Saturday, May 30, 2020

Music for Pentecost- MMOJ Community, May 30, 2020

I stand strong
In truth
As the fire and winds draw near
I stand tall as I am
For the giving and rising
Of all.

And the
Spirit moves through me
Spirit moves in me
Spirit moves through me
Spirit moves in me
Spirit moves freely
Spirit moves
Spirit moves freely
Spirit moves

I stand strong
In truth
As the fire and winds draw near
I stand tall as I am
For the giving and rising
Of all. Refrain

Glory to God: Marty Haugen

Holy, Holy, Karen Drucker

Communion Song: Welcome Holy Spirit 

Recessional: Send Down Your Spirit by Marty Haugen


Send down the fire of your justice,
Send down the rains of your love;
Come, send down the Spirit,

breathe life in your people,
and we shall be people of God.

Call us to be your compassion,
Teach us the song of your love;
Give us hearts that sing,
Give us deeds that ring,
Make us ring with the song
of your love. (Refrain)

Call us to learn of your mercy,
Teach us the way of your peace;
Give us hearts that feel,
Give us hands that heal,
Make us walk in the way
of your peace. (Refrain)
Call us to answer oppression,
Teach us the fire of your truth;
Give us righteous souls,
'Til your justice rolls,
make us burn with the fire
of your truth. (Refrain)

Call us to witness your Kingdom,
Give us the presence of Christ;
May your holy light
Keep us shining bright,
Ever shine with the presence
of Christ. (Refrain)

This Liturgy was written by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

MMOJ Pentecost , May 30, 2020, Presider: Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP and Peg Bowen ARCWP, Readers Janet Blakeley ARCWP and Sally Brochu ARCWP

Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP and Peg Bowen ARCWP Presiders

Photo: Mohammad

Gathering Song: Spirit Moves

Jan Novotka

I stand strong
In truth
As the fire and winds draw near
I stand tall as I am
For the giving and rising
Of all.

And the
Spirit moves through me
Spirit moves in me
Spirit moves through me
Spirit moves in me
Spirit moves freely
Spirit moves

Spirit moves freely
Spirit moves

(song repeats)

Welcome and Gathering

Presider 1: Welcome to our Zoom liturgy at Mary Mother of Jesus, an inclusive Catholic Community, where all are welcome. We invite you to pray the liturgy and respond where it says, All. All participants will be muted during the liturgy except for the presiders and readers. During the shared homily and community prayers we ask you to unmute yourself if you would like to contribute. Please have bread and wine/juice in front of you as we pray our Eucharistic prayer.

Presider 2: Today is the feast of Pentecost. We celebrate the love of the Holy One that has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit dwelling within us. 
Everyone is a unique and beautiful reflection of the face of God in our world. Each of us is given something to do that shows who God is and to make our world a better and happier place. Today we celebrate our spiritual power to live as a holy shakeup of Christ's Presence in the world.  We rejoice in the the spiritual gifts we have been given to serve God's people in diverse and wonderful ministries. We can do all things in the Spirit that moves through us. 

Opening Prayer

Presider 1: Holy One, Creative Energy within us and within all, we open ourselves to the outpouring of Spirit Love anew on Pentecost and  every day. We encounter you in people from every nations who manifest your presence with diverse gifts in generous service to their sisters and brothers. May we continue to be filled with gratitude for our spiritual gifts and use them wisely to benefit all. All Amen

Glory to God: Marty Haugen


Glory to God, in the highest (3x)

And peace to God’s people on earth.

First Reading: 
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

ACTS 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
These are the inspired words of  the disciples of Jesus.

Responsorial: Taize Chant: Veni Sancte Spiritus

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7

God's various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various ministries are carried out everywhere: but they all originate in God's Spirit. God's various expression of power are in action everywhere; but God is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is. Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful: wise counsel, clear understanding, simple trust, healing the sick, miraculous acts, proclamation, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues. All these gifts have a common origin, but are handed out one by one by the Spirit of God who decides who get what, and when. 
These are the inspired words of Paul, disciple of Jesus.
(Translation from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson)

Alleluia – Jan Phillips shortened

Gospel: A reading from the Gospel of John

Jn 20:19-22

On the evening of that first day of the week,
the doors were locked in the room
where the disciples were,
for fear of the Temple Authorities.
Jesus came and stood among them
and said, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this,
he showed them the marks of crucifixion.
The disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus,
who said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As Abba God sent me, so I am sending you.”
After saying this Jesus breathed on them and said,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.”
These is the inspired words of John, disciple of Jesus.

HOMILY- Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

In times of grief, uncertainty and struggle, we turn to families, friends and community for comfort and strength. During our present global pandemic and national crisis we gather as a spiritual community to offer each other mutual support as we  pray for all who have suffered and died from COVID 19,  as well as for all care givers, health care workers, public officials, and for a vaccine.  We also pray for justice and healing of racism in response to the killing of George Floyd. During these times our world appears upended as we face uncertainty and anxiety about our present and future.  When our lives are thrown into chaos by a health crisis, death of a loved one, or an unexpected event or crisis we come together in loving solidarity in order to survive, heal and promote justice. 

The Pentecost story begins with frightened disciples huddled together in grief and panic about their future. Would they be imprisoned, put to death, like Jesus?
Then, as Mary, Mother of Jesus, and the women and men who followed Jesus, prayed together, a profound spiritual transformation takes place within them.  Pentecost’s vivid imagery: “tongues of fire resting upon each of them, and filling them with the Holy Spirit” describe an energetic flow of spiritual power vibrating through every cell of their body, mind and spirit.  No longer locked in their fears, the disciples suddenly understood that the spiritual capacity to do what Jesus did and even more was now a reality for them. This holy shakeup propelled them to leave the Upper Room, go way outside their comfort zone to publicly proclaim 
that  Jesus’ empowering Risen presence, is a vibrant reality that transforms lives and sets the world on fire with love.

Paul describes the seismic spiritual shift in awareness that evolved in the followers of Jesus, who transitioned from grief at Jesus passing to a profound experience of the Risen One’s Presence with them and even more within them, in the following words: “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us.” (Romans 5:5, cf. 8:11)

Pentecost happens today every time the Spirit moves through us in loving service to our sisters and brothers.  Sally and Janet gathered with Beth in a circle of love that included our entire MMOJ Community as our dear sister, Marie transitioned into the fullness of God’s embrace two weeks ago. In their words:
“We began to anoint Marie. At the moment the holy oils were placed on her forehead, we could feel her take immediate leave, peacefully and with quiet dignity. It was a gift to be with Marie in her last moments and to be a support for Beth.” 

Womanpriest: Tradition and Transgression in the Contemporary Roman Catholic Church, a new book authored by Jill Peterfeso and published by Fordham University, is the first academic study of our historic movement.  According to Peterfeso, the “holy shakeup” impact of our womanpriest movement is a major transformative catalyst that redefines identity, theology and ministry in the Roman Catholic Church. She writes: “Womenpriests believe that they must defy the official Catholic teaching that only men can be priests in order to restore and redeem the Roman Catholic Church. Womenpriests’ actions are designed to be controversial because they are constructing a new model of priesthood that invites new models for being Roman Catholic. The groups very existence is an ongoing protest against official Catholic doctrine and offers an alternative Roman Catholic Church in the bodies of womenpriests.” (Introduction)

Catholics have been taught that Spirit moves through certain people more than others. One example is that an ordained priest is the one minister who can celebrate Mass. In our inclusive Catholic communities, we the people, ordained and non-ordained celebrate sacraments -we consecrate bread and wine and affirm our spiritual power to pray, share and be the Body of Christ sharing the Body of Christ with one another!

The holy shakeup that the disciples experienced long ago on  Pentecost keeps on happening in gentle and dramatic ways every time we are the hands and feet, the presence of Christ in the world.  We all have the power we need, as God’s holy, blessed people to do what Jesus did and even more! So no matter what crisis we face, no matter how bleak things may appear to be, let us affirm we can do all things in God who strengthens us and serves through us!


Homilist: If you feel called to share, unmute yourself. Mute yourself again after speaking

Community Sharing: 

How do you experience Pentecost, the empowering presence of Spirit within you, others and our world?

Statement of Faith

All: We believe in one God, a divine mystery

beyond all definition and rational understanding,

the heart of all that has ever existed,

that exists now, or that ever will exist.

We believe in Jesus, messenger of God's Word,

bringer of God's healing, heart of God's compassion,

bright star in the firmament of God's

prophets, mystics, and saints.

We believe that we are called to follow Jesus

as a vehicle of God's love,

a source of God's wisdom and truth,

and an instrument of God's peace in the world.

We believe that God's kin-dom is here and now,

stretched out all around us for those

with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it,

and hands to make it happen.

Prayers of the Community:

Presider 2: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns.

All: Holy One, You hear our prayer.

Presider 2; We see you in our sisters and brothers who are using their talents and training to heal and help all those who are suffering from COVID 19. May they be instruments of your healing love as your compassion flows through them.

All: Holy One, You hear our prayer.

Presider 2: For what else shall we pray?
(Unmute your microphone Speak your concern when there is an opening, Re-mute your microphone)

Presider 2: We pray for these and all unspoken concerns that we hold in our hearts.

All: Amen.

Presentation of the Bread and Wine

Presider 1: Blessed are you, God of all life, through your goodness we have bread, wine, all creation, and our own lives to offer. Through this sacred meal we become your new creation.

Presider 2: My sisters and brothers, these gifts give glory to the Holy One.

All: O Holy One, You dwell in all of us, and you accept our gifts and our worship that we offer in service to our faith community. We do this in memory of our brother, Jesus. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

Presider 1: The Holy One, Shekinah, Source of all life, is with you.

All: And also with you.

Presider 1: We lift up your hearts.

All: We lift them up to the Holy One, the Love of our Hearts.

Presider 1: We give thanks and praise to our compassionate God.

All: It is right to give the Holy One thanks and praise.

Presider 1: O Divine Flame of Love, your glowing embers dance in our hearts. Your passionate presence kindles our souls. You purify us with the searing truth that ignites our spirits. As the glowing embers of a fire penetrate the cold around us, so your tenderness sets our hearts aglow. We celebrate your nearness this day as we remember your Pentecost miracles. The wind of your life has blown across our world in the gentle breezes and thunder storms of your vision in  prophets and visionaries among us. We praise and exalt you forever with grateful hearts as we sing:

Holy Holy by Karen Drucker (shortened)

We are Holy, Holy, Holy…

You are Holy, Holy, Holy,…

Presider 2: Passionate God, you kindle your fire of enthusiasm within us. You speak to us with assurance and excitement and reveal to us the infinite, boundless, depths of your love for us.
You awaken us to your promises to be always present in our lives, no matter what the obstacles or setbacks we experience. You consume us with such a hunger and thirst for justice that our words and actions inflame others to become signs of your justice.You give us eyes to see human need, hearts to care for our sisters and brothers and hands and feet to lighten others burdens.

All: You bless us O Holy One and you enliven all that exists. You transform these gifts of bread and wine, and our lives by boundless grace that nourishes and sustains us on our journey.

Presider 1:  Please extend Your hands in blessing.

Presider 1:  You pour out Your spirit anew upon this bread and wine and upon us as we become more deeply the Christ Presence in our world.
On the night before he died, Jesus came to table with the women and men he loved. 
Jesus took bread blessed and broke it, saying,
“Take, eat, this is my body. Do this in memory of me.”


Presider 2After supper, Jesus poured a cup of wine and shared it with his friends, saying,
“This is the cup of the covenant of my love. As often as You drink of it, remember me.”

Presider 1: Let us proclaim the mystery of wonder in our midst:
All: Christ of the Cosmos you are the spark of love in whom we believe; the Wisdom of Sophia in whom we trust; and the desire for justice that consumes us.

Presider 2 : As we celebrate the memory of Jesus, we remember our political and religious leaders, especially Pope Francis. We remember the communion of saints and all who have inspired and loved us.

(pause to remember).

Presider 1: May our hearts be merry as we dream new dreams and see new visions. May we recognize Christ present in every person everywhere. May we, like Jesus, become Spirit Fire, as we fan the flames of love over the entire cosmos.

Presiders hold Bread and wine.

Presider 2 For it is through living as Jesus lived,

That we awaken to your Spirit within,

Moving us to glorify you,

O Holy One,

At this time and all ways.

All: Amen

Prayer of Jesus

Presider:1 Let us  pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us.

Sign of Peace: Let us offer one another a sign of peace

Prayer for the Breaking of the Bread

Presider 2: Please join in praying the prayer for the breaking of the bread:

All: Loving God, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice.

We will live justly.

Loving God, You call us to be Your presence in the world.

We will love tenderly.

Loving God, You call us to speak truth to power.

We will walk with integrity.

(Presiders hold up bread and wine)

Presider 1: Let us pray our communion prayer together.
All: What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives; as we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.

Presider 2: Please now receive Communion with the words “ I am (You are) the Body of Christ” and “I am (You are) the Blood of Christ”

Communion Song: Welcome Holy Spirit

Thanksgiving and Announcements

Final Blessing

Presider 1: God’s Spirit strengthens you to carry out your ministry faithfully.

God’s Spirit calls you to heal and reconcile

God’s Spirit guides you in your work for justice and peace for all.

God’s Spirit enlivens you in prophetic and liberating obedience.

All: Together, we are one in Christ, loving and serving as God’s holy people.

Presider 2: Go in peace and joy to celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit in your life and our world.

All: Alleluia:

Recessional: Send Down Your Spirit by Marty Haugen


Send down the fire of your justice,
Send down the rains of your love;
Come, send down the Spirit,

breathe life in your people,
and we shall be people of God.

Call us to be your compassion,
Teach us the song of your love;
Give us hearts that sing,
Give us deeds that ring,
Make us ring with the song
of your love. (Refrain)

Call us to learn of your mercy,
Teach us the way of your peace;
Give us hearts that feel,
Give us hands that heal,
Make us walk in the way
of your peace. (Refrain)

Call us to answer oppression,
Teach us the fire of your truth;
Give us righteous souls,
'Til your justice rolls,
make us burn with the fire
of your truth. (Refrain)

Call us to witness your Kingdom,
Give us the presence of Christ;
May your holy light
Keep us shining bright,
Ever shine with the presence
of Christ. (Refrain)

This Liturgy was written by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Pentecost Homily by Beverly Bingle RCWP, Article on Excommunication from CDF/Vatican

Response: See inspirational homily by Beverly Bingle RCWP and recent news of her excommunication by the Vatican.
Let us affirm our Sister's prophetic obedience to the Spirit in our RCWP movement to renew the Church by living the inclusive teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

Vatican excommunicates local woman priest; Toledo Bishop Daniel Thomas warns against affiliation

Beverly Bingle RCWP- Pentecost Homily

In the midst of a virus that is, as one of my friends puts it,

“not only dangerous, but sneaky,”

lots of people have turned to electronic substitutes

for our closed churches.

This weekend some people are going to get together physically

even though they know it’s a risk to health and life,

especially for people over 60

or with a compromised immune system.

Here at Holy Spirit, we looked at what Jesus said and did

and what our Catholic Church has practiced

at various times and under various circumstances

over 2,000 years,

and we found another way.

We continue to gather each week

by praying the Mass in our own homes,

house churches miles apart in PHYSICAL distance

but up close and personal in SPIRITUAL distance.

In doing that,

we follow the example of the earliest followers of Jesus.

They had been afraid,

but they experienced the Spirit among them,

so they celebrated Sunday evening meals in their homes

with prayer led by one of the family

and sharing the bread and wine that they blessed.

On top of that early history,

in our lifetimes we have seen a movement

in our Catholic Church

from the “pray-pay-obey” model of the Council of Trent

to the teachings of Vatican II:

that we are—each and every one of us—

responsible as priest, as prophet, and as servant leader

(John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis);

and that our “full, conscious, and active participation”

in the Mass is “to be considered before all else”

(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium).


Jesus wasn’t one to obey rules that didn’t make sense.

He was a protester, a crusader for justice.

According to Biblical scholar Bruce Chilton,

Jesus’ own practice of table fellowship was

a protest against the Roman overlords

and the Temple authorities who were in collusion with them.

The guardians of those institutions wanted to hold on to the power

to say who was okay with God and who wasn’t,

the power to say what was okay with God and what wasn’t.

They thought that killing Jesus was the only way

to put a stop to the idea that God is in charge, not them.

So they crucified him.

And his followers denied him and ran away and hid… for a while.

Then, over a period of time after the crucifixion,

the disciples began to gather and remember

and share their memories and experiences.


We celebrate today as “Pentecost”

because it’s fifty days since Passover,

when the disciples experienced

the presence of the Spirit of God

while they were celebrating

their Jewish tradition of the “feast of weeks.”

Today’s readings give us a story

of how Jesus’ disciples came out of hiding

to carry his message “to the ends of the earth.”

Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, tells a mystic, symbolic story

of the “violent, rushing wind from heaven,”

that same breath of God that formed the earth.

John uses that same symbolism,

showing Jesus BREATHING on the disciples

giving them the Holy Spirit,

sending them, and us, as God sent him.

That breath—the Hebrew word ruah, the Greek word pneuma,

the Latin word spiritus—all mean, as Dr. John Pilch points out,

“air in motion,” “breath,” and “wind,”

and the root meaning is “power,” the power of God.

So Jesus breathes into them the ruah, the pneuma, the spiritus,

the POWER of God,

and his followers understood

that they were empowered by the spirit of God—the Holy Spirit.

That Pentecost power—the very breath of God—is in each of us,

breathed into us at birth,

acknowledged in our baptism,

confirmed in us each time we go about doing good.


Back in March, about the time

that the pandemic was just reaching Ohio,

Pope Francis characterized the worldwide trauma

as "God's call on people to judge

what is most important to them

and resolve to act accordingly from now on."

We decided that life is important,

so we’ve been staying home.

We decided that our faith is important,

so we do all we can to help people who are suffering.

And we remember that Jesus told us to do what he did,

so we pray the Mass, each of us at home,

intentionally joining our prayers

with the prayers of all the others sitting at their kitchen tables

with the bread and the wine

that become for us the body and blood of Christ.

The Spirit of God is upon us!


"Path to priesthood leads Ohio woman to create community at Hildegard Haus" by Don Clemmer, National Catholic Reporter

My Response: Excellent article that presents not only the call of Dr. Shanon Sterringer ARCWP to a renewed model of priestly ministry but also her ministry at Hildegard Haus as a new way of celebrating the treasures of the mystical, prophetic and sacramental tradition at the heart of our Roman Catholic faith community with its 1.2 billion plus members,  the people of God, who are calling forth women priests to transform patriarchy into a discipleship of equals despite the hierarchy's resistance. Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

20191227_122625 CROP2.jpg

Shanon Sterringer is seen alongside an image of St. Hildegard of Bingen at Hildegard Haus, the church community she leads as a Roman Catholic woman priest in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. (Don Clemmer)
Shanon Sterringer is seen alongside an image of St. Hildegard of Bingen at Hildegard Haus, the church community she leads as a Roman Catholic woman priest in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. (Don Clemmer)
FAIRPORT HARBOR, OHIO — Fairport Harbor, about 30 miles east of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie, has a naturally ecumenical flavor. The village covers 1 square mile and is home to some 3,000 people and nine churches.
The newest addition to the village's faith communities is Hildegard Haus, open since September, a community modeled on the spiritual vision of St. Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th-century German Benedictine abbess who was canonized and named a doctor of the church in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Community of St. Hildegard is led by Shanon Sterringer, a woman beloved to many village residents due to her decades working in ministry at Fairport Harbor's Catholic parish, St. Anthony of Padua. Sterringer opened Hildegard Haus as the Hildegarden, a nondenominational retreat center in 2016, after purchasing the property from the Byzantine Catholic Church, which had closed the parish there in 2012.
Her work to transform that rundown building into a center for the whole community contributed to her being named Fairport Harbor's Citizen of the Year in February 2019. That honor came in the middle of a nine-month sabbatical Sterringer took after exiting her role at St. Anthony, an interlude that culminated in her being ordained in Austria through the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.
The move prompted a Dec. 17 letter from Bishop Nelson Perez, then head of the Cleveland Diocese, urging her to respond by Jan. 3, at which point he would communicate her "refusal to reconcile" to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Sterringer did not respond and openly admits she has effectively excommunicated herself under canon law.
"Most of us don't set out saying, 'I want to be excommunicated,' " said Sterringer, 47. "We're on the margins, really, and kind of outside of [the Catholic Church]. At the same time, I still see us as part of a bigger body — of Christ."

eucharistic liturgy CROP.jpg

Shanon Sterringer celebrates the Eucharist at Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. (Rick Sterringer)
Shanon Sterringer celebrates the Eucharist at Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. (Rick Sterringer)
Sterringer's story offers an insight into where the church in the United States finds itself, at a time of transition marked by the vision of reform modeled by Pope Francis, which includes major questions about the role and dignity of women in the church. Sterringer's services at Hildegard Haus have drawn about 35 people on a given Sunday, more than a few of them from her former congregation at St. Anthony, which is visible just two blocks up the road.
Hildegard Haus has transformed the former Byzantine church, with the altar brought down from the sanctuary space and along one wall, with seating moving out from it in a semicircle. Depictions of St. Hildegard's art line the walls of the bright, repurposed space, which Sterringer's husband, Rick, helped to renovate.
On Sunday mornings, Sterringer leads a worship service modeled on Catholic Mass, but which is also a collaborative work in progress.
Journey in the church
"I'm not threatened by it," said Fr. Pete Mihalic, longtime pastor at St. Anthony and Sterringer's mentor, friend and godfather to her youngest daughter. "She was like an associate pastor here. I mean, she just did it all within the scope of what she was able to do and just transformed this place beautifully. The people love her very, very much."
Sterringer, who began in the parish as sacristan at age 25, extended the reach of her duties over 22 years at St. Anthony by pursuing various degrees and certifications. She recognizes now that she felt a call to ordination from the beginning and was "trying to do everything I was allowed to do and hoping that would fulfill my call."
This included a 2003 bachelor's in religious studies from Cleveland State University; a 2007 master's in theology from the diocese's St. Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology; a second master's degree from Ursuline College in 2011; a 2012 doctorate in ministry at St. Mary Seminary on women's leadership in the church; and a 2016 doctorate from Union Institute and University. She also received certification as a diocesan master catechist, lay ecclesial minister, eucharistic minister, lector, marriage preparation minister and procurator in annulments.
She notes that people have since said to her, "What did the diocese think you were going to do with that kind of education if you didn't have a call?"
Sterringer also participated in parish liturgies as fully as the church allows, wearing an alb as liturgist/master of ceremonies, to the point that people were used to seeing her at the altar. "Seeing a sanctuary that's not just full of men forms people," she noted. "There's always a desire first to bring about as much positive change as you can within the fold."
Sterringer took six months off during her studies for her first doctorate to give a look at the Episcopal Church. She recalled a decisive piece of advice from a mentor: "You need to discern if you're called to the Episcopal Church or if you're called to be Catholic in a new way."
Sterringer added, "In my heart, I'm a Catholic."

20191227_125953 RESIZE.jpg

A sign adorns the garden outside of Hildegard Haus. (Don Clemmer)
A sign adorns the garden outside of Hildegard Haus. (Don Clemmer)
As she tried to figure out how to be Catholic in a new way, she discovered St. Hildegard. "She gave me hope. Here's this strong woman who didn't mince her words when addressing clergy or injustices, clericalism, and yet here she is a doctor of the church," Sterringer said. "Based on what we know of history, it's shocking she wasn't burned on a pyre."
In purchasing and renovating the former Byzantine Catholic church building into the Hildegarden retreat center, Sterringer saw herself paving a way for future generations, by lifting up the power of Hildegard's charisms while knowing that she would never be ordained. She also saw it as an outlet for staying in a positive relationship "with an institution that's not there yet."
But as time wore on, Sterringer found something bigger kept throwing up roadblocks and pushing her further out.
"I felt like I was suffocating. I felt like I just wasn't being who I was called to be," she said of her last year at the parish.
Her work and ministry fell away, piece by piece. Conflicts with the diocese left her crying, feeling like she wasn't living her vocation with integrity. The decisive moment came for her in August 2018, the night before she was to give the diocesan pastoral ministry retreat, when she learned that a friend, the bishop of Cuddapah, India, had been accused of misappropriating diocesan money to fund a luxurious double life with a wife and son.
"That just devastated me," she said, noting that the sense of betrayal led her to realize, "I have nothing else to give here."
When St. Anthony faced a budget shortfall the following year, she told her pastor to solve the deficit by eliminating her job. She recalls telling him, "I think God is calling me somewhere else."
Her job ended in September 2018, leading to her sabbatical, a period of spiritual darkness and, ultimately, her decision to move forward with ordination.
"I didn't want this place to be a zoo. I thought, that's not what it's about," she says. Donations have included custom furnishing, banners, statues and other artwork.

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The statue "Shepherd Girl" by Dee Toscano was donated to the Hildegarden in 2018. (Don Clemmer)
The statue "Shepherd Girl" by Dee Toscano was donated to the Hildegarden in 2018. (Don Clemmer)
"It's been nothing but positive," Sterringer's husband, Rick, said of the reaction from the community. Shanon affirmed that support comes from unlikely types, such as older people who've stuck with the church all along.
"It's been a rollercoaster ride, that's for sure," Rick said of the experience of accompanying his wife through the discernment of her path.
Weathering COVID-19
Despite the community's newness and small size, the COVID-pandemic hasn't been deleterious to Hildegard Haus.
"When this pandemic first hit, I was very concerned," said Sterringer. "It has really been enriching in a way I did not expect."
Taking their community online, Sterringer has found that the numbers of people signing on for weekly vespersBible study and rosary are triple the church's live congregation. The same goes for Sunday liturgies.
"Our weekly numbers have increased; collections have remained steady," Sterringer said, adding that shortly after the community went into stay-at-home mode, they received an unexpected donation to help provide the resources they need "to weather this storm and secure our future."
She likens her experience to how early church communities were formed, but now with Wi-Fi and electronic devices.
She has retained a good relationship with the local Catholic parish.
"Initially, she saw [Hildegard Haus] almost as a halfway house for disenfranchised Catholics to come home, but there's so many from my experience," says Sterringer's former boss, Mihalic. "People are leaving. You don't always have a context, an atmosphere in which to deal with that. She has that context, and they feel welcome there. And she can talk on that level with them."
"We have a lot of people looking for healing," said Mary Rininger, a former St. Anthony parishioner who attends Hildegard Haus with her husband, David. "They have been so hurt by the structured churches in their life, and not just the Catholic Church."
"The church broke my heart" says Marty Hillyer, chair of the Hildegard Haus board, who says the abuse crisis first drove him away before Sterringer brought him back to church in 2017. "I really feel the love of God through her. ... She is the poster child of what a priest should be."
Patricia and Morgan Spiker, a couple from St. Anthony who've been married for 43 years, began attending Hildegard Haus in addition to St. Anthony as a way of supporting Sterringer. But Patricia notes, "We just fell in love with here. This is a wonderful place," adding that it's not unusual to find themselves talking about Shanon's homily "all afternoon."

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Patricia and Morgan Spiker at Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor, Ohio (Don Clemmer)
Patricia and Morgan Spiker at Hildegard Haus in Fairport Harbor, Ohio (Don Clemmer)
"Her message, her homilies, have been phenomenal," says Tim Kalista, a former priest of the Cleveland Diocese. "She's trying to balance inclusivity with tradition."
The "crime" of women priests is regarded as worse than sexual abuse in terms of the way it has to be resolved under canon law, Sterringer noted. "And I think most of the people sitting in the pew, whether they agree with women's ordination or not," and with friends and family attending denominations that ordain women, are asking themselves, "How can it be worse than a child being raped by a priest?"
This leads to a discordance people sense at a gut level, she says.
Approaches to reform
One curiosity of the timing of Sterringer's move is that it comes nearly seven years into the pontificate of Francis, who is widely viewed as a reformer and who has even, for the last several years, sponsored commissions to explore the question of opening the diaconate up to women, even as he's stated that he sees Pope John Paul II's ban on ordaining women priests as forever binding.
"I think Francis introduces hope," Sterringer said. She cited his recent comments that he isn't afraid of schisms and noted that the change she hopes to affect runs deeper than the single issue of women's ordination.
"If tomorrow Pope Francis said, 'I'm ordaining women to every level of holy orders,' our problems aren't going to be resolved. They're actually probably going to be a nightmare. And it's probably going to be a war, really, because the respect isn't there between the sexes."
It's unusual for Roman Catholic women priests to have their own physical church structure. (Sterringer currently owns Hildegard Haus, but is in the process of transferring ownership to the community via its board.)
"A lot of the women priests tend to respond once they're retired," Sterringer said, because it's essentially a career-ending move. "One of the comments a friend of mine made ... is, 'You know, Shanon, you're unemployed and unemployable. All of your degrees, all of your credentials are through an institution that has now blacklisted you, in a sense.' " (Sterringer is still paying off student loans from her two doctorates.)
She has heard similar sentiments from her family. Her oldest daughter, 26, is no longer affiliated with any organized religion. "She was very supportive, but she said, 'Mom, why would you invest any more of yourself in the church? It's taken already so much from you, and it's just hurt you time and time again. Why would you give it anything else of yourself?' "
Mihalic credits his friend for how she's conducted herself on an otherwise fraught journey. "I think that's Shanon's biggest grace here is her transparency. She puts it on the line and says this is who I am, and this is how I feel God is calling me and, in a sense, take it or leave it."
"I resisted it for well over a decade," Sterringer said. "And when you finally get to that place when you know it's time, it's very heart-wrenching, because you know that there's going to be a lot of loss and lot of grief and a lot of broken relationships and changed relationships. And yet I think when you're at that place — 'I lost everything. What else do I have to lose at this point?' — that's where that liberating grace comes through."
[Don Clemmer is a writer, communications professional and former staffer of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He writes from Indiana and edits Cross Roads magazine for the Catholic Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. Follow him on Twitter: @clemmer_don.]

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Priests We Seek Are Working Among Us by Jamie Manson, National Catholic Reporter

“Janine Denomme was deeply respected in her church and her community in Chicago. For years, she served her local parish as a lay preacher, church musician, parish council member, spiritual director and religion teacher. She held a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, taught at a number of Catholic colleges, and, later, was the director of youth programs at a Chicago gay and lesbian center. She was an out lesbian in a loving, committed relationship.

Mercy Sr. Margaret McBride has more than 34 years of experience in health care management. Most recently, she served as vice president of mission integration at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, a prominent Catholic hospital in Phoenix, founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1895. McBride was the highest-ranking Mercy sister on the staff, and a member of the hospital’s ethics committee.
Denomme had a lifelong struggle with the church that she loved and her belief that God was calling her to the priesthood. After years of discernment, Denomme decided to pursue ordination in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests community. In April 2009, while preparing to be ordained, Denomme, at the age of 45, learned that she had terminal colorectal cancer. She battled the disease with extraordinary grace, and, as a final act of ministry, kept a powerful journal recounting her illness, treatment, and movement toward death. She was ordained in April 2010. With only a few weeks to live, her dying wish was to have her funeral Mass held at St. Gertrude, the parish she loved and served for years.
McBride was considered the moral conscience of St. Joseph’s. As her colleague Dr. John Garvie wrote, she worked “tirelessly and selflessly as the living example and champion of compassionate, appropriate care for the sick and dying. ... She always made sure we understood that we’re here to help the less fortunate.” In late 2009, McBride and the ethics committee were faced with an extraordinary moral dilemma. A 27-year-old mother of four children was in deteriorating condition with a pulmonary disorder. She was 11 weeks pregnant, and doctors concluded that she would likely die if she carried her pregnancy to term. After study and deliberation, McBride and the ethics committee gave their consent for the pregnancy to be terminated in order to save the life of the mother.
During the second week of May 2010, Denomme was denied a Catholic funeral Mass in her home parish by the Chicago archdiocese, and the bishop of Phoenix said that McBride had incurred automatic excommunication. A week later, Denomme passed away at her home surrounded by loved ones, forced to have her final liturgy in a neighboring Methodist church. McBride was reassigned to another part of the hospital “to focus on a number of new strategic initiatives.”
While the institutional church maintains a system that supports abuses of power and protects abusers of people, true ministers like Denomme and McBride are denied the opportunity to participate in the sacramental life that they themselves incarnated each day in their work. Both were cruelly banished from the church that they served with exceptional devotion, integrity and love. Their banishment is further proof that the institutional church is cutting itself off from the life-giving, authentic church that continues to flourish inside and outside of its walls.
Women like Denomme and McBride are too intelligent and faithful to the Gospel to believe that these condemnations have separated them from the love of God. The real losers here are the members of the institutional church, who have denied themselves the blessing of being in communion with these women. Because women like them are exactly the kind of spiritual leaders that those living in 21st century need for moral guidance and religious inspiration.
McBride was the moral center of a hospital, teaching not only compassionate care, but guiding people through the toughest ethical decisions that all of us, regardless of religious commitment, must face eventually. Denomme was a model of courage and goodness to countless people. She reached out to young gay, lesbian and transgendered people who otherwise might have been forced into homelessness or turned to suicide. And, in her death, she left behind a series of spiritual reflections on the Web site that will be a source of strength and comfort to all of us who struggle with illness.
Women like Denomme and McBride exemplify the kind of spiritual leadership that both older and newer generations of seekers crave. Even if Denomme hadn’t become a Roman Catholic Womanpriest and McBride weren’t a Sister of Mercy, they would still have been fully answering God’s calling and would have been no less ministers of word and sacrament.
My greatest comfort is that Denomme and McBride did not work in a vacuum. They are only two of the countless women and men who are doing the work of justice and compassion throughout our world. While the institutional church crumbles under its own weight of faithless, desperate acts of self-preservation, these women and men are modeling the work to which God calls us, by serving in hospitals, prisons, shelters, schools, community centers and anywhere else God seeks to be made present.
These servant leaders are the keys to the future of the church. Free from the trappings of clericalism, these women and men will guide new generations in understanding what it means to bring about the very life of God in a broken world. This is spiritual leadership that will truly speak to newer generations of people, who are less compelled by parish structures and traditional religious devotions.
New generations will need much more from religious leadership than dispensers of sacraments. They will need people who are incarnating sacramental life. Those whose transformative actions will challenge our moral convictions, and whose healing, justice-seeking work will guide us in making meaning in an increasingly empty, violent world. Older generations have been hungering for this kind of leadership for a long time. Together we need to realize that the priests we seek are already working among us.”