Holy Thursday Vatican Embassy Witness

“Holy Thursday Vatican Embassy Witness : From Condemnation to Conversation: Vatican Nuncio Dialogues with Women Priests” by Roy Bourgeois, Jane Via and Janice Sevre-Duszynska

From 2002 through 2016, the Vatican has condemned the ordination of women priests. Since the ordination of  “The Danube Seven” in 2002, the Vatican has tried a number of strategies to quash our movement: excommunication, silencing, shunning, firing and ignoring. Now ten years since the first U.S. ordinations on the boat in Pittsburgh, the door has been opened for the first time. During Holy Week, March 24, the feast day of Oscar Romero, in the era of Pope Francis and his Year of Mercy, a conversation — turbulent at first — began.

Outside the Vatican Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue in Washington, D.C. on Holy Thursday, March 24th the three of us — two women priests – Jane Via and Janice Sevre-Duszynska, and one excommunicated male priest –Roy Bourgeois — washed the feet of supporters on the sidewalk in front of the embassy as cars and buses passed on the busy road.

We prayed and shared our statement of purpose to Pope Francis and the Catholic Church calling for the full and equal inclusion of women and GLBT people.  We read from Scripture, and prayed again this time that church leaders would remember Jesus’ teaching to be servant leaders and love all disciples as Jesus had. We thanked those who gathered with us, re-read our statement of purpose lifted up our signs, and – still in albs and stoles – stepped onto Vatican property and walked toward the door. We had no idea how our action would play out.
Read more

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Roy Bourgeois’ visit to Calgary in September

Roy Bourgeois

Fundraising efforts continue for Roy Bourgeois’ visit to Calgary in September. Thank you to our coordinating team for organizing the fundraising and everything else for Roy’s visit (Dave, Mary, Pat, Rock and Suzanne)!  The bake sale and Baileys were a tremendous success at the March mass — deliciousness all ’round!

Coming up at the April mass:

  • We’ll be having a Bring and Buy – please bring any small items you’d like to donate and/or come with some cash to purchase anything that catches your attention! See below for details.
  • Veronica will be selling her starter plants – pick up some herbs or tomatoes for the garden!
  • Rita will be bringing her paints to the hall so you can make a donation to Roy’s visit and receive an Intuitive Painting Reading (appr. 10-15 minutes) right then and there at the hall (or else arrange for a full hour reading at Rita’s house at a later date). Rita is excited to offer her talent and time for the cause:You are invited to experience  Paint Reading  after mass on Sunday, April 10.  A  fifteen  minute  mini paint reading  will provide you with a window into an intuitive and fun experience with paint. No artistic ability required. Please come and see what happens with your paints. — Rita

For the Bring and Buy:
Items to consider bringing: knickknacks, books, jewellery, and other small household items. We’ll set up tables at the back of the hall to display things. (We don’t have any storage space, so if any items don’t sell, please be prepared to take them home with you; I will also bring a box to collect things for donation to Good Will, for those who prefer not to take things home.) We’ll set up before mass, so if you are bringing items to donate to the sale please come around 9 a.m. to place them on the table (with a suggested donation price attached, if you wish). Hopefully we’ll be set up for purchases by 9:15 or so (it’s just meant to be a casual and fun setting). We’ve done this kind of fundraising sale in the past for other out of town guests of honour, and it’s always been an enjoyable social time. (If you have a bigger item at your house, you might bring a photo of it to display and offer it for sale that way.)

In May, we are going to have a special basket for raffle (details to follow in a coming newsletter) and in June we may have another Bring and Buy if it goes well this month, or we may come up with another idea entirely – stay tuned!

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A special invitation to the community from Leslie Robinson and Jane Oxenbury:

You are invited to hear about Genevieve Kilburn-Smith’s recent trip to Oxford to read her essay about the history of clerical celibacy and its effect on the church and the role of women in it.  Please come to an informal potluck to hear about her trip and to ask the questions you most want to ask.  Genny’s essay is provocative, scholarly, and brings forward many controversial issues worth exploring.

When:      Sunday 27 Sept, 1-3 p.m.
Where:     3835 20 St SW (Leslie and Jane’s)
Bring:     Curiosity, questions, and healthy finger food for the table. We’ll supply tea and coffee.

From Genny and Monica:
We would like to thank the community for your enthusiasm, generosity and support for Genny in her journey to Oxford to present her paper and be at the awards ceremony on Sept 18. It means so much to both of us!

Click here to read Genny’s essay
Click here to see photos

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Women priests ‘delighted’ by Google, Vatican catacombs tour


A fresco inside the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome (CNS/Max Rossi)

Thanks to collaboration between Google Street View and the Vatican, Rome’s catacombs are now accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. However, the move has created controversy for what some say the catacombs hold. Read full article by Megan Fincher posted on National Catholic Reporter.

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Catholic Church Reform

Continued from September 6, 2013 Newsletter

Meeting called by Pope Francis
As you may know, Pope Francis has called a meeting with his eight Cardinal advisers, representatives from every region of the world, to meet with him at the Vatican October 1 through 3. We are asking that our agreed-upon topic be placed on the meeting agenda backed up by the data gathered from all of the Church groups. We have asked Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the coordinator for the advisers, to be our messenger and deliver our letter and packet to the pope just prior to their scheduled meeting. The topics set by the pope for this meeting are (1) reform of the Curia, and (2) governance of the Church. Our objective is to address the changes we would like to see in how the Church is governed, namely, that we support the Pope in his desire to move away from so much clericalism and request that the people be given a voice and a vote in their Church.

Gathering of Data to be delivered to the pope
Between September 4 and September 20, we will be gathering all the data from the groups who choose to participate and have something to contribute. This could include any petition, initiative, referendum, outcome of a conference, agreement resulting from a meeting, a mission statement, a rally, etc., etc., resulting from their efforts over the past several years. All of this will be summarized for the Pope. If you belong to an organization and have an item – one related to the general topic of greater involvement of the laity, including religious, in our Church – that you would like to have included, please send that information to info@CatholicChurchReform.com.
What challenges do we face? We admittedly have numerous hurdles to overcome. Some groups, particularly religious men and women’s organizations, will be reticent to participate even though they fully support the need for reform in the Church. Why? Because they fear reprisal from the Vatican or from their local bishops or because getting the approval of their entire community would require a great deal of bureaucracy, more than time will allow. So what is the solution? Pope Francis appears very open to dialogue and to hearing from the various sources both inside and outside the Church. He is clearly not interested in specific names of the individuals or groups participating. But he seems eager to gather input from every region of the world…beyond the narrow focus of the Vatican, the Curia, and the Cardinals.
Therefore, for those organizations who want to preserve their identity and have their issues made known in their name, we can accommodate them. And for those groups who, for their own reasons, want to support reform of the Church but wish to remain anonymous, we can accommodate them as well. What we need is the data: namely, the issue raised and the number of supporters of that cause, broken down, if possible, by demographics or status (Catholic, former Catholic, priest, religious, other Christian, non-Christian). If we are to be heard and taken seriously, we must be in agreement on a common issue and backed by large numbers of people willing to speak out. When Paulo Gabriele, the butler to Pope Benedict, was asked how he found the courage to release documents from the Vatican, he said: “I love the Church and I was in a position to know what was going on. I felt that to remain silent was to become complicit with the wrong.” And so it is with us. If we do not approve of the current status of the Church, it is incumbent upon us to speak out. For us to remain silent is to be complicit with the wrong.
Call to Action
We agree with Sister Joan that “until we raise a common voice we will not only not be heard, we will not even be listened to in the light of larger issues and larger groups, all clamoring for attention.” Along with her, our “hope is that by speaking out together–astrong chorus of calls for Reform–we can provide a common, a clear, a strong and ongoing voice for the yet incomplete vision of Vatican II.”

Across not only America but the entire civilized world at this time, people are recalling Martin Luther King’s famous speech: I have a Dream. I invite you to visit our blog. Begin your sentence with “I have a dream …” and complete your dream for our Church. As this all important October meeting draws near, let us find our voice and speak out on what it is that – as Catholics, as former Catholics, as priests, as religious, as Christians from other denominations, and as non-Christians – we dream for the Catholic Church. As we have learned from the Civil Rights movement, the power of the people can be persuasive with the people in power. This is a call to action: Let us speak out with a strong, united voice loud enough to be heard all the way to the Vatican.

If you want to contact people in your circle and encourage them to sign our letter to Pope Francis, visit our Facebook page. The first video reaches out to everyone – not just Catholics but to non-Catholics as well – inviting them to sign the letter to Pope Francis. The second video is intended to reach those who feel that women deserve an expanded role in the Church. You may want to “like” us while you’re there.

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News Story — Role of Women in the Church

Continued from September 6, 2013 Newsletter

The Pope then launched into a strange interlude about Paraguayan women who,
after that country’s war with Brazil led to such a decimation of the male
population that there were eight women to every man, made the risky choice
to have more children to preserve the homeland, culture, faith and
language. And he said that, in the Church, we must think of women from that
perspective of risky choices made as women. Before what I’m sure were very
bemused faces in the press corps, he then added that this should be better
explained. Indeed it should. “I believe that we have not yet done a
profound theology of women in the Church. Only that they can do this, they
can do that, now they’re altar servers, now they’re lectors, the president
of Caritas … But, there’s more! We must do a deep theology of women.”

These remarks have led to a certain amount of eye-rolling among Catholic
feminists. As Jamie Mason put it succinctly in the National Catholic
Reporter, “for the past half-century, Catholic women theologians, many of
them women religious, have been developing, writing and teaching a profound
theology of women. Just because the hierarchy has not cared to read it
doesn’t mean it doesn’t already exist.” Perhaps Pope Francis could invite
some of these theologians to come to the Vatican and brief him on the state
of theological research in this area. He might start with Sr. Teresa
Forcades i Vila, the Benedictine nun and theologian who has written a book
on the subject. Because she’s Spanish, there would be no language barrier
and, as an officer of the European Society of Women in Theological
Research, Dr. Forcades is well-positioned to recommend other experts in her
field with whom the Pope might consult.

Further along in the in-flight press conference, a Brazilian reporter, Anna
Ferreira, gave the Pope an opportunity to dig himself in deeper by asking
him why he decided to talk to the Brazilian bishops about the role of women
in the Church and then asked him point-blank what women’s participation in
the Church should be and specifically about women’s ordination.

The Pope responded that he “would like to explain a little what I said
about the participation of women in the Church — it can’t be limited to
the fact of being an altar server or the president of Caritas, the
catechist … No! It must be more, but deeply more, even mystically more,
with what I’ve said about the theology of women. And, with reference to the
ordination of women, the Church has spoken and it says, “No”. John Paul II
said it, but with a definitive formulation. That it, that door, is closed,
but on this I want to say something to you. I’ve said it, but I’ll repeat
it. Our Lady, Mary, was more important than the apostles, the bishops and
deacons and priests. Women in the Church are more important than the
bishops and priests — why that is, is what we must try to explain better,
because I think a theological explanation for this is lacking.”

Needless to say, this reiteration of Pope John Paul II’s ban on women
priests and even on the discussion thereof drew immediate fire from groups
and individuals supporting women’s ordination. A sample:

Women’s Ordination Conference: “The church was not Pope John II in 1994
when he forbade women’s ordination nor is it Pope Francis today. The church
is made up of the people of God and Pope Francis could have looked to the
majority of Catholics who support the ordination of women, recognize that
women are created in God’s image, and strongly believe with God a door is
always open.”

Women’s Ordination Worldwide: “The church has spoken? We remind Pope
Francis that the church is made up of millions of women and men who have
been officially forbidden by the Vatican from even discussing the question
of women’s ordination. Pope John Paul II may have spoken but he is not the
Church. The ban on women priests may have been a definitive expression of
prejudice but it was not an infallible ruling and it does not reflect the
will or best interests of the people of the Church.”

Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests: “The Association of Roman
Catholic Women Priests calls on Pope Francis to open a dialogue on women
priests and gender equality, following the example of Saint Francis and
Saint Clare. It is time for the full equality of women in the Catholic
Church and for Pope Francis to drop ‘definitive’ and discriminatory

Dr. Mary E. Hunt, feminist theologian: “This is the same old same old
theology — the Virgin Mary is more important than anyone else in the
story, but living women cannot make ecclesial decisions, exercise
sacramental ministry, or make ethical choices. Apparently, the question of
women’s ordination is so yesterday in the Vatican Francis doesn’t think it
needs to be revisited.”

Sr. Ivone Gebara, Brazilian nun and eco-feminist theologian: “How can Pope
Francis simply ignore the strength of the feminist movement and its
expression in Catholic feminist theology for more than thirty or forty
decades, depending on the place? It also amazes me that he stated that we
can even have more spaces in ministry when, in fact, in all the Catholic
parishes, it’s women for the most part who are carrying out the many
missionary projects.”

Bottom line: Your Holiness, women understand perfectly well where power
resides in the Catholic Church. You can try to diminish clericalism — a
laudable goal — and increase the role of the laity, but in any parish the
ultimate decision-making power rests with the pastor who, in the current
Church structure, is always a male priest. Higher up, at the diocesan
level, it rests with the bishop and ultimately with your office. Women do
not presently have access to those positions and that needs to change. No
amount of ethereal Marian theology will compensate for that or satisfy the
demands of women today who are used to equality in every other sphere of
society. With all due respect, it’s time for you to start to listen to
women for a change.

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Turning Again

Continued from September 6, 2013 Newsletter

Ten years later, I’ve been reflecting on the gifts that have come through this door (some of which sure didn’t feel like gifts at first). Little by little, we followed the kids who came for dinner to their homes, to their schools, downtown to the jail, and to the basketball court. Eventually, this led us to our work with Walltown Aspiring Youth.

When folks coming home from prison told us what it felt like to grow up here, we began to see the so-called school-to-prison pipeline. Our Project TURN grew out of a deep sense that we need to have conversations across the prison line if our country is to experience genuine conversion today. People who needed a place to come home to gave us a renewed hunger and thirst for justice.
Month by month, I’ve written to tell you the story of how all of this has led me to turn and turn again. And you’ve joined us to be part of this story in so many ways through School for Conversion. For all that, I thank you. And I give thanks to our God when I think of you.
But, unless you stop by the house, you rarely get to hear from Leah, who doesn’t dwell on repeating herself but prefers to get to work. A couple of months ago, a reporter from InTouch Magazine stopped by to take some pictures and talk to folks here. In our kitchen, he asked Leah to explain why “helping the needy” doesn’t really describe what we’re doing here. Her response gives me the occasion to share the wisdom Leah prefers to live without much talk (and this fine picture from the magazine, which captures the message precisely).

"A lot of people think of our house as a mission of sorts to bring the gospel into the neighborhood," Leah said, "to which I would invite them to come and see, because the gospel is very much alive and well here. Our neighbors have taught me a lot about the gospel--about their struggles and their faith, hope, and joy in the midst of that. So the term 'needy' isn't one that we've used over the years, but is actually part of the reason we were drawn here to instead see our neighbors as people who have a lot to teach us, and as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ."
So, there you have it.
If you have time for a story from me this month, you can read about my friendship with Jeremiah (and see more recent pictures of life around here) over at InTouch Magazine. If not, Leah has, as usual, gotten to the point much faster.
Peace and all good,
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