A Place to Ponder: The Matter of a Woman's Ordination
An Ordained Woman Begins to Speak
February 4, 2014
As I begin this blog – I am a bit overwhelmed by a simple question: “Who am I to speak about such a huge issue as women’s ordination?” After all, so many more qualified and well-educated people already do so, a primary one being, of course, Pope Francis, who has said, in no uncertain terms, that the door to ordination for women is closed, and it will remain closed. He has even excommunicated an Australian priest, Greg Reynolds, for supporting the cause, while his bishops threaten their people with excommunication as well if they even attend a woman’s ordination. Many theologians have countered this position with highly nuanced arguments regarding church history and dogma, while others such as Fr. Roy Bourgeois have continued to support the movement to the point of being dismissed by his own order. His book, My Journey from Silence to Solidarity, about his decision and its consequences, is a powerful testimony of conversion, action and faith. Easily, I could list many more significant writers who have much to say on this subject – so why me? Why do I feel called to add my voice to the matter?
To be honest, to some extent, I would rather remain silent. In having tried blogging before, I know how challenging it is to keep on writing on a regular basis when there really are no deadlines, no commitments, or much of an established audience to address. And then, in this case, I know that even my title for this post here will invite protest. After all, if the pope has said the door is closed to the ordination of women, can a Catholic woman even claim to be ordained? I am sure many would be eager to argue just that. In fact, some of those people are among my family and friends, some of whom even protested when I first began sharing my plans of ordination. At first, I was able to simply accept their protests as an intellectual difference, one that I could accept. But then things changed.
You see, since being ordained a deacon this past December, I have experienced considerable joy – unexpected joy – in working with my sister ordinands, a priest and a deacon, ministering to our small community. We have spent hours planning our liturgies, sharing our homilies, shaping our prayers so that they reflect and touch upon the lives of those who join us. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reception of what we’ve offered, some of our community members declaring that, within these liturgies, they feel they have found a spiritual home, a Catholic home, after having spent years, sometimes, away, alienated from the Church.
I never expected such joy, but it is a joy some believe we should never experience. I never expected our work to have such impact, but it is a work that some believe should never be offered. I never thought God would be so generous in giving me such an incredible opportunity to feel the truth of what Parker Palmer says when he writes that you know you’re in the right place when your passion meets a need of the world. But, some insist, God does not want this at all. And it’s that final insistence that has hit me painfully hard: really, our loving God truly does not want us women to offer our fullest selves to others so that they may experience the acceptance, community and even love made possible through our Catholic liturgies and sacramental awareness of life?
Quite frankly, I can’t believe that.
And so, I will speak.
I will speak, of course, only through my own perspective, knowing that it is only that, my own.
I will speak simply, because, quite honestly, that is all I can do, given my lack of formal seminary training.
And, I hope, I will speak truth, trying my best to reveal the loving and liberating force of God that I keep bumping into in so many places, especially in Scripture.
Let’s keep this simple! I’m a native Southern Californian, living in Kentucky. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been a worthwhile adventure that I’ve happily spent married to the love of my life – raising three children, teaching at an all girls’ high school, and pursuing a myriad of hobbies. The year 2011, however, turned out to be a little more challenging than usual. I turned 50, my mother died, and so many issues arose regarding my job that I decided to “retire.” For the next two years, I decided to make no commitments at all, other than to listen to my own heart, something, I realized, I hadn’t done for a very long time, given all my other obligations. In the months that followed, my heart seemed to be stating one wish over and over: it wanted only to for me to give my fullest self in ministry to all of creation. But how? Through teaching, I knew that only certain aspects would be needed; even in volunteer work, only portions of myself would be utilized. But then, in the spring of 2013 came a powerful event. A woman was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Louisville. There I bumped into a former colleague who had already made her own commitment to ordination. With her encouragement and the support of the other women too, especially the one ordained that day, I realized that through ordination I could most fully answer my heart’s call. And so, on December 8, 2013, I was ordained a deacon. And thus began a journey I hope to continue for a very long time….
In making this decision, though, I now realize that I’ve entered into the public debate regarding women’s ordination within the Catholic Church in a very real and physical way. While so many others endlessly discuss the theology, dogma and history that shape their opinions, I, along with a few other women and men, have actually moved beyond mere words and into action. Was I right in claiming ordination as a married, life-long Catholic woman? Have I made a mistake? My interest here is not really to make a case one way or another. Rather, I would merely like to share those things that have empowered me to step beyond the boundaries that so many others would rather me not cross. Read my posts if you will, understanding that these are only my thoughts, my reflections. They apply to no one else’s experience, motivation or intent unless s/he chooses to say they do. We shall see what unfolds….. really, it’s a journey just begun!
And so, I begin…
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