Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seventy-Four Cents: A Woman Priest's Story

Rev. Marty Meyer-Gad, a Roman Catholic woman priest living in Santiago, Minnesota, has published her life story in a book titled Seventy-Four Cents (Smashwords, 2014, also available from Amazon). Meyer-Gad told the Sherburne County Citizen that the title represents the exact amount of money the former nun had in her pocket when she was ordered to leave her convent following a confrontation with the Mother Superior of her order. The story takes her from her experiences as a young nun -- she entered the convent at 14 -- through her work as a liturgy coordinator for the archdiocese of Detroit and Chicago (including coaching male priests at the Sacred Heart Seminary), to her 2010 ordination as a Roman Catholic woman priest.

Ironically, Meyer-Gad says she is against ordination of men or women but that it is required to lead worship, which she describes as her calling and formation. And what pushed this skilled liturgist over the edge was the process that led to the current English translation of the Mass prayers (for the record, Roman Catholic women priests do not use the new and much-disliked third edition of the Roman Missal in their liturgies but have stayed with the older prayers). In June 2006, Meyer-Gad says, "I got an email saying that the bishops got the final vote needed to accept Rome's literal translation of our Mass prayers, sight unseen. The prayers had been quickly translated into English after Vatican II. The 1965 text was to be replaced with a more lyrical translation at a later date. That translation was finished in 1998. The English speaking bishops approved the translation in accord with the powers given them by Vatican II. The translation was sent to Rome as a courtesy. Rome rejected the translation, thus diminishing the power of the bishop conferences. The same day I got an email from Call to Action mentioning that some women had been ordained, so I contacted them."

Rev. Meyer-Gad has an MA in Liturgy from St. John's University, Collegeville, MN. She is certified by the Institute for Pastoral Liturgical Ministry in Detroit, MN, and by the National Association of Catholic Chaplains. She has served as a counselor on a suicide prevention hotline, and as a prison chaplain and hospital chaplain as well. In addition to this book, she is the author of Basics: a Liturgical Education Sourcebook and numerous earlier editions of At Home with the Word. She is married and has one son.

Meyer-Gad was ordained a deacon in 2009 and in 2010, in her words, "I ritualized my commitment to this Church as I lay prostrate before a community of like-minded believers who refuse to leave the Catholic Church because it is 'our' Catholic Church. A Church we love enough to demand it scrape off the barnacles of history and return to the Church of a ragtag collection of fisherfolk, housekeepers, tax collectors, cooks, prostitutes, child nurturers and all gradations of sinners in touch with the realities of life: the Church of our founder, Jesus Christ."

Meyer-Gad says she's not interested in pressing the current pope to accept women priests. "If tomorrow Pope Francis would say that those women validly ordained may serve in diocesan parishes, I would decline. We do not need a church where a female body replaces that of a male. We need a new structure, where all the priestly people become the ministers of the parish."

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