Today is my 3-year anniversary on staff at the Women’s Ordination Conference! Hoping you’re the nostalgic-type like me, and will enjoy a little walk down memory lane together. It is because of our members that I have the opportunity to do so many incredible things around the world, with such amazing colleagues — thank you for your support and encouragement. Three years is not long in this business, but a lot has happened…
17th Annual World Day of Prayer for Women’s Ordination, outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Just over one month on the job, on March 28, 2011, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, M.M. is threatened with dismissal from Maryknoll Community, given 15 days to recant.
Part of working at WOC is receiving urgent faxes from Fr. Roy. Anyone who knows Roy knows that he has managed to be the most popular priest in the movement without personally using a computer. Basically, Fr. Roy is both prophetic and a genius.
My first meeting with Fr. Roy Bourgeois, in Washington DC., April 6, 2011. (R-L: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, Erin Saiz Hanna, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, Kate Conmy, & Emily Cohen (WOC Intern/Loretto Volunteer)
Just a few days later on April 8, 2011, at 4:30 EST, over 100 Catholics joined Fr. Bourgeois outside the Vatican Embassy in Washington, DC as he publicly responded to Maryknoll leadership.
In his response, Fr. Bourgeois stated, “It is my conscience that compels me to say publicly that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is a grave injustice against women, against our Church and against our God who calls both men and women to the priesthood…. In essence, you are telling me to lie and say I do not believe that God calls both men and women to the priesthood. This I cannot do, therefore I will not recant.”
At the ACC in June 2011
Throughout the Spring and Summer of 2011 WOC executive director Erin Hanna was on maternity leave, and I spent my time in the WOC office with Loretto Volunteer Emily Cohen, who was sharing her time with WOC and the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). I traveled to Detroit for the American Catholic Council, and got to meet many WOC members and supporters there, and was asked to introduce keynote speaker Michael Fox.
In early August 2011, Fr. Roy received his second canonical warning from Maryknoll, and we began planning an international delegation to travel to Rome to deliver a petition in his support. In October we traveled to Rome and delivered the petition to high-level Vatican official, and and helped arrange a private meeting with Fr. Roy and the official, along with
International Delegation in Rome, October 2011
lawyer Bill Quigley, and Women’s Ordination Worldwide representative, Therese Korturbosh. This was my first time meeting many of our international supporters and also my first time to the Catacombs of Priscilla — recently renovated and in the news for early frescoes of women celebrating the Eucharist.
Oh, and as you may recall, there was a little kerfuffle outside St. Peter’s as well. WOC Executive Director, Erin Hanna, Fr. Roy Bourgeois, and Marion Dugian were detained by Italian police at the Vatican.
Women’s Ordination Worldwide representatives detailed outside St. Peter’s
Calling the US, UK, and Irish embassies.
The Progressive Catholic Coalition at SOA Watch 2011
After we returned from Rome I represented WOC at the School of the America’s Watch in Ft. Benning, Georgia, where I got to not only interact with many WOC activists for the first time, but also meet Martin Sheen, who said, “Are you the Pink Cloud people?!”
Aileen Hayes, former WOC Board member, Martin Sheen
Fast forward a bit to April 2012, the Congregation of Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) launched a crackdown on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), an umbrella group that represents more than 80 percent of the 57,000 women religious in the United States. The next day, in the WOC office the coalition Nun Justice was born.
Kate and Erin outside the USCCB meeting in Atlanta, GA
The petition, which gathered over 60,000 signatures, and inspired thousands of Catholic to demonstrate each Tuesday in May 2012, and again in August at the LCWR meeting in St. Louis… began a revolution. Erin and I delivered the petition to the US Bishops at their Meeting in Atlanta, GA in June 2012.
Kate and Erin Reviewing the footage!
In November of the same year, Fr. Roy was formally removed from the Maryknoll order, marking this a difficult and painful time for the women’s ordination movement, and Fr. Roy.
In December 2012, to lighten our spirits we launched our first music video, “Ordain a Lady” — which was viewed over 100,000 times in the first two weeks!
That’s my hand!
As I am writing this, everything feels like it is going in fast motion, but on February 11th, 2013, Pope Benedict announced his resignation, and just over a month later, Pope Francis was elected. WOC arranged an international action in Rome on the opening day of the conclave, raising pink smoke over the Vatican, bearing witness to the exclusion of women from ordination, and decision-making roles in the Vatican.
It has been almost a year since Pope Francis was elected, and now we can all quote Francis Headlines: “Who am I to judge?” or “The door is closed.” or “We must develop a deeper theology of women.” But in other headlines-news this past year, dozens and dozens of women were ordained in the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement, marriage equality victories have been realized in (very Catholic states) across the country, young DC Catholics and Catholics of all ages are creating church together in fulfilling ways, and the Vatican (kind of) asked for lay input in preparation for the Synod on the Family. But, we also lost some of our strongest feminist s-heros during these years, many of our peace and justice friends are serving time for their witness, the USCCB continues to play politics with health care access, theologians continue to be disciplined for their work, priests and bishops involved in sex abuse and its cover-up continue to be protected, while survivors are denied retributions, and faithful Catholics continue to be marginalized, fired, and denied the sacraments. There is burn-out, exhaustion, and disgust entangled in all of this. But we pray on…
From the floor of the WOC office…
So much of the work of WOC happens behind the scenes, and so much of the work
… to St. Peter’s Square!
that Catholics do is quiet and unsung, thank you for indulging me in this short visual history of some of my personal highlights. It is difficult to capture so much of what these years have meant to me spiritually and personally, but it isn’t difficult to know that it is thanks to the people and support of this movement. Thank you!
Leave some of your favorite memories in the comments below!