Dear myriad of priests I have worked with over the years,
Thank you to all of you for your support of my ministry whether in parish settings, on college campuses, or in the streets around the world. My years of ministry in the Catholic world have truly been a gift and I am grateful to have worked with so many of you by my side over the years. You have each had your own particular gifts and strengths as well as weaknesses that have helped me discern my own as I move forward.
And of course, you were all male. And while this was true to varying degrees, you were all against the idea that Roman Catholic women also had gifts to offer to sacramental priesthood and did not support women’s ordination, nor did you support me as I clearly outgrew the narrow job descriptions we attempted to use to quiet the Holy Spirit as she continued to nudge me.
I am not angry with you nor do I blame you for being afraid of our local bishop who has a reputation for being vengeful against those who step out of line.
I am not angry with you because even though true power empowers others and stands with the voiceless, I imagine it can be hard to see the need to do that when you are hiding behind an altar and a chalice.
I am not angry with you because each of you taught me something about ministry and priesthood and certainly about shared power along the way and it is the cumulation of those gleanings that have led me to leap off the edge towards ordination, even as it must be outside the Catholic Church that I love.
Fr. Phil, you taught me to march in the streets as you did with Dr. King.
Fr. Richard, you taught me vastly imperfect humans can still celebrate a valid Eucharist.
Fr. Norm, you taught me that Black Catholics hold more Spirit in their little finger that some of us can ever dream.
Fr. Nguyen, you made me unafraid of being called out in the middle of Mass.
Fr. Henry, you taught me prudence and dry humor are essential components of priesthood.
Fr. Albert, you taught me that silence is complicity.
Fr. Matt, you taught me that my ministry will always depend on the one man in charge and if his whims change, so does my ability to serve. Your actions empowered me to change that reality.
For all of these lessons and gifts, I give such tremendous thanks. And this is only from Catholic male priests I have known and doesn’t even begin to touch on the myriad of blessings I have been given by parishioners, colleagues, students, and on and on and on. I don’t see myself as leaving behind a vast community that has supported me, but rather as expanding my own identity towards the Holy Spirit and carrying this work forward. I will always be Catholic in my spirituality and in my unbreakable connection to the global Christian world. The antics of the saints and the comfort of the sacraments abides as does the necessary understanding that all of the mundane is sacred and that the gospel is only Gospel when it attends to the most vulnerable.
Even as I thank you for all you have given, I express the hope to return some day when the Catholic Church too welcomes women in the breaking of the bread and offering the cup, when I can also baptize those babies whose families I nurture, and bury the dead whom I have anointed and accompanied. When the Christian churches one day reunite, I am confident that we will too and I plan on thanking you fully in person.