Anne Tropeano, whose use of the nickname “Father Anne” helped garner widespread media coverage of his upcoming ordination ceremony on October 16, describes her choice as part of a long spiritual journey. “God calls me to be ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition and to work for justice,” she said. (Courtesy of Anne Tropeano)
When asked why she chose to be ordained a Catholic priest – thereby breaking the Catholic Church’s ban on the ordination of women and crossing the threshold of formal excommunication – Anne Tropeano’s response is simple.
“God asks me to do it,” she said. “God calls me to be ordained in the Roman Catholic tradition and to work for justice.”
Tropeano, whose use of the nickname “Father Anne“Helped garner wide coverage of his upcoming ordination ceremony on October 16 from various secular media, including New York magazine, depicts his choice as part of a long spiritual journey.
Although she received the sacraments as a child, Tropeano was not brought up in the church and only began practicing the faith in her late twenties, when she followed the rite. of the Christian initiation of adults.
“I moved to Portland with a group that I was leading, and it was there, as I attended a Jesuit parish, that the call has emerged, ”Tropeano said in a recent interview with the NCR. “The Jesuits took me under their wing. I began to pray, to do retreats and to become active in the parish community. “
The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius “have changed me deeply and forever,” said Tropeano, whose ordination is organized by the Association of Roman Catholic Priestesses.
Part of a movement that began in 2002 with the ordination of seven women by a Catholic bishop in a clandestine ceremony on the Danube, the association is one of two such women’s groups claim apostolic succession. They say there are now some 250 ordained women in the world.
The official Catholic Church disputes their claims. In his apostolic letter of 1994 Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, declared Pope John Paul II, “the Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women”. Pope Francis further codified the church’s position in June, updating canon law to reflect a 2007 decree that women who are ordained are to be automatically excommunicated.
Tropeano’s ordination is planned at the Episcopal Church St. John’s Cathedral in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
She described the influence of the Jesuits on her as fundamental.
“They taught me to pray,” she says. “It was then that I heard a call – not just to be a priest, but specifically a Jesuit priest. How could God call me to do something impossible?
Tropeano began to exercise a pastoral ministry, but it was not enough to satisfy his call. At 40, she began studying at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, now part of the University of Santa Clara.
Anne Tropeano during a witness in Philadelphia in 2015 (Courtesy of Anne Tropeano)
“For 12 years I have tried to be obedient to the magisterium,” she said, referring to the church’s ban on ordaining women. “I struggled with the call. The charisma of giving oneself for God, of being ready to sacrifice oneself for God’s creation – this is what gives me the strength to take this path, to be ordained, to face excommunication. “
Maggie Wright, who met and befriended Tropeano during a visit to the Jesuit Theological School while conducting research for her website on Women Inspired by Jesuit Spirituality, said it was difficult for a woman to study in an institution where the vast majority of students were Jesuits.
“Behind Anne are many women who have felt the call to join the Society of Jesus,” said Wright. “This is a touchy subject because Jesuit men are quite progressive, and Jesuit parishes, schools, and retreat centers are generally good places to be a Catholic woman who wants to serve, study, speak and lead. But the glass ceiling is the Society of Jesus itself. There are many Jesuit vocational events for men, but silence around the feminine vocation. “
Wright firmly believes that Tropeano’s Jesuit training led her to discern a true calling.
“She is committed to the institutional Roman Catholic Church as well as to personal discernment and the pursuit of justice,” Wright said. “This desire and love for the universal Church combined with concern for realities that change over time are very characteristic of Jesuits. Anne is very obedient to her prayer and truly committed to follow what she discerns.”
The prospect of excommunication is painful for Tropeano.
“Since I publicly announced my intentions, I have stopped attending the church I attend on Sundays so as not to cause trouble for the pastor,” she said. “Other Roman Catholic priestesses receive Communion in an act of protest against the law. But I want people to see the punishment that women like me face. I go up with folded arms, but I don’t receive.”
Nonetheless, Tropeano is ready to pay the price to follow his call. She has lived in Albuquerque for three years and still discerns her mission. “I plan to offer spiritual direction, retreats, weddings and funerals. I especially want to take care of the LGBTQ community,” she said.
From November, she plans to offer a contemplative service on Sunday evenings in the Jesuit tradition. “It’s a sort of bare Mass turned towards silence and stillness of heart, people are getting ready for their work week. We will see if a community takes root.”
She also plans to continue her advocacy for the ordination of women in the Catholic Church and to do a speaking tour in the summer of 2022. “So many people don’t even know this movement exists,” she said. declared.
The Tropeano ordination will be concelebrated by 10 Christian religious leaders from the Albuquerque area. “We need ecumenical fellowship to take a stand with us for the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church,” she said.
Reverend Kristina Maulden, dean of St. John’s Cathedral, where Tropeano’s ordination will take place, praised her “positive energy, hope and perseverance”.
“Particularly in our religious landscape, where people don’t church like they did before, it has innovative ways to reach people through ancient spirituality and the old traditions of Christianity,” Maulden said. “It is deeply rooted in the sacraments. I see her as a “tent maker” in the tradition of Saint Paul, a sort of itinerant sacramentalist filling in the gaps of Roman Catholics who cannot get married or be baptized in church. It could be the basis of a community.
Maulden said she would be curious to see where Tropeano’s ministry takes her. “Serving people on the margins is very much like Jesus,” she said. “There are advantages of being part of an institution and advantages of not being part of an institution.”
Jennifer O’Malley, Catholic Priest and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Women’s Ordination Conference (Courtesy of Jennifer O’Malley)
Jennifer O’Malley, who was ordained in 2012 as part of the Roman Catholic Priests’ Group and chair of the board of directors of the advocacy organization Women’s Ordination Conference, will also concelebrate the ordination of Tropeano.
“Anne is obviously determined to live out her calling and calling as a priest. She won’t let canon law stop her, which is a brave thing to do,” said O’Malley. “She sees a link between the ban on the ordination of women in the church and the oppression of women and girls around the world.”
“The title ‘Father Anne’ makes a strong point,” added O’Malley. “It can be a trap to get people to ask ‘Why not? Dialogue is prohibited, so speaking is in itself a courageous act. We do something the church says we can’t do, that’s just talk.
O’Malley said she didn’t believe the official Roman Catholic Church would ordain women while we were alive.
“Pope Francis is conservative in this area, as are other bishops,” she said. “I think they are too scared of what an equal role for women might look like. They will retain power and control for as long as they can.”
Tropeano called Francis a man of prayer.
“I want to ask him if he really prayed about it,” she said. “I don’t think he wants to hang on to male power. I think there is another reason – maybe concerns about the church divide, or the lack of experience with women. who were called. “
“I wish he would meet and hear the stories of women around the world who are called out,” she continued. “I know it could be damaging to change the teachings of the church overnight. But I want Francis to lift the ban on talking about it, to let the Holy Spirit work.”
[Jeannine M. Pitas is an assistant professor of English and Spanish at the University of Dubuque, Iowa. She also contributes to the Catholic blog Vox Nova.]
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