5 minutes with Francis: Women's ordination

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NCR's new blog series "5 minutes with Francis" poses the question: If you managed to meet up with Pope Francis during his U.S. visit -- and you had his full, undivided attention for five minutes -- what would you say to him?

Mary Eileen Collingwood, bishop-elect, Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests:

Recently, someone asked what I would say to Pope Francis if I were given five minutes of his attention. I replied that I preferred the question in reverse form, considering that I am to be ordained a Roman Catholic bishop in September. What would Pope Francis say to me if he were given five minutes of my attention? 

I am a Roman Catholic Woman Priest who has been ordained without Vatican approval, but within the line of apostolic succession begun by the valiant effort of an unnamed male bishop in good standing with Vatican authorities. I belong to the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), who recently elected me one of three women to be ordained as bishop this September in Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love." 

Many do not know about this reform movement within the Catholic church. Yet the international women priest movement numbers upwards of 210 ordained priests and deacons who are called to prophetic witness in living the Gospel message of equality, inclusivity and justice in the Roman Catholic tradition. Our mission is to live the life that the Gospel mandates, prodding the Roman Catholic church onward to become the church it is called to be by our living witness of faith in action. Our membership continues to increase in numbers as the Spirit moves within the hearts of women and men who have accepted this prophetic role in the life of the church we love.

Perhaps Pope Francis will ask: "Why do you insist on following this call that is not approved by the Vatican authorities, and still believe you are living the life the Holy Spirit has called you to live?"

And I will answer: "I am committed to the revolutionary thought that the Spirit is alive and works within the hearts of women and men in ways the current structures do not recognize. The social mores of the church, the leadership and policies of the church, the teachings of the church, the holy Scriptures of the church, and the lack of the divine feminine image within the church's expression, mirror the attitudes and mindsets of the male population and are devoid of women's voices, women's spiritualities, women's wisdom, women's experience, and women's leadership.

The current policy of the church excludes women from ordination and is not compatible with Jesus' exhortation to honor the equal dignity of all people. Our call to serve the marginalized and the least among us is a call to serve those who comprise that population, mainly women.

The truth of Jesus' teaching that men and women are equal in imaging the divine among us, which includes ordaining women to the priesthood, must be embraced by the church as foundational to its mission. If it chooses to continue on its present path ignoring this reality, the problems of poverty, warfare, human trafficking, just wages, capitalism and global warming will never be solved, as these issues in society are disproportionally oppressive to women.

Women priests within the Roman Catholic tradition are shining a light on what the future holds for Roman Catholicism. Sharing the gift of our lives now, as ordained women, becomes a living example of how the Church can evolve for later generations."

Throughout history, there have been women who have stepped out of the box and offered their lives and divine messages for the inspiration of all people. This is a prophetic vocation which demands courage and vision, and I have accepted it for the good of my Church.

[Editor's note: Our first contribution has special distinction, as it was originally submitted for the print publication. It is this opinion piece that gave NCR the idea for the 5 minutes with Francis blog series.]

What would you say during five minutes with Pope Francis? Pick one subject, and send us a brief note (300-400 words max) about the subject, and what you would say. Send your answer to francis5minutes@gmail.com.

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