Monday, December 16, 2013

While Pope Francis keeps the door shut, more women seek ordination

In September of this year, Juan Arias, a journalist for the Spanish newspaper El País, started rumors that, even though Pope Francis had reiterated his predecessor John Paul II's assertion that the door was closed on the question of women's ordination, there might be a route open for the pontiff to appoint the first woman cardinal. Although the Vatican immediately denied these assertions, the media swirled with the speculation and names of prominent Catholic laywomen who might be suitable candidates.

This month, in addition to his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which again put the lid on women's ordination with the pope's assertion that "the reservation of the priesthood to males, as a sign of Christ the Spouse who gives himself in the Eucharist, is not a question open to discussion" (EG 104), Pope Francis quashed the woman cardinal notion in an interview with La Stampa's Vatican Insider, saying, "I don’t know where this idea sprang from. Women in the Church must be valued not 'clericalised'. Whoever thinks of women as cardinals suffers a bit from clericalism."

In our view, Pope Francis continues to fail in his explanations on this issue. How is it that ordaining men doesn't "clericalise" them, while ordaining women would? How do you "value" women short of true and complete equality, when power and decision-making ability in the Church ultimately rests with the ordained while women are denied the sacrament of Holy Orders? As long as the current system exists and women cannot be pastors, bishops, cardinals, and, yes, pope, women will not have real power in the Church and they will be de facto second-class citizens. All the romantic theological notions about Mary Mother of God being "greater" than the bishops, and male priests being the "Spouse" of the (female) Church cannot obscure this fundamental reality. Either the Pope needs to explain specifically how he plans to give women real authority in the Church -- real "value" as in "equal worth" because, of course, the patriarchy has always "valued" women who serve it faithfully and silently, or he needs to be quiet on this issue until he has something to say that doesn't deepen the existing wounds.

Meanwhile, away from the papal centers of power, the movement to ordain Roman Catholic women to the priesthood continues unabated. Women are not waiting for Pope Francis to revise his theology of women in the Church; they are being ordained in the line of apostolic succession and leading communities of Catholics who are looking for a more inclusive worship experience. We have already reported on the women who were ordained in April (1 priest), May (3 priests), and June (5 priests, 3 deacons). Now we will give an update on the rest of the 2013 women ordinands, including some earlier ordinations we didn't cover.

February 2013

On February 9, 2013, at the First Unitarian Church of Toledo, Ohio, Bishop Joan Houk of Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordained Rev. Beverly Bingle a priest and Ann Poelking Klonowski a deacon.

Before seeking ordination, Beverly Bingle, who retired in 2011 from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Toledo, served in numerous capacities including pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament parish. She had also worked as a director of religious education. Rev. Bingle holds a B.A. (The Ohio State University) and M.A. (Bowling Green State University) in English, an M.A. in Pastoral Ministry (Marygrove College) and a Doctor of Ministry (Ecumenical Theological Seminary). Asked by the local press why she was pursuing the priesthood, Bingle responded, "I got called. It starts with God. You know how whenever you're prompted to do something, you get the feeling it’s the right thing to do." She said she is not concerned about excommunication and believes she has simply failed to obey an unjust law. "I would not consider myself excommunicated," Bingle told the Toledo Blade. "In my opinion, my conscience tells me I am still a good practicing Catholic in good standing." Rev. Bingle is now pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Community which meets at Unity of Toledo. To the Sunday evening Mass at that location, the community has recently added a Saturday evening Mass and a Sunday morning Mass at 4:30 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. Sundays at the Interfaith Chapel of Toledo Campus Ministry. "No one will be excluded from communion," Rev. Bingle promises. Her homilies are published regularly on Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan's Blog.

September 2013

On September 7,2013, Ann Poelking Klonowski who had been ordained a deacon during the same February ceremony when Rev. Bingle was ordained a priest, was herself ordained a priest by Bishop Joan Houk in a ceremony at the Brecksville (Ohio) United Church of Christ.

Rev. Klonowski is a teacher who is currently coordinating a literacy program for urban first-graders. She has a degree in education from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in theology from John Carroll University. She spent more than 20 years teaching in Catholic high schools and colleges and another 15 years working for the Cleveland diocese. Klonowski, who hails from Independence, OH, says she has been called to the priesthood. "I'm here to serve the people of God," she told The Plain Dealer. She said that she considers herself a faithful Catholic. Against the official Roman Catholic Church's argument that women cannot be priests because Jesus did not ordain any women, Rev. Klonowski tartly responds, "Jesus didn't ordain any men, either." She says that this is simply not in the Bible. Rev. Klonowski, who is married and the mother of two children and a grandmother, says she plans to use her priesthood to lead house liturgies in her home. "I will keep my day job. We are worker priests. We're not subsidized by the diocese. We depend on ourselves for our income."

On September 15, 2013 at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, New York, Mary Theresa Streck was ordained a priest by Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. In the same ceremony, Maureen McGill, of St. Petersburg, FL, and Mary Sue Barnett, of Louisville, KY, were ordained as deacons.

Rev. Streck was first called to religious life as nun, becoming a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet at the age of 17 and staying with the order 18 years until she fell in love with, and married, a Catholic priest, the late Jay Murnane. The couple, who sought dispensation from their vows, founded and ran the Ark Community Charter School in Troy, New York. Streck says she wanted to be ordained "to facilitate bringing people together to celebrate Eucharist and all celebrate Eucharist together. We are all saying the words of Consecration and all praying together in a community of equals." Rev. Streck is now pastoring the Inclusive Catholic Community of Albany which meets irregularly for Mass at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Albany.

As for the newly ordained deacons, Maureen McGill is a teacher and mentor in feminist spirituality connected with the Atman Center in St. Petersburg (Pinellas Park), Florida. She has a J.D. in Law and a Masters in Pastoral Studies. She is a retired attorney and has spent most of her legal career advocating for abused and neglected children. Mary Sue Barnett went on to be ordained a priest in December and biographical details about her can be found further down.

On September 22, 2013 at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Irene Senn was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest by Bishop Regina Nicolosi. In her homily, Bishop Nicolosi instructed Rev. Senn, "I know you are aware of the awesome responsibility to lead the community in the celebration of these great mysteries. And don’t believe those who say you cannot function in persona Christi because you are a woman. Both you and the community will represent our brother Jesus, every time you celebrate the Eucharist, as we do today." She urged Senn to "go to your brothers and sisters, go to your community and let them feed you."

Rev. Senn says her journey to ordination began many years ago. She received a Masters in Divinity from St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee in 1992. Before her decision to become a Roman Catholic woman priest, Senn served for over 20 years as the Director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Integrity of Creation for the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Milwaukee. She and her husband Bob have four children and eight grandchildren.

October 2013

On October 19, 2013, Helen Moorman Umphrey was ordained a priest at Sophia Christi Community in Portland, Oregon, by Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Olivia Doko. In a brief statement of thanks posted in the community's newsletter, Umphrey expressed special gratitude to Bob Larroque, a male deacon in the official Roman Catholic Church who decided to retire from active ministry "until women were given an opportunity to be involved in diaconal and priestly ministry." She also thanked the community's current pastor, Rev. Toni Tortorilla, for mentoring her.

Rev. Umphrey is also a former nun, having entered the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton, Ohio in her teens, where she remained for 26 years. She has served as a teacher, principal, parish music minister, and in administration for the community. She is married and lives in Battle Ground, WA where she has served in the parish as a Director of Religious Education and Pastoral Associate for 25 years. She is now retired, but continues many Catholic/Christian group processes from her home. She has a BA from the University of Dayton, and an MA in Pastoral Ministry from St. Mary's University in Winona, WI.

December 2013

On December 8, at the Central Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, Roman Catholic Woman Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan ordained Mary Sue Barnett of Louisville to the priesthood. Denise Menard Davis and Betty Smith of Louisville, Mary Weber of Indianapolis, and Ann Harrington of Greenville, NC were ordained to the diaconate in the same ceremony.

Rev. Barnett who is married and the mother of two children, has taught at several Catholic institutions, including Presentation Academy, Assumption High School, Spalding University and St. Catharine College. She will begin offering liturgy on She December 21st at First Unitarian Church on Fourth Street in Louisville. Barnett has a Master’s in Religious Studies and a Master’s in Biblical Studies. She mentors a young adult faith activist group called Revealing Sophia’s Truth and is an active campaigner for the ratification of the UN Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Denise Menard Davis of Louisville, a wife, mother and grandmother, brings the experience of having taught and served high school and university students in Kentucky and California. Ann Harrington of Greenville, NC, has been married for 36 years and is a mother to four sons, a spiritual director and community builder. Betty H. Smith, 79, of Louisville has taught in local Catholic elementary schools and served as principal at Mother of Good Counsel and St. Barnabas. She has four children, three stepchildren, 13 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Mary Weber of Indianapolis is a wife, mother and grandmother who served as a pastoral associate, a social worker and hospital administrator.

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