I'm not sure if it is the change in seasons, the liturgical calendar (which does affect the priests--and the women), or something in the air or water, but activity in Good Tidings seems to wax and wane, and just this week after a long silent time on our online chat list, I heard from 4 new people whose lives have been changed forever because of their involvement with priests. Two have children of priests to raise alone now, a third, whose mental state was already very fragile, is fighting very hard to remain functional, with hope of one day growing stronger, and the fourth was going to be married and the priest disappeared, leaving her devastated. That was this past week.
Obviously we are responding to each individually, and will be putting these women in touch with peer support as well. Some need legal assistance, some counseling. While there is nothing new in what I've heard this week, I admit each new person's story touches my heart in some new place I guess God planned just for her. It hurts, but you know, I'm glad I have not grown callous from 26 years of similar stories and can still hear the unique voice behind the story. Each person is unique and loved by God, and that is how I want to experience her and relate to her.
Over these 26 years we've changed. We've come to understand better the dynamics at work between the Roman Catholic priests and the women with whom they become involved, particularly those priests who have no intention of marrying or seeking any spiritual discernment in life. It's not the kind of knowledge I'd planned on gaining in life, and I know Joe didn't either. Sometimes I feel like Peter, hands bound and led where I never expected to be in life. Yet, I am grateful for any good we may be able to do. I don't want to grow blase about any of this because each person is sacred, and this issue in the Church is just not going away. It will remain as long as mandatory celibacy remains, and even if priests were allowed to marry--there would still be a few of them with no integrity.
During these years Joe decided to return to university. When we married he had is doctorate in Church history. Back then I remember him saying he never wanted to take another test! Then, 17 years ago, at the age of 60, he returned for a Masters in counseling. This has been a blessing in our work on different levels because his personal gift has always been spiritual direction and now he loves counseling couples. When he finished that program, I then went for a 2 year program in spiritual direction, and did my CPE, and both have been a tremendous help to me in Good Tidings and other work. Somehow we've been guided all these years.
I don't know, we don't know what the future holds, but we are committed to Good Tidings for the long haul, even as we embrace additional
ministry in our lives in our Church.
Good Tidings...since 1983