10/06/2034 2:09 AM ET

OPINION

Why I'll Only Attend A Catholic Church With A Priestess

Cherie McDowall
I am living for love

CC0 1.0 Image by nickelbabe | Writer image: CC BY 4.0 Lisbon, Portugal by Pedro Ribeiro Simões | Images were cropped. Images used for illustration purposes only.
Women in church leadership is an issue of justice.
Last Sunday, I attended my first Catholic Mass, led by a priestess.

I had been attending the church of my parents, the church I grew up in, for nearly forty years. It has meant the world to me and is still in the charge of a kindly old man, Fr. Thomas, who has been wonderful to me and to my family.

But when I heard three weeks ago that Our Lady of Hope in Brooklyn, had transitioned from a male priest to a priestess, I knew I had to leave. I spoke with my husband, Eric and with Fr. Thomas, who both were fully supportive.

Our Lady of Hope is the latest church in our vicinity to have a priestess appointed (and hopefully not the last). Its priest, Fr. Simon retired due to old age, and Bishop Frank Corburn, in his wisdom, appointed a woman, Mother Lisa Clayveigh.

Mother Lisa is a wise and forgiving woman, and an inspirational leader. She led the Mass with grace and peace and dignity.

Much has been made of the Catholic Church's efforts to reach out to traditionally discriminated against demographics in recent years. Since the Papacy of Pope Francis, the church has allowed a latitude never seen before.

From a more loving acceptance of divorced people (2015), to the ordination of married priests (2026), to the acceptance of same-sex marriage under Pope Innocent (2029), we have borne witness to a tide of mercy which has washed over the church, cleansing it from sinful discrimination.

Priestesses were clearly the next item on the dogmatic agenda, and thanks to the clarity and grace, the Holy Father has seen fit to reward the patience of women Catholics everywhere!

There are still many people to be won over, as hatred and bigotry still reign supreme in some. But, we're going to keep fighting until women are substantially represented within the priesthood. And then, we must ensure that women begin to be recognised as bishops.

If women, including women of color, trans-women, lesbians, women of size and women of disability are underrepresented in our churches, how can the church effectively minister to our needs? For centuries, we have been overlooked, bearing less significant burdens because we were not seen fit to occupy traditionally male roles.

Jesus would have scoffed at the idea, never once uttering a word against women teachers. St. Paul referenced many powerful and brave women in his writings.

This refreshment of the church's image comes at a ripe moment in its history, especially in New York City. The church in the northern states is collapsing. New York is down to 148 Parishes, from 368 in 2014, according to the church's official figures. The number of residents identifying as Catholic has dropped to 1.3 million.

The story is the same in other major northern Catholic cities like Chicago (a 40% drop in the total number of parishes in 20 years), Philadelphia (65%), Boston (20%) and Cleveland (30%).

Women can help turn this situation around. We are uniquely compassionate, loving and kind. We are forgiving and nurturing. We are proud and stubborn and here to stay.

After Mass, I asked Mother Lisa about her road here. She answered, "It has been long and difficult and fraught, but through it all, goddess has been with me."

Amen.
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