Saturday, October 24, 2020

Canada's first woman Roman Catholic priest Birch-Conery remembered Author of the article:Julie Kotsis, Trevor Wilhelm • Windsor Star

"Completely dedicated." Rev. Michele Birch-Conery, who spent her last years in Windsor, was Canada's first woman Roman Catholic priest. PHOTO BY COURTESY OF BARBARA BILLEY /Windsor Star

Michele Birch-Conery, 1939-2020

Rev. Michele Birch-Conery, a trailblazing feminist, professor, nurse and former nun, who defied the Catholic church by being ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Roman Catholic Women Priests, died Oct. 11 at the age of 81.

“Although technically it wasn’t, because Rome of course has a canon against women being ordained,” said Marcus, adding the priests do services in places outside of Catholic churches, including peoples’ houses and the chapels of seniors homes.

Birch-Conery had a rough start in life and battled chronic, life-long intestinal problems, which eventually prevented her from being able to digest food.

“She suffered a lot during her life, but she kept soldiering on,” said Marcus. “She had an incredible deep faith that kept her going. She was very active in the feminist movement and also in the reform of the church.”

Birch-Conery was the first Roman Catholic woman priest in Canada, ordained in July 2005 in a ceremony on the St. Lawrence River, according to her friend Barbara Billey, who herself is an ordained woman priest.

She was completely dedicated to the justice work of equality and inclusivity and the church.

Billey encouraged Birch-Conery to move from Vancouver to Windsor about eight years ago.

They ministered together with the Heart of Compassion International Faith Community, joined by Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests Karen Kerrigan and Marcus, who both live in Michigan.

“She worked really hard. She was completely dedicated to the justice work of equality and inclusivity and the church,” Billey said.

“She’s somebody you’d want to emulate,” said Jennifer Marcus, the first priest ordained by Birch-Conery, after she became a bishop in 2015. “She was a very bright person. We spent many a night discussing philosophy and literature and you name it.

“We’d be having a couple drinks and it would be two or three in the morning, we’d still be chatting away. Going to her place on weekends in Windsor was a delight. It was just one of those beautiful experiences.”

There are about 165 women priests worldwide, Marcus said. The group started in Germany where two male bishops ordained seven women in international waters so no male Roman Catholic bishop could deny that it was legitimate. (Correction: According to the international Roman Catholic Women Priests statistics , the worldwide RCWP movement as of Oct. 2020 has approximately a total of 277 members, 

200 priests, 19 deacons,  18 bishops, 1 bishop elect,  Ordained 238, (candidates 25, Support Members 14) Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP)

Birch-Conery was born to a single mother, Rose Conery, and then fostered before being adopted at four years old, but, “sadly, her adoptive parents were abusive.”

She attended two convent boarding schools and became an accomplished pianist, before studying to become a registered nurse at Holy Cross Hospital in Calgary, graduating in 1962.

“She had an incredible deep faith that kept her going.” Trailblazing feminist, professor, nurse and former nun Rev. Michele Birch-Conery, right, with Barbara Billey, both of whom defied the Catholic church orthodoxy by becoming ordained women priests. PHOTO BY COURTESY OF BARBARA BILLEY /Windsor Star

In August 1963, Birch-Conery entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. While there, she earned a bachelor of arts degree, which led to teaching jobs at both the elementary and high school levels. She also earned a master of fine arts degree from the University of Montana, majoring in poetry.

In 1974, Birch-Conery left the convent and worked on her PhD in English literature for the next 10 years at the University of Iowa.

She supported herself as a nurse, including several years with the Flying Nurses, an organization that provided temporary working assignments to under-staffed hospitals in the United States.

Billey said Birch-Conery returned to B.C. in 1985 and two years later became a professor of English literature and women’s studies at North Island College on Vancouver Island.

She lived there for 20 years, reuniting with her birth mother.

“She taught me how to appreciate the gift of everyone, including the diamonds in the rough that I would probably have judged and cast off too quickly and who have now become my really, really good friends,” Billey said.

Birch-Conery died in hospice care at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.

“I was with her every day somehow. I never, ever got bored,” Billey said. “I truly believe I’ve become a better person for having known Michele.”

Friday, October 23, 2020

Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for October 24, 2020 - Presiders: Joan Meehan and Kathryn Shea, ARCWP

Zoom link for video and audio:
Meeting ID: 862 4086 8327
Password: 1066
Dial-in for audio only
929 436 2866 
Meeting ID: 862 4086 8327

Theme: Rebirthing the Universe, Darkness To Light

Welcome and Gathering

Presider 1:  Welcome to our Zoom liturgy at Mary Mother of Jesus, an inclusive Catholic Community, where all are welcome.  At these difficult times, it is now more important than ever to gather together to support one another as “companions on this journey”, a journey of the unknown.  For “wherever two or more of you are gathered in my Name, there is love.”

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 we ask you to unmute yourself to contribute your thoughts.  Please, when you are finished, re-mute yourself. Please have bread and wine/juice in front of you as we pray our Eucharistic prayer. 

Let us begin now with our gathering song: Holy Darkness by John Michael Talbot


Centering/Opening Prayer

Presider 2:  Oh Holy One, we are delighted to gather with you as we share this sacred space and as we celebrate our oneness in you.  We are living in a time of great darkness, but the darkness shall not overcome us.  It never has, and it never will.  However, experiencing the darkness is essential to coming and growing into the Light.  It is experiencing the death and resurrection.  

You gave us the most loving and reassuring of messages when you said, “You are the light of the world.”  We envision the day when our light, and the light of all inhabiting this planet, overcomes the darkness and we more fully experience the kin-dom of God on Earth.  We live with the comfort of knowing you are with us as we walk each day in conscious awareness of our responsibility to be the light we wish to see in the world.  And to this, we say, AMEN.

Communal Reconciliation Rite

Mary AL: We pause now to remember the times we have let false messages about our unworthiness cloud our vision of the infinite depth of love within us.  Now, imagine the imperfections, chaos and messes of your life illuminated by a love within you that is healing and transforming you as you evolve and grow in awareness of your divinity and humanity.

(Pause briefly. Then extend arm over your heart)

All: I love you, I forgive you, I am sorry, I thank you.

Liturgy of the Word

(Kevin) First Reading - "Something sacred is coming this way.” by The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw

“Something sacred is coming this way.  That is how my ancestors would have said it. In the midst of all this turmoil and confusion, when we cannot clearly see the path before us, when we feel trapped in a situation we cannot control, then I believe the wise elders of my holy heritage would climb to the high place of the heart, draw the circle of reason and faith around them, and stand to sing their prayers into the open sky of the history to come.  

They would not shrink into a corner afraid, but rise up to catch the first light of what was coming into being all around them.

We are living in a time of emergence.

We are the witnesses to a great renewal.

The world is full of the fear of birth and change, but that transformation will one day be our blessing.

Do not be afraid, but be believing.

Come to the place where the ancestors are already standing.

Come and see.

Something sacred is coming this way."

And these are the inspired work of The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston and we respond by saying, AMEN. 

Responsorial: Surrender by Jan Novotka

(Judy) Second Reading – Our second Reading is from Albert Camus, French-Algerian philosopher, author, and journalist

"In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. 

In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.

In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.

I realized, through it all, that…

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back."

These are the inspired works of Albert Camus, and we respond by saying, AMEN


Presider 1:  (Joan Meehan) Reading from the Gospel of John (1:1-13) (The Message by Eugene H. Peterson)


The Word was first, the Word present to God,

The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one.


Everything was created through the Holy One; nothing –not one thing! Came into being without the One Who Is.  


What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness could not put it out.


There once was a man, his name was John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light.  He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in.  John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.


These are the inspired words of John and we respond by saying, AMEN.


Homily Starter: Kathryn 

So, I have been experiencing a time of darkness in my life lately, which is not usual for me.  I really don’t like the darkness.  I find it frightening.  I know it is related to the longevity of COVID and the “not knowing” how much longer we have to live like this and news that the next four to six months could be much worse.  We’re facing a critical election, where our very lives, and the future of our country, as we know it, is in the balance.  And then, there’s the hatred and racism destroying close relationships and dividing our country. And, I’m personally dealing with a major transition in my life.  It is definitely a time of transformation and change.  I recall the Chinese word for “change” means loss plus opportunity.  

I began having dreams about four weeks ago of swirling in a cloud of darkness.  It was so dark and I could not find a way out.  With each dream, I fought harder.  I struggled and panicked and awoke screaming.  Have you ever awakened from a scary dream and been too afraid to try to fall back asleep?  Well, that was me that night.  I put on my headphones and listened to music and the song, “I Heard an Owl” started playing and I immediately knew I would be okay.

The next night, I had the same repetitive dream, only this time, when I began to fight the darkness and kick and scream to find a way out, I heard the word, “surrender”.  And in my dream, I thought, “Hell to the NO!  I’m not surrendering to the darkness!”  But, I kept hearing “surrender” and finally, I began to let go; to surrender to the darkness.  A feeling of peace came over me, and my body and mind and soul stopped fighting the darkness.    

Light streams began to swirl within the darkness and the more I surrendered, the more the light swirls increased.  

It’s not really that hard to analyze this dream.  You don’t even need to be a mental health professional.  What is hard, is to understand what this dream means for me personally and what I need to learn from these dreams.  What is the gift these dreams hold?

One of the things I have since realized, and not for the first time in my life, is how we humans dwell in dualistic minds.  It’s either rich or poor, young or old, Republican or Democrat, black or white. It is rarely either/or.  It’s almost always somewhere in between.  

I have come to the realization that in all darkness, there is light.  But, also in all light, there is darkness.  It is not possible for my soul to be filled with pure light, until all souls are filled with pure light.  

So, I’ve come back full circle.  We are here to be light bearers and light warriors.  We are here to bring others living in darkness into the light.  We are standing right where we belong.

Questions for consideration:  How did today’s readings speak to you?  Do you ever feel overcome by the darkness and if so, how do you resolve to live with it.    

Community Sharing: What spoke to you in our readings or homily starter today?

Communal Statement of Faith

Anna and 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 and for the Community

Lee:  We now remember all those who need our prayers. Our response is:

All: We remember and we pray.

For all those suffering from COVID and all families who have lost a member due to the pandemic. All: We remember and we pray.

For all those suffering the loss of family members due to systemic, institutional racism. All: We remember and we pray.

We pray for our MMOJ community, especially for Bridget Mary, Diane, and Sally  who continue their medical treatments.

For what else should we pray?

Lee: We remember these and all unspoken intentions.

All: Amen.

Preparation of The Gifts

Presider 1:  Blessed are You, Holy One, through Your divine providence we have this bread, to share, the Bread of Life. 

All: Blessed are You, Holy One, forever.  

Presider 2:  Blessed are You, O Loving One through Your divine providence we have this wine to share, our spiritual drink. 

All: Blessed are, You, Holy One, forever.

Presider 1:  Nurturing One, we are united in this sacrament by the love of Christ, whose presence we are as we proclaim the liberating power of your Spirit, in our humanity and divinity, calling us to build the unity in a more compassionate and just world.  All:  Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

Michael - Your Spirit, who raised Jesus from the dead, is rising up in all who work for humanity’s healing and well-being especially now during this COVID pandemic and time of systemic racism. With thankful hearts, in the company of all holy women and men, your liberating Spirit rises up within us, works through us and we sing:

All:  Holy, Holy, Holy (adapted from Holy, Holy, Holy by Karen Drucker)

We are Holy, Holy, Holy…3x , You are Holy, Holy, Holy, I am Holy, Holy, Holy, We are Holy, Holy, Holy

Jack : O Heart of Love, Your Spirit moves through us and fills us with light and we remember Jesus taught us we live in continuous communion with you.  Your Spirit moves through our humanity and our divinity. Your Spirit moves through the love within us, expanding in widening circles to embrace all people and creation in our rebirthing and healing universe.

Please extend Your hands in blessing.

Jack and All: 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.

Jack and All: On the night before he died, Jesus came to the table with his family and 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.”  (pause)

Ann and All : After 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 2:  Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:

All: Christ has died in all those who have passed away from the Coronavirus and from police brutality.

Christ is rising in all those suffering from anxiety and despair over the state of our world and for those searching for a vaccine, treatments and dismantling institutional racism and sexism.

Christ comes each day in our ministry, prayers and actions for a renewed world with justice and equality for all.

Presider 1:  Holy One, we remember and we are grateful for the companions who have gone before us, all holy women and men who are rising up in loving service to heal our world.  We are grateful for our brother, Jesus, and we follow him…

(Presiders lift bread and wine)

For it is through learning to live as he lived,

And why he lived,

And for whom he lived,

That we awaken to your Spirit within,

Moving us to worship you truly,

At this time and all time and in all ways.

Sung Amen

The Prayer of Jesus

Joan Pesce and All: Let us pray as Jesus taught us. 

All:  O Holy One, who is within, around and among us,

We celebrate your many names.

Your Wisdom come.

Your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us,

Each day you give us all we need;

You remind us of our limits, and we let go.

You support us in our power, and we act with courage.

For you are the dwelling place within us,

the empowerment around us,

and the celebration among us, now and forever.  Amen  (Miriam Therese Winter)  

Sign of Peace

Presider 1:  Jesus said to his disciples, “My peace I leave You.  My peace I give You.”  Our peace song is, Make Me a Channel of Your Peace. 

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, performed by Linda Lee Miller


Presider 2: Please join in praying the Litany for the Breaking of the Bread

All: Holy One, You call us to speak truth to power; we will do so.

Holy One, You call us to live the Gospel of healing and justice; we will do so. Holy One, You call us to be Your presence in the world; we will do so.

Presider 1:  This is the bread of life and the cup of blessing. Blessed are we who are called to this table.  

All:  We are the Body and Blood of Christ for the world.                         

Please receive/share Eucharist now.

Communion Meditation: I Heard An Owl by Carrie Newcomer

Thanksgiving/Introductions/Announcements: Please unmute yourself if you would like to share and then re-mute yourself                       

Concluding Rite

Presider 1:   As we go forth to continue our ministries, we pray: Timeless One, Your eternal love wraps courage around us as we enter into your invitation to bring your Light into the world as we further our spiritual transformation. Your ageless presence draws us to you as we step forward, ready to embrace where you lead us. Your sustaining peace rests within our every heartbeat and accompanies us into the unknown future. We are forever grateful to live in your presence and your love.  Amen.

Presider 2: Please extend your hands as we pray our final blessing.

All: May God bless us with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless us with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and peace among all people.

May God bless us with the gift of tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we really can make a difference in this world, so that we are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

Let it be so! Amen!

Closing Song: 

Lean In Toward the Light by Carrie Newcomer

Much gratitude to Mary Theresa Streck for her assistance in shortening the song, “Surrender”, and adding the lyrics and her own beautiful pictures! 

MMOJ - Songs for Liturgy - October 24, 2020

Gathering song: Holy Darkness by John Michael Talbot

Responsorial: Surrender by Jan Novotka



Holy Holy Holy

Sung Amen

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace, performed by Linda Lee Miller

Communion Meditation: I Heard An Owl by Carrie Newcomer

Closing Song: 

Lean In Toward the Light by Carrie Newcomer