be little demand for Catholic clergy services.
Perhaps, I do not share such a concern for our manufactured priest shortage. If the priority was serving the people there would have been huge changes like sometime after Vatican 2. The priority is clergy control - not ministry.
And don’t say a prayer to St. Michele Birch-Conery. She had little time or patience for the Church that denied her equality and regurgitated anathemas at her ordained ministry.
Phil Little was an Oblate (OMI) priest in Peru for 8 years and then on his return to Canada left ministry, got married and then began to teach in the Catholic school system for 26 years in Toronto, Ontario. He retired in 2003 to Vancouver Island to help care for his folks who had a small farm.