RAPPORT: Affiliated with Women’s Ordination Conference
Thirty years ago, in 1986, 27 women who believed that they were called to ordination, gathered in Rochester NY to explore that call and to do our best to help move the Roman Catholic Church in that direction. Married, single, divorced and members of religious congregations, most of the women have Master of Divinity, some have doctoral degrees or other relevant degrees.
The prior year, 1985, 300 women from around the country had come to the Third WOC Conference in Saint Louis , Missouri. As the direction of the conference moved in visionary ways, a group of practical- minded participants, called the group over in the corner coalesced. By the end of the conference, there was enough momentum to launch this new unnamed group, under the umbrella of WOC and with a commitment to stay the course.
Eventually, the group evolved a name that has lasted: RAPPORT, an acronym for Renewing and Priestly People Ordination Reconsidered Today, and understands itself to be a covenanted community. Some members have left us, new members have joined us.
Now, with the gift and wisdom of age, we continue to be a support community for one another. Our members are involved in a variety of coalitions and organizations that continue to hold as part of their mission the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church.
RAPPORT is now in the process of creating an archive of events, processes, stories and insights that will chronicle this 30 year period with its achievements, setbacks, choices and surprises.
From 1986 to 2009, RAPPORT met twice a year, sometimes piggy-backing on other national meetings such as We Are Church, Women-Church, the November meetings of the US Catholic Bishops and Call to Action.
Agendas included prayer as well as study sessions with canon lawyers, theologians, ecumenical leaders, bishops, and the WOC board. The RAPPORT community studied Eucharist, and explored what formation to a new priestly ministry would be like. The skills of process facilitators helped refine RAPPORT’s way of proceeding.
While our archives will be detailed, we wish to mention here four highlights of RAPPORT’s activities.
- RAPPORT met annually with a small group of bishops, whom we regarded in growing mutual trust. Initially, we told our stories of call. We also heard together speakers on canon law, studies of parishes pastored by women, and international surveys of the readiness of third world churches for women’s ordination.
- RAPPORT committed itself to working with some bishops, for example offering suggestions on the planned NCCB(USCCB) Pastoral Letter on Women’s Concerns. Hundreds of women around the United States participated in listening sessions conducted by diocesan bishops with the goal of providing input. Excitement grew as women saw our views respected and integrated into the first draft of the proposed pastoral. The April 1988 first draft included women’s voices of affirmation of the church and our voices expressing alienation as well. While acknowledging that the male priesthood was “an unbroken tradition” in Catholicism, the draft suggested that “continuing reflection, dialogue and even controversy” on the topic would be valuable. It also asked for the examination of opening the diaconate to women. Nine long years later, after steady opposition from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the fourth and final draft pf the pastoral had deleted women’s voices altogether and replaced them with voices from the Vatican. This final draft was antithetical to understanding of ourselves as women and as disciples of Christ. Eventually, RAPPORT worked with bishops to promote the veto of the pastoral. To their everlasting credit, on November 19, 1992, by a substantial majority, U.S. bishops voted down the final draft of the pastoral.
- WOC was able to locate and bring to the United States for a visit Ludmila Javorova, ordained a priest in the underground church of Czechoslovakia in 1970. A woman deacon from Slovakia, named Magdalena Zahorska, was part of the group that travelled with Ludmila. RAPPORT members spent several fruitful days hearing the remarkable story of that underground church that ordained Ludmila and Magda and what has happened since.
- In 2001, RAPPORT was already studying, promoting, supporting and encouraging women’s ordination to the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church. We are encouraged by recent developments.
By 2002, our work with bishops was over. Most of the Vatican II bishops had retired or died. The appointees of Pope John Paul II were not ready to participate with us. The first of the Danube ordinations of women took place that year. That event took place without changing the relevant canons and moved us into a whole rethinking of what RAPPORT might become. Subsequent discussions brought us to realize that some members of our RAPPORT covenanted community would become Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) and some would continue to wait for and promote the changes in the relevant canons, but RAPPORT as a covenanted community would continue and change as needed. In 2005, following the Second International Conference on the Ordination of Women in Ottawa, Canada, the first diaconal and priestly ordinations of women in North America took place on the Saint Lawrence River, including two members of RAPPORT. Since then, two additional RAPPORT women have been ordained priests. One of them is now a Bishop.
Now RAPPORT meets annually for prayer, study, support and involvement in whatever needs to be done to promote the full inclusion of women in the Church.
We are committed to the struggle for the long haul. We can be reached through the WOC national office.