Saturday, May 28, 2016

HOMILY FOR TEE KASPER’S ORDINATION by Mary Eileen Collingwood, ARCWP


This is the time of new beginnings!
We come together today to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Orders with Terese Rigodanzo-Kasper, our beloved “Tee,” who will stand before you in loving surrender to Spirit-Sophia who has called her forth to be ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic tradition with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. 

In our scripture readings, we find the prophet Isaiah putting these words into the voice of God:
“Forget the events of the past, ignore the things of long ago!  Look, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth—can you not see it?”
Look around, and see the fruits of the Spirit.  Look around and notice the women and men with us today who have been called by God to serve you as ordained priests within this movement.

In the first 300 years of Christianity, women played an active role in church leadership and ministry.  But when Constantine made Christianity a state religion in the fourth century, those prominent roles for women began to fade away and were eventually forbidden.  Why?  Because the State was governed by men, and the men wanted to govern the church.  It took a long time to completely obliterate the existence of ordained women in the Church. The presence of Mother Abbesses, equal in stature with bishops, remained well into the twelfth century in Europe.  

And in the twentieth century, there were women ordained as priests to serve female prisoners behind the Iron Curtain, to bring the sacraments where men could not go.  One woman, Ludmila Javorova, was ordained in December of 1970 by a bishop in the Czechoslovakian underground Catholic Church.  After that era passed, Rome declared the bishops who ordained these women insane, and the women were silenced.  Given that history, celebrating ordination with all of you certainly can be considered something new for our time, for now we have Tee springing forth as our ordinand today!

Our second reading finds Paul writing to the Philippians while he was confined to prison, knowing he could be facing death, or at the very least, the end of his ministry.  His words proclaim the new beginnings of a person nearing a major life transition:

“I run toward the prize…  I give no thought to what lies behind…  My entire attention is on the finish line, the high calling of God revealed in the life and example of Jesus.”
St. Paul looks forward to a new life with the resurrected Jesus!  He imagines a new beginning for himself for all eternity.

And Tee looks around, and knows in her heart that after her anointing today, she will begin her life as a woman priest in the international movement of Roman Catholic women priests.  This is a new age.  It is a renewed Spirit that is raising the consciousness of people.  This is the time to witness women rising up and claiming their rightful place in our Church within a renewed priestly ministry.  Tee’s attention today is definitely on that finish line—following the example of Jesus to become all that she can be in a life of priestly service with the People of God.

The gospel chosen this afternoon announces the new beginnings of a fallen woman.  In this story we find Jesus caught between his own rule of forgiveness and Moses’ law of death.  Despite the fact that this law stated that anyone caught in adultery would be stoned to death, observing the Law of Moses in Jesus’ time meant “de facto” that men could commit adultery but women couldn’t and would be stoned if they were found out.  And what does Jesus do?  He proffers the command:

“Let the person among you who is without sin throw the first stone.”

And one by one, her accusers drifted away.  They all had sinned in their lifetimes.  Jesus condemned no one.  He looked beyond the law and stood in truth before God.  Jesus forgives when all the world condemns.  Jesus renews when all seems destroyed.  Jesus allows this woman to begin again by offering new life—a new beginning—by raising our consciousness of a new life in the Spirit, proclaiming that God’s Law is a law of love.

Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?  Would that our church leaders today could look beyond the man-made laws to discover that women and men stand in their own truth before God as equal members of the Body of Christ, imaging Christ by our very essence of being!

In a few days, women from all over the globe will gather in Rome, Italy, to convene the Women’s Ordination Worldwide Conference.  Miriam Duignan from that organization recently stated:
It was and is social prejudice, and not the tenets of religions themselves, that led to distorted traditions and the exclusion of women.”

My friends, scripture scholars and theologians know this truth.  They know that the early church’s survival depended on the women who rose up to lead and support the ministries of their time.  But we also know that as time marched on, the Catholic Church took on those social prejudices and saturated scripture translations, prayers, doctrine, law and everyday practices with the subordination of women.   
Spiritual author and inspirational speaker, Sr. Joan Chittister, states that our feminist perspective is about bringing:

 “…men and women to the fullness of life and wholeness of soul, for which we were all made ‘in the image and likeness of God.’”
And continues to say:

“Feminism is “the other face of God,”  and that:
“A world without a soft heart lacks any reason to exist.”
“A spirituality that lacks heart, lacks quality of life— is the terminal disease of a patriarchal society.”

Indeed, our entire Roman Catholic tradition would be so very blessed if our Church today prepared a path for women to begin again in taking their rightful place, equal to men as ordained priests, deacons and bishops.
In the words of sacramental theologian, Bernard Cooke:
 “No one else can be the person I am; in the last analysis, no one can keep me from being me… To live this way—alert, aware, concerned, and loving and open to others, free and self-determining—does not come easily.  It is a challenge, a task to be undertaken, a price we have to pay for being truly human.”

And I dare say, women long to be fully human and fully alive, both in society and in our Church.

Tee comes before us as the person she is.  She offers herself as a woman more than familiar with family life, having experienced being a wife, mother, step mother, grandmother, widow, and spiritual seeker.  Her life journey has taken her from the upper peninsula of Michigan, across the Atlantic to Africa, and back again.  With her college degree in management and experience within the senior care industry, she has proven herself as a self-starter and life-long learner.  
Her volunteer efforts include music ministry in her parish and hospital pastoral care.  Although her lifetime studies and experiences have certainly primed her for priesthood, Tee has prepared herself for ordination through her studies in feminist and contemporary theology with certification through the People’s Catholic Seminary.
Yes, today is certainly a day for new beginnings!

Now it springs forth-- can you not see it?  We have all been called to be attentive to this sacred event.

Shall we begin?