SAN ANTONIIO, Texas – A San Antonio catholic woman on Saturday was ordained a deacon — and months later a priest — in an unsanctioned ceremony that she claims will usher her into the all-male priesthood of the Catholic Church.
Believed to be the first woman in Texas to take this step, Adele Jones is part of a growing movement by reform-minded Catholics pursuing for the hierarchy to reconsider its ban on female ordination.
Bridget Mary Meehan, a bishop in the Fort Myers, Fla.-based Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, ordained Jones and three other women as deacons 3 p.m. on Saturday at St. Andrew United Church of Christ in Sarasota. The ceremony resembled the official Catholic liturgy, with a couple of exceptions: gender-sensitive names for God and no promises to obey Catholic bishops.
“We know we are disobeying an unjust law that discriminates against women,” Meehan said. “Just like the prophets of old and the leaders of the civil rights movement, we are not going to allow the Vatican and the institutional church to continue to discriminate.”
Jones’ determination came last July when the Vatican suggested female ordination was an offense comparable to pedophilia and punishable by excommunication. The Catholic Church sees the all-male priesthood as an unchangeable, time-honored custom central to preserving its sacraments and reflecting Jesus’ selection of male apostles to head the early expansion of the Christian faith. It also argues that nuns have been leaders with sizable ministries, and notes women may fill certain posts at parishes and other institutions.
“I am not angry. I’m saddened,” said Jones, once a fundraiser for Catholic Television of San Antonio. “I love my church. I have loved it since I was born. But it’s sad to see it self-destruct by what it’s doing to women.”
In 2002, this debate intensified when seven women claimed to have been validly ordained aboard a boat on the Danube River as Catholic priests, and later they were excommunicated. However, today, leaders in this movement report an estimated 120 women worldwide are candidates or already ordained.
Jones and like-minded advocates maintained that rank-and-file Catholics are on their side. In a poll last year by the New York Times and CBS, 59 percent of U.S. Catholics favored letting women become priests, with 33 percent opposed.
At 83, Jones enjoys a carefree lifestyle at her independent-living apartment, reading novels in a rocking chair, catching Masses in a chapel down the hallway and scheduling shuttle service for jaunts across San Antonio. She said the Catholic Church was her rock. Her life will soon be getting hectic.
She envisions a ministry for Catholics in alternative lifestyles and from other marginalized communities, once she became a priest. She will present herself as a Catholic priest, performing funerals and weddings. She’ll baptize converts. And she’ll consecrate hosts into the actual presence of God — the core Catholic belief she said really is at stake in this battle.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio archdiocese declined comment, citing a lack of information on Jones’ case.
Mfrances is a staff writer for CatholicFavors.com that deals high quality Catholic related jewelry including affordable baptism gifts, First Holy Communion gifts for boys and girls, and the Key of Heaven rosary collection.