You can imagine my shock of dismay last week when I checked in with the office through email and was informed of Fr. Roy Bourgeois’ dismissal from the Vatican and from his religious order, the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. If memory serves, the news was broken to me with an “fyi” and my reply went along the lines of “wow, that is sad.” While the skill of eloquence is something I strive for, all such attempts fly out the window in times of shock, sadness and confusion. It was not until later, when I saw Kate and Erin in person and saw the evident weight upon their shoulders, a burden of sadness, and their tear stained cheeks that the reality of his dismissal began to sink in.
As a newcomer to WOC and the women’s ordination movement, I’ve only had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Roy once, at an SOA Watch event held in D.C. a month or so ago. Somehow this renowned Father managed to make me, a simple intern and event attendee, feel like the center of his attention when we spoke. His actions and commitments to human rights, social justice and equality speak enough of him and already left me impressed and excited to meet this man. Yet, as anyone who has even briefly met him will agree, Fr. Roy has that ‘something extra,’ that charisma and genuine affability that draws people in. Despite his fame, for there is no doubting he is a well-known and media-followed priest, Fr. Roy is also extremely approachable and authentic.
I gathered this impression of Fr. Roy after a single hour spent listening to him speak and five minutes chatting with him. When I saw Kate and Erin, I recognized that their sorrow was heightened because they both have long-standing relationships with Fr. Roy, their fellow women’s ordination advocate, companion in the good fight and, most importantly, friend.
Sitting in the office, the day after the dismissal was announced, I was so touched to listen—or sort of eavesdrop—in on a conference call held with a coalition of progressive catholic groups. Every single person on that line was representing a larger group of people who wanted to reach out to and support Fr. Roy. It was on that call that the idea for a pledge came forth. During this holiday season, people are pledging to talk about justice and dignity for women in the Catholic Church and share Fr. Roy’s story. Please join us in this pledge. Fr. Roy risked everything to break the silence of sexism in the Catholic Church. We can begin to break down oppression of silence within ourselves and our communities by bringing the sin of sexism out of the shadows and into the light.
If you would like show further support of Father Roy, you can send him letters of support during these difficult times to: WOC P.O. Box 15057 Washington, DC 20003, attention: Fr. Roy Bourgeois. Additionally, Fr. Roy has written a booklet about his own faith journey and discernment of conscience. He encourages you to use his story as a conversation starter with your own friends, family and community. You can also send copies of the book to your friends, priest, local news editor and others in your community.
Fr. Roy said in a statement after his dismissal, “The Vatican and Maryknoll can dismiss me, but they cannot dismiss the issue of gender equality in the Catholic Church. The demand for gender equality is rooted in justice and dignity and will not go away.” As Fr. Roy remains unwavering in his commitment to equality let us continue to show him our support and continue to move forward in our movement for equality and inclusion.