"Are you in the ordination process?" by Betsy Ericksen

“Are you in the ordination process?”

I had never been asked this question before becoming a Life Together Fellow. The first time someone asked me I responded immediately, “I can’t be. I’m Catholic.”

The idea had almost never crossed my mind. Sure, I’d read about women’s fight for ordination in a theology class in college, and I’d even heard women preach a few times. I’m a feminist, and an activist, and occasionally an optimist, but nothing has ever seemed so impossible to me as the idea of a woman being ordained in the church I was raised in.

For me, being a Life Together Fellow was two years of doing things that previously seemed impossible. I fell in love with meditation. I held space for mourning and contemplation with friends and with strangers. I was arrested for civil disobedience. I talked about faith with my friends and belovedness with my coworkers.

At the encouragement of my friend and fellow fellow, Yani Burgos, I attended FTE’s Christian Leadership Forum in Atlanta in 2016. Add that to the list of places I'd never expected to be.

There I met progressive Christians from around the country, from more traditions than I’d ever heard of before, but only one other Catholic, a woman around my age named Claire.

Claire and I talked about intentional communities, all we had and still have to learn from ‘women religious’. We attempted to laugh about getting asked the ordination question by non-Catholics. I felt less alone after meeting Claire, but still I was disappointed to see so few Catholics at such a justice driven and spirit filled event.

A few months ago Claire sent me a message on Facebook. She invited met to apply to be part of a cohort of young progressive Catholics(!) through an organization called Call To Action

The cohort launch retreat in May felt familiar in so many ways. The now familiar names of Dorothy Day, Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating, and adrienne maree brown called out to me from a bookshelf. And thanks to Life Together, it no longer feels impossible to share my wildest hopes for the world, or the details of what breaks my heart (and to have someone write both of those things up on butcher paper.)

I felt at home as the cohort talked about our dreams for our black, brown, indigenous, poor, queer, and immigrant selves, friends, and neighbors. Somehow I felt calm as we talked about the racism, misogyny, colonialism, homophobia, denial, abuse, ignorance and hatred present in Catholic communities and in embedded in Catholic history. My heartbreak and my hope was heard and understood by people in my tradition, who like me, have some faith, and and even stronger desire to work for that which seems impossible.

Everyone on the retreat was given a role in our closing liturgy, a format and practice I became very familiar with in Life Together. My humble task was to light 4 candles while reading an opening prayer. Fiddling with a lighter and reading from the folded paper in my left hand, I prayed,

“Leader, on this Feast of Pentecost- oh wait, I’m the leader.”

I started again,

“On this Feast of Pentecost, we light the Fire to remind us of God’s great love, and pray that our own hearts will catch flame. God who blows in the wind, Shekinah, Ruach, fill our hearts that we might sing with the joy that comes from knowing you in our lives.”

I still struggle to recognize myself as a leader, but I’m grateful for community I found in Life Together that continues to question, invite, and even push me into deeper confidence and self-knowing, with a heart on fire for God and for all God’s people.