It’s All About-
Living the Sacraments with the
Living Sacrament of God’s People
Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida
Pastor Judy Lee, ARCWP
November 25, 2013
Some of Our Children Gathering For Church - Happy To Be In God’s House
The children hurried in to the church. They were early and after greeting us warmly asked me “Pastor, can you come into the room with us?” “The room” is their Sunday School room and as we had a little time, I went. Each one grabbed her favorite item,tambourine included, and started singing: “Jesus Loves Me”. I sang with them and told them they were right, Jesus did love them very much and I do too! They asked help to start little art projects and settled down freeing me to vest. Well, almost. Donnie ran up to me and hugged me with her usual joy, she told me about a fall she had and asked prayers for herself and her husband who was recently hospitalized. Another mother arrived with her family and we talked quietly about her grief for a hospitalized and seriously ill young adult child. She asked me to meet with the family after church and join them at the bedside later. Tania arrived smiling broadly and thanked Pastor Judy B and me for shepherding her all day Friday. We signed her out of the psychiatric hospital where she had spent over ten days “getting herself back”, as she said, with the help of medications. We were with her until, surmounting many problems almost miraculously, she got an apartment, with her electricity turned on and a bed to sleep on. She wanted to tell the church that God did not abandon her and will not abandon them. Nancy came with the baby we baptized now walking and everyone was so glad to see her. Our member Judy Alves, a retired lawyer arrived with the hot meal and got it ready for serving after church. Dr. Joe Cudjoe helped her, and his wife Pearl and I talked about her Junior class. Some of our old friends returned today. Hank Tessandori began the hymn as we vested. The 40 or so chairs were soon filled and we were ready to begin, Several new homeless people joined us and were warmly welcomed.
The sacrament of the church, the people of God, prepared to meet the sacrament of Christ with us, the body of Christ becoming the body of Christ. They came in joy and sorrow, in exhaustion and in expectation. And we, the priests, the pastors, the women God has called for this job were once again humbled beyond words and in awe of Christ with us. The songs were sung with enthusiasm. The prayers were said and the readings were proclaimed. Our High School senior, Natasha, has become an excellent lector. The homily was given with time for the people to join in. Mr. Gary, our elder, had lost a son to violence last week and shared how his faith was what got him through this. For him, and for Tania and Tim and Nate who spoke Christ is not only their shepherd king who showed us how to serve one another, but a best friend who is always there with and for them. Our time of intercession included prayers that wrenched from the hearts of those who were hurting and sprang from the lips of the faithful. Our hearts stirred as our six year old Joelle prayed fervently for a sick relative and as Nate prayed “to God, our Mother and Father” for Mr. Gary’s grieving family and all of our sick members. Dr. Joe prayed for peace in the troubled places of the world and Hank prayed for the healing of the church.
As Pastor Judy B. prepared us for the Eucharist she welcomed each one there to the Table and explained the significance of the water, ourselves, in the wine-one with Christ. Once again as we served communion we were in awe of the transformation of ourselves and our people through and into the body and blood of Christ in service to one another and the world. I cannot describe the holiness of these moments, experienced at each Eucharist. And the people sang with all their hearts, “Thank you, God, thank you God, we just want to thank you God. Eucharist!
After the final hymn we asked our teens Keeron and Keeondra and also Robert an older gentleman to stand for a birthday blessing and to receive gifts from the congregation. Shy but delighted they beamed as we sang “May the good Lord bless you…”.
Then the church was transformed into a dining room and our second eucharistic meal was served and gratefully received.
As the meal was served about ten other homeless and hungry individuals joined us. And here we had the miracle of the loaves and fishes. We would not have had enough food for the last ten people but Judy Alves’ husband, Jim Pelstring ,saw the need and hurried to buy enough to meet the need. All were fed and there were leftovers to take away!
I mingled with our members and with several more new guests arriving.
Old friends and new friends
After Sunday School I met with our dear family who faced the critical illness of their young member. We talked and shared feelings that had been pent up. We held hands and prayed. Later we joined them at the bedside in the hospital where seven family members gathered. All prayed as we anointed with blessed oil and prayed with this young person who rallied with this healing rite, and love. As there was already a baptism scheduled and missed because of illness, we all decided to go ahead and baptize then and there. All present took part. I cannot describe for you the peace and joy that supplanted the fear, anxiety and grief-words are not sufficient. The gloom was literally lifted like a dark cloud rising and light and joy replaced it. We sang, “Take Me To The River To Be Baptized” adding a stanza-”This one is the righteous and shall see God!” We ended with “Oh Happy Day” and much closeness and love.
Three Sacraments in one Sunday-Eucharist and eucharist; the healing rite and baptism. No, five, the sacrament of the church, the people of God, and the sacrament of love included. How blessed are we. How amazed and moved we are to be called to this priesthood, the priesthood of all believers. How thankful Judy B and I are for the privilege of serving God’s holy people. Thanks be to God! Happy Thanksgiving to all.
There is so much that could divert us and pull us apart, but I believe this is what we are ordained for. And we are all truly blessed by the laying on of hands that empowers us to the laying on of hands...
Women priests promote tolerance, ‘cupcake ministry’
This article was reported
by Laurie Hahn
on August 24, 2013 for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Daytona, FL.
Flagler County, FL - It’s been more than a year since Miriam Picconi and Wanda Russell were ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests as Catholic priests, and their “Inclusive Catholic Ministry” is going strong.
“We truly welcome everybody to the table,” Russell said. “We are interfaith; we don’t try to impose our beliefs on others. Our group has Jewish, Baptist and Catholic members. It’s so refreshing to see people of different backgrounds discussing issues and coming to the same concerns about the essence of faith.”
Their Inclusive Catholic Ministries of Palm Coast inter-faith theology discussion group meets on Wednesdays at their home, and they hold mass on the third Saturday of each month.
“We want to emphasize what we have in common rather than what divides us,” Picconi said. “Jesus preached acceptance of all people. We’re going to what was the essence of Jesus’ message.”
That acceptance includes their willingness to perform same-sex marriages and outdoor ceremonies, which are not permitted in the Roman Catholic Church. They said they also don’t believe in telling their congregation how to think, vote or plan their families.
Picconi and Russell were ordained April 14, 2012, by Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. There are approximately 150 women priests in the world, according to the New York Times, and a recent NYT/CBS News poll found as many as 70 percent of U.S. Catholics believe women should be allowed to be priests.
But the ordination of women remains forbidden by the Catholic Church. Pope Francis recently said Pope John Paul II’s statement in 1994 that the church has no authority to ordain women as priests is final, so “that door is closed.”
The ordination of women is considered by the Catholic Church to be an “infallible teaching,” which means the faithful cannot dissent and the subject is not open for debate.
Picconi and Russell regret the church’s stance, but not their decision to continue to serve.
“We’re not extreme or radical feminists,” Russell said. “It’s important for all churches to realize that women are people too. … We believe that all people are created in God’s image.”
The women, who became friends in 1981 when Picconi was appointed as a youth minister at Russell’s church, are retired from previous jobs — Picconi was in a religious order for 25 years and Russell is a retired social worker — but that doesn’t mean they’re taking life easy.
On Sunday, they will preside at an interfaith worship service at Castle Otttis in St. Augustine; they also speak at Sunday school classes and officiate at weddings, baptisms, funerals and retreats. They also offer spirituality workshops and counseling.
And there’s the “cupcake ministry,” in which they deliver baked goods to law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services or others — to show their appreciation.
“These public servants risk much for us and get too little thanks,” Picconi said. “We want them to know how grateful the faith community is for all they risk for us.”
Picconi and Russell said they are always trying to find ways to respond to the needs of the community.
“When we find people who are hurting and are broken in spirit, how do we respond? How do we find the needy people?” Russell asked.
Picconi added: “Ministry isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life.”
Contact Russell at 502-320-6814 or email@example.com; contact Picconi at 502-320-6817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
of Sts. Clare and Francis
Reflections on beginnings in British Columbia
from Michele Birch-Conery
August 11, 2013
Mayne Island, B.C. - It was lovely to wake up today and find 2 special photos from Patricia Fitzgerald. a woman we consider one of our founding persons in BC. At the time of the photos, the chapel was known as the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi. It is on her Mayne Island private property but in the past was often home to priests who visited the island. Patricia and Thomas Fitzgerald, both former religious, came to Mayne Island with their adopted First Nations son Wayne in 1979.
St. Francis of Assisi Chapel with builder Thomas Fitzgerald.
For my first Eucharist in 2005, Patricia sent me a ferry ticket and an invitation to come over and bless the chapel. In the Spring of 2006 we gathered with Patricia, Jim Lauder by then on the path to the diaconate and with us was a group of 4 women from Victoria and another 5 from Mayne Island.
After a very short period of time, the diocese forbade Patricia to have us there, but she was not fazed by this and we became, along with the 5 remaining women, the faithful community who gathered in the chapel, once a month. We had lost half our little community when the local parish priest informed the people that they would be excommunicated if they attended Eucharist at that place ‘up the hill’.
Jim Lauder and Michele Birch-Connery celebrating Eucharist in the
chapel of Sts. Clare and Francis.
Jim came every month as co-celebrant with me. In these photos, he had just made a sand bowl as part of a response to one of the questions in his program of preparation. We use it to this day in celebrations of light.
As each new candidate came along the path to ordination, those on Vancouver Island, Galliano Island, and from Vancouver participated frequently and usually once a month. One year, there were 4 of us ordained meeting with the 5 women in the community. It was a sacred space for Sacramental mentoring of candidates while seeming to me to be a luminous grace-filled house of God and an extraordinary gift given our excommunicated status. Here was our sanctuary hidden almost by the lush stands of evergreens on all sides of the building.
It was always a day for powerful pastoral sharing as the ferry ride from Victoria to Mayne Island was 2 1/2 hours. Sometimes visitors came too and there would be as many as 10 of us traveling and having community time together all those Sundays. It was also a special time for us when 4 or 5 men and women came over from Dignity -Vancouver.
In 2009, we had the largest celebration ever when we each brought persons from our local faith communities and there were 40 people for the joyous occasion of the first Eucharist of Rose Mewhort and Kim Sylvester.
We always had a potluck meal prior to our celebrations and this day was no exception as all 40 of us fit in the dining room, kitchen, living room and on the patio of Patricia Fitzgerald's home. It was right after that, when we next gathered, that we changed the chapel name to Sts. Clare and Francis.
The Fitzgerald grandchildren, Shania, Eric and Shyann with Rose Mewhort.
It is still our founding sacred space and now Rose Mewhort, RCWP from Galliano Island is the pastor and has been since her priestly ordination in 2009.
We are all blessed in our inclusive priesthood within our communities of equality.
Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community
Young Adult Faith Sharing Group: "Revealing Sophia's Truths"
July 21, 2013
Louisville, Kentucky - Christ Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community (Louisville/CSICC) has been meeting since May 11, 2013 on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month at 5:00pm in the Children's Chapel of St. Andrew United Church of Christ led by ARCWP priest, Rosemarie Smead. On July 21 after Liturgy most of us moved to the meeting room for a special event which included a video and presentation, "Revealing Sophia's Truths", offered by the Young Adult Faith Group mentored by Candidate Mary Sue Barnett.
Mary Sue mentored these young women when she was the Pastoral Director at St. Catherine's College in KY for 3 year. The young women wanted to continue the group, so Mary Sue reformed them in Louisville and they renamed themselves. She took the group to the United Nations last March, where they viewed and discussed the video, "It's A Girl" on the topic of femicide/gendercide in India and China. After watching we shared perspectives on this issue. These gals are in their early 20's, and of course several of us are 70+, so the range and depth of ideas was often profound, as all felt jarred to the core with the horrendous practice commonplace in our world. The young women are from many countries and offered cultural as well as personal insights. Their names are: Ohiniba Ohin- Togo, Anja Arsenovic- Serbia, Anastasiya Pihorolets- Ukraine, Randi Jo Fields- USA, Janessa Berlanga- USA, Brittany Prell-USA.
We also had the pleasure of celebrating the birthdays of two of our ARCWP applicants, Betty Smith who is turning 80 on July 29 and Denise Davis's birthday is the 26th Our star ARCWP supporter, and Carmelite Secular of 35 years, Maryrose Laun, brought the ice cream cake and goodies for us to enjoy!
St. Iris Faith Community celebrates post-Pentecost Liturgy
by Jim Lauder
VICTORIA, BC - On Sunday, May 26, 2013, our St. Iris Faith Community celebrated a post-Pentecost liturgy with the theme: Opening to the New, Let the Spirit Breathe inspired by the gospel reading John 16.12-15. My homily was entitled The Priest Stick. (~ Homily link)
Our community was invited to bring sticks/staffs for a “priest stick” project that began with a blessing. Each participant can decorate their staff over the summer months with whatever decoration they choose to symbolize their spiritual journey, or some other significant life event.
Harkening back to the symbolism of a bishop’s crosier, with its underlying authoritarianism, Michele and I reinforced the theology of the discipleship of equals. We encouraged our community to create a priest stick/staff that affirms the Divine found in creativity, and symbolizes that we all belong to the priesthood of the People of God.
Personally, I was very moved when everybody left our celebration pleased with their chosen sticks and staffs. Over the summer, Michele and I will create our priest sticks, and we look forward to the entire community sharing their creative process.
Stay tuned for further developments with St. Iris as we promise to “stick” with every effort to create a new and inclusive priestly ministry!
Smead, ARCWP, Newly Ordained Priest -
First Liturgy in Louisville, Kentucky
May 11, 2013 - Reported by: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP
"God of amazing surprises, Creator of tiny bugs and awesome plants. Designer of earth's wonders, Giver of life and laughter, we praise Your passionate love hidden, yet revealed, everywhere in the cosmos." So began the Eucharistic Prayer of newly ordained priest Rosemarie Smead's 1st Liturgy in Louisville Saturday evening, May 11th. More than 50 gathered in the children's chapel of St. Andrew United Church of Christ. Fittingly, she chose Bridget Mary's wondrous and awe-inspiring "Liturgy to Celebrate New Life, Creation, and New Beginnings."
We were at five tables with Eucharist bread and wine at each for the Body of Christ to consecrate, belonging to the Christ Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community. A family therapist who has worked with teenagers for many years, Rosemarie wore the "children of the world" stole with a tablecloth of the same design. After housekeeping, (email sign-up list, our brochure, and a brief summary of our ARCWP community), we stilled ourselves with the chant, "Seek the Face of God" by Susan Butler. Our Gospel reading was from John 14: 11-20.
..."I will ask the One who sent me to give you another Paraclete, another Helper to be with you always -- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept since the world neither sees Her nor recognizes Her; but you can recognize the Spirit, because She remains with you and will be within you. I won't leave you orphaned; I will come back to you."
We priests from Lexington, Donna Rougeux and I, were invited to give the homily. Donna focused on the letting go and coming into new life of the spirit. I spoke about my week with the prophetic Transform Now Plowshares activists who obeyed the promptings of the Spirit of Truth and entered the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Knoxville, Tennessee: Sr. Megan Rice, Greg Boertje-Obed and Michael Walli.
"You are the Body of Christ" we said to each other around the tables. This was a first experience for some who later articulated how moving and renewing an experience it was for them. In the hush of our Communion joy, we chanted "Do Not Be Afraid" and "Whichever Way You Turn" (there is the face of God) also by Susan Butler.
After we sang four stanzas of "All Are Welcome" Rosemarie outlined the needs and responsibilities of the community and gave a schedule for Liturgies which will be held there the first and third Saturday of each month at 5 p.m. "Thank you for your courage to support a renewed priestly ministry," Rosemarie said.
ARCWP SUPPORTS TRANSFORM NOW PLOWSHARES
May 5, 2013 - Reported by: Janice Sevre-Duszynska, ARCWP
WHAT IS TRANSFORM NOW PLOWSHARES?
Transform Now Plowshares is an effort by people of faith to transform weapons into real, life-giving alternatives, to build true peace. Inspired by the prophets Micah and Isaiah, Jesus and Gandhi, Transform Now Plowshares, Mike Walli, Sr. Megan Rice and Greg Boertje-Obed, began a symbolic conversion of the Y-12 Highly-Enriched Uranium Manufacturing Facility on July 28, 2012. The three follow in a long line of "Plowshare actions," which usually involve some form of symbolic-yet-real damage to weapons systems. The first Plowshare action was carried out on Sept 8, 1980 at a General Electric nuclear weapons facility in King of Prussia, PA. The late Philip Berrigan, and his brother, Fr. Daniel Berrigan SJ, were among the 8 defendants in that inaugural action. More than 100 actions have happened since, many of them conducted throughout Europe, but with far less-severe prison sentences.
Follow this link to view the video and read about "The Prophets of Oak Ridge" as reported by the Washington Post.
Follow this link to view the video and read about the breach of the Oak Ridge Nuclear facility by Plowshares as reported by the Washington Post.
May 5, 2013 - Gathering of Supporters for the Trial
“What a day today in fed court! Our attorneys are putting y-12 on trial," Sr. Megan Rice began her statement. "It is a tribute to our abundant life-giving God. You can check it out on the website Transform Now Plowshares.” [Continue to read about the trial HERE.]
ARCWP COMMUNITIES CELEBRATE HOLY WEEK AND EASTER
St. Iris Faith Community Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Gathered on the side walk outside our chapel on a sunny morning we blessed each other’s locally grown and donated palm fronds and then processed into our chapel, led by two of community members, one in a wheel chair, the other with a walker. Michele Birch Conery and I co-celebrated our Palm Sunday liturgy that was based on Bridget Mary Meehan’s Lent liturgy. Our theme “Forgive and Ask for Forgiveness, Taking Flight” was also borrowed from Regina and Bridget Mary’s book, Praying with a Passionate Heart. Our liturgy was well received by the 15 people in attendance, and many loved that we spent time in meditation using the forgiveness meditation before the cross of Jesus. During the meditation, one of our community members was blessed with a vision of a beautiful white light encircling our group. Michele’s homily focused on the call of the prophet and was well received, and served as a reminder that we are all prophets. Afterwards, we enjoyed a lunch that included a Happy Easter cake. The picture shows Michele and me offering a final blessing.
Mary Mother of Jesus Inclusive Catholic Community Sarasota, Florida
Approximately 100 people attended our Easter Vigil.
Bridget Mary greeting some of the
children before the Vigil.
Lee Bryer presiding at the procession
with the Paschal candle.
blessing one another with Easter water.
ARCWP Priest Katy Zatsick and Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan sharing Easter joy.
EASTER SUNDAY AFTERNOON
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
getting ready for procession led by youth minister, Efe.
Shepherd Children ringing bells during entrance procession on
Judy Beaumont and Judy Lee (seated)
beginning the interactive homily with 35 community members.
leading children singing “Do You Really Love Jesus?”
Lee with women and children of Good Shepherd.
the meal is being readied, Judy Lee visits with Gary, Roger
Mary Mother of Jesus Catholic Community Celebrates Seder
Binder presiding at Jewish Seder Celebration
Zatsick, baked Lamb Cake
to share as Passover Dessert.
Resurrection Community Cincinnati, Ohio
Resurrection Community celebrated Easter at their regular
time in Cincinnati. In May the community will celebrate their
to celebrate: Priests Donna Rougeux and
Janice Sevre-Duszynska and Deacon Rosemarie Smead.
ARCWP Priest Janice Sevre-Duszynska presides at CTA liturgy in New Orleans
September 19, 2012 - Reported by Jennifer Molina
Last night's Mass with Janice Sevre-Duszynska and Donna Rougeux, ordained Catholic priests, and Diane Dougherty, ordained Catholic deacon, was a joyful celebration of hope, faith, and courage. Thank you to Janice, Donna, and Diane for this gift to our community. Thanks also to Bill and Debbie Quigley, who invited them and offered their home for their visit and for the Mass. Thanks to all who came last night (we counted between 45-50 in attendance---including seven children!). Thanks to all of you were with us in spirit but who could not attend.
~ Jennifer Molina
It's so good to welcome everyone to celebrate the Body of Christ
with the Body of Christ. What is also life-giving is the uniqueness
of each liturgy. While we follow the structure of the Mass, we are
creating enriching new liturgies that empower the people of God.
~ Janice Sevre-Duszynska
Women Priests Enrich Church
Since the end of November (2011), 92 year-old Wisconsin Jesuit, Fr. Bill Brennen has been silenced by his order and barred from celebrating Mass following his participation as a co-celebrant in a Eucharistic liturgy with Roman Catholic Womanpriest, Janice Sevre-Duszynska as part of the vigil to close the School of Americas (SOA) in Columbus, GA. This silencing and the November announcement that Fr. Roy Bourgeois, leader of the movement to close the SOA has been expelled from the Maryknoll religious, his congregation of 45 years, prompted the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) to endorse the movement to ordain women as Catholic priests. The support for women’s ordination given by the NCR and Frs. Bourgeois and Brennen, among others, is a fitting response to the ongoing invitation by Roman Catholic Womenpriests specifically and marginalized members of the Church generally to join in the work of creating an ever more inclusive community of faith.
In September, I had the pleasure of participating in Mass said by Sevre-Duszynska at the home of a friend here in New Orleans. It was an extraordinary experience insofar as it was remarkably typical of the dozens of home liturgies and Masses that I have attended over the years presided over by a variety of priests and lay people. The order did not deviate from the customary rites of Roman Catholic masses other than to make use of inclusive language and benefit from the shared wisdom of those gathered in reflecting on the reading in the Liturgy of the Word.
Perhaps the most radical departure from tradition, apart from the gender of the celebrant, was the inclusion of everyone—regardless of age, marital status, or religious affiliation—during the sharing of the Eucharist. This insistence on inclusion — inspired by the open table fellowship practiced by Jesus and his disciples— is the radical strength and prophetic message of the movement for the ordination of women.
Women, gay, transgendered and divorced Catholics are among the many who are not fully included in the life of the Church and the vision of the hierarchy. Jesus ate and drank with tax collectors, adulterers, and his own enemies. His example and that of Woman Priest Sevre Duszynska and Frs. Bourgeois and Brennen are a model for inclusion that is the basis of authentic Christian community. The welcome table is not always (or often) a comfortable place for the privileged guests, nor does it come without cost or responsibility as numerous Gospel parables suggest. However, it is a place where all can find companionship in Christ. I pray that more male clergy and laity might accept the invitation of the women priests in envisioning and enacting the beloved community of faith together and in many various ways.
From Seeds, newsletter of New Orleans Catholic Worker St. Thomas House of Hospitality
Mary Mother of Jesus Community - March 3, 2013
About 20 members of the MMOJ community in Sarasota, Florida attended the community’s first Lenten retreat led by Bishop Bridget Mary and Marilyn Jenai on Sunday, March 3, 2013. The theme was “Our God of Love” and members took away that a good Lenten practice is to “love those who we would rather not be around in our daily lives”. The retreat was held at the Elliston, Florida home of Lee and Carol Ann Breyer, married priest partners of the community. They have called their nature preserve and home for spiritual gathering “Mercy-on-the-Manatee” (river). Spiritual experiences were shared and affirmed and God was present in the quiet times for reflection. After the retreat was completed, most of the attendees shared social time going to dinner at a local restaurant.
Resurrection Community - Cincinnati, Ohio
February 13, 2013 - Ash Wednesday
Yesterday about 90 people gathered in Cincinnati for our monthly Eucharist which was also our Ash Wednesday. Some came from the city, others from northern Kentucky and Dayton. Each month we have first-timers who come up to me and say, "I've been looking for this for so long. I am grateful to be here."
Ours is an ever-growing Eucharistic Community and truly a discipleship of equals. Our name is Resurrection Community and we have been gathering together as the people of God three years this May. In the emergence of our faith community we have had the support of loving and prophetic people.
During the summer when it is hot, we gather in the church which has air conditioning. During the other months, we celebrate as the people of God in the fellowship hall at tables where there is bread and wine for all to consecrate along with the priest. Our music and songs are coordinated with our theme. People are invited to give homilies and become part of the liturgy committee. For two years, we used ARCWP's worship aide and sometimes folks wrote original Eucharistic prayers. Now we are putting together our own liturgies and they, too, are grounded and meaningful.
At our Ash Wednesday liturgy last night, a first-timer told me she cried when she gave Eucharist to the person sitting next to her, saying; "You are the Body of Christ." In our faith community, we are living the Kin-dom experience of liberation and empowerment.
ARCWP SUPPORTS TRANSFORM NOW PLOWSHARES
May 9, 2013 - Priest Supporters of Transform Now Plowshares
Greg, Megan, and Michael were found guilty today of both counts brought against them — sabotage and depredation of government property — and they were remanded from the courtroom as we sang them rounds of “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” and “Vine and Fig Tree.” The prosecution has stated that the defendants stand convicted of a “crime of violence”; if this is the case, law requires that they remain in prison until sentencing. They will spend the night in jail, and we will return to the courtroom tomorrow at 9:00 to see what the judge will decide.
In light of these heavy facts, it might seem irrelevant to share with you the evidence presented today in the courtroom. But truth-telling deserves to be celebrated — even if the jury wasn’t swayed, glimmers of truth did make their way into courtroom, thanks to the sharp minds and firm convictions of the defendants and their lawyers. Such good news should be shared.
A lot of evidence was presented today: Attorney Francis Lloyd finished his questioning of Megan and the government cross-examined her. Michael, Col. Ann Wright, and Greg were also questioned and cross-examined, and lastly the judge read the jury instructions and allowed closing arguments before sending the jury out to deliberate.
Greg’s testimony came after the afternoon break, and in a way it tied together much of what had been said all day. He called to our attention the story of the Good Samaritan stopping to help an injured man on the road to Jericho. We see people on the roadside lying wounded, and our job is to do something to stop the violence and help the victims. Greg outlined the violence that we are obligated to stop in our world today: the United States is the only country to have over 700 military bases all over the world; we are the only nation that uses drones to kill people around the world; and we use nuclear weapons to threaten people around the world, weapons whose very manufacturing causes sickness and death.
Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan because someone has asked him, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer to this question is a major point of disagreement between the defense and the prosecution. “Do you consider yourself an American?” the government prosecutor asked Sister Megan Rice. “I believe I am a citizen of the world,” answered Sister Megan. “Boundaries are arbitrary.” The prosecutor went on to ask if Sister Megan had ever protested nuclear weapons by traveling to nuclear powers other than the United States. She responded that national borders are arbitrary lines; each and every human life on the planet is threatened by the use of nuclear weapons. Michael too was asked where he considered home. “I am a citizen of heaven and I travel here and there,” he replied. We are all citizens of heaven first; this loyalty takes precedence over any national allegiance we might have.
Greg cited a second story too, after the parable: the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It was a little boy who revealed what was missing, Greg said — and he was the only one who dared speak. The emperor here is the United States DOE, and it does not have effective fences. What is more, the emperor doesn’t have real security. Greg explained, “Real security comes when we foster justice among all the nations.” Ann Wright’s expert knowledge of U.S. security withstood all efforts of the government to discredit her testimony. She established firmly that the emperor has no clothes, insofar as Y-12 does not have effective internal security tests. If Y-12 was running internal security tests, there would never have been so much critical security apparatus that was broken or otherwise not in place. “That’s where the problem lies,” said Col. Wright. That is the key.” Col. Wright testified that Greg, Megan, and Michael’s action improved national security by pointing out this national security deficiency, even if that was not their intention.
Throughout the government’s closing arguments, the prosecutors accused the defendants of disobeying the rule of law, taking the law into their own hands, forcing their will on other people. How ironic! Disregard of the rule of law and treaties is exactly the behavior that the United States engages in, in their foreign policy, that Michael, Megan, and Greg came to Y-12 to address. The same smoke and mirrors allow the government prosecutors to accuse the defendants of “crimes of violence.” How absurd, when crimes of violence are precisely what Greg, Megan, and Michael desired to put an end to when they came to Y-12.
“The teachings of Jesus are practical, doable, worthy of
emulation,” Michael said from the witness stand today. “Our
role is to try to open their eyes,” Greg said, “to come
out of the ways of death.” Megan said, “I believe we
are all equally responsible to stop a known crime.” As we
think of our friends in jail tonight, let us allow their words to
echo in our hearts and minds. (Posted
May 10 - The Transform Now Plowshares sentencing has been set for September 23rd. No decision has been made yet about whether the defendants must be held awaiting sentencing; lawyers have until Tuesday to submit more material for the judge to consider, and Michael, Megan, and Greg are being held until then. After about an hour of combing through case law, conditions and sub-conditions this morning to determine whether or not the three should be held until sentencing, Judge Thapar asked the prosecution in frustration, “Don’t you find it a little troubling that Congress would write a law that wouldn’t let me distinguish between peace activists and terrorists?” Judge Thapar, a George W. Bush appointee to the federal bench, was clearly struggling with his decision because it appeared that he might have "no choice" but to remand them to custody because the U.S. Attorney told him a congressional law might require him to do so because the three were found guilty of sabotage -- an "act of violence" against the United States.
When Megan, Greg, and Michael arrived in the courtroom they were wearing tan prison jumpsuits marked “FEDERAL INMATE,” with their hands shackled to their waists. We sang to them, “Sacred the Land, Sacred the Water.” Francis Lloyd noted that Megan had begun to suffer from the cold, and got permission from the judge to lend her his jacket. Much of the morning was spent exploring legal references, a purely academic effort to understand and apply the logic from previous cases. “I mean, you may win under the B analysis, but I’m still on the A analysis,” the judge told the prosecution at one point. Greg, who had been passing the time by toying with the shackles on his wrists, looked up with an amused smile on his face. None of the defendants seemed particularly invested in the outcome of the morning. At one point, Megan whispered loudly to Attorney Bill Quigley, “This is bothering my conscience. I don’t want time wasted on this!”
There was an occasional break in the legalese when the judge would stop to reflect on the seriousness of crimes related to United States “national security” matters, and when the prosecution would remind the judge that the defendants showed “absolutely no remorse” for their action and were “of a VERY recidivist nature.” Before the hearing was brought to a close, Bill Quigley asked to state for the record that “the defendants would like to point out that they were there to prevent a crime of violence far far greater than that of which they are accused.”
As Megan, Greg, and Michael were taken away from the courtroom, Kathy once more led the gallery in song: “We ain’t gonna study war no more!”
Outside, Paul Magno and Ellen Barfield briefly summarized the morning’s events for the press then introduced them to a range of eloquent speakers: Clare Grady to talk about the role of resistance in contributing to the evolution of law, and Father Bix, Chrissy Kirchhoefer, and Jim Haber to speak about the action in the context of ongoing nuclear resistance nationwide.
Clare Grady recaps what she told the press:
So today what we heard was a lengthy, lengthy examination of the law, and yet the supreme laws of our land were left out of the courtroom, left out of this trial. The Constitution, Article Six Section Two: “All treaties, pacts, and protocols that are signed and ratified become the supreme law of our land; every judge is to abide by them.” And those laws have evolved over the years to outlaw war of aggression; outlaw weapons of mass destruction; outlaw killing civilians; outlaw occupation; outlaw stealing the earth’s resources to build these weapons. We are not upholding those laws.
Our friends in this courtroom have manifest the original law that is written on our hearts, the law to love one another. We all bring each other forward, help each other when we each manifest that law; then our human laws will start to reflect that as well.
This is not just about Greg and Megan and Michael. It’s
a collective that has offered us this by example, and then we offer
each other this by example. This is a tag team, a relay race —
whatever you want to call it, but it’s something that’s
done in a collective, it’s not done alone.
Megan, Mike and Greg gave a witness for peace and sanity in our
world. They are following in the nonviolent tradition of Jesus,
Gandhi and Martin Luther King by speaking truth to power. Where
were the leaders of our faith traditions as this trial was being
held? Where were our Roman Catholic bishops and Cardinals? Why aren't
they speaking out against Y-12 and in support of the Transform Now
Plowshares? When are they going to put their bodies on the line
for the people of God? The uranium stored at Y-12 is capable of
blowing up the planet. Y-12 is a place of evil and is part of a
culture of death that has made weapons and military power into idols.
~ Janice Sevre-Duszynska
Summary - by Patrick O'Neill
Knoxville, TN – In the annals of "Plowshares" lore there was nothing like it. An 83-year old nun, Sr. Megan Rice, and two other "senior citizens" as one defense attorney called Rice and her companions, Michael Walli, 63, and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, seemed to pass through the midst of what was considered the most secure nuclear weapons facility on the planet.
Like the "unsinkable" Titanic, the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge -- aka the "Fort Knox of Uranium" -- was supposed to be terrorist-proof, but it turned out to not even be pacifist-proof. Rice, a member of the Sisters of Mercy, only needed a cheap pair of bolt cutters, a Google map and Boertje-Obed to clear a path through the darkness and the brush to hit pay dirt. Four cut fences, a series of mal- or non-functioning sensors, good timing, a guard in a gun tower who never noticed anything and "Presto," the trio of determined, veteran peace activists were face-to-face with a building the Department of Energy calls the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF), where there's enough weapons-grade uranium stored to end life as we know it on Planet Earth.
On May 9, a jury of 12 stern-faced jurors returned guilty verdicts on two felony counts that will likely mean lengthy federal prison sentences for the trio who claimed it was a miracle that they were able to get to the "inner sanctum" of the Y-12 plant where they used blood, spray paint, hammers and crime-scene tape to "transform" the HEUMF. A sentencing date of September 23 has been set for the three.
Even though the damage was largely symbolic - vandalism was a descriptive term used at times during the group's three-day trial - the government came down hard, charging the three with intentionally and willfully harming "the national defense of the United States," a sabotage charge that carries a 20-year maximum prison sentence. They also were charged with "depredation" (to plunder, lay to waste or to prey upon) of government property, a 10-year felony. Sentencing guidelines will likely keep the defendants' actual prison terms at less than five years, but still formidable for Rice, who has a heart condition.
The trial produced plenty of fascinating twists and turns as witnesses for the government explained in great detail how Y-12's security was compromised, leading to a 15-day shutdown of the plant primarily to evaluate the security failures. While many outside observers -- and at least one Congressman -- appreciated the fact that the anti-nuclear activists exposed major security flaws at the site, the jury showed no gratitude, returning with a "guilty on all counts" verdict after just 2.5 hours of deliberation.
"The security at Y-12 has never been stronger," the head of operations testified during the trial, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore, a Catholic, wasn't giving any of the credit to Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed, telling the jury in his closing argument that that would be like saying: "I broke into your house, but it's your fault because your security wasn't good enough."
Defense lawyers Bill Quigley and Francis Lloyd and Boertje-Obed, who represented himself, did their best to convince the jury that none of the defendants "intended" to compromise national security with their protest, but the message didn't stick. The trio actually turned down a plea deal that would have spared them the sabotage charge, which might have also spared them years in prison because the depredation charge has much less-severe sentencing guidelines.
Yet, at no time during the days leading up to the trial or during the trial did any of the defendants appear concerned about their plights, smiling and sharing lots of intimate time with their more than 100 friends who came from throughout the nation to attend the trial.
"I was born in 1930 in the depths of the Depression," Rice said told jurors during her testimony. She told the story of a neighbor -- who she later found out was a scientist working on the Manhattan Project -- who went to work each day, but never revealed to his family what he did at work, a story similar to the last 70 years in Oak Ridge, which claims as a moniker: "The Secret City."
"He was doing something there that he could not that tell his wife or family about," Rice said. "That was stunning to us."
Rice said the three "prayed together many months" as they prepared for their Y-12 action. "We were filled with love for and compassion for the people who had to work at this very dangerous facility."
In his testimony, Steven Erhart, a senior Y-12 official, ate some crow for the security beach and other failures, but he also gave his personal opinion regarding Y-12's role in the world, saying it was the atom bombs dropped on Japan that ended World War II, and that the U.S. nuclear arsenal deterred "rogue states" from aggression. "Without Y-12 we don't have a nuclear weapon," Erhart said, noting that Y-12 workers were responsible for what's known as the "secondary function" in production that is vital for the detonation of a nuclear weapon.
When asked by Quigley if the July 28, 2012 "event" -- a reference to the surprise visit Rice, Walli and Boertje-Obed paid to Y-12 -- represented what one report called "a security culture of complacency," Erhart, who is an electrical engineer, replied: "A better term would be a normalization of the deviation from the optimum."
Still, Erhart boldly stated that the new and improved "Y-12 plant is well-equipted to deter any threat thrown its way."
Walli, who at various times referred to himself as homeless, a mystic, a missionary and a "garlic farmer" in the garden he toils in at the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House in Washington D.C., offered the most colorful testimony of the trial.
When he took the witness stand to testify on the Wednesday, Walli was asked to do a mic-check: "Testing, testing, testing, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John," he said.
"I'm Catholic and I know that Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother do not have an arsenal of any kind," said Walli, who is a Vietnam-era Army combat veteran. "I was employed as a terrorist for the United States Government," he said. "Since Dorothy Day, the great prophet" and Martin Luther KIng Jr. both "condemned nuclear weapons," Wallli said he was merely following in their footsteps by acting at "the criminal site Y-12."
On the witness stand, Boertje-Obed, who also served in the U.S. Army, said the fact that the trio made it to the HEUMF building "was very clearly a miracle. There's no other way that I could explain it."
Boertje-Obed said he, Walli and Rice "worked real hard at attempting to be nonviolent," and that the Y-12 workers "are acting in blindness, and our role is to help them come out of the way of death."
While the defendants' deeply spiritual testimony was moving to their supporters, few others in the courtroom seemed to grasp it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Kirby, who identified herself to Rice as Catholic, asked the nun during cross examination why, as a courtesy, she had not notified the local bishop of her plans to engage in the Y-12 protest. Kirby also asked Rice if the late Columbia University economist Seymore Melman, whom Rice had mentioned in her testimony, was a socialist.
On the other side, Fr. Bill Bechsel, SJ, who came to the trial from Tacoma, WA, said he was inspired by the actions of the three. The 85-year-old priest, who was involved in a Plowshare action of his own in 2009, said he has spent close to three years in jail, prison or under house arrest for civil disobedience.
"We are the ones we have been waiting for," Bechsel said, quoting author Alice Walker. "I believe that, and so the kingdom begins to happen by our actions, by what we're doing. I have the utmost hope that - I don't know when that's going to happen -- but that it will happen."