My name is Angie and I am 38 years old, a mom of three, and live in Providence, RI. I’m writing this late, as is typical–I am a habitual procrastinator and often find I cannot physically focus until the last possible moment. We all have our strengths. 🙂
I am originally from Lexington, Kentucky and grew up unchurched with no connection to organized religion or spirituality despite living in the middle of the Bible Belt. I embarked upon a bit of a discernment journey in high school, following around friends who were part of youth groups in the area and visiting as many different houses of worship as possible. After such a Protestant framework, my first Catholic Mass confused and even scared me a bit with the kneeling and standing and everyone saying the same words without any notes in front of them. And yet, it intrigued me–the intense focus during the consecration and the way the people participated in the Mass rather than just listened to an hour long sermon. I kept coming back, started reading and asking a hundred questions of Catholic friends, and then went off to a secular liberal arts college where I took religion courses on Poverty & Homelessness and Religion & War that eventually led me to join the RCIA class and become a Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 2001.
My conversion was a result of a deep spiritual streak I had begun nourishing years before and a an academic fascination with Catholic Social Teaching and liberation theology. Reading Gutierrez for the first time, it was SO clear to me that THIS was the Gospel and that I wouldn’t be able to turn away from it now that I knew. And yet, my road as a Catholic has been tricky and I find myself at a crossroads of potentially leaving my “official” Catholic status behind in pursuit of ordination.
After college and a year with Americorps, I earned my Master of Divinity and a certificate in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality from Vanderbilt Divinity School in 2007. I met my husband, Matt while living in Nashville (he was a Jesuit Volunteer–easy match!) and we married in 2006. We moved to Providence, RI in August 2007 when I got lucky with a job search and hired as the Catholic Campus Minister at Brown University, where I served for ten years before finally departing in 2017 after the birth of my third child, an exhaustion with 10pm meetings, and a change in leadership that led to a more conservative order taking the reins of the ministry, including hiring FOCUS, a group of recent-grad missionaries. I was lucky enough again to be quickly hired by a friend who was a priest at a large suburban parish as his Pastoral Associate as well to take a part-time gig serving as the Catholic chaplain at Bentley University just outside of Boston.
I loved both of these positions and as Pastoral Associate, has an opportunity for collaborative leadership in a way I had dreamed could be true in parishes, but had not seen modeled. We made big changes in bringing our community to more social justice awareness, empowering laypeople, and headline-making LGBTQ+ ministry. Unfortunately, when our priest decided to leave the priesthood (to marry, not as a result of any of the ministries), our uber-conservative bishop sent in a “fixer” and many of our ministries and all of our shared leadership was disbanded. I stayed to practice pastoral care of parishioners until the transition seemed solid, then left after 2.5 years. I am currently a Campus Minister as a Lasallian high school here in Providence, and while I enjoy the work and am thrilled to have something in my field, I still feel a call to parish leadership, preaching, and celebrating sacraments and have begun mostly worshipping at an Episcopal church while also meeting with the rector for discernment.
I joined this workshop to work explicitly on this question. I have a wonderful spiritual director, but not the discipline to sit and reflect and write, which is how I do my best thinking.
My title quote is from Howard Thurman:
‘Look well to the growing edge! All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and people have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. Look well to the growing edge!’
I resonate so deeply with the “growing edge,” where life is both succumbing and blossoming and I often feel myself in that liminal space, but especially now, desiring to make this change. Especially in the chaos of this point in history, I find indeed hope and despair in these edges: here is where folks are rising up proclaiming that black lives matter in the face of horrific violence. Here is where pandemic brings death and isolation, but also a winnowing of fruitless endeavors and togetherness.
I situate myself here too on this peripheral edge. As a convert, I spent time looking in without belonging and then once belonging, still peering into the sanctuary as a woman barred from offering sacraments, but also as someone committed to racial justice, economic equity, and LGBTQ+ inclusion. I am so deeply committed to our church’s long history of saints like Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Thea Bowman, and Oscar Romero and yet cannot accept the parallel history of sexual abuse and shameful sexual ethics and obsession with power. I am eager to continue to wrestle on the growing edge with so many of you.
Image: “Saints of Selma” by Kelly Latimore