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       Anniversary Dinner of Dignity/LA (2013)


       By Rosa G. Manriques

   Good evening and thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts concerning women in ministry. My spiritual and religious formation has been greatly influenced by the Roman Catholic education I received under the Immaculate Heart sisters and my Mexican mother and abuelita. Although I am sure there is a large faction in the Curia that insists theological teachings are only legitimate with their blessing, I was raised with the dicho, “Una onza de madre vale mas que una tonelada de sacerdote.” (An ounce of mother is worth more than a ton of priest.)

   The call to priesthood has been present in my life since I was a child. But being a good Catholic girl, I suppressed the voice and substituted the urge with an abundance of theological study and church ministry. Mass could be painful as I searched for acknowledgement of me as a woman in the language of the prayers or as I fumed after a particularly insulting homily or as I struggled with the latest sexist pronouncement from Rome.

   There was one instance typical of the conflict I felt. I asked God, “Who are these guys who think they decide the worth of my dignity as a woman, created lovingly by you? Who are they to judge who you call, who you send? Don’t they comprehend the instances in the Bible when you called forth the least likely? What are they going to answer after death when you tell them, ‘I sent this women to you to be ordained and you wouldn’t accept her?’” I was laying it all out for the Lord. And then I sensed a patient, deliberate answer. “And what will you say when I tell you, ‘I sent you, but you wouldn’t go.’”

   As a candidate for ordination with Roman Catholic Women Priest, I have had the opportunity to discern and test my vocation to the priesthood. And I have come to know that I have no desire to wear a clerical collar or priestly vestments. I have no desire to lead a parish or stand behind an altar. And so I have asked God, “What am I supposed to do? What do you want of me? What is the purpose of a priest? What can I do as a priest, that I don’t do now?”

   In college I studied Sylvia Plath, a very melancholy literary figure. In her poem Morning Song she writes about her babies, “I’m no more your mother than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow effacement at the wind’s hand.” This verse speaks to me as to the expectations of the priesthood. Like the cloud, I am led by the wind, the Holy Spirit, to empty myself, drain every last bit into the creation of a water puddle that reflects my diminishing. And that water puddle is the community I am called to serve. I am to contribute to their growth into full spiritual maturity until there is no longer a need for me. A priest is not supposed to keep the faithful in an infantile state. The faithful are to be encouraged to question, to serve, to feed, to love one another and create church. There is no need to wait. They have been baptized priest, prophet and ruler. And with confirmation, they have become adults in the church who are expected to exercise the Primacy of Conscience and who are expected to speak with authority.

   By the grace of God, I have found myself ministering to the LGBTQ community, in particular, the Latino LGBTQ community. I work for the integrity of the foundations of Latino life and culture that have sustained us through the centuries: familia, respeto and love of God. I encourage parents to fulfill their obligation and love their LGBTQ children. I encourage them to reject any teaching that disrespects or diminishes anyone using blasphemous branding like “intrinsically disordered.” And I encourage everyone to feed themselves from the rich table of Catholic social teachings, lives of courageous saints, ageless ceremonies and prayers, the Eucharist, the Bible, the gospels, the beautiful encyclicals and teachings of the Church doctors. There is no need to wait for the padrecito to feed them. They are the church!

   And I have hope for the Roman Catholic Church. I hope, I believe that my brother, Francis, sincerely wants to eradicate homophobia from our church. But in order to accomplish this, we must also eradicate sexism. Homophobia and sexism are fear-filled twins. They are intimately woven together. Where you find one, you will find the other. And Francis must attain an intimate knowledge of the lives of women and the LGBTQ community. He will not be able to do this in the fortress that is the Vatican. It is my prayer that he will make the effort to humbly come to know us.

   Yesterday was National Coming Out Day. It was also the International Day of the Girl Child. So I offer this quote from Malala as a closing prayer:

      "Why should I wait for someone else? Why should I be looking to the government
      or the army (or the Vatican?), that they would help us? Why don't I raise my voice?
      Why don't we speak up for our rights?"

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