Dagmar Braun Celeste shares with us a little about her call to the Priesthood...
Only God’s Love by Dagmar Braun Celeste RCWP
For many years, I believed that the most important day of my life was the day I was baptized. Then, after experiencing my First Communion, I was certain that no other day would ever match the glory of that day. But in that same year even more grace was added on the day of my Confirmation. None of the elaborate trappings of that day could camouflage the fact that I had become co-responsible for the well-being of my soul and the health of my church. That day I became a spiritual warrior, ready to lay down my life for the love of God. And for over thirty years, I believed that nothing would ever overshadow the radiant joy of my wedding day. (Hit the Read More button below to continue with Dagmar’s story)
Little did I understand then that to become a bride and mother is to embark on a via dolorosa (1). The births of six children and later six grandchildren were intensely grace-filled times, but not without thorns. Then came the year of my divorce (insanity was less painful) and even more excruciating, the day of my spouse’s remarriage.
Looking back and remembering how far God has brought me and looking ahead to where S/He wants me to follow, fills me with gratitude and awe and peaceful certainty that it is God’s Spirit who is calling me to sing this new song.
Since the early 1970’s, I had worked in the feminist vineyard, supporting an untold number of causes where women organized to empower each other personally, politically and spiritually, and were struggling to set one another free body, mind and soul.
As I am grateful to all the wonderful Catholic women who taught, empowered and directed me, I have to acknowledge that it was two Methodist women on Kelley’s Island, Ohio, who first opened my eyes to the possibility of this call. A few years back, after I had finished a workshop for Sacred Space at Himmelblau House, our island family home, first one and then a second woman came up to me and asked whether I would be willing to consider becoming their pastor. At first I thought they were simply confused. Perhaps they did not know that I am Catholic? But God had a surprising lesson in store for me. They simply did not care!
Still, I was not ready to yield the driver’s seat yet. After much prayer and discussion with my spiritual director, I rejected the women’s invitation. The price of excommunication seemed too steep a price and the exodus from my church appeared impossible. If I was to be ordained, I argued with God, then it had to come from the Roman Catholic Church. Nothing less than a Roman Catholic bishop would do. So… God responded… with two.
When Christine, the leader of the Austrian group, asserted back in 2000 that by the time her women, then in training, would be done with their formation, a Roman Catholic bishop would emerge willing to ordain them, I listened to her words and heard her hope, but I did not believe her. I should have known better. After all, by then I had lived for many years under the motto of the great state of Ohio: With God All Things Are Possible.
And so, on February 28, 2002, everything began to change again, and now I believe that the most important day of my life until forever will be June 28, 2002, the day I decided to accept God’s invitation to the priesthood. That February morning, I was less inclined to doubt Christine’s promise that not one but two Roman Catholic bishops were ready to ordain her women.
Back on that February day, in a phone call from Austria, the place of my birth, I was invited to join a small band of spiritual warrior women ready to claim ordination, contra legem if necessary. So, the time had come to relinquish the driver’s seat once and for all—to Jesus—and to accept him as my only Beloved and become willing to follow him into the future. Even home to Austria if that is where he needed my valiant YES.
I do trust that Jesus Christ, whose mercy has sustained me thus far, will not desert me ever. And I do know that I am free to accept his invitation in good conscience but also free to reject it without dire consequences to my soul. But to live with the knowledge that I have chosen to be less than I am called to be would be a sad life. The price of saying YES might be exodus. But the price of saying NO might be a broken spirit added to my already broken heart.
Without honoring God the Mother, and all the female aspects of God, there cannot be balance or healing for us women or our Church. This is why together with men of good will, we must do whatever is possible to non-violently but valiantly gain new ground in our own churches. We must insist that women and men together can and will bring new life to the whole Catholic Church if each of us and all of us claim the freedom to follow Jesus Christ wherever he calls us to go (see Pacem in terra, Pope John XXIII).
In this light, excommunication may be as necessary on the path with heart, as crucifixion was necessary on Jesus’ via dolorosa (1).
(1) via dolorosa - noun - the route believed to have been taken by Jesus through Jerusalem to Calvary.