Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April ordinations, a new memoir by a woman priest, and an action to take


This month, we have witnessed another flurry of women's ordinations.

April 11 - Dayton, Ohio

On April 11th, Kathleen Bean was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by RCWP Bishop Joan Clark Houk in a ceremony at Harmony Creek Church in Dayton. You can hear an audio recording of some of the ceremony, including Bishop Houk's homily, on the church's website. Kathy Bean worked as a nurse in various cities serving Indian and Native American communities relating to dental health, before turning to the religious life. She has a Masters from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, where her thesis centered on "women in the Roman Catholic Church who disagreed with papal law and interpretations as they impacted people around gender and sexuality." Two years ago, Bean was diagnosed with transient ischemic attacks -- mini strokes -- and her health problems led her to ask herself, "What if I die having said no to God’s calling of me?" to priesthood. She decided pursue her call and in 2014 took the first step of being ordained to the RCWP diaconate.

April 18 - Sarasota, Florida

Bernadette Mary Baker (above at altar with Bishop Meehan) was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Baker, who was ordained a transitional deacon in the same movement in 2014, is an activist focusing on the abolition of the death penalty, closure of the School of the Americas, and the preservation of the environment. Her ministries include leading communion services, counseling grieving friends undergoing the death and dying processes, and assisting adults and children who have been exploited by sex and labor traffickers. She began her career as an elementary school educator. After further study, she worked as a mental health and chemical dependency therapist and clinical supervisor. She gives in service training for workers treating persons who are dually diagnosed.

April 24 - Morristown, New Jersey

On Saturday April 24th seven women (photo above) were ordained Roman Catholic priests in a ceremony at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown. Bishop Andrea Johnson of the Eastern Region of Roman Catholic Women Priests-USA, performed the ordinations. Newly ordained were Barbara Ann Beadles, Norma Harrington, Patricia Shannon Jones, Susan Marie Schessler, Kathleen Gibbons Schuck, Ann Therese Searing and Mary Steinmetz. All seven were ordained as deacons in October 2014. A brief overview of the new priests:

  • Barbara Ann Beadles has an MA in Religious Studies from Catholic University. She has been involved in religious education and has worked in parochial schools in Kentucky and Maryland. As pastoral associate, she has worked with adults in RCIA education and sacramental preparation. Her particular interest is ministry with marginalized Catholics and as a Hospice volunteer. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

  • Norma Harrington has Master's degrees in Nursing and Theological Studies, with a specialization in feminist theology. She is a semi-retired hospice nurse. She grew up in Michigan but now lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where she is a chapter leader for Call To Action. She is affiliated with The Spirit of Life Catholic community.

  • Patricia Shannon Jones has a Master's Degree in Adulthood and Aging Studies from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She is a registered nurse and retired nursing home administrator in the State of Maryland. She has completed the Parish Nursing Certificate Program at the Ecumenical Institute (EI) of Saint Mary's Seminary and University, and continues to pursue courses in Pastoral Care at the EI. During her research career, she worked at multiple medical schools, ran her own clinical trials management company, and worked as a consultant with the University of Maryland Institute of Human Virology. She is currently director of the Immigration Outreach Service Center at St. Matthew Catholic Church in Baltimore.

  • Susan Marie Schessler holds a Master's Degree in Religious Studies from Providence College in Rhode Island. She was an elementary school teacher in New Jersey and Alabama before becoming the first Director of Religious Education in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey. As DRE, she ministered in two parishes and was also on the staff of the Religious Education Center in the Archdiocese of Newark. While residing and participating in the work of Genesis Farm in Blairstown, NJ, Schessler served on the staff of the Northeast Center for Youth Ministry housed in Paterson, NJ. Realizing the call to serve the poor in inner-city Newark, Susan served as principal of an alternative junior high school founded and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, NJ, before moving over to the public scholl system. Since her retirement from education, she serves as volunteer Director of Development with Future Potential Youth OutCry Foundation Inc./The H.U.B.B. (Help Us Become Better).

  • Kathleen Gibbons Schuck, who has a B.S. in Sociology from Rosemont College and is presently studying Theology at Global Ministries University, is founder and co-owner with her husband of 5 Decades In, a company that provides life coaching and business consulting services. Since 2012, she has been part of the Saint Mary Magdalene Community, an inclusive Catholic community which holds services in Drexel Hill, North Wales, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over the years, she has also been active in parishes in New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, chairing liturgy committees and serving as a greeter, lector and extraordinary minister.

  • Ann Searing is a former nun and member of the Daughters of Wisdom, where she taught for 17 year before she left the community to get married. She served with her husband, Rev. Jeff Johnson, as part of a pastoral team at the Athol Congregational Church UCC, in Massachusetts for 14 years. She also served as interim pastor of the Phillipston Congregational Church and of the Memorial Congregational Church of Baldwinville. She also served in a Roman Catholic parish as director of RCIA, a Eucharistic Minister, and a pastoral visitor of the sick. She has an M. Div. and D. Min. from Andover Newton Theological School. At present, she is a spiritual director and retreat leader.

  • Mary Steinmetz studied Holistic Spirituality at Chestnut Hill College. A native of Hatboro, Pennsylvania, she presently resides in Waltham, Massachusetts. Steinmetz was Director of Psychology Department Admissions and Assistant to the Chair of the Department of Professional Psychology at Chestnut Hill. She is presently a spiritual direction intern with SDII.
Additional 2015 ordinations are presently scheduled for May in Minnesota and Illinois, and June in Missouri.


On her Facebook page, Roman Catholic woman priest and author Mary Bergan Blanchard notes that she is "the product of an excellent Catholic education", adding that she received two undergraduate degrees with majors in English and education and a minor in history from the College of St. Rose, a BA in art from Marywood, in Scranton, and that she pursued graduate studies at Boston University and has a M. Ed. in counseling and psychology. The New York native worked as a professional mental health counselor. Her previous book, Eulogy, now in its second edition, received a certificate of merit from Writers Digest.

Now Rev. Blanchard had written a book about her experience of being called to the priesthood. Her memoir, What Shall I Call You, Father Aunt Mary?, came out in March 2015. The blurb on the publisher's website offers this teaser: "While visiting friends in Albany, N.Y., Mary reads that her former student, M. Theresa [Streck], has recently been ordained a Roman Catholic woman priest. Forever at odds with the church's stance concerning gender equality, and the absence of women from the church's hierarchy, Mary rejoices and meets with the newly ordained, who encourages her also to become a priest. Never having a desire for the priesthood, she asks herself, 'Is this a calling?' and decides, tentatively, to pursue ordination. If the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests want her, she will accept. However, since she is eighty-one years old, she has her doubts..."

She didn't have to wonder. ARCWP did accept Blanchard and on May 24, 2014, the former Sister of Mercy was ordained a priest in Brecksville, Ohio. As a nun, Blanchard had taught in diocesan schools and spent one year on mission in Lebanon working in a Palestinian camp. She left the Sisters of Mercy to teach disadvantaged children in Boston where she promoted racial integration and began a neighborhood group in Roxbury involving teachers and parents desiring to promote social justice. As a special educator and school psychologist, she developed the first language curriculum for Early Childhood Education in Boston. She married a widower with five children and they had a son. After retiring, Mary and her family moved to Albuquerque where she served the Risen Savior Catholic Community as a Licensed Professional Counselor for twenty years. Now she is sharing her journey with all its joys, hopes, fears, and doubts with the rest of the world.


In preparation for the twentieth anniversary on May 22nd of Ordinatio Sacerdotalis , Pope John Paul II's apostolic letter in which he sought to close the door forever to the possibility -- or even the discussion-- of holy orders for women, Women’s Ordination Worldwide is collecting letters to Pope Francis from the faithful who "support dialogue about women's ordination in the Catholic Church, support the opening of doors to the ordination of women, and who recognize that women, like men, are not only created in God's image but are also called to serve all God’s people in all ways, including holy orders." A delegation of women’s ordination advocates from around the world will hand deliver these letters to the Vatican.

Go to the Women’s Ordination Worldwide website to either sign the online version of the letter or print it out and mail it individually to Pope Francis. The letter contains sample text which can be modified or expanded as you wish. Numerous groups have signed on to this action including Women's Ordination Conference here in the United States and Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The deadline for the online letter is May 15th.

Drawing near and knowing each other

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
April 26, 2015

John 10:11-18

When conflict and dissention began among the early Christians between different groups and leaders, someone felt the need to recall that, in Jesus' community, he alone is the Good Shepherd. Not just another shepherd but the authentic, real one, the model for all to follow.

This beautiful image of Jesus is a call to conversion directed at those who claim the title of "pastor" in the Christian community. The pastor who is like Jesus only thinks of his sheep, he doesn't "flee" in the face of problems, he doesn't "abandon" them. On the contrary, he is with them, defends them, bends over backwards for them, "risks his life" for their sake.

At the same time, this image is a call to fraternal communion among all. The Good Shepherd "knows" his sheep and the sheep "know" him. Only from this close proximity, from this mutual understanding and communion of the heart, does the Good Shepherd share his life with the sheep. Towards this fellowship and mutual understanding must we also walk in the Church today.

In these uneasy times for the faith, we need more than ever to join forces, seek together gospel criteria and guidelines for action to know in which direction we are to walk creatively toward the future.

However, this is not what's happening. Some conventional calls are made to live in communion, but we are not taking steps to create a climate of mutual listening and dialogue. On the contrary, discreditation and dissension is growing between bishops and theologians, between theologians of different tendencies, among movements and communities of different stripes, between groups and "blogs" of all kinds ...

But, perhaps, the saddest thing to see is how the rift between the hierarchy and the Christian people keeps growing. One would think they live in two different worlds. In many places, the "shepherds" and the "sheep" hardly know one another. It isn't easy for many bishops to be in tune with the real needs of the believers, to offer them the guidance and encouragement they need. It's hard for many faithful to feel affection and interest towards some pastors whom they see as remote from their problems.

Only believers full of the Spirit of the Good Shepherd can help us create the climate of rapprochement, mutual listening, mutual respect and humble dialogue we need so much.