|Cover story -- Ordaining women|
Issue Date: December 7, 2007
Profiles of five women priests
BRIDGET MARY MEEHAN
On her way to ordination, she earned a masters degree from The Catholic University of America, a doctor of ministry degree from Virginia Episcopal Seminary and spent 15 years in pastoral ministry. An author and producer, she has 16 books in print, including The Feminine Face of God, and is host of GodTalk, a cable access television program. She is dean of the doctorate in ministry program for Global Ministries University, an online theological program that she helped establish.
Meehan began thinking of serving as an ordained priest while working as a pastoral associate at Fort Myer Chapel in Arlington, Va., a community of military chaplains. She would sometimes preside over Communion services, and worked with a ministry team preparing couples for marriage, but felt she could do much more as a priest. She was ordained in 2006 and is spokeswoman for Roman Catholic Womenpriests in the United States.
Asked about the organizations stance on abortion and other controversial Catholic issues, Meehan said the movement had not adopted positions on moral issues, but emphasizes the primacy of personal conscience in moral decision-making and the need for womens voices and experience to be part of any conversation about sexual morality and ethics. Women have been excluded from the conversation in these areas, she said.
They returned to Pittsburgh, Joan Houks home, when her mother became ill.
Houk -- with her husband as a major backer -- became involved in Roman Catholic Womenpriests after hearing Patricia Fresen speak. Since her ordination in 2006, she celebrates home Masses and meets a variety of other pastoral needs. The Houks still belong to a parish but no longer receive Communion there or work in parish ministry. They volunteer at parish fundraisers and social events.
Still, Houk said, she considers herself a faithful Catholic. This is one point I am very strong on. I will not allow people to tell me I am out of the church. Some say I am out because I dont follow one teaching -- that women cant be priests. If you took that reasoning down the line, a lot of very conservative people would be out of the church.
I was working as the national office administrator for the National Association for Lay Ministry, and for Christmas I received a blood red eucharistic chalice and plate from my boss. My family and I joked about it, but it sent electricity through me. After Christmas, she took the items to her spiritual director -- a religious order priest -- who had a surprising response. He told me how joyful he was to proclaim my priesthood, she said. Since that day, Jan. 9, 1994, I have been living as a priest, consciously, every day.
McKloskey, 61 and married, wanted to be a priest as a young girl, but eventually gave up the dream. She earned a biology degree from the University of Dayton, a masters in library science from Case Western Reserve University and worked as a librarian, becoming the first director of a multicounty library cooperative in Minnesota. After her daughter was born in 1982, she began volunteering in her parish. She now prays with several small faith communities and celebrates the sacraments when asked.
I am not trying to set up a confrontation with the hierarchy, she said. I am trying to hold a question up: Can God be calling women to be priests as well as men? At my age, there is no time to waste. I believe that only in the numbers will it become apparent if this is the work of the Holy Spirit.
She married at 20, earned a bachelors degree at the University of Massachusetts, was inspired by the ordinations of Episcopal women, and earned two masters of divinity degrees, one at Weston School of Theology in 1987. Drawn to spiritual care, she worked as a hospice chaplain for 17 years, and as director of mission at Caritas County Hospital for five years. Along the way, she raised two daughters, was divorced and married a former Catholic priest.
A new job as director of health care ministry for the Boston archdiocese, coordinating chaplain visits to 70 hospitals, gave her an up-close look at the top-down handling of sex abuse scandals under Cardinal Bernard Law, and parish closings under Cardinal Sean OMalley. She began to think she was misusing her gifts by supporting what she found to be a very dysfunctional system. Still, she stayed. Id always said I wanted to work within the church and push the boundaries. Then came the final straw: The archdiocese launched a vicious campaign against the rights of gays to marry. I had a lot of connections with the gay community and saw sacredness in those relationships, she said.
Marchant was ordained under a pseudonym in 2005, then came out as a woman priest in 2006 and resigned her archdiocesan post. She and her husband co-pastor a small faith community and she continues to work part-time as an interfaith hospice chaplain.
Working as chaplain was frustrating at times, she said, because she would develop close relationships with people, hear their life stories -- often including things they had never told anyone else -- and then, when people were close to death and wanted to be anointed, she was unable at times to find a priest to perform the sacrament. She worked in a religiously diverse hospital in LaCrosse, Wis.
A turning point, she said, was when a friend and mentor, an ordained Baptist minister, greeted her as pastor, though he knew she was a Catholic and could not be ordained. I felt he was saying, Kathy, you dont need to get permission from your bishop to do what God is calling you to do.
A second incident moved her to act. One day she said to her husband, after a frustrating experience at a local parish, You know, the only way were going to find a church we like is to start one of our own. He looked at her seriously and said, Youre right, she recalled.
She decided to ask for ordination through Roman Catholic Womenpriests and was ordained a deacon Aug. 12. She expects to become a priest next spring in a ceremony in her hometown of Winona, Minn.
Meanwhile, Redig and her husband are holding conversations with about 14 people, laying the groundwork for a future church community.
-- Pamela Schaeffer
National Catholic Reporter, December 7, 2007
|Copyright © The
National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd.,
Kansas City, MO 64111
All rights reserved.
TEL: 816-531-0538 FAX: 1-816-968-2280 Send comments about this Web site to: email@example.com