A Catholic LGBTQ+ group in Washington, D.C.,, recently celebrated a Mass to honor a woman priest who has served their community since 2017.
The Washington Blade highlighted this recent Mass celebration, which took place at the weekly Mass of Dignity/Washington (D/W), a chapter of Dignity/USA, a national membership organization of LGBTQ+ Catholics and allies. The priest is Rev. Ann Penick, ordained by the Association of Roman Catholic Womanpriests, an organization of ordained Catholic women who trace their ordination roots to a group of women ordained secretly by a Catholic bishop.
Daniel Barutta, member of the D/W community, shared that “We are so lucky to have her… She’s just a shining star for women.” He went on to state the importance of having women as leaders within the church, “We really hope that Dignity/Washington is leading the church, showing the church which direction to go in terms of empowering women and having them as our spiritual leaders.”
Though the Roman Catholic Womenpriests affirm their own apostolic succession within the church, as the first women ordained were ordained by a bishop, the institutional church does not recognize the legitimacy of Womenpriests.
In support of Rev. Penick, and women’s ordination more broadly, Dignity/Washington stated :
“Rev. Ann Penick’s ordination as a Catholic priest, and the ordination of female priests like her, represents a step forward in the Catholic Church’s ongoing journey towards greater inclusivity and recognition of diverse vocations within its ranks… Dignity Washington is deeply honored to support her ministry and those of other women priests.”
Sister Jeannine Gramick, SL, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, supported Dignity’s celebration of Rev. Penick while sharing her belief that women will be ordained within the Catholic Church one day. She stated:
“There is no theological reason, only cultural ones, why women have not been ordained priests… I believe that a Catholic organization that ordains women priests is living out their sincere and deep-seated beliefs and preparing the wider community for what will eventually come to pass… Not all arrive at the destination at the same time, and I admire those with the courage of their convictions who lead the way.”
As Sister Gramick commented, the work towards inclusivity in the church is the work of “preparing the wider community for what will eventually come to pass.” This preparation she speaks of must be done in a multiplicity of ways within the church.
Through celebrating Rev. Penick, Dignity shows how interconnected gender equity and LGBTQ+ equality are. To work towards inclusion within the Catholic Church, we must not be singularly focused, rather we must come together in support of inclusivity wherever it is fostered. Dignity/Washington clearly recognizes that fostering faith communities of inclusive love in our present reality includes living into the hope of a future church. Therefore as Dignity celebrates Rev. Penick they are celebrating the hope of all those excluded from the institutional church. It’s important to stand together and to recognize that LGBTQ+ equality in the church will come in part through working towards gender equity.
—Liam Myers (he/him), October 13, 2023