As I move deeper into reflection after week 2, I realize some of the dreams I longed for in the past have been redefined. I am thankful to Sarah, Luke and Claire, who all posed thoughtful questions helping clarify my thoughts. After finishing my Master’s Program in Religious Education at Loyola a few years ago, I longed to enter the Diaconate program through the Catholic Church. A fire blazed under me as I attended the Diaconate inquiry classes, believing that I could somehow affect changes in the program and convince staff to allow me, a woman, into the process. This door closed firmly in my face. Still feeling optimistic, I sought support from others who felt passionate about new opportunities for women to serve in the church. I had difficulty finding a supportive community, with my town and church community being very traditional. I became disillusioned as I burned with passion to serve, yet my church seemed uncaring. Eventually, I entered the door I saw opened to me: Chaplaincy, as a way to express and live out my sense of call to care for God’s people.
As a Hospice Chaplain, being intimately present to individuals of all faith expressions, I daily open my eyes to the great variety of ways people connect to God. And all of it is sacred! I understand a more expansive definition of church, beyond institutional membership. In my work, I have anointed the sick, heard confessions, preached, led prayer services, led funeral services, and even baptized: much the same work associated with the Diaconate. And in this setting very few care if I am a man or woman with the correct title: what they care about is the love, attention, prayer, and desire for blessing and healing that I offer on any given day.
In my heart I believe there are likely many words that God is calling me to speak to the church today. At the top of the list: If I am doing the work of a Deacon as Chaplain: why can this not be recognized, affirmed and legitimized by the Church? Also- let us broaden our definition of Church. After all, we are the Church. God’s love is free, invitational, and open to all; too often, we appear as members of a country club. There are many rooms in God’s house with infinite ways to celebrate God’s love and presence in our lives. We are Church when, listening to God’s voice, we love, inspire, empower, heal, feed or serve. And this is what the church and the world: we, all of us, so desperately need right now: healing, building up, love, food, service, and inspiration.