Springtime for priestesses in the Diocese of Springfield

I received this from a reader by e-mail.  I had to do a double-take.

The story is on the site of the Intelligencer of Edwarsville, IL in the Diocese of Springfield.

Easter Vigil

Published: Monday, April 5, 2010 10:53 AM CDT
Photo by Rachael Wilbur

On Saturday evening members of St. Boniface Catholic Church and St. Andrews Episcopal Church gathered together as one celebrating the ritual “Blessing of the Fire and Lighting of the Candle.” Both Father Jeffrey Goeckner (foreground) and Reverend Virginia Bennett (background) led the services in front of St. Boniface School as part of the Easter Vigil. The event marked the first time the neighboring churches combined their individual ceremonies in to one.

Okay folks… I don’t know what sort of ceremony that was… but if it was the beginning of the Easter Vigil service and Mass, then this is appalling.  If it was not the beginning of the Vigil Mass, then it still looks very bad.

The person who sent the note added this:

A joint Easter Vigil celebrated by St. Boniface Catholic Church and St. Andrew Episcopal Church.  It is bad enough that the pastor of the latter is a (purported) priestess, Virginia Bennett, but worse when you consider that she is a flaming liberal in a "moderate" Episcopalian diocese.  The Episcopalian Diocese of Springfield used to be part of the conservative Anglo-Catholic "biretta belt" in the Episcopal Church, but its recently retired bishop, Peter Beckwith (b. 1939, Bp. 1991-2010) introduced priestesses into his diocese, the first one of its bishops to do so.  However, he is conservative in other respects, and a couple of years ago a controversy between Bishop Beckwith and Priestess Bennett made it into the news.  The bishop was due to make a pastoral visit to St. Andrews, at which he was to confirm several persons.  Among them was a "partnered lesbian," whom Priestess Bennett had prepared for confirmation, telling her that her "partnered status" was no obstacle — but when she told the bishop (who seems to have been alerted to it by one or more parishioners) he refused to confirm the said lesbian, saying that her "lifestyle" was "inappropriate."

Well, that’s par for the course in the Episcopal Church today, even in "conservative" dioceses, but it is sad and strange that she should be honored in this way by a Catholic priest and thus be allowed to deceive Catholics into thinking that she is a real priest(ess).

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  1. AndyMo says:

    I don’t know if this was part of the Easter Vigil Mass. It could be, but if so, there’s another problem. It clearly isn’t dark outside in that photo, and the Vigil Mass cannot begin before dark.

  2. EXCHIEF says:

    And so again I ask…when are Bishops going to do something about liturgical abuses?

  3. zgietl says:

    Seems like now would be a good time to fill the empty Cathedra in Springfield, IL.

  4. irishgirl says:

    Oh, good grief…as if we didn’t have enough confusion already….

    I’m with you, zgietl-this ‘Cathedra’ must be filled soon!

  5. Peggy R says:

    What the heck was the Catholic priest thinking. I’ve only been to St. B’s once, during college era, when I was not very Catholic. Long time ago.

    I do also recall the story of the priestess and her bishop. Confirmations were put on hold b/c of the progressive parish’s problems. I don’t know if they ever came to fruition.

    Indeed, a good time for the Holy Father to fill that see. STAT.

  6. deborah-anne says:

    I’ve never met a priestess who didn’t enjoy a good weenie-roast!

  7. VetusMores says:

    “I’ve never met a priestess who didn’t enjoy a good weenie-roast!”

    That’s a good tagline.

  8. sejoga says:

    deborah-anne, that’s the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.

  9. chironomo says:

    Okay… this actually takes the cake for the most bizarre Holy Week thing I’ve seen this year. My previous runner up was the performance of the John Rutter “Requiem” on Good Friday evening as a memorial of Jesus’ death. It was billed as “A Requiem Mass for Our Lord and Savior”.


  10. Aaron says:

    We’re praying hard for a good orthodox bishop here in the Springfield, Illinois, diocese. Springfield isn’t LA, but clearly he’ll have some work to do.

  11. david andrew says:

    Hey, this isn’t anything new. . . this has been going on in Kansas City, MO, between the cathderals! (Apparently, H.E. Bishop Finn was a participant. . . I don’t know if he was willing or not, but nevertheless his name appears in this article:)

    [April 2006, Episcopal News Service] Easter Eve in Kansas City, Missouri, will see the continuation of a more than 30-year-old tradition when Bishop Barry Howe of the Diocese of West Missouri joins with Bishop Robert Finn of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph to bless the new fire and begin the Great Vigil of Easter.

    In 1974, Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which are a block apart, entered into a covenant to pray and work for unity. “The Covenant is very much a part of each cathedral’s Lenten journey to Easter Day,” says the Very Rev. Terry White, dean of Grace and Holy Trinity.

    On this Ash Wednesday, the clergy and people of both congregations gathered at Grace and Holy Trinity for a liturgy at which the Rev. Robert Gregory, pastor of Immaculate Conception, preached, and Dean White presided. There were the familiar lessons, imposition of ashes, and litany of penitence, but reflecting current ecumenical realities, the Holy Eucharist was not celebrated.

    “The fact that we could not share the Eucharist was a sin for which we asked forgiveness even as we recommitted ourselves to the work of reconciliation,” said White.

    A four-week Lenten academy followed, with Evening Prayer, a shared meal, and four course offerings each evening. The joint preparation for the paschal feast culminates in the lighting of the new fire.

    “The cathedrals are separated by a single block, where we gather for the lighting of the paschal candle. The catechumens from each congregation, those to be baptized, confirmed, and received, stand nearest the new fire as we pray for the candidates and for our unity in Christ,” White said.

    “Then two paschal candles are lit, and a deacon sings the first portion of the Exsultet. Next, thurifers lead a festive procession, with the vested bishops and cathedral clergy walking side by side. The choirs sing of the light of Christ. The joy is palpable. And then comes the moment when the procession splits, as Roman Catholics and Episcopalians head to their respective cathedrals. It is a moment of sadness and a powerful example of the work that remains for us all.”

    Yet the gathering is also a sign of hope. The commitment to unity is strong among the people of the cathedrals, unity built through prayer, study, and working together to serve the people of Kansas City. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral is home to the Kansas City Community Kitchen, which feeds 500 hot meals daily Monday through Friday. Immaculate Conception Cathedral provides sack lunches to many of the same people on Saturday and Sunday.

    “Our outreach is centered around sharing a meal with all who are hungry. What remains is for us to share the Eucharistic Meal at the same Holy Table,” White said. [End]

    What will they think of next?

  12. greg the beachcomber says:

    AndyMo: You’d never know afternoon “Vigil” Masses were a problem in my diocese; my barber was telling me that theirs started at 5:30.

  13. chonak says:

    I wonder what parts of the rite the lady minister performed. And were there two candles in the joint service, or only one? I wouldn’t want there to be a custody battle over our candle. And was the candle in the Catholic parish in fact blessed by the Catholic priest? If not, it should be done: the candle’s going to be used all year.

    Did people go through the Easter Vigil with common unblessed fire? I guess I won’t get too bent out of shape over that, but it wouldn’t be right.

  14. TrueLiturgy says:

    From the very small amount of information provided, it can not be presumed that the Eucharist was celebrated together. Therefore, I don’t know how liturgically incorrect it is, although it is a little too progressive for my tastes. However, I would like to draw attention to something I found on their website. They use 325 hosts and 3 cups (the measurement) of wine and have 11 Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. That’s right, 11 for my guess of 325 people!


    Also, having the fire before sunset may have been condoned by the Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Carl Kemme. I know that my parish celebrated the Easter VIgil this year starting at 6pm, with our Bishop’s permission. Why did we get permission to celebrate Easter Vigil so early you might ask? Because “pastorally” we wanted to give everyone time to get back and watch WVU in the Final Four.

    I fully know that the Congregation for Divine Worship has said that we should not celebrate the Easter Vigil before sundown and I do not believe that they gave permission for it to be done even for “pastoral” reasons.

    Pay attention to #78.


  15. Bressani56 says:

    “There are aspects of our life as a Church that need to die. The attitude that clergy are above the law needs to die. The fear of admitting mistakes and having to deal with the resulting feelings of guilt and shame needs to die. The presence of patriarchy that is more concerned about keeping women in their proper place than in recognizing their baptismal dignity needs to die. There are those who, because of their fear, would counsel us to avoid this necessary dying—to live in denial. If we listen to them, we run the risk of losing the opportunity of new life that God is holding out to us as Church.”
    —actually taken from a liberal blog

    this person seems to be very concerned about “patriarchy” — I hope he is as concerned about other issues as he is about this one.

  16. bookworm says:

    I live in the Springfield Diocese but haven’t been to the Edwardsville parish. In my experience every diocese, even “conservative” ones, have notoriously liberal or unorthodox parishes; is this one of them?

    I have never noticed anything blatantly unorthodox of late at the Cathedral or any of the other parishes I normally attend, but then, I gravitate toward more traditional parishes and don’t get out of town too often these days, so I’m probably not up to speed on what’s going on elsewhere in the diocese.

    Now that the L.A. appointment is out of the way, I sure hope we’re next. Anyone heard ANY rumors, leaks, predictions, or other indication who it might be?

  17. Our diocese is nothing of not shameless. This also was reported in our diocesan newspaper, the Catholic Times:


    Story by diocesan spokeswoman, Kathie Sass.

    Incedentally, the same issue in which this story was published also carried an ad for next fall’s Women at the Well conference, to be held right here in Springfield. Keynote speaker: Sr. Joan Chittister! Speaking with her: Fr. Richard Chiola, one of our finer diocesan priests heretics.

    Bishop George Lucas, who did so much work to clean up the mess left behind by his predecessor, Daniel L. Ryan, became archbishop of Omaha last year. Pray that we get a new bishop soon.

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