Open the Building

Today's Gospel story is about a rich, blind, and arrogant man who refused to give up his rich bounty that was given to him rather than open the structure of his barn to give all people ample food and riches. Today is my tenth anniversary of priestly ordination and I would like to tell you a story that is like many women who have wanted to be ordained and work in the church.

I first really realized that working in the church was limited to men only when I was refused by my pastor to give out communion in church many years ago. He told me that only men could give out communion. I demeaned and humiliated. This blatant exclusion had me begin thinking of what else was I being excluded from? I knew I wanted to become do pastoral ministry but was it really true that God was calling me to be an ordained priest?

In 1986 I attended a Woman's Ordination Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. There on stage I joined other women who also felt the call to ordination; and for once I belonged. In 1988 I attended another conference where twenty-five women joined together to work for change in the church NOW. This group of twenty five women became the catalyst for change for me and for the church. We continue to meet yearly. We call ourselves RAPPORT.

Together we met with thirty to forty Catholic bishops from all over the nation to begin the task of telling our stories and to work to tear down any barriers that would stand in the way of opening the church to the ordination of women. Those years were filled with grace because we helped in the conversion of our brother bishops as they realized that sin and disparity was real.

I decided to become educated at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee to obtain my Masters of Divinity degree; the same degree that priests obtain as they prepare for ordination. Those years at the seminary were very difficult. In one class I was asked not to ask any more questions but to begin to write any questions down before class and submit it. I was told that I could not take certain classes because only the pre-ordained men were allowed. I was not assigned any parishes to practice what I was learning in my preaching class. Men in the dining room would move from my table to another table to continue eating. When people would gather outside of the cathedral before an ordination celebration to remind others that women were excluded, I was ignored, booed, and once a bottle was thrown at me. This group of thirty to forty women and men were praying for the men being ordained that day and praying for the church to open the structure of the church to women.

I was just trying to bring down a building or to make inroads into the structure or barn to open the church to all people. Why could they not understand?

When finally I was graduated from St. Francis Seminary I found a movement that began in Europe called Roman Catholic Woman priests. A male bishop ordained seven women to the Catholic priesthood. After that, three women priests were ordained bishops. They began to ordain woman to the priesthood.

I contacted one of the bishops. She invited me to be ordained a deacon in Canada, on a river boat in Ganonoque, Canada. A year later I was ordained a priest in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. That was on July 31, 2006.

Since then many things have happened. I was excommunicated from the church. The Milwaukee Catholic Archbishop at that time wrote a very, very difficult and hurtful letter and sent it home in a bulletin insert to my home parish. My mother was in her nineties at the time and was very hurt. I found the letter tucked away when she died. I received death threats at the ordination itself. My children and husband were harassed all of the time. Male classmates and faculty at the seminary never acknowledged my ordination nor have contacted me since. The hardest thing I continue to do is to explain to my children that I never can be buried in the Catholic cemetery because the church says I am not worthy. We are still working on what to do.

But then something wonderful happened. Jesus Our Shepherd invited me to come to preside and preach. I was welcomed with open arms. Over the last ten years I have grown to love each one of you. You have given me the confirmation that it was important to do what God wanted by breaking down the structures to admit women and allow women to minister the sacraments.

I would answer to the call to be ordained again. When we are asked to tear down old barns that keep people locked up deprived of sacraments we all must answer yes to God. The way will not be easy but God will be with us.

Perhaps you know of structures,I ike old barns, that need to be torn down because people are not allowed to flourish. Does God want you to be a doer and open up services for peo le who are hurting or are not flourishing?

We all have choices. We all have to respond to what God is calling us to do.

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