Why? Because Jesus has personally called me by name and asked me to be a priest. Because me and a multitude of women past and present are already living out their priestly call with no formal recognition.
My first call came when I was 12 years old, when I went to an ordination and every bone in my body wanted to lay prostrate with the new deacons. I’ve thought about that moment many times and how that feeling lingered for years, but in the past few days another moment of call keeps coming up in prayer. A few years ago I spent several weeks in India as part of a graduate course. Early in the trip it was decided that each student, both lay and Jesuit, would take a turn leading prayer or preaching. When my day came we were spending the day at the Ashram/Retreat Center where Anthony de Mello lived and taught. After a tour of the Ashram when we had time for individual prayer I sat in the beautifully simple chapel and prayed for inspiration as I poured over the readings for mass. Then suddenly I sank into prayer and Jesus came to me. He stood in front of me as I sat praying, and he laid his hands on my head. I could feel the warmth of those hands affirming my call, ordaining me. I was overcome with God’s love. Then the words came to me. I knew what to say. When I preached the words flowed from my lips. They were not my words, they were God’s. I felt the Spirit moving in me in a way that I have only ever felt when I preach. After mass and as the day went several of my peers commented on how I said exactly what they needed to hear and on the power and beauty of the homily. I could not remember a single word I said. I could not remember the words, but the feeling of that moment did not fade.
The two things in life that make me feel most alive are when I am preaching/teaching and when I reflect on my marriage to my incredible wife. When I am at my best with my partner and when I am sharing my prophetic voice God’s presence comes alive. My priestly and queer identities fill me with energy, and the fact that both of these are rejected by the institutional Church is what enrages me. Not just that my personal call and marriage are rejected, but that this rejection is a wound inflicted on many. I am enraged when my students ask why the Church, or God, or their family doesn’t accept them. These things matter to me because they are part of my lived experience, and they matter because they are the lived experience of many. They matter because in prayer I hear God calling me to bear witness to these injustices. I hear God calling me to find a home where I can live out this call in a new way, because it is too painful to be in a Church that does not accept me fully as I am.
And yet I am energized and filled with hope, because I know God loves the wounded I encounter and God loves me. I am filled with energy because living my priestly call as a queer woman liberates me. I am filled with hope because God has called me by name, and continues to call me to live into my vocation – to “do the work my soul must have.”