By Briana Vannozzi
Susan Schessler intends to start each of her masses with a stroke of the singing bowl. That is, now that she can.
“A few of us have come from religious life, left religious life and our path has lead us to priesthood,” she said.
Priesthood for a female Catholic may seem contradictory. But Schessler is one of seven women recently ordained as Roman Catholic Womenpriests. For her, the call came early — at her first communion more than 60 years ago.
“The mass and the Eucharist and the presence of Christ were very meaningful to me,” she said.
The ordination was held at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, known for its inclusionary practices. The womenpriests operate separately from the Vatican, mostly because they aren’t accepted.
“Some people lost their job as a result of becoming ordained because of the church’s stance against ordination,” Schessler said.
“So I know what it is they’re going to face in terms of dealing with the hierarchy of the church but I also know the joy of being able to finally celebrate who it is that you are,” said Rev. Cynthia Black, Episcopal Church of the Redeemer.
Hosting the ordination was a no-brainer for Black.
“I was in the first wave of the Episcopal Church. The feelings of people who didn’t appreciate who we were and our vocation,” she said.
Roman Catholic Womenpriests began in Germany in 2002 after seven women were ordained on the Danube River by a Catholic bishop. Now there are 208 womenpriests worldwide.
When asked if the inclusion of womenpriests is the path to reformation in the Catholic Church, Schessler said, “It’s one of them, it’s one. I think the barriers are coming down because of all of the things that are going on in our society.”
The womenpriests operate under a leadership circle instead of the traditional bishop who oversees a diocese. They’ve also chosen to use a different version of the Bible’s text.
“The traditional church says, ‘Lord I am not worthy to receive you enter under my roof and I shall be healed.’ We would say, ‘Lord you have made us worthy and by your word we are healed,’” Schessler said.
Inclusionary language and practices are a strong theme for the women. God is usually not referred to as father, and most of the male dominant terms have been removed. All of Schessler’s religious articles are gifts or purchased on sale from Home Goods, something she thinks Pope Francis would be fond of, even if he doesn’t approve of the group as a whole.
“We’re not going around saying, oh gosh you got to be careful. We’re just acting as if we are accepted and hoping the church will one day wake up,” she said.
Times are a changing she says. And after going through the convent and 32 years of religious teaching, she says maybe it’s time our faith starts to catch up.