The September 15 parish bulletin of Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill featured a reminiscence from the parish’s pastor, Father Brian Joyce. The previous week, Father Joyce had attended a Mass and reunion luncheon with his fellow seminary classmates from St. Joseph’s College in Mountain View and St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. Father Joyce observed that his 1951 class contained nearly 100 men, of whom 22 were ordained to the priesthood.
He then noted: “In those days the faculty was busy doing everything it possibly could to throw us out. What a difference from today, when vocations are so limited that faculties do everything possible to keep you in! With the present shortage of vocations to priesthood and disappearing number of women religious (sisters), many feel this is a great loss. Frankly I feel just the opposite. The great gift and blessing of our time is the recognition and growth of ministries by all our baptized parishioners.”
Father Joyce’s statement is revealing. He notes the shortage of vocations but sees it as no loss. If one sees vocations to religious life as no great loss, or “a great gift,” one is unlikely to work towards increasing them. Tellingly, the shortage of vocations is in the process of being rectified in religious orders and in dioceses which are most faithful to the teachings of the Church—who believe that vocations to the religious life are good. On August 13, 2012, the liberal National Catholic Reporter compared the number of vocations to the orders represented by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (the umbrella group for liberal nuns) and to the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious (the orthodox counterpart). “As of 2009, LCWR institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 117 novices and 317 sisters in temporary vows/commitment. CMSWR institutes reported 73 candidates/postulants, 158 novices and 304 sisters in temporary vows/commitment.” But what is striking is that the existing nuns represented by LCWR outnumbers the other by more than four to one.
Father Joyce can’t be accused of not practicing what he preaches. The Homilies Online webpage at Christ the King’s website links to a July 22, 2013 homily given by a laywoman of the parish, youth minister and “pastoral associate” Kate Doherty.
The Church is clear on who is or is not allowed to give the homily at Mass. From the General Instruction of the Roman Missal #66: “The homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person.”
The subject of Doherty’s homily was Mary Magdalene. On July 20, 2011, Father Joyce described the feast of Mary Magdalene as “fast becoming a ‘high holyday.’” Poor Mary Magdalene has been abused by the Womanpriest movement as a rallying point for the ordination of women. In 2004 Christ the King parishioners organized a group called Women of Magdala. The Women of Magdala group organized a Eucharistic Gathering in a house church in San Francisco’s East Bay, where lesbian womanpriest Victoria Rue would perform. One of the Women of Magdala, and a Christ the King parishioner Maureen Mancuso, has since been ordained as a deacon and then as a womanpriest in the association of Roman Catholic Womanpriests.