<![CDATA[FEDERATION OF CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES - Blog]]>Sat, 15 Jul 2017 13:35:32 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[FCM Member Paul Stubenbort - Letter to the Editor - Bucks County Courier Times]]>Mon, 10 Jul 2017 17:08:02 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/fcm-member-paul-stubenbort-letter-to-the-editor-bucks-county-courier-times
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In his June 21st column, Cal Thomas addresses the political and social rage that exists in our society today, and lays much of the blame on "the left." Thomas epitomizes, rather succinctly, the heart of the problem as he sees it: "It never occurs to them that their policies, forged in the era of Franklin Roosevelt, have exceeded their 'sell by' date, and so they lash out, trying to undermine the duly elected president by focusing on things that have nothing to do with average people." I think you will seldom find a quote that is so historically, politically and socially shallow as that.
When FDR provided jobs for millions of Americans through the CCC and WPA, there was no "sell by" date for that. When he stopped child labor and provided disability coverage for all Americans, there was no "sell by" date for that nor was there a date to cease social security for unnumbered Americans since then. And continuing FDR's work, Lyndon Baines Johnson introduced Medicare, Medicaid and civil rights for all Americans. Is all this now subject to a "sell by" date?
And as for all this having nothing to with average Americans, does health care or voting rights or clean water have nothing to do with average Americans? It has nothing to do with wealthy Americans, but then they are not average. Does Mr. Thomas not know that many crucial agencies of government are ridding themselves of advocates for health care, voting rights, civil rights and the environment, clean water and air? Are we all on our own now?
When we heard as youngsters that all Americans have a right to life, that had to include health care. Without health care, people die. Average Americans die. And when Lincoln told us our government was "for the people" he meant all the people. Government shouldn't choose who gets health care and who does not. We all have a right to life.

There is no "sell by" date for common human decency, nor for the gracious decisions of our forebears who worked so hard to bring us where we are today.
Paul Stubenbort
Bensalem




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<![CDATA[MEMORIAL LETTER TO NIKOLAUS SIMON SMOLINSKI (DECEMBER 19, 1976 – FEBRUARY 11, 2017) Written by his father, FCM member, Delmar Smolinski]]>Wed, 28 Jun 2017 21:14:19 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/memorial-letter-to-nikolaus-simon-smolinski-december-19-1976-february-11-2017-written-by-his-father-fcm-member-delmar-smolinskiDear Nik, Dear Son,

I am beginning this letter to you at 3:00 AM on March 11, 2017, one month since you are physically gone from us. It may take me a while to complete it – our grief is still pretty raw. I have written a number of post-death letters over the years to family members and friends. This one to you is uniquely difficult but I feel compelled to write it. It’s difficult because kids are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around – right?

When your mother and I were married on October 27, 1972, at the original SS. Peter and Paul Church in Saginaw, MI, we had no idea that our pledge of loyalty to each other “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health” would directly involve you, as it did with your 3 and a half-year battle against appendiceal (appendix) cancer, followed by your untimely death on February 11, 2017, at the Cartwright Hospice Care Center in Saginaw, MI. Sometimes life can be painfully unfair.  With that though, we share the anguish of Mary, as she witnessed the untimely death of her own son, Jesus, when he was just in his early 30’s. We share that anguish with many other mothers and fathers – some in our own family and among our neighbors and friends – who have lost sons and daughters to untimely death.

Toward your final days, I came across a frank appraisal of sickness by an author named Marian Keyes – it’s from her novel, “The Mystery of Mercy Close.” I found it in a daily calendar for nurses. Here it is:
“People get sick and sometimes they get better and sometimes they don’t. And it doesn’t matter if the sickness is cancer or if it’s depression. Sometimes the drugs work and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the drugs work for a while and then they stop. Sometimes the alternative stuff works and sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes you wonder if no outside interference makes any difference at all; if an illness is like a storm, if it simply has to run its course, at the end of it you will be alive or you will be dead.”
Nik, you could have written that passage from your own experience with cancer, multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and diet. You fought steadfastly and bravely. Who could ask for more?

With your passing on February 11th, I recall a message from Henri Nouwen, a Dutch priest-psychologist: “The length of life is less important than the intensity and sincerity with which it is lived” and, Nik, you certainly made the most with the short time that you had on this earth.  In a truly unbiased opinion, one word that would best describe you is ‘brilliant.’  We have always been amazed by your intellect, talent, and skillfulness that was reflected in the perfection of everything that you seemed to pursue.  You were a writer, a storyteller, an artist, a cartoonist… You logged miles upon miles on both biking and hiking trails.  There were Renaissance festivals, trips to historical sites all over Michigan, several Comic-Cons where you got to meet more than once your weight-lifting inspiration, Lou Ferrigno (TV’s “Incredible Hulk”), as well as cast members from your favorite movie, Superman (1970/80’s).  You were a literary aficionado with an insatiable appetite for reading and an extensive collection of comics and books ranging from science fiction, paranormal, and horror to Native American culture and lore, mythology, religion, classic literature and SO much more!  You were a Star Wars and Star Trek fan, an astronomer/star gazer, and an archeologist (It will take some time for the Oxbow Archeology group of the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland to find someone with your enthusiasm, keen eye and skilled hands to help with their digs and discoveries).  Along with your books, you had an extensive collection of posters, movies, medieval weaponry, lifelike models built to scale, toys, and other collectible memorabilia – all of which you generously gifted to relatives and friends, as your terminal illness led you to choose dispossession.

Nik, as I recall, you were three times voted Employee of the Month, when you worked for the Loss  Prevention Department of a major retail store for many years, only to be disappointed  by being “let go” over a  corporation decision to downsize its work force – their loss! You likewise were highly respected by your co-workers as an Officer in the Safety and Security Department, as well as by the teachers and students, at Saginaw Township’s alternative education high school, the Mackinaw Academy. 

In addition to all of the above in your “resume of life,” you can list Superhero, as well.  You were an inspiration to everyone around you, including friends, family, hospital staff, etc., as you battled cancer and “fought the good fight” (II Timothy 4:7).

Nik, we miss your humor and your razor sharp wit. I will personally miss the entertaining birthday cards you would send. We miss our Sunday get-togethers and pizza dinners and your indispensable assistance around the house with things such as assembling our bookcases, computer cabinet, my greenhouse, and other furniture items. You were always willing to lend a helping hand, even when it came to your sister’s million and one moves over the years.

We miss your independent spirit.  Despite your characteristic bluntness, you had an introspective and empathetic side that would often be revealed with gifts that showed just how much you indeed listened and internalized all that we had said. Nik, you lived your life with honesty and integrity – no B.S.! You were truly a genuine human being and that is why you were liked and loved by everyone that you encountered.
I know, Nik, you were worried about your little sister, Katrina; not only was she losing her only sibling, but also her best friend. You two always had a “secret language” based on family history, pop culture and shared experiences. With your illness, your relationship actually grew closer as you began to text everyday throughout the day, “watch” TV together from different states while chatting back and forth throughout the evening, and made sure to say goodnight to each other every single night over the past 3 and a half years. On your 40th and final birthday, Katrina gave you a card on which she noted, “Dear Nik, There is so much more I want to say about how much you mean to me… how much of an influence you have had on my life… but Hallmark at least helped me get a start… Love from your sis, Katrina.”  The card was as follows:
“For my Brother, my Friend. Having a brother like you means that when you need a friend, you never have to look further than your own family. When there’s someone in your life who’s made a difference, whose loyalty and friendship have been yours as long as you can remember, who’s shared good times and trying times and memories by the heartful with you, it’s a gift you really cherish. It’s the kind of gift that will make you smile and feel so lucky to have had such a great brother, such a wonderful friend.”

On February 27, 2017, your mother and I were able to be present for the birth of Katrina and Kevin’s son, Simon Nikolaus (Smolinski) Byl, in Wisconsin. We know how you longed to live to see him, too. He was purposely named to help keep your memory alive. Many have expressed how so-naming him is special and unique. By the way, in the Hebrew language, “Simon” means “the Lord has heard.”

Nik, permit me to preach a little before I close this rambling letter. I read that, at the time of a death, five things need to be said by all concerned. Let’s say them together: Forgive me; I forgive you; Thank you; I love you; Goodbye. Speaking of goodbye, in the late 1970’s, when you were just a couple of years old and I was visiting senior residents in the Freeland area as a Social Worker for Saginaw County’s Commission on Aging, I stopped at our home for lunch. Afterward, as I was heading out the front door to return to work, you stood at the entrance with your mother and said to me: “Bye, Dad, thanks for coming.” Well, I want to reverse that now and say: “Bye, Nik, thanks for coming.” And I would add: “We will see you again.”

On behalf of all your family and friends who know and love you,           
LOVE, Dad (& Mom & Katrina)   
May 15, 2017

P.S. We will make sure that your nephew Simon Nikolaus gets a copy of this letter.


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<![CDATA[Social Justice....Repeal of Affordable Care Act]]>Fri, 17 Mar 2017 01:58:33 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/social-justicerepeal-of-affordable-care-actCongressional committees are moving forward with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  The alternative plan has now been reviewed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  Their analysis shows a result of millions of people losing their health care coverage in the near term (14 million) and in the longer term (24 million).  This is unacceptable.
 

Health care in 21st century America should be seen as a right and a duty.  It should be a right that our entire population be granted health care.  On any day any one of us could be stricken by a dread disease or a terrible accident.  At that moment health insurance allows for quick and effective action to save a life, a family and a family’s economic survival.
 

This is a duty also.  In health insurance the danger is adverse selection.  That is, those who are healthy today try to opt out of coverage in order to save premium dollars.  Those who are older and more ill do not opt out, so their coverage is paid for by a smaller population.  This causes their costs to rise, driving them out of the market due to inability to pay.  They lose their coverage.  The duty is to join the ranks of the insureds so that the risk is spread across the entire population.  This enables all to afford coverage.
 

The Federation of Christian Ministries urges its members to reach out to each representative who represents you:  your congressperson, your two senators.  Demand that they protect us all by providing health care to save our lives and our economic future.  Allow those at the top of the economic scale to pay a greater burden of cost, so that those with little might have the protection good insurance provides. Disallow the tax break for the top earning 450,000 households.
 

For many health care becomes a matter of life and death.  Our Christ-inspired convention of churches stands for life giving insurance coverage now and into the future.

Tom Cusack, President
Tom Stricker, Chairperson
Carolyn Horvath, Chair, Peace and Justice Committee


Suggestion: Copy and paste the following statement and send it to your representatives via email or mail.
Dear (Representative), the American Care Act is unacceptable to me. It takes insurance coverage from the poor and the older by the millions.

Please support expanded care for all.  As well as continued  support to Planned Parenthood. 


  
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<![CDATA[The Meaning of the Trinity Icon............ by FCM Member Dan Pellegrin]]>Wed, 15 Feb 2017 19:25:59 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/the-meaning-of-the-trinity-icon-by-fcm-member-dan-pellegrin
This Trinity Icon is given very special meaning by Richard Rohr in his book, The Divine Dance and Your Transformation.  It was transformative for me, and so I would like to share it with you.
Rohr starts the book:  “The Blessed Trinity is supposed to be a central – or the paramount – foundational doctrine of our entire Christian belief system.  And yet we’re told, at least I was told as a young boy in Kansas, that we shouldn’t try to understand it.”  It’s a mystery, we were told.  But he adds:  “Remember, mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand – it is something that you can endlessly understand.”
He continues:  “Whatever is going on in God, is a flow, a radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three – a circle dance of love."

    “And God is not just a dancer;  God is the dance itself.”
Rohr then spends time with this icon called “The Trinity.”  It depicts the three at a table, loving each other and sharing a meal.  But at the table there is a space for a fourth, and it’s believed the artist put a small mirror there, so the gazer could see that he/she was meant to be the fourth at the table, with the hand of the Spirit pointing toward the open and fourth place at the table, inviting, offering, and clearing space.  For you – the Observer!  The icon captures all the following life-giving, blessing, and energizing thought.

“At the heart of Christian revelation, God is not seen as a distant, static monarch, but – as we will explore together – a divine circle dance....  My fondest hope would be that these pages would reposition you in the mirror of divine fellowship, with a place at the table....  All creation is invited in, and this is the liberation God intended from the very beginning...."

“Are you ready to take your place at this wondrous table?  Can you imagine that you are already a part of the dance?"

    “Then let’s begin to explore both how and why!”
Rohr calls for a paradigm shift:  a major conversion, a genuine transformation of worldview.  Rohr sees history as operating with a static and imperial image of God – as a Supreme Monarch who is mostly living in splendid isolation from the world – and God is always and exclusively envisioned as male in this model – he created.  This God is seen largely as a Critical Spectator (and his followers do their level best to imitate their Creator in this regard).

Rohr sees God:  “Instead of God being the Eternal Threatener, we have God as the Ultimate Participant – in everything – both the good and the painful."

“How about God being the Life Force of everything?....  How about God being the Life Energy between each and every object (which we would usually call Love or Spirit)?”

“Theologically, of course, this revolution repositions grace as inherent to creation, not as an occasional additive that some people occasionally merit...."

“This God is the very one who we have named ‘Trinity’ – the flow who flows through everything, without exception, and who has done so since the beginning."

    “Thus, everything is holy, for those who have learned how to see.”

This Trinitarian life and loves flows in and through us:  “Whether we know it or not!  This is not an invitation that you can agree with or disagree with.  It is a description of what is already happening in God and in everything created in God’s image and likeness.”

“St. Bonaventure would later call such a God a “fountain fullness” of love.  Any talk of anger in God, “wrath” in God, unforgiveness in God, or any kind of holding back whatsoever, the Cappadocian mystics would see as theologically impossible and forever undone in a Trinitarian notion of God.  Nothing human can stop the flow of divine love;  we cannot undo the eternal pattern even by our worst sin.  God is always winning, and God’s love will win.  Love does not lose, nor does God lose.  You can’t stop the relentless outpouring force that is the divine dance.”

So Jesus-taught “Christianity” is one of relatedness, love, and unlimited forgiveness.  This is in stark contrast to the typical Christian “basic relating to [that other] God out of fear and that religion is, by and large, fire insurance just in case the whole thing turns out to be real.”

A Major Shift
Rohr next makes a major point.  This is a significant part of this view, and the paradigm shift he sees as needed and happening.  He goes back to Aristotle.  Aristotle taught there were ten different qualities to all things.  Rohr deals with two:  “substance” and “relation.”  “What defined substance was that it was independent of all else – so a tree is a substance, whereas “father” is a relationship.  Do you understand the distinction Jesus is drawing?

“’Son’ is also a relationship, whereas stone is a substance.  Now, Aristotle ranked substance the highest.  This is typical of Greek thinking.  Substance is that which is ‘independent’ of all else and can stand on its own.  It isn’t an adjective;  it’s a noun.  Nouns are higher than adjectives.”

Rohr says Christianity built itself on this Greek thinking, that substance is higher than relationship.  So it made God foremost a substance.  “Yet, when this Jesus is revealed to us Christians by calling himself the Son of the Father and yet one with the Father, he is giving clear primacy to relationship.”
 

But now, “we are prepared to say that God is not, nor does God need to be, ‘substance,’ in that historic Aristotelian sense of something independent of all else, but, in fact, God is relationship itself.”

    He concludes this section of thought:

“As long as you show up, the Spirit will keep working.  That’s why Jesus shows up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one --  a defenseless baby.  Talk about utter relationship!"
“... When you don’t give other people any power in your life, when you block them, I think you’re spiritually dead.  And not far from evil.

    “We – not you, but we – are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness."

    “We call this love.  We really were made for love.”

And For Dessert

I could end there, but there are some other fine passages from Rohr in this book that I’d like to share in the hope you will like them.

“But it gets even better:  we know and accept ourselves in the very same movement in which we’re knowing and accepting God;  in surrendering to God, we simultaneously accept our best and fullest self.  What a payoff!”
                                                                            ***
“What, then, is the path to holiness?  It’s the same as the path to wholeness.  And we are never “there” yet.  We are always just in the river."

“Don’t try to push the river or make the river happen;  it is already happening, and you cannot stop it.  All you can do is recognize it, enjoy it, and ever more fully allow it to carry you."

“This is the great surprise, and for some a disappointment:  this divine flow has very little to do with you"

“The flow doesn’t have to flow with you being perfect.  It doesn’t have to do with you being right.  Nor is it ever about belonging to the right group.  You do not even have to understand it.  How could you?  You have surely noticed that Jesus never has any such checklist test before he heals anybody.  He just says, as it were, ‘Are you going to allow yourself to be touched?  If so, let’s go!’”

“The touchable ones are the healed ones;  it’s pretty much that simple.  There’s no doctrinal test.  There’s no moral test.  There is no checking out if they are Jewish, gay, baptized, or in their first marriage.  There’s only the one question:

    “Do you want to be healed?"

“If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting, or confident one, the flow always happens, and the person is healed.  Try to disprove me on that!”

                                                                             ***
“The foundational good news is that creation and humanity have been drawn into this flow!  We are not outsiders or spectators but inherently part of the divine dance.
“Some mystics who were on real journeys of prayer took this message to its consistent conclusion:  creation is thus ‘the fourth person of the Blessed Trinity.’  Once more, the divine dance isn’t a closed circle – we’re all invited!”

                                                                              ***
“Just like the Trinity, we are not a substance, but a relationship.  Always in the process of being loved and passing along love.”

                                                                              ***
“God as Trinity makes competitive religious thinking largely a waste of time.”

                                                                              ***
Rohr wrote about a teaching of a man known as Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173).  “For God to be good, God can be one.  For God to be loving, God has to be two, because love is always a relationship, right?  But for God to ‘share excellent joy’ and ‘delight’ – and this is where Richard’s real breakthrough is – God has to be three because supreme happiness is when two persons share their common delight in a third something – together.  All you need to do is witness a couple at the birth of their new baby, and you know this is supremely true.”

                                                                             ***
This inspired view is changing my life.  It’s a process because I find myself resisting the eureka!, the Halleluia! the union! in it.  I’m working on it.  I hope you find love and eureka and Halleluia and union in it.

Peace,
Dan Pellegrin
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<![CDATA[Feast of Christ the King by FCM Member....Chava Redonnet..St.. Romero's Bulletin]]>Sun, 20 Nov 2016 17:36:08 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/feast-of-christ-the-king-by-fcm-memberchava-redonnetst-romeros-bulletin
Dear friends,

Twenty seven years ago today, on November 16, 1989, six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were assassinated in El Salvador. The soldiers who killed them – for speaking out for the poor, for using their intellectual gifts on behalf of the disenfranchised – or for being witnesses to the killing – also took the time to shoot up their possessions. They machine-gunned books, papers, telephones, computers, and a photograph of Oscar Romero. The remains of the objects they shot up that night can be seen at the Romero Center at the University of Central America in San Salvador, where the terrible killings of the six Jesuits and Elba and Celina occurred.

The soldiers who shot up those inanimate objects were unwittingly giving us a roadmap that we can still use, today. The darkness that takes over nations can take many forms. In my city neighborhood, rainbow flags were burned last week, right where they were hanging on people’s houses. Muslims, African-Americans, gay people, women, Jews, and 11 million undocumented people have been threatened, in various ways, sometimes on a small scale and sometimes large. Some people have responded with depression, others by marching in the streets.


Here’s what we learned from the soldiers that shot up books, telephones, computers and a photograph. They shot those things because they have power. There is power in our memories. There is power in our communication. There is power in our connections with each other. That was true in El Salvador in 1989 and it is true today.


I do not know what will happen in the coming months, but there are two things that seem crucial as we respond to the realities around us. One is that each of us needs to practice self-care. That means, get your exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep. Stay close to God in prayer. And find your tribe and stay connected. This is no time to isolate. Be kind to yourself, and be kind to others. Showing up at protests can be a form of self-care, as well, because they give us hope and the oomph to keep on going, as well as connecting with like-minded people. In my neighborhood last Saturday there was a rally in response to the burning of the pride flags. It was great! I bought a pride flag to hang – imagine if the city were full of them, everybody flying rainbow flags in solidarity. At the rally I talked to a woman who said she used to go to Spiritus, and was thinking this would be a good time to go back. I encouraged her, and encourage you – if you don’t have a community, find one. Stay connected, and don’t lose heart. The world needs your oomph! .. your energy, your spirit. We need each other.

The other thing is that we need to stay aware enough of what is going on, to know who needs us to stand with them, to know what people are doing – for example, the movement going on right now on college campuses to get schools to be sanctuaries for undocumented people. Or if the threat to make Muslims register happens, we should all register. Notice who is getting picked on, and be in solidarity. And get to know the people you are being in solidarity with! Be in relationship.

There is a balance to be found, between staying alert and aware, and not getting overwhelmed. Community, self-care, awareness – important at all times, crucial now.

As a hospital chaplain, I often pray with patients that they will have the “oomph” to do what they need to do to participate in their own recovery. That is my prayer for all of us right now – that we will have the oomph to keep caring, to not lose heart, to believe that, as Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, BUT IT BENDS TOWARDS JUSTICE.”

We’re in the long part of the arc, right now. Keep on going. Adelante! Hang on to God, hang onto each other, stand up for whoever needs standing up for. We follow a crucified King who promised us persecutions for following him. It’s going to be hard – so eat your vegetables, and keep on going.

Love to all, Chava

PS This would be a great time to read Walter Wink – Engaging the Powers is one of his books --- or Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.
Also useful to be aware of some groups that are working for hope and justice ---  Cosecha is one – SOA Watch is another – and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Find them on the internet, find out what they’re doing – lots of good work happening already
 
Oscar Romero Church:  An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in Catholic Tradition   Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620

A member community of the Federation of Christian Ministries
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<![CDATA[In this South Jersey rite, the priest saying Mass is a Catholic woman..featuring FCM Circle Member, Eileen DiFranco, RCWP]]>Wed, 09 Nov 2016 21:20:38 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/in-this-south-jersey-rite-the-priest-saying-mass-is-a-catholic-womanfeaturing-fcm-circle-member-eileen-difranco-rcwp
 MICHELLE GUSTAFSON
Eileen DiFranco welcomes the members of St. Mary Magdalene Community to communion along with her husband, Larry DiFranco, and Jackie Casper Agostini in Palmyra, New Jersey on Sunday, November 6, 2016.

Philadelphia Inquirer- November 8, 2016

by Kevin Riordan, Inquirer Columnist  @Inqkriordan

A congenial group of dissidents - seven conservatively dressed, middle-class Catholics, most of them retired - recite a revised version of the Lord's Prayer.Moments later, their priest, Eileen DiFranco, officiates at the ritual consecration of the communion bread and wine on the altar of a Burlington County chapel.
Let us pray with confidence that our gifts are acceptable to God our loving parent

Welcome to Sunday services at St. Mary Magdalene, an "Intentional Eucharistic Community" where the pastors have been ordained by an international organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

"Women are following a call," says Tom Cusack, a former Catholic priest from Monmouth County, N.J., who was attending the service. "Even though it means going right into the flamethrowers."

The Vatican does not recognize the ordinations of women.Pope Francis, embraced by many for what appear to be more flexible views on a variety of issues, recently reinforced the church's stance on the matter.

"As you know, there aren't female priests in the Roman Catholic Church," Kenneth A. Gavin, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, says in a email.
"Those claimed ordinations would be invalid as would be any Eucharistic celebration over which they may have" officiated, he adds.

"The only response of the church is to show us the door," notes DiFranco, 64, a Philadelphia mother of four who was ordained in 2006. "I can't wait until the pope says yes," Jackie Casper Agostini, 74, a Sunday services regular from Hainesport, says. "By then, I'll be dead."

Every week, Agostini and perhaps a dozen other women and men gather to worship in the chapel of Epworth United Methodist Church in Palmyra. As is true of many Protestant denominations, Methodists have long ordained women.


"We are blessed to be able to [offer] the space to them," Epworth's pastor, the Rev. Charles Soper, says.
"They are people of God who have been forced by a disagreement to find a different way."
Services began in Palmyra in 2015 under the auspices of the St. Mary Magdalene "mother church" in Drexel Hill, which was established nine years ago and has about 40 members.
The atmosphere at the service ("It's a Mass," DiFranco says) is familial, the language is inclusive, and the liturgy, while familiar, is resolutely egalitarian. The pastor offers a homily that draws on her experiences as a mother and grandmother - not the sort of insight readily available to Catholic priests.

"To listen to someone who has been married, who has been there, give a homily - it's real life," says Marge Johnston, 63, of Bellmawr. "This is a more equal church, a less authoritarian church."

I grew up Catholic, and still respect the good works of the church. But as an adult I found the celibacy the church requires of gay people who wish to, say, receive Communion wasn't something I could abide by, much less, adhere to.

"I can't imagine Jesus as a traffic cop, standing at the altar and excluding people from [Communion]," says DiFranco - who, like any good preacher, has a way with a phrase.

The faith-filled folks I meet at Sunday's service refuse to give up on the church they love.
"The hierarchy of the church is wrong. But it would be difficult for me to go to another church," says Roberta Lynch, 63, a retired radiologist who lives in Cherry Hill. "Why should I give up my faith? I'm going to fight for my faith," says Agostini, who grew up in Voorhees and graduated from Camden Catholic High School in 1960.

"Jesus was a rebel. He stuck his neck out. And to some degree, we're sticking our necks out," says Walt Sandell, 78, a retired administrator.

"We're making a spiritual statement," the Haddon Heights resident adds. "We're saying that women and men are equal before the Lord. "What more can you say?"

St. Mary Magdalene Community holds services at 11:30 a.m. Sundays at Epworth United
Methodist Church, 501 Morgan Ave., Palmyra. For more information, go to smmcommunity.org.
kriordan@phillynews.com
856-779-3845 @inqkriordan
www.philly.com/blinq

Published: November 7, 2016 — 4:49 PM EST | Updated: November 8, 2016 — 11:59 PM EST
The Philadelphia Inquirer
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<![CDATA[My Pilgrimage with FCM by William C. McDonough]]>Tue, 08 Nov 2016 20:53:16 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/my-pilgrimage-with-fcm-by-william-c-mcdonoughPicture

Recently, I was led to reflect on my years with FCM. It has been a long journey, going back just shy of 50 years, when the Federation of Christian ministries (FCM) was in its infancy, and was known by its original title "Society oF Priests for a Free Ministry".
I had been ordained in June, 1955. Like so many other priests of my day, I was inspired by the teachings o the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Further, I was happy to see that the teachings of this Vatican Council rescued us from the doldrums of a church saddled with a dying theology and a legalist moral approach. Documents, like the Declaration on Religious Freedom, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and The Document on the Church and the Modern World, encouraged us to a more energized and effective ministry.

Like so many other priests of that time, my priesthood had gone around an unexpected corner. By the middle years of the 1960s, I had come to realize in my research studies, that celibacy was not an essential element for the Roman Catholic Priesthood. It was just an old tradition that the Vatican was holding onto. Some theologians felt it was time to change it, at least to optional celibacy. I felt the church would not abandon it unless we priests nudged them on, by leaving our celibate positions and pressing for optional celibacy.

My journey led me to take time for additional studies at Temple University, so after 13 wonderful years of parish life, I moved to Philadelphia and took up the graduate studies program in religion.
Here I found many other priests, some still in parishes, but most having taken a similar road as I. Shortly after arriving in Philadelphia, I was introduced to "Priests for a Free Ministry'. It was a dynamic, but small group at that point, and we met periodically.

This early group provided me and others, important support and encouragement. It not only encouraged socialization, but also and very importantly, employment support and job leads, as well as housing suggestions and very practical counsel on changing from parish house living.

As many will recall, this small group, grew nationally and faithful to its goals, it developed and broadened the idea of ministry to help us see that our work and ideals continued to ve very important ministries to building the "City of God".

After several years, this original group grew eventually into the "Federation of Christian Ministries" (FCM). Under its wise leadership, FCM became increasingly organized and even governmentally recognized, and in position to supporting interested women and men in ministries, commissioning and/or certifying them.

Over these past 48 years, I found valuable support in the many shared meetings and writings which FCM presented. We realized that our ministries were still vital, though usually in areas and often with people who had found their church/parish unable to meet their needs.

To this day, FCM has broadened the concept of ministry and though its commissioning and endorsement processes, has given many more people a clear path for vitalizing their lives, and the encouragement to respond more effectively to the needs, spiritual and otherwise, of the many women and men seeking their help.

We know not were the Spirit of God will lead us, but I'm very grateful to be part of this inspired organization. I'm grateful for the creative initiatives of its members since 1968. FCM, (this "Society for a Free Ministry") has been drawing on the good will, talents and support of the members. We trust the Spirit will continue to take these Federation on a journey both effective and meaningful for us all. 



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<![CDATA[FCM's Biannual National Assembly]]>Sun, 30 Oct 2016 02:12:36 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/fcms-biannual-national-assemblyPicture


FCM’s biannual national assembly took place in Cleveland at the beginning of August. Three keynote addresses set the tone for the assembly.  Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of Dignity, USA opened on Friday evening.  On Saturday, retired Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong offered two talks on updating the way we interpret scripture.  John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of United Church of Christ spoke on white privilege in America.  Workshops filled the days with additional options.
 

As the Sunday morning breakfast and Membership Meeting occurred, FCM President Tom Cusack ended the Assembly with the following comments.  

President Tom Cusack’s Closing Talk—FCM Assembly August 7, 2016
Jerika Bolen is 14 years old.  While that is young, she has already gone to a prom.  It was a prom held in her honor.  Guests came to Appleton, WI from CA, FL and from around the country.  
Jerika has spinal muscular atrophy type 2.  It destroys brain cells in the brain stem and in the spinal cord that control voluntary muscular activity.  The muscles waste away, and she is in constant pain.  The prognosis is terminal.  

This summer she decided with her mom that she will go into hospice, unhook her ventilator and die.  Word of her decision and her wish for a prom spread, and 1000 people attended.  Flowers blessings and people poured in.  
She was escorted to the dance by a motorcade of 17 police cars, sirens and lights on.  They all came to support Jerika.

She is a young person, confronted with a life challenge and she is bravely responding to it as best she can.  Her situation hit the news through USA Today.  It went viral.  Our lives usually do not go viral.  Yet we know that times and events put some people into unique circumstances in which their response touches many lives.  Obvious names come to mind:  Dr. King, Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Gandhi.  Their great inner light met the times and circumstances, and their light fed us all.  
We need not look far in FCM for beacons of light.  We got the sad news that a great FCM member, Peter Paul Brennan, passed away this week.  He has been a leader in so many aspects of Catholic Church reform.  He has touched many, many lives with his leadership and charismatic efforts to move that church toward greater inclusion.  He has joined the company of the saints.  Arrangements are yet to be announced.
 

The light in FCM is not limited to those who have passed from us.  With each Circle meeting I read the thumbnail sketches of those to be commissioned and endorsed.  I continue to be amazed at the extent of study, life preparation and personal reflection these new members bring to FCM, enriching us all.  And yet even the high levels of light and grace that so many in FCM display are not enough.  And this is an easy judgement for me and you to make.  You see, I am using as my yardstick the level of “God realization” shown by our teacher, Jesus the Christ.  We are not at that level yet, but our goal is to reach his level and then to exceed it.  He has stated this goal for us.
   

So I am asking each to ramp up your spiritual life.  If you pray, add meditation.  If you meditate, add scripture reading.  If you read scripture, add action in the field of justice and peace.  All of these are avenues to increasing your spiritual capacity.  That is our challenge, the most difficult challenge:  to increase our spiritual capacity. With greater spiritual capacity, we can have greater effects on those around us.  With greater spiritual capacity, these effects will more and more clearly be the effects of the Holy Spirit, and not of us.  This is our goal.  

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<![CDATA[Peter Paul Brennan - 11/10/41 - 08/01/16    "Behold a great priest who served God"]]>Sat, 20 Aug 2016 20:50:33 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/peter-paul-brennan-111041-080116-behold-a-great-priest-who-served-god



Peter Paul Brennan was born on November 10, 1941 in the Bronx, New York and went home to

God on August 01, 2016. His parents were John Brennan and Mary (Browne) of Kilkenny, Ireland.

Today, we bid him goodbye in the place of his earthly origin. He has come full circle. Our hearts go out to his beloved family, to Shawna, Matthew and Caroline and their families and his siblings and their families. The youngest of nine children, one of whom, a brother, died in infancy, he grew up in a large family in a large house on University Avenue. Later, he was a very beloved uncle to Patrick, Claire, Mary Kate, Elizabeth, Jack, Kathleen, MaryEllen, Jenny, Marylou, Charlie, Steven, Maura, John, Siobhan, Megan, Patrick, Martin and Brendan and all of their children. As a jubilant granpere to Madeline, Peter, Freddie, Rose and Vivienne he was always thoughtful, playful and kind. He loved them dearly and cared for them often. Many of you have seen his FaceBook profile in FaceBook featuring himself and Freddie. One of the hallmarks of Peter’s ministry was his concern for community and ecumenism. It is easy to see the source of that in such a family.


Archbishop Peter Paul Brennan was seventy four years of age when he died, exhausted from his labors as a Catholic priest according to the Order of Melchizedek and our Lord Jesus Christ, our  High Priest and great shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20).

To say that Peter Paul Brennan was an unusual Catholic priest and bishop is a bit of an understatement. He was a most unusual Catholic priest and bishop as perhaps most of us here today can attest. Very early in his career he recognized a unique vocation. He was called to be a Roman Catholic priest indeed, but a special kind. He was to be a “worker priest” in the style of the worker priests of France who felt called to live and work as ordinary people not exalted by clergy status but working side by side in secular work in ordinary homes in neighborhoods teeming with the life of families and children so that the Gospel of Jesus might be heard through the character and actions of their ordinary lives.

God provided a helpmate in 1968 for this unique vocation in the person of Marie Kirby, who, like himself, was a vowed member of a Roman Catholic religious order who responded to the call of Pope John 23
rd for a New Pentecost through Vatican Council II and underwent a conversion of mind and heart which filled them with the Holy Spirit and set them on a path leading to roles in a worldwide renewal of the Church. It required new wineskins for the heady new wine and they swapped their religious habits for secular clothes and occupations in teaching in the New York public schools where Peter excelled in teaching and administration and where they met.


I have had in my possession since 1982 documents of his ordinations as priest and bishop which Peter entrusted to me for safe keeping lest his originals become lost. They chart his journey to the Catholic priesthood and episcopacy through his ministry and ordination to priesthood in 1972 and episcopacy in 1978, which I was privileged to attend, in the apostolic succession of the African Orthodox Church, and other ecumenical commission successions, and eventually as an archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church at the hands of Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, the Emeritus Primate of the Archdiocese of Lusaka, Zambia on behalf of the world’s one hundred and fifty thousand married Roman Catholic priests and bishops. Along the way his ministry, dedicated to ecumenism and education gave birth to serving parishes in the African Orthodox Church, to the establishment of a house-church ministry, Christ House Ecumenical Center and the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit at 151 Regent Place, West Hempstead, NY, a now fabled address in the lore of independent Catholicism and the worldwide Roman Catholic renewal movement through the Society of Priests for a Free Ministry, the Fellowship/Federation of Christian Ministries; the St. Barnabas Mission, the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of the Americas; Married Priests Now! a Catholic Prelature of Sts. Peter and Paul, and more recently, The Good Shepherd Companions an Ecumenical Catholic Ordinariate.
 

Peter Paul was a committed ecumenist, not only as an advocate but as a practitioner helping other churches fulfill their ministries. Especially dear to his heart was his participation in the Order of Corporate Reunion which in later years he served as Primate. A number of his colleagues in that Order are present here today and several attended him on the day of his passing. Still, apart from his family, the closest to his heart was his own beloved Roman Catholic Church which was for him his bedrock his entire life and his Irish heritage.

It is not possible to overstate the importance of his support in 2006 for Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo in his struggle to free the Roman Catholic presbyterate from its shackles of mandatory celibacy and male domination.

As early as 1984, as he announced the creation of the Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of the Americas, he stated publicly his willingness to ordain women as deacons and priests. He was a long time member of the Federation of Christian Ministries since 1973 and of CORPUS, an association for an inclusive priesthood which, rooted in a strong Eucharistic commitment, promotes an expanded and renewed priesthood of married and single men and women in the Catholic Church.


We shall not see his likeness again. We have lost a great champion and friend. May he rest in the peace of Christ, his beloved friend and Lord, and may all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)

William J. Manseau, D. Min

Peter's Obituary

Additional Reflections on Peter's Life
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<![CDATA[Nationwide Children's Hospital - Worship Service Speaker: Chaplain Ron Davis, FCM  ]]>Thu, 21 Jul 2016 17:37:46 GMThttp://fcmblog.org/blog/nationwide-childrens-hospital-worship-service-speaker-chaplain-ron-davis-fcmPresident Obama recently said, “If I could choose when to be born young, gifted and black, I wouldn’t choose 1927, nor would I choose 1957, or 1987, I would choose right now. Race relations, in America, have gotten way better now than how it was in days gone by."  I see this to be true in many measurable ways, especially when I look back on my family’s experiences over the last three generations.


When my father was raised in Deland, FL everything was separate and very unequal.  Volusia Avenue was the dividing line in our small town.  Due to redlining, blacks could not buy property on the other side of that main street.  My dad went to Euclid High School, a high school for blacks because black kids couldn’t attend Deland High.  Two of my aunts went to FAMU without the option of going to other university due to their race.  Law enforcement treated them as less than equal.  They could not vote.  I could go on and on.


As a child in the 60’s, things started out the same.  I went to the same segregated elementary school that my father went to and I lived in the segregated neighborhood.  Yet, the civil rights movement was going on.  Because of that work, new doors began to open up right before my eyes.  My family moved to Minneapolis, MN at the time when I was to begin the 4th grade.  When I walked into the doors of Bancroft Elementary School, for the very first time, there were white students and teachers in my school.  I befriended a guy in my class named David.  One day, he invited me into his home.  I remember going there and playing with him and his black lab.  I remember that day in my history for being a time to get to see and to know a white person as a person who was more like me than different than me.  A huge wall came down and relationships were formed outside of my ethnic group, a practice that has continued in life for me.  


Most of the stories from my life are different than that of my father’s.  I could go to schools that were closed to him.  I could buy restate in places where he couldn’t.  When I reflect on my nearest and dearest friends, work place peers (from 4th grade onward), running buddies, teachers and mentors—they are white, black, Hispanic—multi ethnic.  I have sat at the table with people from different faith backgrounds, to the honor of God.  What a blessing for me. But, I must also be true to the exceptions to the rule when I experienced and felt racial pain.  One day, while running with a Hispanic friend in San Gabriel, CA—I was followed home by a police cruiser.  The officer flew down the street. I walked towards the cruiser to see what was up.  To my surprise, the officer drew his gun on us, on me, while asking me to stop.  His assumption was that blacks don’t live here and I was a criminal.  I had this kind of experience when I was 16 and 24 in both CA and MN.  


When I reflect on what has been happening in America of late, I grieve.  I am made very, very sad.  I’m affected.  The memories of my bad experiences came back to me instantly.  Then I think--my 3 young daughters could possibly be in a car with a black man in an incident like the one that happened in MN—Isn’t this 2016?  This generation shouldn’t be living out that which I lived out 30 years ago.  We have come too far to go backwards.  Oh how we need to have a renewal in our racial dialogue.


In the work that we do here at NCH, we find ourselves in traumatic and very stressful situations more often than we want.  Over the years, I have learned that when I am in stressful situation there is a need to slow things down.  In order to be professional I slow things down, center myself, in order to get it right.  The patients and their families matter.  Perhaps, this work place principle applies beyond the work place and it reaches out towards matters regarding race, religion, economics and politics—slow things down, center one’s self in order to get it right.  We are one another’s neighbor in the eyes of God and I want to walk in such a way as to show all of you that you matter and you have my love.  


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