The Community of St. Bridget
Troubled by the injustice of the Vatican's stance against the ordination of women, a group of Cleveland Catholics, lay and religious, came together in January 2012, to discuss ways to encourage and support women called to the Roman Catholic priesthood. By spring of 2012, the Community of St. Bridget was formed and operated as a “not-for-profit corporation” in the State of Ohio.
In its first year, an important cornerstone was established: a website, communityofstbridget.org, providing information about the Community of St. Bridget, as well as about progressive Catholic communities and the ordination of women around the country.
Almost immediately, the community invited an ordained woman priest from Chicago to officiate at several Cleveland area liturgies throughout the year.
At the same time the Community highlighted the work of the Reverend Dagmar Celeste, a long-time Clevelander and one of the original “Danube 7”, who was ordained a priest on the Danube River in Germany in 2002. Other events included the showing of the documentary "Pink Smoke Over the Vatican" which portrays some of the beginning stories of the Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement.
Home liturgies began in the homes of Dagmar Celeste, Ann and Al Klonowski, and other faith community members. Ann was ordained a Catholic priest in September of 2013 at the Brecksville United Church of Christ (BUCC) and began holding monthly Eucharistic liturgies there. Mary Eileen Collingwood was ordained a priest in May of 2014, and joined Ann in weekly priestly ministry.
In July of 2014, there was discussion of reorganization. Rather than Ann and Mary Eileen naming a new faith community, they were granted permission to use the same name as the organizing group who began this women priest presence in the Cleveland area. Everyone joining under one name going forward was deemed more beneficial. In 2014, the BUCC graciously granted the expanded Community of St. Bridget’s request to rent space to continue weekly liturgies and gatherings.
In the fall of 2015, the Community of St. Bridget was granted tax exemption as a 501(c)3 in the State of Ohio. By that time, there were four ordained women priests and one woman deacon in the Cleveland area. The Board of Directors consisted of some members of the original organizing group, along with dedicated members of the faith community. Today, their oversight of the community is known as the Leadership Team.
Ann Klonowski and Mary Eileen Collingwood were presiding at the Liturgy of the Eucharist every Saturday. In addition to regular liturgies, the priests provided all sacramental services, which included baptisms, weddings, funerals, confirmation, reconciliation, home liturgies, and anointing of the sick.
In the fall of 2018, a plan was designed for the ministry to continue. By that time, Mary Eileen was also serving as an ordained bishop in apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic tradition, ordaining women locally and internationally. More priests were ordained and joined the ministry.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BUCC church building closed. All CSB liturgies went online through Zoom technology. The e-newsletter was broadened to include a Wednesday reflection and a Friday full liturgy for the upcoming Sunday.
When the BUCC building reopened, CSB restarted in-person liturgies on a monthly basis for local members.
This community has participated in past ecumenical services and projects with the BUCC, and with the Interfaith Ministerial Group in the Southwest region when it was active.
In 2022, CSB participated in Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality by meeting with the membership and composing a letter responding to the Pope’s call for the laity’s voice to share their concerns and ideas for the future of the Catholic Church. This document was sent directly to the Synod Office in Rome.
The CSB journey continues, guided by our vision and mission.
What began as a support group for women priests, the Community of St. Bridget, is now a member-led, inclusive, catholic experience guided by the Holy Spirit. All are welcome to the Table to worship, not the least of whom are those who have been marginalized or oppressed by the institutional Church’s teachings and policies.