Our sons are digital natives. They have never lived in a world without computers or the internet, much of it at their fingertips. As such, it has shaped their reality unlike any other generation.
Our sons have also never lived in a reality when women could not become priests or even bishops. In fact, they know far more women clergy than they know male clergy.
As you are hopefully aware, Tuesday, July 29th, marks the 40th anniversary of the Philadelphia 11. These pioneering women, surrounded by lay and ordained women and men, took the bold step to live into the fullness of that which they were called; To truly use the gifts that God had given them as God called them to, through the discernment and affirmation of the Church.
My own first encounter with a priest who was female came while I was in college. Ironically, I don’t even remember it being a big deal. I grew up with very strong relationships with the clergy in my life and that experience just continued when we began to do youth work together. In my mind, both then and now, she was a very gifted, deeply spiritual person who embodied everything I had experienced from the priest I grew up with.
As such, while I can remember a time when women were not permitted to be ordained to the priesthood, it is very hard for me to imagine living in a Church without female priests. My first spiritual director, the majority of my seminary classmates, and some of my most trusted colleagues have (and continue to be) women who are ordained. Unquestionably, much of my own shaping as a deacon, priest, and bishop have been through the significant influence of the women clergy in my life.
I am truly grateful that the generation that follows me, not the least of which are my sons, will never know a time in their lives when women could not be ordained to the priesthood. All of our lives, and the entire Church, have been blessed beyond measure from the women who live into the fullness of their call as deacons, priests, and bishops!
Watch video from the celebration honoring the 40th anniversary of the Philadelphia Eleven that took place in Philadelphia on July 26.