On the weekend of March 24, 2012 over 40,000 Catholics gathered in Anaheim, CA for the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference. For the 2nd year in a row Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Call to Action-LA and the local Women’s Ordination Conference group gathered outside the event to call for women’s ordination. We held banners, passed out information from all three groups and engaged in many conversations with conference goers about women’s ordination and other church justice topics. At noon on Saturday about 40 people gathered to collectively read a prayer for inclusive vocations. By the end of the event we had handed out over 3,000 RCWP bookmarks and hundreds of pieces of information about Call to Action and Women’s Ordination Conference.
Conversations ranged from a simple thumbs up, to a quick I support you and thanks for being here, to in depth conversations about who we (womenpriests) are, how we came about, what we stand for and why the inclusion of women as priests is important in the church justice movement. Not surprisingly, there were also those who said the ordination of women was not possible and advocating for it was wrong, but those opinions were few compared to the overwhelming amount of support that was expressed to all of us who stood outside the convention center.
There were two encounters from the weekend that I found particularly moving and have stayed with me since. The first was an encounter with a young man, maybe 17, who walked up to me, said thank you and then spontaneously hugged me for standing up for the rights of women in the church. He shared with me that as a young gay man he understood the need to speak up for our rights within the church and the importance of not being afraid to be a clear presence, even when the “church” has rejected us. He was obviously moved by seeing our presence and understood the importance of standing up for church justice.
The other encounter that I found particularly moving was when a man who had accompanied two young women from his parish, to the Congress, brought them to me and began to ask questions about who we were and what we stood for. After a bit of conversation he very strongly said, “Here are two women who should join you. Give them some information.” I complied and we continued to converse about women’s ordination and how important it is to have women present on the altar. As I have experienced in many other conversations with those in the millennial generation, they didn’t understand why church authorities have refused to ordain women or even have a discussion about it. They expressed their frustration at the church’s refusal to recognize the rights of women who have been called to the priesthood. As with many other conversations, this one also ended with a mutual thank you and spontaneous hug of support. Again, the message was clear that these young women and the man who accompanied them understood the importance of standing up for women’s ordination in the frame of women’s rights in general.
The many conversations, those of us present at the Congress had with the participants clearly showed that the tide has risen and cannot be reversed. The people have accepted women as priests. They do not see us as a threat to the church, rather, many of those we spoke with see the presence of women priests as a necessity.
Jennifer O’Malley is an ordained Roman Catholic deacon in active preparation for her ordination as a priest in the Fall of 2012 with the Roman Catholic Womenpriests. She is an active member of CTA and the Women’s Ordination Conference. See the video coverage from the Congress. Jen can be reached at jomally72 (at) gmail (dot) com