And speaking of women's ordination...
By Anthony Anamelechi
July 15, 2008
Fort Myers resident Judith A.B. Lee, known as "Pastor Judy" among her Church in the Park congregation, will be ordained Sunday as a priest - at the risk of being excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
Lee is one of three women venturing to Boston to receive their Holy Orders through the Roman Catholic Women Priests organization.
The Catholic News Agency reported the Vatican's stance on the issue.
"Any women who attempt 'ordination' or any bishops who attempt to 'ordain' women are automatically excommunicated from the Church by their actions," the Vatican declared in May.
Canon Law 1024 also states that "A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly."
Still, Lee said she is excited about this new stage in her spiritual development.
"There's a bittersweetness," she said, "but beyond that, there's peace."
The ordination will be held at the Church of the Covenant, a non-Catholic church with dual membership in the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA), in Boston.
Gloria Carpeneto of Baltimore and Gabriella Velardi Ward of New York City will be ordained also.
The Roman Catholic Women Priests is an international initiative within the church to support women and men who are theologically qualified, committed to an inclusive model of the church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister within the Roman Catholic Church.
Bridget Mary Meehan, spokeswoman and member of the organization, said women are called to the priesthood in the same manner as men through serving the people of God.
Meehan said the group's members have been excommunicated by the church.
"There's no question that we're violating Vatican law," Meehan said, "but we are doing it in prophetic obedience to the spirit."
In North America, the group has 30 female priests, 12 deacons, 18 candidates for ordination and one bishop.
Lee said the group is breaking in good conscience a rule that they say discriminates against women.
"As Rosa Parks did when she sat on the bus," Lee said, "we are sitting on the bus."
Lee said she was raised a Methodist but converted to Catholicism in 1991.
In 1998, she worked at Florida Gulf Coast University and helped to develop the master's of social work program. She holds a doctorate of ministry degree and a doctorate in social welfare.
Lee said she has a twinge of sadness about not being recognized by the Catholic Church. She said she is "praying the church will open their eyes and their ears."
Lee's Church in the Park ministry hold services every Friday night in Fort Myers' Lions Park.
She said the church offers food, clothing and counseling to more than 100 members, the majority of the congregation being homeless.
The Rev. Walter Fohs of Lamb of God Church in Estero said Lee more than deserves the ordination. Lamb of God holds joint services with Lee's congregation.
"She is tireless in her work at Church in the Park," Fohs said.
He said the ordination is also vital to the Catholic community as "a necessary sign of the future of the church."
Fohs said, without criticism of the Catholic Church, that a Christian ministry "has to be inclusive and speak to a wider population."
Lee's congregation has different backgrounds with members seeking help and guidance.
"Everybody loves her," Kenneth Summersett said.
Summersett, who attends the Friday services, said Lee is willing to help.
"I don't know what I would do if I didn't have her around," he said.