This is THE homily for the day. What is finally done speaks louder than words.
Today a very human woman was declared a saint. For the many thousands she served throughout her ministry she was already a Saint-literally and metaphorically lifting them up out of the gutters and loving them into peace and dignity. If our Good Shepherd Ministry had Patron Saints, we would have St. Teresa of Calcutta and Dorothy Day, (although the Church may not catch up with the level of understanding to beatify Day in the forseeable future). We are thankful for the official recognition of Mother Teresa, though it was not something she wanted or needed. It is both Mother Teresa’s depth of service and understanding and her humanness- full of doubts and real questions about many things that makes her a role model for us. One can not look at people condemned to the bottom without a righteous anger at things that are and the ability to speak truth to power, and this she did. One cannot help to lift the poor without knowing and carrying the many frustrations and pain of that deeply inside. Those of us close enough to touch the poor with love must experience as she did a “darkness of the soul”. And yet our eyes are on the Light. We can ask her prayers for us in this experience. The Gospel for today: Luke 14:25-33 is excellent for today’s Papal homily at the beatification. For St. Teresa the costs of discipleship were carefully counted and her cross was borne every day. Possessions meant nothing to her except possessing the love and light of Christ in the darkness that seeks to envelop those who suffer in silence. Her actions were their voice. For St. Teresa’s gifts of life, and her realness and endless love of Christ and the poor we say now: St. Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.
These are her words: Love is not words. It is action. Our vocation is to love”.
And of “residing in heaven” she said that she will not be there , she will be active in continuing to bring light to the darkness of the world, particularly the darkness that threatens to cover the poor and the sick.
Thanks be to God for the life and light of St. Teresa!
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP Co-Pastor Good Shepherd Ministries, SWFL
Vatican City (CNN)Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who devoted her life to helping India’s poor, has been declared a saint in a canonization Mass held by Pope Francis in the Vatican.
Francis: ‘May she be your model of holiness’
Inviting All to the Table, Article by Stephanie Wekly, Marin Independent Journal September 4, 2016. This article announces the priestly Ordination of Mary Alice Nolan, RCWP Western Region Deacon to take place in October, 2016.
San Rafael woman to break canon law to be an ordained Catholic priest
By Stephanie Weldy
email@example.com @StephanieWeldy1 on Twitter
Mary Alice Nolan will soon be ordained a Roman Catholic priest.
The 64-year-old’s ordination will not be acknowledged by the Catholic church, which only allows men to become priests, but the lifelong follower of the faith is not letting that stop her.
The San Rafael resident plans to press onward with the ordination, to be conducted by a female bishop of the Western Region of Roman Catholic Priest, in October at an Episcopalian church in San Francisco.
Though skeptical that in her lifetime she will see the church modify its rules of who can take the priesthood, Nolan said she hopes one day the church becomes more inclusive.
Q Why do you want to be a Roman Catholic priest?
I want to start using inclusive language. When I say Mass, I want to invite everyone to the table. I have been a nurse for 35 years and my specialty is end-of-life care. In addition to my nursing, I now want to administer to people in a spiritual way. Spirituality at the end of life is a really good healing tool. So now I will be able to anoint people when they’re sick andhopefully follow through with being able to do their funerals.
AQ What inspired you to want to become a priest?
A My husband and I went to see the movie, “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican.” It was a wonderful movie being shown in San Francisco. It was story about a woman who was a nun in South Africa who was the first doctorly prepared woman professor at an all-male seminary she taught at. She realized, “Wow, I’m teaching them how to preach, say Mass, what the liturgy means. Why can’t I do this?” Her story really inspired me. My husband said, “You can do this. You should go for it.”
Q As a “cradle Catholic,” do you have family and friends trying to discourage you from doing this?
A Actually, no. It’s interesting, everyone I’ve met has been incredibly supportive. I think it’s time for a change and people — they’re very optimistic for change. I think Pope Francis is responsible for helping that optimism.
Q If you were to be ex-communicated, how would you feel about that?
A(That thought) bothered me a lot. I had to work withmy spiritual director to work through that. So luckily, I don‘t work for a Catholic institution. If I were a nurse in a Catholic hospital or taught at a Catholic school, I would be fired. I’m the manager of the oncology department at Kaiser in San Francisco. So my Catholicism doesn’t affect my employment.
Q Would you be upset if you were ex-communicated?
A It makes me very upset.
It makes me very sad.
It’s an unjust punishment for an unjust law. It’s breaking canon law but ex-communication is an unjust punishment for wanting to serve peopleand it’s a shame actually.
Q If ordination is a detriment to your faith, why do it?
A It’s not a detriment to my own faith. I just thought instead of complaining about the lack of women leadership in the church, I would do something about it. So I’ve decided to take action to make a change. And I’d like to be a female role model for the priesthood.
And change happens from the ground up. So far there have been 150 women ordained in the United States and 225 across the world.
And we have to be role models for change.
Mary Alice Nolan will be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in October. The ordination will not be recognized by the church because Nolan is a woman, and only men are considered as priests by the church.
ROBERT TONG — MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL
Mary Alice Nolan baptizes Jasper, left, and Reid Gibson in Novato.
COURTESY MARY ALICE NOLAN
From The Des Moines Register: (Rev. Roy Bourgeois will be speaking in Des Moines on 8/26- please see below).
Struggle for justice, equality continues in Catholic Church
Thirty-five years ago, Bishop Maurice Dingman invited me to Des Moines. It was 1981 — exactly one year after the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and only a few months after the rape and murder of four women missionaries in El Salvador at the hands of the U.S.-funded El Salvador National Guard. I joined hundreds of laypeople, sisters, and priests in Des Moines as we rallied at the downtown Peace Garden. After our rally, we walked in silence to a memorial Mass at St. Ambrose Cathedral. Bishop Dingman opened the Mass with the words “We are one with the people of El Salvador.”
On Aug. 26, I will be returning to Des Moines for another event: the Des Moines Catholic Worker’s 40th anniversary. For four decades, this community has been an unfailing voice for peace and justice in the heart of Iowa. They have struggled daily to answer the questions that I asked the people of Des Moines 35 years ago: “Can we look at El Salvador through the eyes of the oppressed, Archbishop Oscar Romero and the four women missionaries who were assassinated there? How do we walk with the poor?” The Des Moines Catholic Worker is a voice for the poorest in our society, demanding a fair economy. They are a voice for peace, demanding an end to unjust wars. They are a voice for Catholic social justice.
The Des Moines Catholic Worker and I also have something else in common. In 2008, I participated in the priestly ordination of a woman, my friend Janice Sevre-Duszynska. I did this because of my biblically based, historically grounded conviction that women are called to the Roman Catholic priesthood. In 2012, I was dismissed from the priesthood for this act of solidarity.
In 2014, the Rev. Sevre-Duszynska celebrated a Mass at the Des Moines Catholic Worker. The current bishop of Des Moines, Richard Pates, sanctioned the community for their show of solidarity with women called to the priesthood. In response, DMCW affirmed “the equality of all people, regardless of gender, to be full members and disciples in any Church claiming to follow Jesus.”
The majority of U.S. Catholics support the ordination of women to the priesthood. At the 1978 meeting of U.S. bishops, Des Moines’ own Bishop Dingman, observing protests by advocates of women’s ordination, called for dialogue on the issue of female priests. Pope Francis himself has created a commission to study the possibility of female deacons.
On Aug. 26 at 7:30 p.m., I will be speaking at Trinity United Methodist Church on “The Struggle for Peace, Justice, and Equality.” I will discuss the links between global social justice and the women’s ordination movement. On Aug. 27 at 4 p.m., I will participate in a panel at Trinity UMC on gender and the Catholic Church. On Aug. 28 at 8:30 a.m., I will attend a Eucharistic liturgy with two Roman Catholic female priests at the Des Moines Catholic Worker. All are welcome to join us as we engage in fruitful dialogue about creating a church where the priestly gifts of all people are celebrated.
This is a lovely story of one of the members of RCWP-East , Rev. Eda Lorello who is visiting family in Billings, Montana, Eda, 83 is a priest of such depth, compassion and dedication that she is an inspiration to us all. In the picture below taken on an Annual retreat last October, Rev. Eda Lorello is on the left with our Priest from South America, Rev. Marina teresa Sanchez Mejia on her right.
A Woman’s Lifelong Journey to the Priesthood
By Susan Olp, Billings Gazette.com
The Rev. Eda Lorello is among a tiny minority of Roman Catholic women who have been ordained as priests.
The 2013 ceremony was performed through Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an international movement of women who have been ordained in defiance of canon law, at the risk of excommunication.
On Thursday evening, she will host a screening of “Pink Smoke over the Vatican,” a 2011 documentary about Catholic women who have been ordained. And she will participate in a Q&A with her audience.
Lorello has never been one to shy away from living out her convictions. The lifelong Catholic partially credits that to her parents.
“My mother taught me prayer, my father taught me justice, and both (attributes) have been extremely helpful in my life,” Lorello said Wednesday in a telephone interview from her home in Long Island, N.Y.
Lorello, who has been a peace activist, has engaged in civil disobedience. But she’s always seen that as a final option.
“I didn’t get up and say ‘I think I’ll be arrested today,’” she said. “That’s a last resort, otherwise it contributes to the violence you’re trying to prevent.”
Lorello, 83, has master’s degrees in theology and pastoral counseling. Both aided her in her lay parish ministry over the years.
Much of her work was in adult formation, at one church teaching precepts of the faith, especially in the aftermath of Vatican II. Then she moved to another parish and took on other roles, “but mostly in the teaching area.”
She earned a certification in spiritual direction and another as a midlife/long-life directions consultant.
“I did workshops on personal and spiritual growth in midlife and beyond not only locally but in other states,” Lorello said. “I even went to Ireland.”
Lorello, the mother of seven, has nine grandchildren, one great-grandson and another great-grandchild on the way. She never felt pulled toward the more traditional path for women — becoming a nun.
Lorello has many friends in different religious orders who are dedicated to their work, for whom she has tremendous respect. But it wasn’t for her.
“My call centered on bread, wine, oil and water,” Lorello said. “And those are the sacramental elements.”
The desire first arose in childhood. She struggled for a time not because of the call, but “I had doubt if this what God wanted me to do.”
Lorello put the thought aside during her teenage years. The turning point came while she was in college and she was given “The Seven Storey Mountain,” an autobiography by Thomas Merton, a Catholic monk.
The book focused on his journey through life in search of a faith, his conversion to Catholicism and his acceptance into the Trappist order. As Lorello read it, the book touched her soul on a very personal level.
And even though she never met Merton, who died in 1968, through his writings he became her mentor. It was after a visit to the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Merton lived, that Lorello finally knew the course she should take.
“It convinced me that my call was indeed a call from God for the priesthood,” she said.
Lorello called Roman Catholic Womenpriests and asked for an application, which she promptly put into a drawer. A year later, she submitted the paperwork, and she was ordained in 2013.
Lorello knew her ordination went against canon law, which states, “A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.”
“Ecclesiastically, that’s an unjust law,” she said. “According to Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, an unjust law is no law.”
Lorello knew that her actions meant she would no longer be allowed to work in a Catholic parish. But she viewed the choice as a different kind of civil disobedience, a last option.
“I’ve waited through five popes and I’m going to be ordained as a last resort, to do the sacramental work I was called to do,” Lorello said.
She is among the more than 200 women who have been ordained since 2002.
“We’re not a schismatic group,” Lorello said. “We’re about reforming the church, bringing inclusivity, bringing equality.”
Lorello presides over a weekly house church. She also teaches spiritual direction, visits the sick, and conducts baptisms and wedding ceremonies.
She was pleased that Pope Francis recently called for the creation of a commission to study the possibility of allowing women to serve as deacons in the Catholic Church. It is uncertain what that study will conclude, but Lorello views it as a positive step.
“I won’t see it in my lifetime, the church ordaining women,” she said. “But it’s going to come, and this is a step in that direction.”
From time immemorial groups tend toward exclusivity, to shut their doors actually or metaphorically on those of difference and newcomers who are not yet trusted. The reading from Isaiah 66:18-21 today says that God sees it another way: God knows God’s chosen people and wants to include people of every nations and languages who have not known God to come to the holy mountain. Isaiah goes farther and says that God will “take some of these as priests and Levites”(verse 21). This must have been a shock to the religious of the time even as the calling and ordination of women as priests in the RC church today through the Roman Catholic WomenPriests Movement ( that began in 2002 on the River Danube) and the inclusion of a host of people formerly seen as outcast at the Table of Jesus shocks some of the faithful today. Yet that is the prophetic word-open the doors, God wants everyone to come in. Jesus says essentially the same thing in Luke 13:22-30. As Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP of Toledo, Ohio says in the homily below being a “church member” and hearing sermons and taking Holy Communion is not enough- we have to really get it, get the Gospel of love and justice and “walk the walk”. Jesus challenges us to walk the walk , to love God with ALL our hearts and beings and to love our neighbors as ourselves, the same challenge of the early Hebrew community. Jesus is also saying that God is happy to invite people from all over the world to come and recline at the Table in the kin-dom of God. Let us then be people of INCLUSION, let us leave no one out, let’s open the door!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida www.goodshepmin.org
And now the insightful homily of Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle:
Four weeks ago we heard about God as our friend—
Luke’s parable about the neighbor
pounding on the door to borrow a loaf a bread,
and the door being opened,
even though it was the middle of the night.
Today we hear a different story,
one where it’s not so easy to get in
and take a place at the feast in the kin-dom of God.
This time there’s a gate, and it’s a narrow one.
Lots of people will try to get in, but they’ll be turned away.
But other people will get in.
They’ll come from the four corners of the earth,
like in that first reading from Isaiah,
nations of every language.
They will be the very people
thought to be the last ones to make it—
not the rich and the famous
but the powerless and marginalized.
Those “others” are the ones who will get in.
Jesus’ explanation is simple.
Sure, people listened to him, but that’s all they did.
They didn’t take his teaching to heart.
They didn’t change their lives.
So, even though they ate and drank with him
and hung around to hear the message,
they didn’t do anything else.
They didn’t put Jesus’ message into practice.
When I was growing up back in the 50s,
it was common to hear
that “outside the church there is no salvation.”
I remember my 5th grade classmate Judy.
Sister told us that we couldn’t talk with Judy except at school.
We couldn’t go to Judy’s house after school.
When I asked my mom about it,
she told me that Judy’s mom was divorced and remarried
and that put her “outside the church.”
So, except in class, we couldn’t have anything to do with Judy.
So we didn’t.
Then, when I was in 7th grade, my maternal grandparents,
pushing 60 and pretty much unchurched,
decided to be baptized at Grace Lutheran.
My mom wanted us to go.
The priest said no.
We stayed home.
Too often we Catholics were like those people
that Jesus called “evildoers” in today‘s Gospel.
We knew the rules, and we followed them.
We jumped through the hoops.
We thought our baptism would get us through that narrow gate.
We said prayers with plenary indulgences attached,
just so we could get a free pass into heaven.
It was all about saving ourselves.
People who didn’t follow the rules would just have to go to hell,
and it would be their fault.
Three years ago, when we had the same readings we heard today,
Pope Francis told us that
to get through that narrow door
we have to aim our whole life at following the Way of Jesus.
That means living and witnessing
in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice,
in doing good for others, especially the poor and the outsider.
It’s a lot more than just jumping through those hoops.
It’s not enough to get baptized and be labeled a Christian.
It’s not enough to share a meal with Jesus.
It’s not enough to just listen to what he says.
It is necessary to get to know God by following Jesus’ Way.
As Elizabeth Johnson put it,
we have to become a friend of God and prophets,
and do it now.
The banquet is ready.
Every day is full of chances to walk through that narrow gate
to feast in the reign of God.
We do it in company with the Syrian refugees
we help to settle here.
We do it walking side by side with our African American friends.
We do it standing on street corners with our peace signs,
handing out those tiny tree seedlings,
voting our conscience for the common good.
We do it in the love we show our family and friends and neighbors…
We pass through that narrow gate
by the way we live our lives.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006
“I Have Come to Set the Earth on Fire”-Two RC Women Priests Reflect on Jesus’ Passion-20th Sunday in OT, 8/14/16
The passion of divine love and justice burned in Jesus’ heart. He would set the world on fire with it. He could not and would not keep it quiet- no matter what the penalty would be. He said in Luke 12:49″ I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already burning”. This fire in his breast to incite God’s kingdom/kindom on earth would lead to his suffering and crucifixion to which he referred as his “baptism” in Mark 10:38 and in the text for the day, Luke 12:49-53 ,( verse 50). In these words Jesus reminds us that the life of love and justice, for him and for us the Christ- life, is not for the weak of heart or those only concerned with their own salvation-but rather for those who who are willing to endure anything so that our brothers and sisters may live against all the odds of an unjust world.
As Rev. Beverly Bingle of Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Toledo , Ohio says below Jesus was telling us that “conflict is inevitable when ever people act on their passion for justice”. Her wonderful examples show us some of the justice issues of our times and how important it is for us to be like Jesus in taking a stand and action for justice, yes we affirm, “black lives matter”. Of course, so do all lives and “blue” (law enforcement) lives matter. But not to be able to know the pain and truth in the first statement about black lives mattering is not to know the heart of Jesus, for Jesus is in every one suffering from oppression, exclusion and death as part of a despised group, race, caste or class, gender, orientation, difference, religion or culture. We recall how Jesus lifted the hated Samaritan to the level of saint, and most certainly not sinner, in the parable of the good Samaritan, for example, and made the woman of Samaria an apostle of the good news as well. Jesus saw and did things differently than the religious leaders of his time. And when we see and do things differently there is often a high penalty to pay. We cannot kid ourselves about that.
There is a part of all of us that want Jesus to only speak warm fuzzies and to gather us in his arms and carry us gently as the Good Shepherd who risked himself as he rescued and cared for the sheep. And that is a wonderful part of who Jesus is. But as that shepherd he also has had climb the rocks and stretch his arms out to crook us by the neck with his long staff and dangle us in the air to pull us up and keep us from falling over a precipice. The words in the Gospel of Luke today are those kind of words-if you want to follow me, you will at least have to tolerate conflict and divisions, even in the church. For the Gospel message is strong-loving Jesus and loving God with all of our hearts and beings and our neighbors as ourselves will be the hardest thing we ever do. It will demand patience that we run out of, and courage that can only come from God.
Throughout the world, especially in South America and other places, leaders who stick their necks out for the justice of the community of the downtrodden often are beheaded like the John the Baptist or crucified like Jesus, the cross taking various forms today- AK47’s, violent beatings and murder by thugs, living in fear of their lives. Yet regularly they do this so others may live with full rights and human dignity. They live the Gospel with the fire of Jesus no matter the outcome. Here in the USA, the penalties may be more subtle but equally strong. There is a penalty for “making waves” and it makes for swimming in rough waters. Here I also think of my sister Roman Catholic Priests who endure the rejection of the Church hierarchy, derision of some and shunning of others and the threat of “excommunication” simply for the fire in their breasts to answer God’s call to serve. If we wanted peace and quiet we would never become ordained. We want only to set the world on fire for God’s all inclusive love,justice and passion as Jesus did. And we will do it no matter what hell there is to pay here on this earth. We tolerate division, seeing it as inevitable as Jesus did, and know the Church, the people of God will remain standing and stronger for our courage. And one day, as the kin-dom of God arrives more and more on this earth with the courage of all to stand and serve, the earth will be afire with love and justice, blazing brightly, a light in the darkness as Jesus wanted it to be. That is my prayer. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
AND from Rev. Dr. Beverly Bingle:
Don’t make waves.
Mark’s gospel—the earliest canonical gospel—
reports that Jesus’ relatives set out to seize him,
believing him to be out of his mind.
He had been walking around Galilee,
teaching and healing,
calling people to live under God’s rule and love one another.
Don’t be a troublemaker, they tell him.
But he keeps on,
preaching truth and justice with fiery passion.
Scholars tell us that today‘s gospel reading
preserves “an echo of Jesus’ voice,”
a glimpse into his soul.
They say that Jesus really talked about setting the earth on fire—
setting it on fire with the passion of justice.
They believe he really said that conflict is inevitable
whenever people act on their passion for justice.
Don’t get carried away, his family tells him.
Don’t go off the deep end.
But Jesus is on fire for justice.
He preaches the reign of God,
the reign of justice that brings peace.
He chastises the folks who want him to be quiet.
In the passage that immediately follows what we heard today,
Jesus calls them “hypocrites,” telling them
that they know how to tell what kind of weather is coming
but do not know how to interpret the signs of the present time.
Thanks to television, we know what’s going on in our world. Sometimes
we see it live, just as it happens.
The signs of our times are clear.
The question for us is whether we know how to interpret them.
How, for example, do we interpret
the ongoing signs of racism in our country?
On the evening news we see demonstrators
carrying signs that say “Black Lives Matter,”
and then the white folks missing the point of what’s happening,
holding up their signs that say “All Lives Matter.”
Of course all lives matter,
but the point is that some lives—the black ones—
routinely suffer demeaning and degrading situations
and live under the daily threat of violent consequences
that are not faced by the white lives.
Where is God in all this conflict?
God stands with the one who is excluded.
God lives in the one being ridiculed.
God dies in the unarmed teen shot to death by police.
If we don’t stand with the victims of racism in our country,
we’re not standing with God.
As Christians we have to recognize Jesus of Nazareth
in the death of every innocent
who is surrounded by a halo of hate.
Another sign of our times, the Olympics!
Before the games started, Pope Francis sent a letter
to the members of a team that represents 60 million people—
the Olympic Refugee Team,
made up of people
who have escaped the violence of their war-torn homelands.
The Pope wished them success
and hoped that their courage and strength
would “serve as a cry for peace and solidarity.”
These refugees are a sad sign of our times,
so many people living in camps
without clean water, without enough food,
without health care, without a home to go to,
without a way out.
Seventy percent of the Syrian refugees coming to Ohio
have settled in Toledo.
We stand out as a welcoming community
during a time when refugees have become
a contentious political issue.
Nationally we hear talk of building walls,
deporting people without documents,
But here in Toledo, we welcome them.
We at Holy Spirit Catholic Community,
thanks to Laurie Snyder and UStogether,
have been privileged
to be part of extending a welcoming hand,
and we intend to keep on helping.
Sure, we’ve met with some criticism.
We’ve been told it’s okay to pray for refugees,
but don’t bring “those people” here to live next door.
We believe, as Catholic Christians,
that we are responsible
for watching and listening and taking action for justice.
We know what happens when good people fail to do good things.
We look to Jesus, unafraid to speak out,
no matter the consequences.
We don’t set out to make waves.
We set out to make our world right and just.
If our way of living the Gospel
would never spark a fire or risk a division,
never cause a ripple of conflict, or debate, or argument,
then wouldn’t we be practicing an inoffensive Christianity?
Cheap grace, not costly.
Gospel lite, not the Gospel of Light.
So we make that phone call
when we see child abuse or domestic violence next door.
We blow the whistle at work,
even if it means we’ll lose our job.
We speak out when we hear racist jokes,
even though some of our own family will call us names.
We act with justice,
and that can bring conflict and division.
More than that, it brings us the peace of Christ.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue (Washington Church)
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006
Here is the story of an amazing woman ordained a Roman Catholic Priest in Port Townsend, Washington.
Ordination of a renegade priest: ‘I am ready’
An Article from The PTLeader.com
As a devout Catholic schoolgirl in the 1950s, Judy Dahl was certain that she had been called to become a priest.
She was, of course, dreaming the impossible dream. For centuries, the Catholic Church has insisted that the priesthood is restricted to men. Even Pope Francis, the popular reformist, has made it clear that “the door is closed” to women.
Last weekend, however, Dahl’s dream was fulfilled when she stood at the front of the Cape George Colony clubhouse and, in a solemn and ancient ceremony, was ordained a priest by nearly 200 friends, neighbors and fellow Catholics.
When formally asked if she was prepared for her mission, she grinned and announced to her congregation: “I am ready. I am so ready!”
Dahl is under no illusions that her ordination will be recognized by the Catholic Church – “probably not in my lifetime,” she says. Nor will any of the other nearly 200 women in the United States and Europe who have been ordained by Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP), an international group of devout Catholics founded on a boat in Germany’s Danube River for the purpose of defying and changing a fundamental church doctrine.
But it’s safe to say that, with or without Vatican recognition, few priests in the U.S. or across the globe have been ordained with the knowledge, experience and credentials Dahl brings to the vocation. Over her long career, she has served as a cloistered nun, earned a doctorate of divinity from a prestigious seminary, served 30 years as a full-time pastor in the U.S. and abroad, and much, much more.
Judy Dahl is a passionate 68-year-old perhaps best-known for a beatific smile that appears to have been painted by a Renaissance master.
A Port Townsend resident for nearly a decade, she set off on her spiritual journey half a century ago in Phoenix, where she grew up in a staunch Catholic family. She attended Catholic schools and then joined a Benedictine convent in Minnesota.
“I was there three years,” she says. “It was a cloistered convent. We wore the habit and lived in total silence, except for 30 minutes a day when we were permitted to speak to our fellow novices – but to nobody else.”
Eventually, she decided the convent was not her calling. She left and worked as a flight attendant for more than a decade.
Meanwhile, she came out as a lesbian. “That led to real upheaval,” she recalls. “My family disowned me.”
Based in Southern California, Dahl found her way to the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a nondenominational church that ministers primarily to gay and lesbian communities. There, she says, she was able to answer her childhood calling. She earned a master’s in divinity from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, became a student minister and, in 1979, an ordained minister at MCC.
She soon was promoted to district coordinator, overseeing 37 churches with 85 clergies across the Southwest.
“These were hard years,” she recalls. “Many states still had sodomy laws on the books. The AIDS epidemic was at its height. There was a parade of funerals, and I lived with that for nearly 15 years – a struggle for people to simply keep living while trying to maintain a spiritual center.”
Dahl worked with the church for 30 years, served on its governing board, worked with Cuban refugees and eventually served as director of a global program that reached out to LGBTQ people in Africa and Asia.
She continued her studies and earned her doctorate of divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Meanwhile, she and her partner adopted two young children.
Ten years ago, Dahl retired and moved to Cape George, just west of Port Townsend, with her partner, Carol Wood, a retired Los Angeles lawyer. Dahl has stayed busy as a hospice volunteer, a singer in the Community Chorus of Port Townsend and East Jefferson County, and much more.
The Catholic Church she grew up with seemed like a distant memory, she says. But she never desired to leave the church. “The church left me by prohibiting me from pursuing my calling.”
Three years ago, however, she visited her daughter in California, and a friend handed her a videotape of “Pink Smoke over the Vatican,” a documentary about efforts to open the priesthood to women. (The film has been shown at the Port Townsend Film Festival and is available in the PTFF library.)
“I thought about it, and initially all I could think was, ‘No, No, No! That’s not me.’”
But she stayed in touch with leaders in RCWP, which has now ordained 43 women in western states, including 15 in the Pacific Northwest.
“It was the same calling I’d heard for so long,” Dahl recalls. “Sometimes God calls, and sometimes people call. But it was the same call I’d heard when I was 8 years old. And, at some point, it comes down to being true to yourself and honoring God’s presence outside yourself.”
She drove down to Olympia and met with two RCWP women who live and work there. And she decided to proceed.
The RCWP is hardly a radical organization. The group is composed mostly of middle-age and older women, many of them married with children and grandchildren. Their stories are not unlike Dahl’s – lifelong Catholics who decided their church was deeply wrong on a number of issues, and especially the role of women.
They argue that women served as priests from the earliest days of the church, beginning with Mary Magdalene, and that men monopolized leadership for economic reasons that had nothing to do with scripture. And even as women have taken leadership in virtually every other Christian denomination – not to mention government – the Vatican continues to insist on barring half the world’s population from the priesthood.
The movement gurgled silently for some time until 2002, when seven women were ordained in a traditional service aboard a ship cruising the Danube River. The women were promptly excommunicated along with the Argentine bishop who presided over their ordinations. But this set up a “line of succession” that, in their view, empowered those women to ordain others.
Applying was merely the beginning of a process of preparation at least as rigorous as the church’s own. Dahl was subjected to a thorough background check and a psychological evaluation conducted by a former priest turned psychologist. She was required to complete 10 units of theological study.
Dahl was resistant. She’d been there, done that. Her partner asked why “an old lady” would want to subject herself to such a test.
But she did, ultimately leading to the two-hour ceremony on Aug. 6 in a waterfront clubhouse usually used for neighborhood potlucks, yoga classes and quilting bees.
It became a neighborhood event. Dozens of friends stepped up to help decorate, host receptions, catch and cook Dungeness crab and open their homes to visiting RCWP priests from across the West. Then they sat in folding chairs to take part in an event few of them had ever imagined.
The liturgy was the same that is prescribed by the Vatican, with the exception of the gender pronouns, and the addition of gluten-free bread for the Eucharist. Dahl was escorted down the center aisle by a cadre of robed priests. As a visiting soloist chanted the names of saints, Dahl lay prostrate before Bishop Olivia Doko, a tall, regal Californian with a whimsical pink wisp in her white hair to assure her friends that she doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Later, Dahl sat as friends and supporters from Port Townsend and beyond filed past, reverently laying their hands on her head, an ancient gesture of spiritual support.
“It is with great joy,” Doko finally announced, “that I present to you our new priest, Judy Dahl.”
The hall erupted in applause. Doko and Dahl presided over the Communion service. And the deed was done.
Dahl doesn’t know what she will do next. “I’m an old lady,” she says. “It’s not about me. It’s about making the way for others, walking side by side with people trying to make a better world.”
Other people are working to change the Catholic Church from within, and Dahl respects those efforts. But she still feels called to do more. At a time when women around the world are taking their rightful places in churches and business and politics, her mission is to address “one of the last bastions of misogyny on the planet.”
And she is ready.
(Ross Anderson is a Leader contributor and retired Seattle Times reporter. He lives in the Cape George community, where Judy Dahl is a neighbor and friend.)