It is with great joy that we gather today to ordain AndreaGrace Weaver a deacon in Lincoln Massachusetts.
AndreaGrace describes her call to diaconal ordination as rooted in deep faith and compassionate service.
Like Deacon Phoebe, and the thousands of women deacons in the first 1200 years of Christianity, AndreaGrace will, preach the Gospel, anoint the sick, comfort the grieving, care for the needy, preside at baptisms, weddings, funerals and house church liturgies.
She will be ordained in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, which is part of the international RCWP movement that began in 2002 with the ordination of seven women on the Danube. Our first women bishops were ordained by an anonymous male bishop with apostolic succession. On April 19, 2009, I was ordained a bishop by women bishops who were ordained by Bishop X.
Therefore, our ordinations are valid but, in violation of Church law, Canon 1024, which states that only a baptized man can receive Holy Orders. In 2008, the Vatican issued a decree of automatic excommunicated for the ordination of a woman. Our response is : we reject excommunication as an unjust punishment. We will continue to serve our beloved church in a renewed priestly ministry that welcomes all to celebrate the sacraments in inclusive, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered communities wherever we are called.
We are walking in the footsteps of heroic women saints like Hildegard of Bingen, Joan of Arc, Mother Theodore Guerin and Mother Mary Mackillop who followed their consciences and withstood hierarchical oppression including interdict, excommunication and death.
We know that Church leaders have reversed outdated teachings, unjust laws and harsh punishments in the past. Sometimes this happens when the person is safely dead! In Joan of Arc’s case, she was declared a saint after being burned at the stake. In our times, Pope Benedict canonized St. Hildegard of Bingen and the two formerly excommunicated nuns, Mother Theodore Guerin from the United States and Mother Mary MacKillop from Australia. Apparently, excommunication is not a barrier to living a holy life!
Women priests practice prophetic obedience to the Spirit by disobeying an unjust man-made law rooted in sexism. We affirm the Church’s teaching of the primacy of conscience and refuse to accept discrimination in our Church. Our movement offers a path toward gender justice and the healing of centuries-old misogyny in the institutional Church.
The teachings and example of Jesus assure us that the God of justice sets us free to love and to set others free from laws and structures that oppress. It is our hope that Pope Francis lifts all excommunications and penalties against women ordained in our movement.
Roman Catholic Women Priests, are not leaving, but leading the Church we love toward a discipleship of equals in which everyone is blessed, and everyone is loved, especially rule breakers. We are on the inside edge of the Catholic Church ministering to all who long for a welcoming spiritual home that nurtures the soul and lives justice in the world.
In women priests’ led inclusive communities and ministries, we invite all to the table to celebrate sacraments including those who are excluded from receiving sacraments in the institutional Church like the divorced and remarried and LGBTQI. We are turning the hierarchical, top-down pyramid upside down. In people-empowered communities of beloved companions, partners in the Gospel and spiritual equals in Christ, we are creating what Pope Francis refers to as a “big tent” Church! This means as Irish author, James Joyce wrote being Catholic means “here comes everyone!”
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests ordains women into a new model of priestly ministry rooted in our baptismal equality and oneness in Christ. In Galations 3:27-28, St. Paul writes: “All of you who have been baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves in Christ. In Christ, there is no Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus. Our call is to live Gospel equality now with compassionate hearts in the liberating power of the Spirit.
Since 7 women were ordained on the Danube 20+ years ago. Women priests now minister in over 34 USA states and are also present in Canada, Europe, South and Central America, South Africa, Philippines and Taiwan. In 2023, there are close to 300 members. There are two women priests’ groups in the U.S., Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA (RCWP-USA) and the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP). We are honored to have with us today Jean and Ron and Jane from RCWP USA our sister organization.
In preparation for the upcoming Synod to be held in Rome in October, Catholics around the world -including members of the hierarchy –have been discussing the need for expanding women’s roles in the Church including the ordination of women as deacons and priests.
In a surprising, historical change, Pope Francis announced that 70 non-ordained people- including women- will vote alongside the bishops at this historic Synod. Including women in decision-making is a hopeful, positive sign on the path to the full equality of women in the institutional Church.
Some commentators say that the Roman Catholic Women Priests’ Movement is rocking the foundation of the Church. I believe that we are a holy shakeup because courageous Catholic women from around the world -like AndreaGrace- are answering the call to ordained ministry to set the Church and world ablaze with Spirit-filled love!