Annual women priests protest in Adelaide

Annual women priests protest in Adelaide

AD2000 Report

The tenth annual protest outside St Francis Xavier's Cathedral in Adelaide, during the Chrism Mass for priests of the Archdiocese, took place on 9 April 2001. The protest "liturgy" sheet, which was headed "Women's Ministries: Affirming and Lamenting", contained generous doses of New Age and Green "spirituality" and, as such, offered a foretaste of the brand of Catholicism envisaged by certain progressive elements in today's Church.

A number of the protesters were prominent figures in the Adelaide archdiocesan administration.

About forty people were present, including the co-head of Catholic Adult Education in the archdiocese, Fr Michael Trainor, also a newly ordained priest, Fr van Antwerpen, and a number of prominent members of WATAC (Women and the Australian Church). These included Sr Maureen O'Connell, immediate past Provincial of the Cabra Dominicans, Sr Bernadette Kiley OP, who has taught at the presently closed Adelaide seminary, and a number of other Dominican Sisters from Cabra.

Other worthies at the protest included Sr Roberta Hackendorf, a Loreto nun who heads "Australian Catholics Networking for Renewal", an Australian offshoot of We Are Church; Sr Ruth Specht OP, who runs the archdiocesan RCIA program; Sr Elizabeth Morris RSJ, who heads Catholic Adult Education; and Sr Catherine Seward RSM, who helps run the Adelaide parish of Mansfield Park.

The protest "liturgy" opened with a moment of silence "in memory of all indigenous people who were the first caretakers of this part of Victoria Square." A "Gathering Prayer" then followed: "We are going to face each of the four directions calling for the strength and courage that is required to keep believing that justice will prevail in our church." The "elements" of earth, water and fire were noted in turn as sources of nourishment in the struggle for justice.

Following a rousing rendition of "We Are Church" came a reading of the poem, The Desert as Garden of Paradise: "Every drought-resistant plant has its own story ... there must be some who persist, not by species- betrayal, but by changing themselves minutely ...". Next came a song, "This Tough-Spun Web", which contained the chorus, "This circle opening moves with deepened faith, /Our lives to birth a living dawn ...".

A "Liturgy of Lament and Affirmation" began with a series of "laments" which included: "We lament the injustice that still operates in our church to exclude women from ordained ministry. We stand with those women who know themselves to be called by God to priesthood in the Catholic Church ..."; and, "We lament the loss of Paul Collins from the priesthood and stand in solidarity with him in his suffering."

The liturgy Leader then affirmed "the courage of those women who continue to labour towards the day when both women and men will be able to minister fully in our church according to their gifts ... We stand with the members of the Ordination of Catholic Women".

An "Anointing" followed: "Some oil will be distributed, and you are invited to anoint the forehead or hands of the person next to you." Then, a blessing: "Let us affirm the goodness in each other, the integrity and beauty of our bodies, the insights of our minds ... Let us uphold the daring in each other: the boldness of spirit, the resoluteness of action ... Let us go forth empowered from this space and time knowing that we bless each other so we are blessed in God and with God and by God."

The proceedings concluded with another stirring rendering of "We are the Church."

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