The Rev. Beverly Bingle at her Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordination ceremony.
It won't happen in my lifetime, but maybe in my daughter’s, or her daughter’s. It’s a common refrain among Roman Catholic women about women priests in the church.
Change comes slowly. Someday, bright, blessed, holy sisters of the church will preside, preach, and say Mass for renewed faith communities.
Someday has happened in Toledo. Beverly Bingle, a lifelong Roman Catholic from northwest Ohio, made local history by being the first woman in the region to be ordained a Roman Catholic deacon and priest.
The Diocese of Toledo had nothing to do with it. The church bans women from serving in top leadership posts, from parish priest to the papacy.
Catholic women bristle at the gender-based barriers that deny church ministries to them. Many leave over the institutional inequities.
But among Roman Catholic women who choose to stay, a few decide to be the change they seek.
Meet Reverend Bingle.
The 68-year-old former teacher and pastoral assistant recently started a parish ministry that shares space with the Unity of Toledo church on Executive Parkway.
She presides, preaches, and says Mass for the Holy Spirit Catholic Community on Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
Her ordination to the priesthood was sanctioned through Roman Catholic Womenpriests, a gender-equity reform movement of Catholic women that began a decade ago in Europe. Reverend Bingle chuckles over her new moniker.
“We don’t use titles very much, and that’s a blessing.” she told me. She’s fine with folks calling her “Bev.”
She spoke openly about her vocation to mend the church. Why the priesthood?
“I got called,” she said. “It starts with God. You know how whenever you’re prompted to do something, you get the feeling it’s the right thing to do. That’s God calling you.
“I see a need in our church. Our hierarchy has alienated way too many folks. People are told they can’t go to communion if they’ve remarried after a divorce, unless they get an annulment. Gays and lesbians are told that if they’re in a relationship, they’re in mortal sin.”
“I think the Pope and the bishops and the cardinals all believe they’re doing the right thing,” she added. “But the pain and suffering that they’ve caused by excluding people is horrific.”
Why have church leaders opted for exclusion over inclusion?
“It has to do with the lust for power and temptations about selfishness, greed, and control,” she said. “It’s not a healthy way to run a Christian organization.
She added: “Roman Catholic Womenpriests is not just about women’s ordination. It’s about Vatican II inclusion. I lived through the sea change that went on with Vatican II, the rigidity before it, the opening up the doors, the advances in ecumenism, interfaith relations, the marvelous liturgies that involved all people, not just priests.”
What are her hopes for the next pope?
“I pray the new pope is another John XXIII.” she said. “He opened the windows. We need someone to take those nails out. They pounded them closed the last 50 years. We need someone to open those windows again.”
How does she feel about her excommunication from the church?
“It’s been a real grace and blessing,” she said. “The real church, the people, not the hierarchy, have just made an outpouring of support and affirmation.”
She said Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair sent her two letters asking her to recant her belief in women’s ordination — after she was ordained a deacon — and to cancel her plan “to attempt an ordination as a priest.” She didn’t respond.
What is the cost of becoming a Roman Catholic woman priest?
“When a man walks up to the diocese and says, ‘I think I’m called to the priesthood,’ he’s taken care of,” she said. “If they don’t have a job, somebody gives them a job, gives them their education, gives them their formation.
“Roman Catholic women priests are called to pay their own way with education. None of us accepts pay for our work.”
What are her hopes for women following in her footsteps?
She tells of a stranger coming over to congratulate her in a restaurant and walking back to his table. He was alone with a little girl. He leaned over to her, pointed at Reverend Bingle, “and started telling her about me,” she said.
“It was wonderful, that kind of experience,” she said. “Youngsters are being taught by their parents that women can be priests.”
And maybe it won’t take a lifetime.
Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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