Lillian Lewis, ordained Roman Catholic Womanpriest
News of Lillian Lewis’ ordination by the Roman Catholic Womenpriests led to reflection about the many men and women who are profound ministers in my life. If they chose, I would support them in their call to the priesthood. Not all one billion worldwide Catholics can relate well to men. Furthermore, not all men are comfortable giving a sermon, and some might even agree that their female counterparts should step in for them. Women may not be competent or comfortable providing counseling that addresses some male issues; concurrently, men who do counsel as Catholic priests may feel similarly—or even inadequate—when it comes to addressing women’s issues.
Personally, both women and men have been influential as faith and life-guiding teachers—in a variety of ways. The Catholic Church has reached a stage where fewer men are called to the priesthood. Although this “personnel problem” may be a catalyst for women being called to the priesthood, this problem is not the sole reason for women seeking ordination Southwest Michigan’s Diocese of Kalamazoo released a document written by Bishop Paul Bradley that explains the impossibility of female ordination within the Catholic Church. He states that this impossibility “can be a difficult teaching for many because the priesthood is often seen through the lens of power and it can be easily forgotten that holiness is the [criterion] of greatness in the Church, not ordination.” Church leadership seems to assume that women seek ordination to gain power, but I view the Roman Catholic Womenpriests as merely seeking equal opportunity among men and women to serve and influence others positively in faith.
Common argument suggests that allowing women to enter the priesthood is a break from tradition—a value upheld proudly by the Catholic Church in a fast-changing society. What I question about the current state of the Catholic Church is its lack of optimism when it comes to weighing the possibility of positive change. This past Memorial Day weekend I experienced the consequences of the diminished availability of Catholic priests first hand. For years, my family and I have attended one of two Sunday morning masses at my grandmother’s home parish in a small summer vacation and farm community. However enjoyable this trip, faith community is important during times of rest and togetherness. We ended up having to travel to a parish in another town and participate in a mass with a priest who commutes between two parishes on a given Sunday in order to fulfill ritual obligation. I was glad to attend mass, but recognize disconnect between the message of a church that prides itself on tradition, and my experience with an unfamiliar community and faith leader.
The ordination of Lillian Lewis along with other women who feel called to the priesthood, and their acceptance by the Catholic Church, could have led to a parish appointment in my grandmother’s community. With a priest (male or female) dedicated to the local parish, a relationship bond could be developed and sustained, allowing return to what used to be a better and well-anchored faith community among permanent residents and visitors alike. Instead, we have an itinerant preacher focused less on the faith of a single community and more on the need to provide ceremony to multiple parishes in a given weekend.
Will Donahue is a student at Alma College, and a third year member of Interfaith Council and Alma Choir.