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Journey to priesthood

Journey to Priesthood

by Katherine Calore

from : Congress on 'What can we learn from the Anglican/Episcopalian experience with women priests'.

Held on CIRCLES from 1st Oct. to 30th Oct. 2003.

It’s important for me to mention that I was a good Catholic. I didn’t have any major issues with the Church, though there were several things I disagreed with. The Roman Catholic Church was a good mother to me, and taught me much of what I hold dear today.

In college, I was active at the Roman Catholic campus ministry, and dating a young man whom I eventually married. He drove out to see me at the university twice a week, one of them being Sundays, and we would attend 10 p.m. Mass together before he would return home. He was not a Catholic, but was, and still is, one of the most devout Christians I have ever known. During the course of that year it began to bother me more and more that he was not allowed to receive communion. I also began to study theology seriously, especially where the ordination of women was concerned. At this point, I was a church rat, but I wasn’t considering the call for myself; I just wanted to understand better.

The next year my boyfriend began to attend the same university, and he asked me to show him where the Episcopal campus ministry was. He had been to England and had fallen in love with Anglican worship, and wanted to make that his church. So, during our sophomore year, we attended both the Roman Catholic campus ministry and the Episcopal campus ministry. Some significant things happened this year. One is that I encountered the first woman priest I had ever seen. Mother Anne was young and energetic and gracious and normal, and seeing her celebrate Mass the first time felt like half my soul was unsealed and a fresh breeze was allowed to blow through. She wore the vestments I had always seen, she celebrated with grace, and she was completely orthodox. Pastorally, she gave me and others room to grow and explore, while providing leadership and education to the community. Along with my boyfriend, I became more and more involved in the life of Canterbury House.

Also during this year, people began to approach me and inquire whether I planned to go to seminary after graduation. My boyfriend was on that path, but I hadn’t really considered it. I was a Theater and Film major! (That training, by the way, has been extremely useful in my priesthood!) But it kept happening, too often to ignore, so I began a discernment process with Mother Anne. I was discerning two things: whether to become an Anglican at all and whether to seek ordination. Eventually I determined that Anglicanism had the things which seemed to me to be necessary in a True Church: the historic episcopate, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (though not defined by transubstantiation), the full range of sacraments, the communion of saints, the three-fold order of ministry, a high but scholarly regard for Scripture, and a long and active ascetic tradition. I was also growing very fond of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 1982 Hymnal. Anglicanism did not have some of the things which bothered me increasingly about Roman Catholicism: exclusion of women from Holy Orders, exclusion of baptized non-Roman Catholics from communion, and a central authority who felt he could pronounce what Christians could and couldn’t discuss. In the Episcopal Church, at least we could talk about things. Ironically, the hardest thing for me to let go was the Pope, who is such a central part of Catholic culture. Eventually I determined that putting one bishop over all others undermines the authority of the episcopate itself, and effectively castrates those whose office gives them teaching authority.

I married my young man and we both went to seminary together. I discovered, to my surprise, a talent for preaching, and have made it a central focus of my ministry. It is, in fact, what I teach now at the seminary I attended. I still love Anglicanism, and the whole Anglican tradition, and my study of homiletics has only increased that love. And I still love being a priest, a task which I approach with a certain degree of amazement that I get to do the things I get to do. I do not take the privilege for granted. But the sad fact is that if I were discerning conversion to the Episcopal Church right now, rather than twelve years ago, I would probably not take that step. The Episcopal Church has lost its bearings and turned from the very things which made it such a strong, faithful Christian community. I am still quite theologically conservative, because I am convinced through my study of history and doctrine, that true liberation and true justice can only come through the proclamation of true faith. And in the Anglican tradition, Sacred Scripture, interpreted by Right Reason and Holy Tradition, is the standard for that proclamation and that faith. The Episcopal Church has departed drastically from all those things, and it was very un-Anglican of us to do so.

But even in my disappointment with my Christian community, I find I cannot seriously contemplate returning to the Roman Catholic Church. Though I hold her in regard, I still think she is in serious error in many ways and that her pride is her downfall. And I cannot go to a place where I must pretend not to be a priest. I am a priest, in the exact same way as any Roman or Orthodox priest serving at their altars, and absolution, blessing, and consecration come by the Holy Spirit through my hands. Mother Anne is a priest, and Mother Virginia and Mother Evelyn and Mother Cathy and Mother Peggy and Mother Linda are priests of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and the Church has increased in holiness and grace because of it. None of us, no priest in the world, deserves our place at our altars and in our pulpits and in our confessionals. But God and his Church put us there, and we will serve to the best of our ability, trusting his grace to make up for the rest. Any good priest will say the same. And I hope, by his mercy, to always be counted a good priest.

By The Rev. Katherine C. Calore
School of Theology, Sewanee, Tennessee

There are four Discussion Streams following this article

1. Questions Asked

2. Should I stay in the Church?

3. Gift of Preaching

4. Experiences of Women

Congress Overview Lead 1
Journey to Priesthood
Lead 2
Dreams Can Come True
Lead 3
Moving on - brilliant, but rough ride

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