Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Responds to Pope Francis’ Letter , “Beloved Amazon”
February 13, 2020
ARCWP Responds to Pope Francis’ Letter , “Beloved Amazon”, Embrace Ordination of Women in Non-Clerical, Circular Model to Achieve the Full Equality of Women in a Global Church!
Pope Francis’ recent letter, Querida Amazonia (“Beloved Amazon”) fails to make the connections between destruction of the earth, poverty and women’s inequality in the Church. We cannot ignore that women’s equal status in sacramental ministry and decision-making in the Church is essential for the voice of God to rise up for justice on our earth now.
While Pope Francis makes the connection between ordination and clericalism, though well-meaning, he is operating out of a male, patriarchal model that diminishes women.
The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests is part of a worldwide movement that ordains women to foster an inclusive church of equals in a non-clerical model of priestly ministry as a prophetic act of justice. We welcome all to the Eucharistic table including LGBTQI and divorced, and are living out a healthy liberated circular model of the sensus fidelium, the Spirit moving through the people of God.
With Mary Magdalene at the tomb, we are Easter Morning people proclaiming the Good News of the Gospel to a world immersed in the heavy chains of patriarchal domination of sexism, capitalism, militarism, and the degradation of our Holy Mother Earth. Embracing the ordination of women in a non-clerical circular model to achieve the full equality of women in a global Church is the only way forward.
Rev. Dr. Shanon M. Sterringer, ARCWP
September 15, 2019 Homily for the Dedication of the
Community of St. Hildegard in Fairport Harbor, OH
In the Gospel we just heard, Jesus tells his disciples, they will expel you from the synagogues. I have told you these things so that when the time comes, you’ll remember that I told you ahead of time.
While preparing for this liturgy, my husband asked me if I was going to start the homily with a joke. I thought about it and here goes: “They will expel you from the synagogues” – and then they will send you letters of excommunication and post your name in the parish bulletin… History has shown us time and time again, no individual or institution, regardless of its perceived power, can stop the work of the Holy Spirit.
On May 10th of this year, when criticized for again dragging their feet on making a decision regarding the reinstatement of the female diaconate – for which solid evidence supports existed in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries, Pope Francis responded that the Catholic Church is not going to ordain women – but, and this is a direct quote, “If someone wants to make another church, they are free to do so." And here we are! On September 10th just a few days ago, when criticized for the fact that the Catholic Church is breaking off into a number of different factions today – conservative and liberal, Pope Francis replied that while he does not like it, he is not afraid of break-away groups. The pope stated, “There has always been a schismatic option in the church, always.” I fully agree with Pope Francis in that the whole history of the Church has been the result of very diverse factions struggling to find common ground, battling with one another over who has the truth. The Roman Catholic Church was built as the result of a schism. Jesus and his disciples, initially known as “The Way”, broke off from traditional Judaism. Jesus was a Jew, he died a Jew, and he loved his Jewish faith, but by Jewish standards he was not a very good Jew – he dissented and as we know, Holy Week resulted. So much of Jesus’ vision and ministry has been lost and distorted over the last two thousand years, shaped into nationalism, clericalism, sexism, and many other “isms” that were not a part of his message.
Let’s jump ahead to the Protestant Reformation – Martin Luther was an Augustian monk and a Catholic priest. He loved his faith, but he reacted and resisted the injustices of the institution. The prophetic act of hammering his 95 Theses was intended to reform the Church from within. But, instead, he was expelled, and had he not had the proper protection, he would have been killed. Martin Luther did not set out to create a new denomination – he set out initially to reform the Church that he loved. He was not well received by the hierarchy and as we know from history, his expulsion did not stop the Protestant Reformation, but rather it planted the seeds for a new generation of Christianity. A new way of being Church.
What we are experiencing today, in this liturgy, is an historical event. Historical not only in the sense that we are creating something new - though it feels new - but historical in the sense that we are reclaiming our divinely ordered place – a place given to women, by Jesus himself. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus did not select and ordain twelve men at the Last Supper. Jesus did not ordain anyone. Throughout his ministry he called many women and men to follow him. To lead others to God by modeling what he himself witnessed – humility, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, radical acceptance, and selfless love. Jesus did not sit down with Peter and compose the Code of Canon Law – Canon Law developed in the middle ages. From the scriptures we know that during his life, Jesus himself repeatedly broke the religious laws of his day by the way he loved those the institution had deemed unlovable and he charged his disciples to do the same. Love God and love one another – this is the only law Jesus established – the ten commandments, Jesus said, are encompassed in this one command - LOVE. Sounds simple enough. Yet, here we are, two thousand years later, with a Code of 1,752 Canons to enforce unjust, unloving, man-made laws, several of which unfairly expel faithful Catholics from their parishes and diocese.
Like many of you here today, I am a cradle Catholic. Catholicism is in my blood. I have been a Roman Catholic minister – seminary trained – for two decades. Like you, I have always been taught that Catholics do not build or open our own Churches – that is what the other Christians do. Rather, we go to Church and we follow the rules and we do what the priest or bishop tells us to do. The problem with this, is not only that the rules are often unjust, but the institution is not even following its own rules. Certainly, there are good priests, we are blessed to have one here in Fairport Harbor. However, we are all well aware that our parishes and dioceses are inundated with scandals, dysfunction, and toxic leadership – this is evident simply from turning on the news. In the last 15 years, dozens of dioceses here in the U.S. have filed bankruptcy, a diocese filing bankruptcy – it’s astounding - as a result of paying out compensation for criminal acts. Like so many other moments in history, as Pope Francis himself acknowledged just a few days ago, sometimes we are left with no other option but to be expelled and create something new.
The readings for today were selected because they capture St. Hildegard’s charism and her understanding of the integral relationship between the sacred and mundane. Every part of creation – from inanimate stones to angels – all are a part of God’s divinely ordered universe. St. Hildegard of Bingen, as you may know, was a creative genius. She was a visionary (many of her visions are depicted on our walls, including her vision of the fallen stars here in the sanctuary), a mystic, a theologian, an artist, a musician, a preacher, a philosopher, a natural healer, a prophet, a letter-writer, and honestly, she was a pain in the ass to the hierarchy of her day. She challenged the law – religious and secular – when it contradicted the Gospel. She took her faith seriously and when the institution, entrusted with protecting, preserving, and passing on the faith failed in its mission, and we know it often fails, she did not hesitate to challenge it with scathing letters, profound preaching, and prophetic witness. And yet, Pope Benedict XVI, in 2012 not only canonized her, but named her the 4th female Doctor of the Church, putting her on the same level with the male doctors of the Church, including St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, and St. Anthony of Padua.
I would like to read an excerpt from one of St. Hildegard’s letters to the “Shepherds of the Church” aka the bishops, around the year 1163AD. This letter was a copy of a homily she preached in Cologne:
“The one who was, and is, and is about to come, speaks to the shepherds of the Church… The trumpet of the Lord is the justice of God which you should meditate upon zealously in holiness, and make it known to the people at the proper time with holy discretion, rather than pounding them mercilessly with it. But you are not doing this on account of the waywardness of your own will. Thus, the luminaries are missing from the firmament of God’s justice in your utterances, as when the stars do not shine, for you are the night exhaling darkness, and you are like people who do not work, nor even walk in the light because of your indolence. But just as a snake hides in a cave after it has shed its skin, you walk in filth like disgusting beasts…”
I have to admit, I take great pleasure at times in reading her writings. Hildegard’s courage to stand strong in her convictions did not come without a personal cost and consequences. She spent several months during the last year of her life under an interdict which was only lifted shortly before she died. An interdict is another form of expulsion - she and her entire convent were forbidden from singing the liturgy of hours or participating in the sacramental life of the church, including receiving communion. At the age of 80 years old, she traveled from Bingen to Mainz to hand deliver a lengthy letter to the bishops regarding the interdict. In this letter she wrote:
“And I heard a voice saying thus: Who created the heavens? God. Who opens the heavens to the faithful? God. Who is like God? No one. And so, O men of faith, let none of you resist God or oppose him, lest he fall on you in his might and you have no helper to protect you from his judgment. This is a womanish time because the dispensation of God’s justice is weak. The strength of God’s justice is exerting itself, a female warrior battling against injustice, so that it might fall defeated.”
Eventually the interdict was lifted, thanks to her friend, Philip, the Archbishop of Cologne who advocated on her behalf. What was the reason for the interdict? She broke Church law. She buried an excommunicated soldier who had died in her infirmary in the abbey cemetery and refused to exhume the body when ordered by the bishops to remove it from sacred ground. She showed the soldier love and in return she and her sisters were punished. Hildegard’s faith was stronger than her fear. She fiercely believed in the presence of Living Light, the greening power of viriditas, and the potential for personal, social, and ecclesial transformation in every circumstance.
Something new is unfolding all around us. In the words of St. Hildegard, it is a womanish time. New life – viriditas – is bursting forth through every crack and crevice waking us up to a new way of understanding what it means to be human, to be in relationship with one another, with God, and with all of the created world. As old systems are crumbling, there is a lot of debris, dust, and mess creating chaos and fear. Fear of change. Fear of ambiguity. Fear of letting go of the way we have always done things. Fear causes us to desperately grab on to whatever remnants of the old remain. During times of change, there is always a temptation to fall back on rigid rules and unyielding policies because they provide a false sense of security.
The readings for today paint a beautiful image of a recreated world. Where the walls of the new Jerusalem are shining with gemstones and precious metals. A place where the sun and moon are no longer needed because God’s Living Light is perpetually shining brightly. We are being called to build this place through radical, selfless, unconditional love. It is risky, awkward, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, but it is the only way. Love one another as I have loved you. This is the only mandate Jesus gave to us. No other rules, no Canon Law, no fine print. Jesus did not, and does not, expel anyone from the synagogues or any faith community.
I am only able to stand here in front of you today, as an ordained minister, in spite of an institution that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the vocation of women to holy orders, because of the love and support of so many, in places I did not even realize existed. The Hildegard Haus simply would not be a reality without the work of so many hands within the community. Every aspect of this space – from the vestments I am wearing to the table we are about to consecrate, came from members here in this congregation and I sincerely thank all of you.
At this time, we will bless the altar. As part of the blessing we would like to invite anyone who would like to participate to come forward and either lay hands on the wood or anoint it with some of the salve here in this bowl. This salve was made only a few days ago with beeswax and honey from our hives and biblical oils. Blessing this altar is not the task of the ordained ministers. It takes many hands, and it will take many more hands to continue to create something new, vibrant, and sustainable here in this sacred space. Bishop Mary Eileen will lead us first in the prayers of dedication and then we invite you up a row at a time to join us in consecrating the Eucharistic table we will share.
RE: 6/18/19 Commentary: “How much corruption can we tolerate in the church before we leave?” by Donald Cozzens
This question can be countered with a more positive one: How much prophetic energy can be imagined by the People of God in order to reform the Church?
Prophets of old were called out from their very ordinary lives to proclaim by their words and actions the fundamental change of heart that must occur in order to realize our Creator’s vision that all may be one. And that prophetic calling set them apart from the current structures of their times.
The Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement has envisioned such a kinship. We love the church and are energized to witness to the prophetic changes that are needed to reform the church. This is a proactive approach, one rooted in a distinct calling requiring courageous action, clear vision, and holy contemplation.
We embrace circular leadership where no one has power over another. All decide on issues and policies that affect the membership. Bishops are elected to perform a function, not to establish lordship. Member-led inclusive faith communities are formed where the ordained serve the People of God. All are welcome to the Eucharistic Table, extending the practice from the Early Church to the present day.
Our calling is to live what we profess and envision—to live what the Spirit has empowered us to become. It is prophetic. As of old, future generations will reap the rewards.
Mary Eileen Collingwood, ARCWP
From: The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Catholic Women Priests Offer Hope During the Sexual Abuse Crisis
February 6, 2019
As Pope Francis engages this February 21-24, 2019 in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, we women priests continue to offer a renewed priestly ministry within a new structure of inclusive communities and a new way of being Church.
All are welcome to attend our worshiping communities and to receive Communion. Our new model of ministry can serve as a solution in dealing with the prevention of future sexual abuses. Women priests offer Roman Catholic worshiping communities that are led by the People of God.
We have over 15 years of experience offering a new kind of priesthood that is Roman Catholic, egalitarian, inclusive, evolving, and social justice driven. Our women-priest experiences offer meaningful inclusive liturgies (Masses) in small grassroots communities.
In addition, we preside at baptisms, weddings, and funeral ceremonies. We are engaged in raising social consciousness. We work with all those disenfranchised from the Roman Catholic Church, offering them faith communities, advocacy and spiritual direction.
To put it very simply, the sexual abuses that have taken place in the Roman Catholic Church and are still taking place would never have occurred to the degree they have if women had been involved in priestly ministry and equal leadership in the Church. It is long overdue that the male leadership of the Church acknowledge our wisdom as women priests who are already serving the People of God, and ask for our help to solve the mess into which they have gotten themselves.
Mary Eileen has provided the following response regarding the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent guideline on women seeking hysterectomies:
Once again, we confront the arrogance and self-righteousness of the patriarchal church’s position in this purported “ethical guideline” on boundary settings for hysterectomies!
It is entirely unbelievable to the feminine half of the human species that such a guideline could possibly be written without their consultation or consent. Yet sadly, this continues to be the modus operandi within the Roman Catholic hierarchical mindset.
Until churchmen experience an epiphany that opens their minds and hearts to inclusive and egalitarian regard for women, seeking their voice and experience of their feminine nature, being, and wisdom, I see nothing but a dead end on this worn out path these men continue to travel.
Mary Eileen Collingwood
Bishop, serving the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
While attending the Parliament for the World's Religions held in Toronto last month, I was fortunate to have Fred Stella, host of the radio program "Common Threads", approach me for an interview.
Common Threads is a co-production of WGVU Radio and The Interfaith Dialogue Association. Common Threads airs Sundays at 7:00am and 6:30pm on WGVU 88.5 Grand Rapids, 95.3 Muskegon.
You can listen to the full interview as broadcast at these links: Part 1, Part 2
Women priests in Brecksville offer alternative to traditional Roman Catholic Church
by Jacqueline Mitchell - published September 21, 2018
Located in a single room inside the Brecksville United Church of Christ, a group of women is challenging the way the Roman Catholic Church looks at priesthood.
“We’re more like prophetic witnesses in this time,” said the Rev. Mary Eileen Collingwood. “Even if the Vatican does not recognize us, we know that we’re preparing the way forward to open up an avenue for future generations. This is the alternative people have been waiting for.” continue reading
August 22, 2018
Press Release: Response to the Recent Reports of Clergy Child Sex Abuse and Cover up in the RCC:
From: Mary Eileen Collingwood, ARCWP Bishop serving the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests
Women priests are needed as part of a systemic change in the Roman Catholic Church—building a structure that supports justice and equality.
Our voices need to be heard. We work within a model of circular governance as ordained members within our movement and within the liturgical communities we serve.
Catholics have deserved so much more for a long, long time! Following the prophetic witness of women priests, the church needs to form inclusive faith communities that thrive as all members are honored equally, treat others with compassion, and seek Gospel justice for all.
This crisis that has taken over the world stage is a clarion call for all Catholics to raise their hearts and voices in demanding new structures that place women and men in decision-making roles in our church. Those clerics that are responsible for covering up the sexual abuses of our children by the clergy, and those that engage in corroborative criminal behavior, must be removed now.
It is time for serious reform of these church structures that have protected bishops and the Vatican from accountability.
Accepting women priests and married men will counter the corrupt clerical model that has produced the present ecclesial environment which continues to tolerate cover-ups and pay-offs as the standard fare of conduct.
Pope Francis can name the cause of sexual abuse of children as coming from the evils of clericalism, but he falls short in dismantling that structure through a new model of priestly ministry that includes women.
A structure that includes women and men standing and working together as equals, seeking justice for all in a renewed model of priestly ministry will ultimately be the Church’s salvation.
On Wednesday evening, September 12, the Community of St. Bridget and the Brecksville United Church of Christ will host Teatime for Peace, co-sponsored by a group of south suburban houses of worship. Teatime for Peace is an opportunity for interfaith dialogue, especially with our Muslim neighbors. Mark your calendar now and begin inviting your friends and neighbors.
In a well-timed effort to prepare for Teatime for Peace, Brecksville United Church of Christ has invited the Community of St. Bridget to join them for some TED talks:
August 13 – Verna Myers – How to Overcome our Biases? Walk Boldly Toward Them!
August 20 – Karen Armstrong – My Wish: The Charter for Compassion
These events will begin at 7:00 PM at BUCC, 23 Public Square, Brecksville, 44141. In addition to viewing the approximately 20 minute-long video, we will also share some light refreshments and some lively conversations. Each evening and topic can stand alone – so feel free to attend any or all of them.
Please invite a friend to join you! All are welcome!
Two years ago, before the Republican National Convention began in Cleveland, people were concerned. Tempers were running hot and many were worried about Cleveland and the nation. The possibility of violence seemed likely. So a group of people decided not to sit on the sidelines wringing their hands. They chose to stand up and claim love--the most powerful energy there is--and wrap it around the city. By holding hands and keeping silent for 30 minutes, peace came to Cleveland. For those of us who were there, it was a holy experience. We stood in solidarity--not for this or that party or issue or anything. We stood for love.
You have a chance to be part of this holy mission. Join members of your community and stand together in the spirit of love to counteract this time of unrest, turmoil, and uncertainty around the citiy and around the globe.
This is a non-violent, peaceful gathering. It is not a protest. Set aside your signs, your politics, and your disagreements this day and use the power of LOVE to bring healing, peace, and unity to our cities, our country, and our world.
Sunday, July 29, 2–4 PM
Voinovich Park - East 9th Street Pier Cleveland
(north of Rock Hall)
Learn more: Circle the Cities with Love
JUNE 30, 2018 Cleveland Plain Dealer
Eastlake woman, 82, to be ordained as priest Saturday sees role as example for other women
By Brian Albrecht
CLEVELAND, Ohio - Four years ago, when Susan Guzik was ordained a deacon by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), she was automatically excommunicated by the church.
Got an official letter from the bishop of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese and everything.
It didn't bother her then. And it won't bother her Saturday when she is ordained as a priest and three women as deacons by the ARCWP in ceremonies at 1 p.m. at the Community of St. Bridget in the Brecksville United Church of Christ. continue reading
Malachi House is a home that cares for terminally ill people with few or no resources. It is our primary outreach. If you'd like to contribute items that will be useful to the residents and staff, look on their wish list. HUGE NEED right now: liquid laundry detergent and printer paper. Bring them to church and we will deliver them.
Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church is hosting two screenings of the award-winning documentary, “Disturbing the Peace”. Both screenings will be followed with Q & A with the film’s producers. The film is about people born into conflict, sworn to be enemies, who challenged their fate.
Monday, April 23rd at 7pm and Tuesday, April 24th at 1:30pm
Christ the Redeemer Lutheran Church is at 9201 Brecksville Road in Brecksville
No reservations are necessary and there is no admission charge.
Holy Thursday 6:30 (soup supper) 7:00 Holy Thursday liturgy (shared service with Brecksville UCC)
Good Friday 7 pm
Easter Vigil 8 pm Saturday Evening
PUT THIS ON YOUR CALENDAR!
Saturday, March 10 is
at the Community of St. Bridget
Over the past three years, over 100 of you have worshipped with us. We hope that you and your guests will join us for this celebration!
4:30 pm. Meet and Greet
5:00 pm. Liturgy of the Eucharist, Sanctuary
6:00 pm. Potluck Feast, Pilgrim Hall
~ Main entree and beverages provided
~ Side dishes and desserts welcome!
6:30 pm. Group conversation about the Community, services and outreach
Address & Map
Everyone knows the Mother who whines, "You never call, you never write." This is us inviting you to catch up. Some of you are regular, some are semi-regular, and some are rare (yet still appreciated!) members of the community. No matter if you came last week or you came once three years ago, we'd love to see you and catch up. Main dish and beverages are on us. If you'd like to bring a side or dessert to share, that would be lovely, but not required. We just would like to have you over!
This Saturday, February 10, the Community of St. Bridget will celebrate liturgy in memory of Fr. Mark DiNardo, the late pastor of St. Patrick Church on Bridge Ave. Father supported church reform. He was a friend and supporter of women priests. He said that women priests were "on the right side of history." We thank Fr. Mark for his support and will celebrate his life and legacy.
The Community of St. Bridget has supported a community meal at a Lakewood church for several years.That program has been closed. How can we call ourselves Christians if we're not helping other people? We looked and listened and our board has chosen a new outreach.
We will be working with Malachi House to support them in their ministry of caring for dying people with no resources. We will be telling you more about this important contribution soon!
Thank you for contributing your ideas to this important decision.
Community of St. Bridget Holiday Mass Schedule
Saturday, Dec. 23 at 5 pm (4th Sunday in Advent)
Monday, Dec. 25 at 10 am (Christmas Day)
[You are also welcome at the Brecksville UCC Christmas service on December 24 at 10 pm.]
Address & Map
Australia Votes for Gay Marriage, Clearing Path to Legalization
By ADAM BAIDAWI and DAMIEN CAVE
MELBOURNE, Australia — A solid majority of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in a historic survey that, while not binding, paves the way for Parliament to legally recognize the unions of gay and lesbian couples.
Of 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced on Wednesday morning. Participation was high, with 79.5 percent of voting-age Australians sending back their postal ballots. continue reading