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More than 100 people were in the pews Saturday when Roman Catholic Womenpriests ordained the Rev. Beverly Bingle of Toledo a priest, an act not recognized by the Roman Catholic Church.
Ann Klonowski of Independence, Ohio, was ordained a deacon at the same ceremony at First Unitarian Church of Toledo.
Seventeen women from Roman Catholic Womenpriests, including ordained priests, deacons, and a bishop, as well as candidates and applicants for ordination, stood at the end of the service to show their numbers.
The Rev. Dagmar Celeste, former first lady of Ohio and the first American to be ordained by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, was among them.
She said that acceptance by the Vatican will come.
“It’s a matter of time, but it’s God’s time,” she said.
Two male clergy in their robes were part of the service. Metropolitan Archbishop M. Heckman, pastor of Holy Cross Reformed Catholic Church in Toledo, where the Reformed Catholic Church has its international headquarters, said he attended “to support Beverly in her ordination.”
Ron Crowley-Koch of Mt. Prospect, Ill., husband of the Rev. Mary Grace Crowley-Koch of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, also attended. Mr. Crowley-Koch said, “I was a priest at one time, but I fell in love with a nun, who is now my wife.”
Also in the service was the Rev. Beth Marshall, senior minister of First Unitarian, who said, in her words of welcome, “We recognize that there are times in which existing systems must be challenged in order to evolve and change.
“In that spirit, we open our sanctuary doors. Over the years, many of us who have answered the call to ministry have come to understand the ministry and priesthood as broader in scope than it was defined centuries ago.”
Earlier, the Reverend Marshall said, “Unitarians have been ordaining women for over 150 years. So [hosting this ordination] is a natural extension of our commitment to equality and justice.”
The Unitarian Universalist Association has had more female ministers than males for more than 10 years, the Reverend Marshall said.
First Unitarian opened its doors to Roman Catholic Womenpriests for no charge.
“The social justice committee and the board both agreed that we could sponsor [this] as a church,” board President David Strickler said.
The board vice president, Rich Goheen, said, “Beverly and the group that she’s with certainly have the right to express themselves the way they want to. The larger Catholic Church has an equal right to toss them out. Let it sort itself out. If we can offer the place to do that, go for it.”
In her homily, Bishop Joan Houk of Roman Catholic Womenpriests spoke of the sacred call.
“We are all one in Christ,” she said, “and so when someone is called forth for the community, they can be priests and deacons.” A member of the congregation responded, “Yup,” and drew chuckles.
But she also spoke of fear. “There is fear in our country, as you read in the news. There is fear in our church, as the leaders of our church are afraid of women serving. So it is our job, we are commissioned, we are blessed, all of us, through our baptism, as priests, prophets, and royalty, to go out and take the fear away. Bring God’s love, bring God’s caring, bring God’s healing. Ann and Beverly are going to be leaders that you can call on.”
Fear was present in the sanctuary: there was an area where no photos were allowed. Sitting there were a professor from a Roman Catholic college, a nun, and others. But in announcing the area, the Rev. Mary Ellen Robertson, a Roman Catholic Womenpriests member from Deltona, Fla., and Muskegon, Mich., said, “not many back there, I notice.”
Once the ordination rites were finished, Bishop Houk announced: “It is with great joy that I present to you our new priest, Beverly Bingle.”
More than 30 seconds of applause followed.
Before the service, the Reverend Bingle had said, “I believe that sacraments are celebrations of something that already happened. You don’t get married and then fall in love. You don’t get ordained and then become a priest. So it’s a process, and this is community recognition of what I’ve been going through. It’s pretty wonderful.”
After the Reverend Bingle was ordained a deacon Sept. 13, the Catholic Diocese of Toledo stated her participation “in an invalid and illicit attempted ordination” meant she was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
The diocese had released a similar statement in advance of Saturday’s ceremony, reminding that the the Reverend Bingle is excommunicated and that Deacon Klonowski will lose her standing in the church as well.
After the service, Deacon Klonowski, who plans to be ordained a priest in the Cleveland area in September or October, said that the Catholic Church “is still my church, even if they don’t think I’m in it. If I have a choice between following human laws and following God’s call, it’s not too hard at all.”
Tom Sear of Cleveland and his wife, Pam Carson, drove to Toledo to support Deacon Klonowski. They are members of the Community of St. Brigid, which supports women’s ordination in Cleveland.
“We have sponsored Masses with women,” Mr. Sear said. “Last year, we did about five or six.”
Bishop Houk observed that the women priests movement “is growing faster. It’s happening. We are getting far more people inquiring, and so it’s picking up and really going forward. As bishop, what I’m looking for are women who really are called to serve, who are prepared and really can serve in a competent way. Today I feel very good that we’ve got two good people.”
The Reverend Bingle will lead her first Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, a congregation she is starting, at 5:30 p.m. today at Unity of Toledo, 3535 Executive Pkwy.
Contact TK Barger at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6278.