Monday, February 23, 2009

Jane Via, Roman Catholic Priest

Rosemary Radford Ruether writes the following report on a Catholic church with a woman priest in the San Diego area:

Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community: A Good Church

On February 15 of this year I attended the Sunday Eucharistic liturgy at Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community and preached the sermon on divine Wisdom.
It was one of the best experiences of a worshipping community I have had in a long time. It could be a model of how to be church for many others.
MMACC was founded by Roman Catholic Woman Priest Jane Via in 2005 and currently meets in a Methodist Church in Mission Hills, San Diego, California.
Jane Via did a Ph.D. in Religious Studies at Marquette University and was for some years a professor of Religious Studies at San Diego University, a Catholic institution and was a popular teacher in parishes. She also holds a J.D. from the University of San Diego and works in her "paying job" as a county prosecutor.
When Jane Via heard of the Roman Catholic Women Priest movement in Europe, she recognized her call to become a priest. She went to Europe where she was ordained a deacon in 2004 and two years later as a priest.
Jane decided to found Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community to provide a worshipping community both for herself and her family and also for the many people of Catholic background who felt alienated from the official Roman Catholic Church.
This alienation has many causes; some feel unwelcome because they are gay or lesbian or ex-priests; or because they are turned off by its patriarchal structure, its refusal to accept needed reforms, such as women’s ordination and reproductive rights, and the cover-up of sexual abuse by the clergy.
Such people longed for a worshipping community where they could really be welcomed and feel at home.
Jane was aided in the development of the community and its liturgy by
*Rod Stephens, a liturgist by training who was a priest of the Diocese of Orange County, California for thirty years and served as Director of liturgy for the Diocese.
*Nancy Corran, who holds a Diploma in Theology from Oxford, an MDiv from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California and also studied theology and Biblical languages in Switzerland.
These three members of the Pastoral Team prepare inclusive language readings for the liturgy every Sunday and preach regularly.
In addition to the Pastoral Team, MMACC is governed by a Board of Directors and a nine member elected Community Council.
An education committee sponsors regular lectures or other educational events.
The MMACC is presently working toward a three-day workshop and Town Hall Meeting to discuss plans for further development. Among the topic for discussion will be the development of a succession plan for pastoral leadership, seeking greater diversity of members and increasing the vitality of MMACC in the larger community.
About ninety people attend MMACC regularly, with more at times of special events.
On entering the worship space for the Sunday liturgy at MMACC one immediately feels the strong sense of community in the assembled people, their joy and anticipation of a good experience in worshipping together.
An excellent choir is practicing rhythmic melodies at once modern and musically inspiring.
The liturgy has been carefully prepared, with constant reflection on how to make it more inclusive, more participatory and more authentic to the Catholic tradition in its deeper meaning.
The creed has been rewritten to express its renewed vision of faith.
It begins with the words:
We believe in God who made us all and whose divinity infuses life with the sacred. We believe in the multiple revelations of God alive in every human hearts, expressed in every culture, found in all the wisdoms of the world.
The Eucharistic Prayer is shared by all who attend, with four "voices" scattered through the congregation saying words of blessing, usually including one in Spanish. The whole community says the words of consecration.
The Lord’s prayer has also been rewritten to reflect inclusive language, as well as attention to the different versions of this prayer in the Gospels. It begins with the words:
Loving God, in whom is heaven, may your name be honored everywhere. May your Kin-dom come, may the desire of your heart for the world be done, in us, by us and through us.
After the liturgy the community often goes to a parlor for a bountiful reception. People linger and talk with a clear sense of enjoying each other’s friendship.
Although there are more things that could be done to make MMACC even better, more ethnic diversity, more activities in the larger community, what I experienced at this gathering was simply good church, doing church the way it should be done.
It expresses the kind of church many of us want and have been hoping for. There should be many more such churches.
When one thinks of the millions in the US alone who have been alienated from the official Roman Catholic Church, the constituency for such an alternative is enormous.
MMACC is alive, it is spiritually nurturing; it is deeply rooted and yet renewed in the best of the Catholic traditions.
It understands itself to be "apostolic" in the authentic sense of flowing from the community and vision of the Jesus movement.
Despite Vatican excommunications, it knows that no one can separate them from that Catholic tradition, from the love of God who is in Christ Jesus.

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