The Table

img_5902Spanish theologian, Emma Martínez Ocaña was welcomed by the Rome-based, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation working group on the “Collaboration of Women and Men in Ministry,” last week. Well-known amongst Spanish-speaking religious communities, Ocaña’s work is poetic and deceptively simple, engaging deep spiritual questions of gender, Jesus, and the cosmos.

Ocaña crafted a dreamscape of a “New Future for Women in the Church,” transporting the 60 or so gathered to a radical vision of Church. Dreaming, she said, is encouraging desire, beauty and truth; and in dreaming together, dreams can come true. However, she cautioned: dreams are chaotic, free, and often not “politically correct.”

Ocaña first dreamed of ministry, rich in service and love, based on a call of recognition from one’s community, and not confined to sex or a priesthood. Women will not simply occupy benches (pews), but be active in sacrament, in equal rotation. She dreamed of an end of “formation” all together, in order to rid the Church of clericalism. No “men as demigods,” but many trained ministers, willing to share. Friends, not servants.

She dreamed of an abandonment of all sexist and patriarchal language. She dreamed of never excluding a woman’s body from revealing God: “Allow the word of God to become true in their bodies.”

This being a dream, Ocaña also envisioned Jesus’ response to her dream, in the form of a letter. While this exercise felt a little silly to me, it was a rich and empowering journey to take as a group. In this letter, Jesus reaffirmed his call for a revolution that denounces sexual discrimination in all forms and gives visibility to women, who are “builders of the history of salvation,” and equals in dignity, rites/rights, duties and tasks.  

Not wanting to wake up, Ocaña eased us back into the room by encouraging us to keep dreaming: for Church to be a witness, for these seeds to become trees. img_5884A question came from a priest in the group who challenged her “use” of a Jesus (who totally agrees with her dreams), rightly calling this a path that the patriarchy also enjoys to secure opposite conclusions. (I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from a Women’s Ordination Worldwide press statement: Stop making Jesus the Vatican’s partner in gender discrimination!”). He offered that listening to each other, may be a solution. Ocaña responded that one must put the historical Jesus, not what is constructed or cultural, on the horizon.  

Another participant shared the she believes in the beauty of dreams, but carries “so much rage,” especially towards priests who too often encourage the submission and invisibility of women. I was so grateful for this honesty.

And finally, one woman asked what we all ask at times, Why stay? When in secular society and around the world women’s equality is becoming increasingly affirmed…  Ocaña, a woman of hope, shared: “It is the triumph of patriarchy to believe what they tell us about ourselves.” She believes in mystical and political change from within. She believes in the historical, revolutionary Jesus.

The group gathered again the following day for an interactive workshop to go deeper into these questions and find fruitfulness and mercy along the journey.

I’m not sure if it was a shift in tone, or process, or simply the joy of escapism, but to enter into a dream articulated with so much hope and happiness was just the light I needed on that winter’s afternoon.

This Advent, The Table will feature weekly reflections from Deacon Christine Haider-Winnett, RCWP, based on the liturgical readings for that week. This week’s readings can be found here. Homilies and reflections on The Table are part of a new “Preaching Equality” series from WOC.

I have two cats that I simply adore. One of them, LuLu, is eighteen years old. I’ve had her since I was a teenager. She’s loud, is starting to lose her vision, and is scared of her own shadow. She’s the sweetest, most loving creature you’ll ever meet but has, at times, accidentally scratched me when she got over-stimulated or startled by a sudden noise or movement. LuLu was a part of my life when I graduated high school, and I can’t wait to introduce her to my first-born child in a few months. But I’ve also been increasingly worried about the risks associated with having her live with our upcoming baby. As much as I’m sure that she’d never intentionally hurt our child, and as hard as Alex and I are working to take every possible precaution, there’s still a worry that something could happen. I’m committed to keeping my cat and making her a part of the baby’s life, but I know that comes with some level of risk.

Given my fear of introducing my child to a housecat, you can imagine how I feel about reading about babies playing with vipers in this week’s lectionary.

I’m already so aware of the dangers lurking around every corner for this child. Risks that were acceptable for me to take alone are no longer acceptable to take while pregnant. But I wonder: at what point should concerns for a child’s safety be weighed against other concerns: the concerns for their happiness, their spiritual and emotional growth, their ability to engage meaningfully and responsibly in their community?

I’ve been struggling with those questions a lot in the last few weeks. These seem like frightening times to prepare for a birth of a child. I suppose every mother—from Mary to my own mother—has thought that. In the last few weeks, as our country feels more divided than ever and many people struggle with uncertainty and fear, that has felt particularly true for me. I worry about the risks I am birthing my child into, the harm that could be done to them or people they love and what sort of values they will see passed down. A very large part of me wants to try to shield them from the ugliness of the world, and from the heartbreak that I’m already feeling about it.

But as much as I have a desire to create a protective bubble around my child, it seems impossible to shield them from any possible harm. Children are born into an unsafe world full of vipers and leopards and wolves, many of them are born into situations much less safe than the one my own child will be born into. But even I, in my privilege, can’t shield my child from every danger. There is only so much any of us can do to protect them from harm.

The prophet Isaiah, who parented children during a particularly trying time in Israel’s history, seemed to understand that truth keenly. Like me, I’m sure there were times when he wanted to form a protective bubble around his children, shielding them from any possible danger.

However, Isaiah reminds us that God’s reign is not brought about by building up walls or trying to shield children from the realities of the world. Isaiah knows that fear makes our world smaller, and he wants a big, rich, adventurous life for children– and for all of us. To him, God’s reign is not a safe fortress but an interspecies playpen, where peace is made as children explore and play together. In fact, Isaiah argues that salvation is brought about by these risk-taking infants: babies who play with vipers, and lambs who make friends with lions. It is in that risk-taking that we are able to grow, encounter one another and make new things possible.

Yes, we live in an unsafe world, but as I prepare to parent my own child I am reflecting on how I can best teach my child about the risks of the world, rather than trying to shield them from those risks. I hope to raise children that will be, in Jesus’ words, as wise as serpents and peaceful as doves (Matt 10:16). I want them to be aware of the dangers that they and others face, but still go out into the world boldly to make it a more loving, just place.

So, even though it scares me, I’m going to slowly and gently try to introduce my child to my old, grumpy cat. I’m going to talk to my child honestly about the risks of the world so that they can make the best decisions on how to engage with danger. I’m going to speak honestly about the injustices in our country and in the world so that my child can work with others to become peacemakers. But I’m still going to worry.

12316283_10153758384548622_6527913826117004816_nChristine Haider-Winnett is an ordained deacon in Roman Catholic Womanpriests (USA). She is a former member of WOC’s Board of Directors and served as WOC’s Co-President from 2012-2014. Christine holds a Masters in Divinity from Pacific School of Religion, a BA in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College and a Certificate in Women’s Studies in Religion from the Graduate Theological Union. She currently serves as deacon at St. Hildegard Catholic Community in Berkeley, California. Christine and her spouse, Alex, are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. You can learn more about Christine’s ministry here.

This Advent, The Table will feature weekly reflections from Deacon Christine Haider-Winnett, RCWP, based on the liturgical readings for that week. This week’s readings can be found here. Homilies and reflections on The Table are part of a new “Preaching Equality” series from WOC.

I have been pregnant for 216 days. (But who’s counting?) I know this because I have an app on my phone that keeps track of this date for me, so that I always know exactly how many months, weeks and days this child has been growing inside me.

This same app tells me that we are exactly 64 days from January 29th, the baby’s due date. But of course, as anyone who has ever been pregnant will tell you, this second number is far less precise. Sure, in 64 days it will be January 29th, but there is no guarantee that my child won’t make their arrival on January 20th, or February 10th. I know people who gave birth ten or more weeks early, about as far along as I am now. This baby could literally arrive at any moment! The author of my favorite pregnancy book assures me that “no one has ever been pregnant forever,” but that is really the only guarantee I have. One day, in 64 days or in 75 days or tomorrow, my whole life will change.

“Therefore, stay awake!” Jesus tells us, “For you do not know on which day your [Love] will come” (Matt 24:42).

This feeling of unpredictability is not my favorite part of pregnancy. I am someone who likes to stick to a schedule, who makes plans and backup plans, who tries to anticipate any possible outcome. But one thing that I’ve learned in the last 216 days is that no matter how many books I read or how detailed my birthing plan is there is so much beyond my control. I still won’t know the day or the hour. I’m preparing for the un-preparable.

And of course, things aren’t going to become any more predicable after I give birth. Parenthood is a giant journey into the unknown. No matter how many people offer advice, or how much I research, there is no way to adequately prepare for what is in store. I am getting ready to begin one of the most significant relationships of my life with a total stranger. How does one prepare for that?

Jesus tells us to stay awake and prepare because someday– any day now– the Kin-dom of Heaven will come like a thief in the night. However, while He’s very clear about our need to prepare, He’s rather vague about what we need to prepare for. Like the author of my pregnancy book, Jesus seems content to tell us “a big change will happen someday, probably when you least expect it. No point in trying to guess too much about when or where it will be.”

How on earth can we adequately prepare for an event that we have so little information about? How can we set our schedules when we don’t know the day or the hour? How can we make a plan and a backup plan for any possible situation when we don’t know the first thing about what this life-altering change will look like?

The kind of preparation Jesus is asking of us seems to have less to do with my usual methods of preparation (gathering data, making lists, sticking to schedules) and more to do with staying alert and open to the unexpected. “Stay awake, keep watch,” Jesus tell us, “something is happening that you won’t want to miss.” This doesn’t mean simply trying to prepare for every possible scenario, it means coming to accept that we couldn’t possibly anticipate every possible scenario. It means coming to understand that whatever is going to happen is ten thousand times weirder and bigger and more wonderful than we could have ever imagined. It means accepting that we aren’t the ones in control, letting go of our pre-conceived notions and allowing ourselves to be surprised.

Scripture tells us that when God entered into humanity, God showed up in the most unexpected ways: as a poor child in some forgotten corner of empire, born to a scared teenage girl who was far from home and who had only a barn for shelter. God took any expectations people had for how the Word-Made-Flesh should arrive (and any expectations Mary had about her birth plan!) and turned them on their heads, reminding us that God’s power is so much more weird and beautiful and unpredictable than anything we could have prepared for.

If you were expecting God to arrive as a king or a warrior it would have been easy to miss this small baby lying in a manger. In fact, the people who were best able to recognize the incarnation were people who didn’t have a lot of preconceived notions about what it should look like: shepherds and illiterate young girls who were willing to be surprised. People who took the time to notice the unexpected and didn’t let themselves get too bogged down with expectations about what glory and power and holiness should look like.

And so, Jesus is telling us, the next time that the Sacred decides to show up it will be in just as unexpected of a way. God will show up with all the drama of Noah’s flood. Or maybe quietly and quickly like a thief. Or maybe like a small and fragile baby. We don’t know what it will look like, we don’t know when. All we know is that it’s coming. Stay awake. Keep watch. Get ready to be surprised.

12316283_10153758384548622_6527913826117004816_nChristine Haider-Winnett is an ordained deacon in Roman Catholic Womanpriests (USA). She is a former member of WOC’s Board of Directors and served as WOC’s Co-President from 2012-2014. Christine holds a Masters in Divinity from Pacific School of Religion, a BA in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College and a Certificate in Women’s Studies in Religion from the Graduate Theological Union. She currently serves as deacon at St. Hildegard Catholic Community in Berkeley, California. Christine and her spouse, Alex, are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. You can learn more about Christine’s ministry here.

The award-winning documentary, Radical Grace, made its Italian debut at the 19th annual Religion Today Film Festival last Thursday evening in Trento. As the foremost international film festival dedicated to showcasing religion and culture, Religion Today brought together 53 films from 26 countries, selected from more than 270 applications during its two-week run. At the heart of the festival is education and interfaith dialogue on issues of peace, human rights, and gender.

Radical Grace screened as part of a double-feature with the 2016 Israeli film, Measures of Merit, telling the story of Ruth Colian who set out to establish the first ever-political party for the Ultra-Orthodox Haredi women and her campaign to run for the Israeli Knesset in 2015. Haredi women are the only segment of Israeli society that are not represented in the Knesset. The influence of the Rabbis depicted in the film is extreme: in one case the film showed Ruth canvasing for herself, when a woman told her, “I will take that when my rabbi hands it to me.” Most striking was the language that the Rabbis used to define gender roles and “divine patriarchy,” which could have been swapped seamlessly with the reasoning from some members of the Catholic hierarchy. 

Religion Today Film Festival Poster seen around Trento

Religion Today Film Festival Poster in Trento

Between the films, Italian journalist Adele Gerardi briefly interviewed Ruth Colian and me as a representative of Radical Grace and WOC. Gerardi asked about the Women’s Ordination Conference and our mission, how one can be a feminist and a Catholic (a classic), and how the sisters are doing now. Not wanting to spoil the film, I shared just how unified the U.S. sisters have become, and now especially, how they know Catholics are behind them.

Radical Grace screened late into the night but the audience stayed until the very end. Afterwards, the woman next to me gave me a tearful hug, “Brava, brava grazie!” and groups of students and younger viewers came up to me to talk about the movement. One university student in particular, first told me how many times she cried throughout the film, but also how she is so thrilled to know that WOC exists, that people are working in this issue. The next morning I had an email from her, subject line: “How do I support your cause?”

I had worried that the “Ryan budget,” the “ACA,” and more American-focused themes might be confusing for an Italian audience, but I realized that while those issues are confusing, what the Nuns on the Bus (“suore in Pullman”) were doing is not. Social justice, courage, and humility translate just fine. (My WOC title of co-executive director, however, doesn’t quite translate as well and I suspect I got a promotion to executive producer in some translated conversations! Sorry Susan Sarandon!)

The next day, the Festival organizers arranged a short walking tour of Trento where I got to speak to more of the judges, film-makers and actors. There was great interest to bring Radical Grace to other festivals in Italy, India and Bangladesh, and in particular to have discussions around women’s ordination. True to the mission of the film festival, this cross-pollination of creative people and tools brought great dialogue and sharing. It was a true honor to represent WOC and the film Radical Grace at such an important nexus.

Radical Grace is now available on itunes and for community screenings, with discussions guides on economic, social, and gender justice for download. 


forcades-siamotuttidiversi-coverAt la Casa Internazionale delle Donne in Rome, Benedictine sister, Teresa Forcades spoke with Italian feminist theologian Marinella Perroni about a new interview-book, Siamo Tutti Diversi! Per una teologia queer (We are all different! For a queer theology), featuring Forcades. 

For those keeping close notes, these two powerhouses are a convergence of WOC’s recent programming: Teresa Forcades, a keynote speaker at WOW 2015 and Dr. Marinella Perroni, a panelist at our Jubilee for Women Priests. The October 3rd event took place in the same space as the Jubilee for Women Priests (although about 30 minutes late and with a cat and dog also present!).

Teresa entered the room like a complete rock-star, with flashing cameras following her to the front of the room. She spoke for nearly an hour in Italian, only deferring to Spanish a few times when answering very personal questions from the audience.

The heart of this new theology book, as she described, is understanding “queer” as a liberating identity that one continually creates, outside of categories and socially prescribed roles. Teresa described many of our saints and the historical importance and mobility of their queerness, their rejection of norms: Joan of Arc, Francis of Assisi, for example.

“Theology has always been queer,” insofar as it is a personal re-centering, interpreting agency of identity to the subject (the person) rather than the projected label.  Queer identities and embodiment are continually renewing, continually dependent on a relationship with God. The sacramentality is in every day.

In a separate interview with “Female Wor{l}d,” Marinella Perroni described queer theology as “an application of the criteria of liberation theology, a liberation understood as a promise from God and as a practice of freedom before God, for all individual human subjects understood and respected based on their most profound particular traits, those related to sexual development.” 

Sr. Teresa Forcades and WOC co-director, Kate McElwee

Sr. Teresa Forcades and WOC co-director, Kate McElwee

The audience, however, focused their questions on Sr. Teresa’s journey to the Benedictine monastery and her relationship with the hierarchal Church. Raised under the Spanish dictatorship of Francisco Franco, her family considered the Catholic Church “a place of Franco,” and a place of the past that will die. Perhaps a similar comparisons to how many communities look to the Church today — imperialistic and aging.

However, not unlike many Catholic feminists, Teresa found excitement and joy in her experience of Catholicism through studying theology, particularly with Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, and through encounters with prophetic and pastoral sisters. When discerning her religious life, Teresa described conversations with nuns, questioning how they would respond to communities with AIDS and LGBT groups… and the nuns’ response was one of kindness and pastoral curiosity: “I wanted to learn to be like this, to look at people in their eyes…” 

Outspoken on the injustices of ordination, Teresa reiterated a common mantra of hers: power is linked to ordination and ordination is linked to gender, and that is misogynistic and must change. The ways women are “kept out” is unacceptable, she said. Though Teresa did not go into depth here, I would recommend revisiting the Teresa’s WOW 2015 keynote on a Trinitarian approach to “Feminist Ordination.”

The evening was truly an intense experience of the life-force of Teresa: a brilliant theologian weaving body, feminism, sexuality, autonomy, and liberation into a revolution called queer. Not another label, but an invitation to radically recreate one’s self in every moment as a projection of God.

Read More:

Teresa Forcades, the revolutionary Catalan feminist theologian, says: “We are all different!”

poster-rt-2016_1In its 19th year, the Religion Today Film Festival is set to launch in Trento from 7-17 October under the title, “We all loved each other so much. Religions and gender issues.” According to the festival website, the title is an homage to Ettore Scola, and “explores the portrayal of women and the female condition in different religious contexts and the challenges of gender diversity.”

A WOC favorite, the documentary film Radical Grace is included in the festival this year, screening with Italian subtitles for the first time. Earlier this week, I was honored to speak on behalf of the film and WOC at the festival’s press conference at the prestigious Casa del Cinema (where WOW screened Pink Smoke Over the Vatican for the first time in Italy in 2011).  

As the only guest speaker, my invitation was a curious spotlight on a single film, especially in light of some of the sponsors in the crowd. Nevertheless, I spoke about the pain of the investigations and the resilience and heart of sisters who follow a higher calling of social justice, (and the masses who support them!). It was an incredible opportunity to share the organizing efforts of the Nun Justice Project and the dedication of the women behind the film, who followed Sr. Simone Campbell, Sr. Jean Hughes, and Sr. Chris Schenk (and Erin and myself — I still love this montage!) for several important years.

After I spoke, one woman in particular came up to me to share that she had followed the U.S. sisters closely during the investigations. She said although she is not a feminist, she supports the sisters. As is true around the world, the language and labeling of feminism is culturally triggering and challenging in different circumstances. The word and the movement are so central to WOC’s mission and in particular Sr. Chris’ storyline in the film, I will be curious to see how the film is received here in Italy — praying that it draws out those faith-driven feminists I have been searching for!  (I’ve written about my conversations with Italian feminists and the pitfalls of language across cultures before on the Table, here).

The screening takes place on October 13th, where I have been asked to offer short commentary to the film before what should be a stellar interfaith panel discussion: “From Eve’s point of view: Religions and gender relations.” Speakers include: Nibras Breigheche (Muslim theologian), Elena Seishini (Buddhist monk), Selene Zorzi (Catholic theologian and former nun) – in dialogue with Anna Fedele (Center for Research in Anthropology – Lisbon University Institute).

Radical Grace has screened at 45 film festivals and 80 community screenings, driving deep conversation around feminism and faith.  The film is now available for community screenings and on itunes with discussion guides for Catholic-rooted and interfaith groups on themes of  women’s equality and social justice. 


cspjrspwiaetlifOn Tuesday, September 20, 2016 I was honored to be present at a special forum at the United Nations entitled, “Keeping the Faith in Development: Gender, Religion & Health”. As President of the Women’s Ordination Conference Board, I went to support the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, as their director, Dr. Luca Badini Confalonieri, participated in this panel and presented a summary of the recently published Statement on the Ethics of Using Contraceptives.

The streets leading to the extreme east side of mid-town New York were vibrating with the kind of excitement that only the coexistence of a sunny day in Manhattan, the convening of the UN General Assembly, the President being in town, and a street bombing just two days before could produce. A similar vibration of anticipation filled the hall where we gathered to hear ten interfaith panelists discuss the intersection of human rights, religious traditions and the UN’s goals for sustainable development.

Earlier in the morning, as I boarded the train from Connecticut, I had wondered to myself if the trip was really “necessary” and within the parameters of the mission of WOC. Although the link between supporting a document that champions inviolacy of conscience and WOC’s advocacy for women whose conscience calls them to priesthood seemed important to me, I could also see that some might see this as a peripheral issue and, perhaps, even a distraction.

Once the panel presentations and discussion started, however, I was in no doubt that I should be there and that pieces of WOC’s vision and values were on the table. My eyes were opened to a much larger theater than I had imagined, where “gender equality” is not a hashtag or placard in a march, but the reality of one toilet for women in a village of 16,000 people. My notes are filled with phrases like, “religious authority”, “sustainable goals”, “promoting health care”, “culture”, “dignity”, “scientific evidence”, “human rights” – but if we could make a wordle from that afternoon, the phrase that would dominate our cluster would be “GENDER EQUALITY”. These eminent scholars, authors, religious leaders and development experts from around the globe all used the phrase and emphasized that gender equality is the transformative vision needed for all societies. While undoubtedly there would be disagreements about the process of achieving this, there was unanimity in admitting the primacy of this goal.

I left the auditorium somewhat discouraged by the enormity of the challenge, but also proud to be part of WOC’s efforts to change the oppressive hierarchical and patriarchal system of the Catholic Church. We know that not practicing gender equality in the church contributes to the contexts and cultures around the world and here in the U.S. that tolerate oppression of women in very fundamental ways. As Azza Karam, the moderator of the panel said at one point, “Faith communities are signals of hope and therefore very necessary – but this also creates a deep need to interrogate the structures of patriarchy in faith spaces.”

We can all feel proud of WOC’s forty years of “interrogation” and, as we celebrate our 40th Anniversary, we look forward to renewed efforts to take the challenge of creating gender equality in our church and world into new places of collaboration and accomplishment.

Note: For a full account of the proceedings of this event, please see Jamie Manson’s article in NCR.

More than 150 folks gathered at Trinity United Methodist Church in Des Moines to hear Fr. Roy Bourgeois tell 253882_327964550650964_533596931_nhis story of activism, and the price he paid.  Though he spent four years – four years! – in prison form protesting the School of the Americas, when he tells of being released from Maryknoll, his hurt is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.  This man, so clearly called to be a priest, lost his official Roman Catholic credentials because he supported women’s ordination in a public way. (Read Fr. Roy’s statement from 2012 on his dismissal from Maryknoll)

That began a pretty amazing weekend, honoring the Des Moines Catholic Worker’s 40th anniversary.  WOC was invited to participate in and co-sponsor  this great event, and to moderate a panel on women’s ordination.  Iowa has a vibrant Catholic Worker movement, with several houses of workers in Des Moines, as well as locations in other cities, and at least two farms!  All of these ministries are attracting college and graduate school interns, young adults in permanent positions, older folks, people who volunteer regularly (many for dozens of years!), older folks, all races and ethnic groups, and folks all over the GLBTQA spectrum.  An amazing and wonderful array of God’s children!!  When folks in traditional Catholic parishes moan: “Where are the millennials?”, they need look no further than the Catholic Worker in Des Moines!

Fr. Roy sharing his story of activism and witness to more than 100 people gathered in Des Moines

Fr. Roy sharing his story of activism and witness with more than 150 gathered in Des Moines

The panel we moderated included Rev. Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Rev. Mary Kay Kusner, and two young local women from the Catholic Worker and Drake University, Mary Traxler, Clio Cullison, neither of whom identifies wholeheartedly as Catholic.  We discussed a variety of issues, from the Pope’s commission on deacons to who each one of us finds inspirational in this work.
for blogWe also touched on Dorothy Day, the founder of the CW, for whom women’s ordination was not a big issue.  Of course, she was absolutely a woman of her times, having died in 1980.  A couple of audience members were quick to point out that the CW movement would see women’s ordination as a justice issue, just like racial equity, for sure, but that feeding the poor and listening to every person we meet is what they are all about.
Board Member, Marion Flynn moderating the panel: "More Listening, Less Judging: Imagining a Church of Gender Justice"

Board Member, Marion Flynn moderating the panel: “More Listening, Less Judging: Imagining a Church of Gender Justice”

I told the story of my college graduation, at Newton College of the Sacred Heart.  Dorothy Day was our commencement speaker, and I spoke on at the same podium.  She was a powerful and challenging speaker.  My talk is lost to eternity, but I know my call to the priesthood was apparent to everyone (and it was, after all, 1974, when we thought priesthood for women and married people would soon be a reality).  After the ceremony, Dorothy Day approached me, and asked me to think about the Chicago Catholic Worker, and she offered to make the connection.  As flattered as I was, I also knew that my call was different.  But I also knew that I had met the most significant woman I would ever meet, and that she had blessed my heart.

We are all so grateful to the people at the Des Moines Catholic Worker for the inspiring witness, and congratulate them for 40 years of service to the poor.  We love you all!

Further reading:
Roy Bourgeois in the Des Moines Register: Struggle for justice, equality continues in Catholic Church

Marion Flynn, WOC Board Secretary, studied theology in the 1970’s – and was certain there would be a path to the priesthood, having been called at a very early age.  She has worked as a banker and fundraiser, is active in her parish, and is honored, beyond words, to serve the cause of women’s ordination.  Marion lives in the Chicago area, but was born in Massachusetts.  She holds a BA from Newton College of the Sacred Heart, and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.

This is a report from Pastor Nancy Corran from the Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community (MMACC) on the recent, “Church for Our Daughters” launch at the U.S. bishops’ meeting June 14th, in Huntington Beach. Nancy and several members of the community drove from San Diego to join the action… and then intrepidly took matters into their own hands.

unspecified-2Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community was beautifully represented at the “A Church for Our Daughters” demonstration in Huntington Beach outside the Hyatt Regency where the U.S. Bishops are meeting for their general assembly.  Thank you to those who went, to those who wanted to go, and to all, – it is your spirit we carried with us.

Those connected to MMACC who participated in the march were Carol Kramer, Vinka Valdivia, Evi Quinn, Catherine Murphy, Agatha Graney, Jane Via, Grace and Paul Prine, Tim and Ali Kirkpatrick who invited along Ali’s sister, Amy, and their 2 year old Tess, and me with Elizabeth.  We sang songs with our marching guitarist, WOC board member, Margaret Johnson.  We held posters and pink carnations as we processed along the boardwalk to the back entrance of the Hyatt.  

Our plan was to climb the staircase and cross a bridge into the Hyatt courtyard where bishops would be, but as we approached, staff security were already waiting for us, perched upon the stairs.  It had been decided by the leaders of the demonstration that this particular action would not be confrontational or involve civil disobedience.  While there is certainly place for such action, it was decided to proceed in the Spirit of Pope Francis who called for respectful dialogue and open encounter.  We hoped the bishops might also seize upon this opportunity to respond to the Pope’s exhortation.

Nancy & Tim K, 6-14-16 IMG_0257 (1)

Nancy Corran (and Elizabeth) and Tim Kirkpatrick from MMACC marching toward the Hyatt

Organizing groups from Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR) had: 1) bought a room at the hotel; 2) made lunch reservations at the hotel restaurant for 14; and 3) scheduled an appointment with one of the lead bishops at 1pm to deliver the declaration, extend an invitation to dialogue, and offer him a pink carnation.  However, the booked room did not afford our humble band hotel entry; we were told that our lunch reservation had been cancelled by the hotel; and we were told that the bishop denied making the appointment (although it is unlikely security interrupted the bishop during liturgy to check).  Bottom line, we were forbidden entry.  It was disappointing.  We read our declaration from the steps of the bridge to the Hyatt, about 5 individuals shared profound stories that illustrated the need for change in the church for girls and women, we sang more songs, and shared together in a ministry of presence. (Read Erin Saiz Hanna’s testimony here).

While the group action was unsuccessful in terms of our efforts to engage in dialogue with bishops, it was yet a peaceful witness which disquieted the patriarchy, forcing them to respond to us, even if it was with silence and silencing (and going back on their word).  However, some staffers blocking our entry softened to us and were even seen tapping their feet to our tunes.  The police presence was also supportive.  There were some onlookers from the hotel and on the beach.  Our pink mass stalled at the steps would have been seen from several dozen hotel rooms and balconies.  The Co-Directors of WOC, Kate and Erin, will send all our invitations and a bouquet of carnations to the bishops with our regret we could not meet.

Tess & Elizabeth IMG_0263

Tess and Elizabeth holding their ground

After disbanding, Carol K. Vinka, and I (with Elizabeth) decided to go into the hotel through the front door.  We were cautioned by the hotel not to take our carnations or paper invitations as we would not be permitted to hand anything to the bishops.  We walked into the hotel, still very pink looking (we all wore pink, the color of the campaign) and were permitted entry.  In the courtyard we saw a few bishops, including Bishop Bob McElroy, San Diego’s own!  After he got off the phone, we approached him. Carol initiated the conversation and explained that we were from his diocese and we were at the Hyatt with the campaign.  He expressed support for what we stood for, shared that there was (hidden) support at every level for our concerns, and believed the church needs to change.  Carol shared that her daughter had left the church and had no interest in returning.  He said he was surprised not more had left (!).  We would have spoken longer than the few minutes we had with him (as we had more dialogue in us!), but he had another phone call.

The four of us sat down to have a drink. Providentially, at just that time, all the bishops passed in front of us, mostly in twos, across the patio from the hotel lobby to the conference room where they were gathering.  I was able to approach about 4 of them individually.  I introduced myself, shared very briefly about our campaign, and encouraged greater support for girls and women in the church.  Vinka also shared with another bishop who declared, “I don’t support that.”  She also chatted with two other guests at the hotel (in German) who wondered at our pink presence in the midst of a sea of bishops.  Happily, they were very supportive!

We were told several (we do not know how many) bishops were made aware of our campaign and demonstration beforehand (which may have been the reason for the systematic shut down), so we hope our presence in pink inside the protective hotel walls may have made a few more bishops pause in wonder, if only for a moment.


Nancy Corran holds a Diploma in Theology from Oxford and a MDiv from San Francisco Theological Seminary of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley.  She received scholarships to continue studies in biblical languages at the GTU and also in exegesis, church history, theology, and praxis at the Universite of Neuchatel. Having long been attracted to many aspects of Catholicism, but holding untenable the church’s theology and treatment of women, Nancy made a profession of faith into the Catholic Church as embodied by MMACC during the Easter Vigil liturgy in 2010.  A member of MMACC from its first gathering, and having worked as a pastoral assistant at MMACC for 3 years, the community called her to ordination in 2010.  She was ordained on July 31, 2010.

The following “A Church for Our Daughters” testimony was given outside of the USCCB meeting in Huntington, CA on June 14, 2016 by WOC Co-Director, Erin Saiz Hanna:  

This September I am expected to bring a baby girl into this world. Like so many moms, I dream of a world

Left to right: Glen Northern, Regina Bannan, Erin Saiz Hanna

Left to right: Glen Northern, Regina Bannan, Erin Saiz Hanna

that is better — more equal — for our daughters than the one we had growing up. As an advocate for women and girls, it has been my mission to help shatter glass ceilings wherever the exist in Church and society.

As a young girl, I used to play priest all time. I baptized Cabbage Patch Kid dolls and the officiated the wedding ceremonies of neighborhood pals. I knew I could make a great Catholic priest but I also knew that because of my gender that being a priest was simply not an option. For many young girls this translates as “well, there must be something wrong with me then” or “I guess I am not good enough because I’m a girl.” The phrase “if she can see it, she can be it” is powerful one. The only way to truly empower girls is for them to see women in all levels of leadership and authority.

Having spent my entire childhood in a Catholic bubble – a small Catholic school, in a small town, in the smallest state and the most Catholic one  – it wasn’t until college that I saw an Episcopal woman priest in clerics. I sobbed throughout her entire service. The sight of woman who was able to answer her call to serve was a sight that I had never realized I was so desperate to see and was missing in my life. And yet I left that day knowing woman priests were still not an option in my religion.

My 5 year old son, Nico, has been fortunate enough to grow up knowing Roman Catholic Womenpriests. I am grateful to the RCWP/ARCWP movement for modeling what our institutional Church could be. He only recently learned that these women are not welcomed and excommunicated by the official Roman Catholic Church. It makes absolutely no sense to him because he knows them as good, compassionate priests and friends. It’s hard as mom to sit down and explain to my child that this is what sexism is and looks like.

Women’s leadership is imperative in all aspects of church and society and it is long overdue that our Church opens the door to the ordination of women.

We call out sexism when we see it in our schools, the workplace, and in politics, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, far too many look the other way. Women make up over 80% of parish administrators positions and yet, women are leaving the church in record numbers at the same time. Young girls are told that “you can be anything that want to be” and they believe it and see it to be true. How can I tell my daughter she can grow up to be anything she wants if it is not true in our own religion?

Earlier this month, here in the U.S., girls witnessed a woman become the presumptive presidential nominee of major party for the first time in our history. Ceilings are shattering in our society but the stained-glass ceiling of our Church is a thick as ever. Many young girls will not stay in Church that denies them equal dignity and worth. Our church has crisis on its hands and the only way we can begin to solve the crisis is by working together to shatter the stained-glass ceiling and to build a church for daughters that is truly justice and equal.

I pray the our Bishops receive our message today.