Sunday, March 18, 2012

Miriam Picconi's Letter to Friends about her Ordination

Comment:When Miriam read this letter to me, I asked if I could put it up for all to read.  Although she is writing to her friends, letting them know her heartfelt journey and how she got to joy through the brokenness of her past, it also speaks to the difficult journey all of us have had in pursuing this course.  She  is now and has been one called by Christ to serve.  It is an honor to put her letter up for all to read....and an honor to know her as a Sister in Faith.
Diane Dougherty

My Dear Friends,                                                                                                        March 18, 2012
May the grace and peace of the Holy Spirit
be with us always!

I know it's been quite some time since you’ve heard from me. First and foremost, I hope and pray you are well and that your family and friends are held in God’s tender embrace. It is Lent and we are still seeking strength for our journey in faith…strength to carry our crosses, strength to surrender to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, strength to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.    

I don’t need to tell you that life and God’s providence is complex.  Life happens; the good, the bad,  the challenging, sometimes the ugly, sometimes the glorious and unfathomable.  Our responsibility is somehow to make sense of it all, grapple with what we don’t understand, discern what we can and trust the God within us and among us to lead us where we are called to be.

Because you have been a special companion on my journey, I desire to share with you what’s been happing in my life. I am truly in transition. In less than a month, on April 14th at 2:00 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Ormond Beach, Fl  I will be ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest through the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. This may shock and scandalize some of you, others may simply think I’ve become a rebel and angry feminist, others of you may cheer me on and then others may simply think or ask …why?

As most of you know after serving 45 years in full time ministry for the Church, I was forced out of my last professional position as Pastoral Associate/Pastoral Director of Good Shepherd Parish in Frankfort, KY in September 2008 after serving seven years. I would be a liar if I didn’t admit this experience was one of the most devastating experiences of my life. Literally, I was broken in spirit that my church could do such a thing. The metaphor I’ve used to describe this is “I felt like a piece of garbage” being tossed out with no regard, no recourse, no voice.  I realized I wasn’t the only woman this happened to. There were others who were eliminated before me as well as after me, and it continues today for different reasons.  People who disagree with Church teaching or those who address the abuse of power in the church are silenced or threatened with excommunication, particularly those who support women’s ordination. In contrast, priest pedophiles and bishops who covered up their crimes are not held accountable or excommunicated. Clerical loyalty is to there own rather then victims or the people they are called to serve.   

I pondered and prayed over all these issues. I needed to work through my own pain and rejection.  I have been struggling with where we are in the Catholic Church… the direction to move backward and inward rather then address the critical needs of the day in the Spirit of Vatican II.     It was not on my agenda to become a priest…..however, in God’s providence I met some members of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and new hope was born.   

I had this deep sense that God wasn’t finished with me yet; I had more to give, more to do …more to accomplish.  I wanted to serve… but where…how ….what… was still unknown.  I attended a local Catholic Church but was confronted with a church that was not only pre-Vatican II but pre Trent. I couldn’t believe the theology, the liturgy nor the preaching.  I didn’t go to church to be chewed up and spit out again to be discarded.  I go to be spiritually fed, to be challenged and renewed.  That didn’t happen.  I found myself in an Episcopal Church where I was welcomed; where the pastor was very supportive and affirming.  I wasn’t looking to change my faith.…. I just needed time to heal.   This church provided a safe haven for me to experience community, prayer and worship.  In time I was invited to lead the Adult Bible Faith Sharing on the Sunday scriptures.  I was also invited to speak to several parish groups on various topics; to lead a time of prayer and reflection for the ladies group and on a number of occasions I’ve been invited to  preach  during Sunday Services.  It’s been a blessing.  At the same time I still felt the call to minister to Catholics.   

I love God passionately because God loves me passionately and all people.  I love the Church and all that we hold in high esteem; our heritage, our doctrines, our scriptures, our creeds, our sacraments, our beliefs, customs and traditions, all that reflects Catholicity.  At the same time, I see the Church, particularly the institutional church with new eyes. I used to say so often when I shared with people in the RCIA that the Church is like our family of origin.  There are things we love about our family and there are things we are ashamed of or things that should never have happened. Well, the Church is no different.   We love the church but we also acknowledge that there are things going on that are despicable and those issues have to be addressed. Issues of sexual abuse and cover up, clericalism, sexism, patriarchal and hierarchal domination, disregard for the reforms of Vatican II, the rampant attitude of some bishops to blatantly excommunicate people for disagreeing with church teaching or denying people Eucharist for various political reasons. Since when should Eucharist be used as a political ploy???  It can never be my church right or wrong.  I find it interesting that in the Gospels Jesus is always confronting the religious leaders of his day for atrocities against the people, for judging and burdening others, giving legitimacy to the letter of the law rather than the Spirit of the law. They didn’t get it then and they still don’t get it today. The attitude of most of our religious leaders is “you don’t like the Church… fine… leave! These are the rules…you don’t like them..  leave….we will have a purer church”. (So where’s the heart???  Where’s the compassion???  Where is the passion for justice???) Somehow, in my heart of hearts, I can’t imagine Jesus chasing people away or excommunicating them.  

I want to assure you, it’s not so much bashing the church as trying to address the issues that deeply impact our lives and doing something about them. As adults in the church we are called to much more than simply ….pray, pay and obey.  We are called to speak the truth in Love and to speak truth to Power.  David as well as Debora has to confront Goliath with the meager gifts and tools given.

Change never comes from the top down…. It always comes from the people…from the bottom up.  

Please let it be known, I am not leaving the church….how can I leave what I love. I am just as much Catholic as I am Italian….its in my blood….it is who I am. It is gift and vocation as it’s always been and now it continues as a call to priesthood which was initiated by God.  The ordination will be valid but illicit meaning it will be through apostolic secession in that  ( a male Bishop in good standing with Rome ordained our first women Bishops) but the ordination is not accepted by Rome.

As part of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests we are seeking to create a new model of priestly ministry, in a discipleship of equals, addressing the injustices in the church, being a voice for  women, for the poor and marginalized, for those alienated or rejected  from the church for what ever reason. Everyone will be welcomed to our Eucharistic table. It is my hope and prayer that however people gather together in community and faith they will experience the profound unconditional love     of our God and the bond of unity that makes us one.     

Please know I miss you; I miss sharing life and faith with you.  You will be in my thoughts and prayers for you are like extended family to me.  You have touched my life and I have grown personally, professionally and spiritually. I greet you and hold you present in Eucharist where we are all transformed into the Body of Christ for one another and the world.  Please keep me in prayer.

Blessings this day and always,


1 comment:

Katy Zatsick, RCWP said...

Thank you Miriam for this beautiful letter and for sharing it with a wider readership. I look forward to joining your celebration a month from now! May you and Wanda continue to feel God's love for you! and I know Sophia has great plans for you in ministry with the People of God.