As a girl, Nancy Louise Meyer knew she was called to priestly ministry. Growing up in 1960s Ohio, her first thought was to become a Franciscan sister, which she did, serving as a secondary school teacher and associate vocation director for the Cincinnati archdiocese. But the call to priesthood stayed with her, and in 2010, she was ordained as a Roman Catholic Womanpriest.
Sunday, Meyer became the first Roman Catholic Womenpriests bishop from the state of Indiana, where she has lived for 25 years and now pastors a home church community.
"The importance is never being the first," she said in an interview before her ordination. "I think the importance is living out my vocation with God's grace. It is a privilege to respond to my region's call to me by selecting me as bishop."
Meyer, who will serve as bishop of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests' Midwest region, is succeeding Bishop Regina Nicolosi, who is retiring.
Although the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement claims validity and apostolic succession through several male bishops whose identities have not been revealed, the ordinations are not recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic church. In 2010, the Vatican clarified that the attempted or "simulated" ordination of a woman was a grave offense against the sacraments that results in automatic excommunication.
More than 150 priests in 10 countries have been ordained through the Roman Catholic Womenpriests.
Organizers said about 150 attended Sunday's ordination, which took place at Calvary United Methodist Church in Brownsburg with seven female bishops presiding, including Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger, one of the Danube Seven, the first seven women ordained in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement in 2002.
Mayr-Lumetzberger, the self-proclaimed grandmother of the movement, traveled to Brownsburg from Austria for the ordination and said she was proud of how far they had come in the 12 years since her ordination. Yet she also said she hoped women priests would one day gain more acceptance, especially from other Catholic women, who she said have a tendency to cut down women who take a stand within the church.
"They should accept that calls are different," she said. "In every life are different calls, and every woman and every man has different calls. Say thank you for every call you have. This is what I wish for the other women. I wish they would support us and go hand-in-hand with us. That would be nice."
The Indianapolis archdiocese did not issue any statements or warnings before the ordination but did respond to questions from NCR Monday.
"The catechism is very clear on this issue. Only a baptized man can validly receive the sacrament of ordination," said Greg Otolski, archdiocesan director of communications.
"Any woman who would claim to be a priest or a bishop is obviously doing that outside of the church and, by doing that, is separating themselves from full communion with the church," he said.
"I think it's a sad situation that anyone would take part in this and hope they would return to full communion with the church," Otolski said.
Meyer, for her part, said she had not received any direct criticism prior to her ordination.
"I think there are folks who love me who are apprehensive," she said, "but I have had no one attack me or berate me because I think they know I have always tried to do what is my call and to follow that movement of grace in my life."
[Dawn Cherie Araujo is a staff writer for Global Sisters Report, a project of National Catholic Reporter. Her email address is email@example.com.]