David, my priest, my bishop, my friend, outed me to a group of folks who had gone to dinner at Ale Mary’s after Mass. At some point in the conversation, David said something about another parishioner and l talking about ordination. He didn’t realize that not everyone at the table knew. It was okay, just unnerving–almost no one knew at that point. Almost instantly though, everyone had positive things to say. It was such a strong validation, and I look back on it when my anxiety begins to get out of hand.
It has taken me a few years to get to this point. As a Roman Catholic, ordination was never something I considered–I couldn’t. I don’t have the right plumbing. I couldn’t even be an altar server. A few times I thought about becoming a woman religious. It never felt right though; I have always known I am called to have a family. A life of celibacy and living in community is not my call.
And then, through a series of very painful events, I found myself no longer able to call myself Roman Catholic (I’ll expand on that in another post). The problem was that I was still Catholic, and that wasn’t going to change. The sacraments, the tradition, the liturgy–these things are part of what shapes and sustains me as a person. One evening, I decided I was ready to start looking for a new church home. I had been living in Baltimore for about four months, and I craved that faith that had sustained me for most of my life.
I sat down at my computer and started looking up churches in the area. I figured a Lutheran church would be where I started, since there are a lot of commonalities between the two. As I scrolled through a list of churches, one caught my eye. It said Catholic, but instead of “Roman” in front of that, it said “Independent.” I had never heard of Independent Catholics, but I was intrigued. I clicked through to the website, read a bit about the church, and then began trying to figure out what Independent Catholic meant. The following Sunday, I went to Mass.
I had found my home. Yes, I sobbed through that first Mass (and the second, and the third, … and the twentieth), but it was mixture of both pain and comfort. It was Mass, no question about that. But there were a few key differences that told me this was not the kind of church I grew up in. During and after the service, people pretended they didn’t notice my swollen and blotchy face and instead welcomed me. They continued to do this until finally, several months later, I made it through an entire service without tears.
As I began to get a grasp on my emotions, the sacristan started pulling me in. Would I like to lector or be a Eucharistic Minister? I said I’d think about it, and I asked him to ask me again in a few weeks. I’d done both, but I wasn’t quite ready yet. A few weeks later, Richard asked if I’d be interested in reading. I was ready to say no, but he reminded me that the readings were before the homily, and I almost never cried before the homily anymore. So I read, and I started reading fairly regularly. I enjoyed it. It was nice to be a part of things again; it isn’t in my nature to be a pew warmer. I wasn’t interested in being an EM though. That was, I thought, too much. Reading is fine, but that’s it. Then one afternoon, during the sign of peace, Richard asked if I could help serve communion; he hadn’t realized until after Mass had started that he needed a second person. We have both wine and grape juice available at communion, so that those in recovery can still partake. I blanched, but I agreed. Richard promised he and David would tell me what to do. After Mass, I thanked Richard. I told him that I would have declined if he’d asked me before Mass but that it felt comfortable, natural to help serve. And so I started doing that as well, until I was asked to be co-sacristan. When Richard moved away, I took over the role entirely.
I don’t remember when the first thoughts of being a priest started flitting through my mind. I ignored them for many months. Finally, I decided to ask about it. I arrived early for Wednesday Mass one day, and after chatting with David for a while, I screwed up my courage and said I had a question. “What would you say if I told you I was thinking about starting to think about becoming a priest?” His first response was something along the lines of “are you out of your mind?!” but I saw the grin in his eyes before he told me it was about time.
It was the start of a new leg of my journey. After several months, I started telling a few people I was close to–a sister, my best friend, another close friend. A few months more, I told my dad, then my other sisters. Finally, I told my mother, who took it better than I expected. I told my brother last, and he is the one who seemed the most genuinely happy for me. It wasn’t that others weren’t supportive; it was more like no one knew what to think about it, much less what to say.
So by now all of my immediate family and closest friends know. Some don’t understand it, but they are all supportive, albeit to varying degrees. David, Jon, and I gather regularly to have Mass and practice giving the homily and prepare for ordination.
We’ve set a date. First, we had to get David ordained a bishop so he could ordain us. That happened in February, and it was incredible. I don’t have the vocabulary to express the joy, the support, the peace, the ‘right-ness’ of it all. Then David suggested September 15 as the ordination date. It is the 10th anniversary of St. Sebastian and of David’s ordination to the priesthood. However, I threw a monkey wrench into the plans with my study abroad/intern abroad/ride elephants abroad adventure in India. The opportunity to do this came up suddenly and unexpectedly, and I simply could not pass it up. So we set a new date. February 2, 2013. I figured Jon would want to go ahead and be ordained in September as planned, but he said he’d like to wait and do it with me; after all, we have prepared together.
Now it’s time to tell the rest of my family and friends, including the family who are far less likely to be accepting. I’m anxious about it. I have the support of those I care most about, and that is enough. I’d still like others to be supportive too though. I don’t know how my grandmother is going to react…she’s about as Roman Catholic as they get. I’m thinking that I’ll tell her in a few weeks when I see her again. Hopefully, even if she isn’t okay with it now, she will be by February. I’d really like her to be there.
So that’s that. I’ve outed myself to the internet. Friends, family, please ask questions. I know most people haven’t ever even heard of Independent Catholics, so there are bound to be questions. Bishop John Plummer, an Independent Catholic bishop who co-consecrated David as bishop, has written a couple of books on the Independent Sacramental Movement, as it is often called. Amazon carries them here: http://www.amazon.com/Who-Independent-Catholics-John-Plummer/dp/1933993006/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1335772977&sr=8-1