Shanon Marie Sterringer was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement on Saturday, August 3, 2019, in Linz, Austria. The ordaining bishops were Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and Mary Eileen Collingwood. Her diaconate ordination took place in Boston Hts., Ohio on July 10, 2019. She is the Founder and Director of the Hildegard Haus (formerly the Hildegarden) and the developing Community of St. Hildegard in Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and a member of the presiding team at the Community of St. Bridget in Brecksville, Ohio.
Shanon earned a Ph.D. (2016) in Ethical and Creative Leadership (focused on the leadership example of St. Hildegard of Bingen) from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio; Doctor of Ministry degree (2012), Master of Divinity equivalent (2010), and MA in Theology (2007) from St. Mary's Roman Catholic Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Wickliffe, Ohio; MA in Ministry (2011) from Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio; and a BA in Religious Studies (2003) from Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to following her call to ordination, Shanon served as a certified lay ecclesial minister and master catechist in the Diocese of Cleveland. In the parish she worked in the area of catechetics, liturgical and pastoral ministry, parish administration, theology, and leadership training. She has travelled to Bingen, Germany several times over the last few years to walk in the footsteps of Hildegard of Bingen for research and personal/professional development. She has also traveled to the Holy Land and India where she offered seminars on women and ecclesial leadership. She is currently interested in studying non-profit administration and leadership. Shanon is a well-seasoned retreat director and has offered numerous retreats for women and men on various topics, most notably topics relating to St. Hildegard of Bingen. She has recently published a book through Fortress-Augsburg Press, “30 Day Journey with St. Hildegard of Bingen” and is currently writing a new book on her call to ordained ministry. She is an adjunct faculty member of Global Ministries University and the People’s Catholic Seminary, and is a commissioned member of the Federation of Christian Ministries.
Shanon married Richard Sterringer in 1990, while still a senior in high-school. They have three beautiful daughters. The Sterringer family resides in Fairport Harbor, Ohio where they have been active in the community for almost three decades. Shanon was named the Fairport Harbor Citizen of the Year in 2019 for her long-time dedication to her local community.
Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger’s homily:
I chose the image "universe" or "cosmic egg" for today's ordination service.
Shanon, Hildegard is your life motto and role model for your pastoral work as a deacon and priest - you have chosen this life form that you can not and do not want to take off. Deacon, because this ordination obliges you to have the welfare of the "poor" in many forms in mind. It also means providing food for people.
Priesthood also means to lift the necessities of life out of daily use and place them in the light of God.
"Give them food" has many meanings.
I have read all sorts of explanations and interpretations of the picture - mainly of men. Now I put everything aside and offer you some meditative thoughts:
Hildegard is a woman, a wise woman. She knows the universe from her observations, from her studies, from her experiences. She senses that the universe outside is also present in her: the fire of the sun, the darkness, water and earth, heaven and hell, diversity and desert, a breeze and deadly storm, the cycle of the moon and the planets, the heat of the day and the cold of the night.
Hildegard draws her experiences, paints them with love of detail in wonderful colors. Hildegard paints her life into this picture herself. With this she gives inexpressible information. All life comes from the woman. The divine is in her. In her writings she systematically rationalizes what is expected of her. Hildegard is smart. She can not be convicted by the men.
But I see the smiling Hildegard when she tells in mystery/brain teaser what only women can read. She replaces the real information with pictograms.
The cosmos is in our view the space of infinity. Our work as a priest may be just a pictogram in time and space and size, a very small symbol of something great. In the great things of the world and the church, we are perhaps only small dots, stars, a flower, a delicate breeze, sometimes perhaps the glow of a sun or the moon. Sometimes we are bread for people or water, or wine, when we try to give them food for the soul.
Being a priest means, in the sense of Hildegard, knowing the ways - being a scout for the people - to seek and find ways to lead people to God, to heal ourselves and for those entrusted to us for the church and the world.
In the church, however, the divine visions remain - to follow the spirit of God and, in the spirit of Ignatius, to consider the distinction of the spirits. In the rule of St. Benedict – this is the order of Hildegard - this is called the Discretio.
An important point in Hildegard's teaching is food. We are called to gather people together, to remember the good news of Jesus, and to give them the food of bread and wine.
Bishop Mary Eileen Collingwood’s homily:
Wisdom has been given to me… and she who makes others friends of God and prophets will find a home in Wisdom.
Rays of sun shine upon you and you will flourish, and you will be gathered into God’s bosom.
You have been pruned and will live on in me; my joy will be yours and your joy will be complete; I have made known to you everything I have learned from Abba God. I choose you to go forth and bear fruit that will endure. Whatever you ask will be given to you.
The scripture passage that summarizes all our readings today is from Luke 12: 48: “From those who have been given much, much will be required; from those who have been entrusted much, much more will be asked.”
As many of us present here today know, this journey is not for the faint of heart. We have been called and entrusted to bear witness to what is true and just--what needs to be proclaimed for future generations. Yes, we have been given much, and, therefore, much more will be asked.
This journey that you are entrusted with today, Shanon, is a courageous one that will need strength and vision as you go forth. But you need not carry this responsibility alone. In fact, if you try to go it alone, you will fail. Jesus formed a community of disciples and sent them out two by two. It is within community—the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement-- that you now find yourself and will be here with you and for you. While you have been given much personally and communally through your past academic, ministerial and spiritual experiences, you will now find yourself needing the support and strength of this new community of prophets.
The Spirit of God has plainly shown us what is required for our journey in the passage from Micah (6:8): “simply do justice, love kindness, and walk with integrity in God’s presence.”
From these inspired words of scripture, we launch our mission. Now is the time to fully grasp that this mission of ours is a communal mission. Only by understanding this will your strength and grace of character remain strong and vibrant.
Yet, communication is part of the life force that drives us, shapes us, brings us to fullness of life. And the way we communicate will determine the quality of our own lives as well as the lives of those we touch.
Great women and men are all around us. Great people will share their vision and ministries, great people will tell you their secrets. Look for them, call them on the phone or buy their books. Go where they are, get around them, talk to them. They will give you all they have. For being “great” is exactly what you are called to be and called to do. Shanon, you have been entrusted with much, and therefore, more will be asked of you.
These are exciting times for prophets in our church—and we are very fortunate and blessed to have you among us! This is a holy mission. Your presence increases our holiness!
And so you are sent forth in the words many an Irish lass would say:
They rose in dark and evil days
To right their native land;
They kindled here a living blaze
That nothing shall withstand.