Note: In honor of the upcoming Roman Catholic Women Priests episcopate ordinations on October 1st, the Table will run a feature post on both Suzanne Thiel and Jane Via this week. This is the second installment. WOC celebrates this milestone for the RCWP community.
I’ve known Jane Via for 38 years. There was a group of women in San Diego who were meeting to address women’s ordination. I had asked Jane to moderate one of our gatherings focused on inclusive language. Jane was willing but asked me what the fee would be. We had no money and never imagined giving a stipend. Jane agreed that she would moderate this meeting but that it was important for women to learn to value women’s professional contribution as much as we would a man’s. Her words opened up an appreciation for women’s time and knowledge. Our group, WomenSpirit: Catholic Women of San Diego, was about to take a big leap forward in our awareness and consciousness!
Jane remained in WomanSpirit as we explored what it was like to create prayer and ritual together as most of us had never been asked to lead prayer. We grew alongside the wisdom of the Women’s Ordination Conference where we imagined a church with women priests that were ordained in a new priestly ministry. Jane’s knowledge of scripture, her friends in other woman-led congregations and her own hunger for ministry impacted the direction of our group and gave us hope to continue our work for justice in our institutional church.
Action for women’s ordination in September 2015 in Washington, DC (Jane Via, Left)
In her personal life, Jane continued to imagine this inclusive vision and allowed the desire for priesthood to grow in her heart. I remember the phone call when she told me about the Roman Catholic Women Priests organization. Jane was about to be ordained a deacon on the Danube River. It was an electric conversation! Jane then co-founded Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community (MMACC) and she brought into this inclusive group people from so many areas of her life – including some of the original WomanSpirit members who were amazed to see one of our own push through the barriers to actually proclaim her priesthood after all these years.
Jane’s ordination moved MMACC to the next level where we could worship weekly with a woman priest. Our community has evolved under Jane’s thoughtful, knowledgeable hand and encouraged our expansion in thought and deed. It is with unbounded joy that we celebrate Jane, our spiritual community, and RCWP as she takes this next step as ordained bishop, embodying women in priestly and pastoral ministry.