Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"Mt. Airy activist’s book blasts Catholic Church leaders" by Len Lear, Chestnut Hill Local

“One thing you should know is that I’m not angry with the church,” said DiFranco, who says Mass at the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene in Drexel Hill. “I got over that a long time ago. I feel sorry for them, actually, because they are working against history, and this time history is going to win.”
by Len Lear
“I belonged to St. Vincent de Paul Church (in Germantown) for 20 years or so. St. Vincent ‘s is the only parish I ever attended within the institutional church that ever addressed racism and poverty as part of the gospel. Sadly, they could not address misogyny, which is why I eventually left. The institution, as you might know, treats people who support women’s ordination with a very heavy hand, frightening people who might speak up otherwise.
“This, of course, also compromises the gospel. Pedophiles are treated better. This is true even under Pope Francis. Priests who have supported women’s ordination have not yet been reinstated. While Francis calls for a ‘deep theology’ of women, he ignored the deep theology developed by women over the past 50 years. He appears blind to the decreasing numbers of male clergy. Because of this, the parish closings will continue.”
These are the opinions of Eileen DiFranco, 65, a Mt. Airy resident for the last 41 years and author of the recently published book, “How To Keep Your Parish Alive,” about her experience founding an “outside-the-pale Catholic community” (her words). In the book she offers parishioners of parishes slated by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to close “a way to remain open, albeit in a ‘resurrected’ fashion.”
DiFranco, a long-time critic of the church hierarchy, explained her views at a book signing event Sunday, Nov. 12, at 15 Westview St. in West Mt. Airy, the site of an “intentional Eucharistic community, Sanctuary of Peace.” This is one of the relatively new communities that exist outside of the traditional Catholic Church. There is another similar community that meets in Flourtown.
“Almost all of us were observant Catholics who could no longer support an institution that covered up child abuse and continues to regard gay people as lesser human beings,” said DiFranco. “These new communities are not hierarchical; they ordain women and use non-sexist language. We are men and women, gay and straight. I think these small communities might be the future of the church.”
DiFranco, a mother of four children, grew up in Port Richmond and attended Nativity BVM grade school, Hallahan High School and Immaculata University. She has an R.N. from the Chestnut Hill Hospital School of Nursing (now closed), an M.A. Ed. from Arcadia University in Glenside and an M. Div from the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia in Mt. Airy.
Two years ago DiFranco retired from the School District of Philadelphia, where she worked as a school nurse for 25 years. She currently substitutes two days a week. After belonging to the women’s ordination conference for some years, a friend and former Catholic who is now a Lutheran pastor, suggested that she attend the Lutheran Seminary, which she did.
“Then, my colleagues and classmates told me to pursue ordination,” she explained. “I met with Patricia Fresen, a Roman Catholic Women Priest bishop, who asked me if I’d like to be ordained. And so I was. Another interesting story is how Patricia’s treatment by the church differed from the way the church treated pedophile priests who were often given stipends and paid health insurance by their dioceses. Patricia was thrown out of the Dominican order after being a nun for 40 years with no means of support. It ruined her health.”
In 2007 DiFranco became one of two female pastors at the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene in Drexel Hill. DiFranco had been ordained along with seven other women by a group called the Roman Catholic Womenpriests at a ceremony in Pittsburgh in 2006. Her ordination prompted then-Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Anthony Rigali to send her a letter stating that she was going to become a public scandal.
In 2010, Roman Catholic Womenpriests officially responded to Vatican comments that listed the ordination of women priests as “delicta graviora,” placing it in its list of most serious crimes against Roman Catholic canon law, the same category as sexual abuse of children by priests.
“They’re doing a terrible job,” said DiFranco about the male priests who have led the church since its inception about 2,000 years ago. “I don’t have to leave [the church] because we have disagreements. Mature people should be able to talk about disagreements … we’re changing the model of the Roman Catholic priest.”
Even as a 6-year-old girl, DiFranco questioned some church traditions. Why couldn’t she be an altar server? “I felt like if the boys could do it, I could do it. I thought, ‘I’m just as smart as they are.’” But “questions weren’t really encouraged,” she said about voicing her opinion. She learned “This is the way God wanted it. What could you say?” She was a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mt. Airy but left 31 years ago
and then attended St. Vincent de Paul for 20 years.
“I admire those who speak truth to power,” she told us in an interview last week. “Church and state likewise like to think that they are special and not worthy of criticism. You might have seen that in Archbishop Chaput’s recent letter to the Inquirer. The church refuses to recognize the harm they have knowingly, willingly and ruthlessly done to women and would rather become a small group of like minded people rather than change and follow the gospel.
“This is the reason I wrote my book. The church is not acting in the best interest of either the people or God or the gospel when they close down parishes following a business model rather than a Jesus model. The people should keep their parishes open in a new, resurrected mode without the consent or approval of the bishops. Catholics have done this for millennia while the church smeared them, persecuted them and often killed them.
“My book is a handbook for those brave souls who are willing to break the bonds of what I consider to be an anti-woman, homophobic church that hurts people.”
DiFranco now celebrates Mass at the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene, which has been in existence for 10 years. They meet every Sunday in the McBurney Chapel of Drexel Hill United Methodist Church and every Saturday, 5 p.m., at Epworth United Methodist Church in Palmyra. “Nobody can excommunicate you from the love of God,” said DiFranco.
For more information about the Community of Saint Mary Magdalene, visit For more information about Roman Catholic Womenpriests, visit DiFranco can be reached at


Together in Thanks, Together in Faith, Caring for the Earth Together: Venice Interfaith Community Service Thanksgiving Service

Come to the Table of Plenty: A Prayerful Reflection and Dialogue on Thanksgiving Eve 2017 for Interfaith Service by Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP

1.    Play Song/
Words and music by John Michael Talbot
 Come to the feast of heaven and earth!
 Come to the table of plenty!
 God will provide for all that we need
 Here at the table of plenty
O come and sit at my table
Where saints and sinners are friends
I wait to welcome the lost and lonely
To share the cup of my love
O come and eat without money
Come to drink without price
My feast of gladness will feed your spirit
With faith and fullness of life.
My bread will ever sustain you
Through days of sorrow and woe
My wine will flow like a sea of gladness
To flood the depths of your soul

1.   Reflection
“There was a lady who was visiting a church one Sunday.
The sermon seemed to go on forever, and many in the congregation were dozing off. After the service, she walked up to a very sleepy-looking gentleman, extended her hand in greeting, and said, "Hello, I'm Gladys Dunn."And the gentleman replied, "You're not the only one, ma'am, I'm glad it's done too!"

I assure you, my sisters and brothers, this will not be your experience! At Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community, our presiders, including our ordained priests, offer a homily starter which is followed by the community participating in a shared homily. After over 2000 years, Catholics in our communities have a lot to say about how God’s Word is impacting their lives. We believe that the Spirit of God speaks through the whole community and is guiding us as we live a new model of inclusivity, hospitality in our communities where all are welcome.

So in light of this tradition, this evening I will begin my homily with a guided meditation on reflecting together on the many blessings of our lives, our earth and our calling to to be a “table of plenty” for those we meet each day and for those we will never know. 


“The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy,” says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. "Gratitude can change our world in immensely important ways, because if you're grateful you're not fearful, and if you're not fearful you're not violent. If you're grateful you act out of a sense of enough and not of a sense of scarcity and you are willing to share."  

David Steindl-Rast: Want to be happy? Be grateful

The God of Inclusive Love invites us to celebrate the wholeness and humanity of everyone especially our sisters and brothers who are poor and marginalized and in need of us providing a table of plenty for them.


So, on this Thanksgiving Eve, I invite you to reflect on gratitude, name the Table of Plenty in your life, in creation and give thanks as we care for the Earth together.

(Rachel’s Song plays softly in background)

3. Meditation at Table of Plenty
Take a few minutes to breathe deeply and journey into the depths of your soul, the still point of your being, where you relax in the Presence of the Holy One who loves you beyond your wildest dreams at the Table of Plenty…

Open yourself to experience the boundless love, healing energy, and blessings of the Holy One within you…  Be aware of any thoughts, images or feelings that fill your heart…

Give thanks for the great blessings of your life…  family… friends, loved ones…special people ..our earth. Give thanks for each one in the circle of love at the Table of Plenty…

In your prayerful imagination, see creation in an expanded circle around the Table of Plenty… Give thanks for the boundless blessings of each living creature and our earth…. Be aware of any thoughts, images or feelings that fill your heart…

Now reflect on any ways you can live each day with a grateful heart and share your blessings at the Table of Plenty with others especially those in need as we care for the earth together...

As you are ready, jot down on your card, or make a mental note of your special blessings that you wish to name at your Table of Plenty as we now bring our meditation to a close…

4. Sharing in small groups/Community sharing with all: time permitting
Share with onenear you- your greatest blessings, practices that help you live gratefully each day, and ways we can share our blessings with others.

5. Conclude with song again

Bridget Mary Meehan, 703-505-0004,

"Five Reasons This Catholic Feminist is Thankful" by Celia Wexler, Huffington Post, My Response

My Response: As a Catholic feminist, I am grateful for every courageous person in the international Roman Catholic Women Priests Movement and our inclusive faith communities that are offering a new model of a "discipleship of equals"  in the 21st century. We are a holy shakeup leading the church toward justice and equality now.
While I give thanks with Celia Wexler for Pope Francis for all the reasons she mentions, I also share her honest assessment of his lack of progress on women's equality, including women priests, in the church.  However, I am hopeful that women deacons may be a first step toward the full equality of women, but when will Francis take this courageous step, given the current reactionary push of the Vatican Curia?
Bridget Mary Meehan ARCWP,

"I don’t know about you, but I never realized how many male sexual predators held positions of power in government, the arts and the media until the tsunami of headlines this month. It is demoralizing to know that thousands of women have endured shame and great pain in silence for years.

In no way do I want to downplay the impact of their experience, nor to minimize the importance of this ongoing conversation men and women now are having.

But it’s Thanksgiving. And even a Catholic feminist has to take a breath, during this month of shocking news, to take stock and give thanks.

I’m thankful for Pope Francis. Nope, he’s not the pope of my dreams. He has demonstrated, more than once, that he does not truly understand women, and he’s stuck on the “women as mother” role model. He also has closed the door on the ordination of women in the priesthood, really an unforgivable lapse in judgement and even common sense.

But at least this pope calls us to help the poor, relieve income inequality and care for the earth. It’s nice to see social justice trump sexual mores, at least as far as the Vatican is concerned.

I’m also grateful that the pope recently reaffirmed the primacy of individual conscience in making moral decisions, something Vatican II proclaimed quite clearly more than half a century ago.

In recent remarks responding to ecclesiastical critiques of his encyclical on marriage and the family, the pope said there was an important difference between informing the faithful and dictating what they should do. He reminded them that they should support couples as they strive to make the decisions for their families, but he made clear that priests’ dicta cannot “substitute” for what their hearts tell them is the right thing to do.

And he’s been good at taking the clergy down a peg or two. He’s spoken out on the evils of clericalism. He’s chastised priests who “feel they are superior,” who “are far from the people” and unable to respond to their needs.

I’m thankful for feminist theologian Mary Hunt. Mary’s vast and sophisticated store of knowledge is eclipsed only by her warmth and generosity. We met after my publisher asked Mary to give me a blurb for my book, Catholic Women Confront Their Church: Stories of Hurt and Hope (Rowman & Littlefield). She liked the book, I think, because it aimed to talk to other Catholic women in the pews. We are not theologians. We just know that we’ve been second-class citizens in the church for too long.

Mary’s erudition has not prevented her from writing from the heart. Her own life exemplifies the power of love and support.

I’m thankful for my daughter, who is a fierce feminist. Valerie wears a necklace that says, “Smash the Patriarchy.” I do not think that I ever will be the feminist she is. You can’t entirely escape the reality of growing up in the ’60s and ’70s. But she forgives me for my lapses. I am so proud of the work she’s doing on racial and social justice. Seeing her find her voice and develop her leadership skills gives me great joy.

I am thankful for the life and legacy of Barbara Blaine. Barbara was one of the Catholic feminists I profiled in my book. The 61-year-old founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) died this year, far too young. Barbara’s unflinching honesty and her vivid embrace of the gospel message to love your neighbor touched thousands of people over the course of her life. I think the bishops and cardinals who tried to suppress her fight to protect children from sexual predators in the church will be quite surprised to see Barbara in heaven, as they proceed to that other place. (You know who are you are!)

I am especially grateful for the kindly editors who gave me my first break in journalism. I started out as the only reporter for a Catholic weekly in Upstate New York. Our executive editor was a priest, but my immediate supervisors were laymen. They gave me a lot of freedom, and offered me many opportunities to develop my skills. Our staff cartoonist even taught me how to drive, and got me to my driving test, even though he was battling the flu. They never harassed me or made me feel uncomfortable in any way. I think they would have blushed at the thought."

Celebration of Marriage James Cook & Richard Cinanni Saturday, November 4, 2017 5:00 pm Pompano Beach Surf Club, Pompano Beach, FL Officiants: Janet Blakeley, ARCWP & Sally Brochu, ARCWP


Processional:  “Annie's Song”


(Sally) Good afternoon everyone! Welcome! I am Sally Brochu and this is Janet Blakeley.
We are Roman Catholic Women Priests and friends of Jim and Richard. We are delighted to be here today.

We gather here in this beautiful, sacred place to celebrate one of the happiest occasions in life -- the marriage of two people who have loved and continue to love each other very much.  

Jim and Richard, today’s celebration is a formal and solemn recognition of the relationship you have shared with each other for 35 years. We celebrate your constant love for one another and it is our joy to witness, to be part of, to bless and celebrate this day.


Call to Celebration and Opening Prayer

(Janet) Richard and James, you have come here today as individuals.  You have done so, not to lose - or even blend – your own distinct uniqueness, but to bring out and develop the best that each of you brings to the other.
We are here this afternoon to share in your happiness and to ask God to bless you all the days of your lives.  We celebrate with you as you share the outward expression of your inward union of hearts -- the union that has already been created by your friendship, your respect, and your love for one another over the  years.

And so we pray:   We praise you, O God, Creator of the universe. Hear our prayers for Jim and Richard.  With faith in you and in each other, they reaffirm their love for one another this afternoon.  Give them your blessing that they may live forever the love they experience for each other now.

We ask this blessing from you, the Creator and Source of all life and all that is good . Amen


(Sally) At this time, Richard and Jim wish to remember those members of their families and friends whose spirits we recognize and celebrate, especially Richard's brother, Michael Cinanni.  All are present, in a meaningful way, at this celebration - because they had a positive impact on their lives and are in their hearts this afternoon. We express our gratitude by a moment of silence. 

The Couple’s Statements of Intentions.

(Janet) At this time I will ask Richard and James to state – clearly – their intention for one another in this ceremony and afterward, I  ask all gathered here, as witnesses to this wedding, to offer your love and to support them in this decision.

 Before God and us, James and Richard, I ask you to affirm your willingness and intention to enter into this covenant of marriage and, therefore, to share with one another all the joys and sorrows of this relationship, whatever the future may hold.

James, do you intend to give Richard your deepest friendship and love, not only when you are feeling bright and alive as you do now, but also when you may be feeling sad and low? And do you intend to love him faithfully as long as you both live?  [James]:  I do.

Richard, do you intend to give James your deepest friendship and love, not only when you are feeling bright and alive as you do now, but also when you may be feeling sad and low?  And do you intend to love him faithfully as long as you both live? [Richard]:  I do.

 Consent and Exchange of Wedding Vows

(Sally) James and Richard, you have declared your intentions to continue to share your future together.  Will you now share your promises to do that before God? [James and Richard]:  We will.

 Richard and James, please join hands. As you know, the vows contain no hidden power within themselves. It is to the extent that they express - in words - your intentions and commitments to each other that they have real meaning.  These, your mutual commitments, are, indeed, the first wedding gifts that you will give to each another. 

[James]: (your personal vows) spoken

[Richard]: (your personal vows) sung

(Cover their joined hands with stoles, a symbol of the sacredness of this bond.)
[All please extend an arm in blessing]:   O God, bless all of us here this afternoon as we offer our prayerful and loving support to this marriage.  Bless James and Richard as they pledge their lives to each other.  With faith in you and in each other, may they always demonstrate to us and to one another the love we witness this afternoon.  And may their love continue to grow, and be a true reflection of your love for us.  Amen.

Blessing and Exchange of Rings

(Janet)  Now that James and Richard have made their promises to one another, they will also share with one another a symbol of their relationship, the traditional wedding rings. Each ring, an unending circle, is a sign of their everlasting commitment to each other.

Abigail Rose, our very special ring bearer, will you please bring forth and hold the rings.

(raise hands in blessing)
Let us bless these rings!   O God, these rings are circles, symbols of holiness, perfection and peace.  We bless these rings in your name so that they may be signs of unity, of joining and of encirclement. They have no beginning and no end.   We ask that you strengthen Richard and James so that they may keep faith with each other in unbroken loyalty, remain in peace with you according to your will, and live together in mutual love.  Amen.

Abigail, please give Richard's ring to Jim. James, repeat after me:

[James]:  Richard, take this ring / as a sign of my love and fidelity./ I will continue to love you always. / Be my best friend, / my love, / and my lifelong companion./

Abigail, please give Jim's ring to Richard. Richard, repeat after me:

[Richard]:  James, take this ring / as a sign of my love and fidelity. / I will continue to love you always. / Be my best friend, / my love, / and my lifelong companion./

 Blessing of the Couple

(Sally) Please join me in a wedding blessing by raising an outstretched arm towards Richard and Jim.

 Richard and Jim, as you join together in marriage, we ask God’s blessing on you and we pray:

 May life always continue to be a shared adventure, marked by a sense of personal freedom as well as mutual responsibility.

 May you find in each other companionship as well as love, understanding as well as compassion, and challenge as well as agreement.

 May the home you have already established be an island where the pressures of the world can be sorted out and brought into focus…where tensions can be released and understood…and where the warmth of humor and love puts crisis into perspective. 

Like this chuppah that you stand under, may your home be filled with love and may it be wide open to welcome all family and friends who enter and feel the warmth of your hospitality.

 And above all, may you continue to find an ever richer joy in loving and learning together, in the future as in the past.  May you have love, and may you find it in loving one another.  Amen.

Pledge of Support:

(Janet) Jim and Richard, please turn toward your family and friends.

A marriage cannot grow strong and mature without the support of family and friends. I ask all of you who are gathered here as witnesses of this marriage, to make a commitment to them. Please answer “We will”.

Will you support  Jim and Richard  with your love, encouragement and support? (We will)
Will you uphold them when they falter, encourage them when they triumph, comfort them when they grieve, strengthen them in every good resolve, and do everything within your power to support and affirm their life together? (We will)

Announcement of Marriage

(Sally)  James and Richard, it is our joy to witness, to be part of, to together bless and celebrate your wedding.

You may now share a kiss.

We are grateful that we can be the first to proclaim that you, Richard, and you, James, are a married couple. Go now and continue to celebrate your special day.

Breaking of the Glass   Larry, will you please explain the meaning of the breaking of the glass.

Response by all : Mazel Tov! (Congratulations)

Recessional:  “Kokomo”