Rev. Dr. Michele Birch-Conery’s earthly life spun round charisms connected to language, storytelling, prayer, and to serving others as a nurse, nun, teacher, priest and bishop.
Michele was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1939, on August 3rd, the feast day of St. Lydia.
In 2004, Michele was ordained a deacon in a ceremony on the Danube River in an initiative known as Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP). In July 2005, she was the first woman ordained a priest in Canada in a ceremony on the St. Lawrence River. A lot of publicity from the Canadian press followed. Despite the challenges of chronic illness, Michele established three faith communities on Vancouver Island with members of RCWP. She companioned many of the first women and one man in the program of preparation for priesthood. Michele joined the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) in 2013.
In 2014, Michele moved to Windsor, Ontario where she ministered with ARCWP priests Barbara Billey, Karen Kerrigan, and Jeni Marcus with the Heart of Compassion International Faith Community, and in 2015, after ten years as a priest, she was ordained a bishop within the same association. Michele’s role as a bishop was one of the highlights of her life.
Rev. David A. Gaboury, Catholic Priest was a long-time advocate for the ordination of women to the priesthood. Pictured here with his wife, Rev. Dr. Eleonora Marinaro-Gaboury, ARCWP Priest; they celebrated 23 years of priestly ministry on Sunday, November 22, 2015 during the Feast Day of Christ the King.
David was very involved in the humble beginnings of ARCWP. He attended many ordinations and co-celebrated on the altar in unity and love. Rev. David left us way too soon and we will miss him.
Rev. Letitia Ann “Tish” Rawles passed into the arms of Jesus on August 31, 2017.
Born in Tennessee, Tish was in love with God from her earliest years. She was nurtured and taught to pray by an African-American Nanny to understand that no matter what she did in life, God loved her immensely. This intense faith allowed her to listen for the call of her beloved Jesus throughout her life in every place she landed on her journey. She was married to the service of our Loving God through ministering to those who needed a loving friend, mentor, therapist, and priest.
Tish moved with her Mother to northern Ohio, and went to St. Mary of the Woods Elementary. During this time, she was Baptized and Confirmed, met the Sisters of the Precious Blood from Dayton, and the Sisters of the Incarnate Word from Cleveland. She followed God’s call and entered the Incarnate Word Sisters in 1968, teaching grades 3-8 for 18 years.
While visiting family in Tennessee, Tish found out that her father was part Cherokee Native American, and treasured this aspect of her life very deeply. Her Native American name was “Quiet Fox.” She was a member of the Three Spirits Band, served on Tribal Council twice, and participated in many tribal ceremonies. She was deeply drawn to Native Spirituality, nature, animals, and all creatures, especially cats. Tish was a living example of the spirit of giving, passionately sharing her skills, affections, and profoundly affecting those whose lives she touched.
Tish felt her service to the people of God changing, and transitioned religious Communities to the Sisters of the Precious Blood in Dayton, Ohio. She broadened her education, received a Master’s Degree in Counseling, with numerous Certificates in specialized areas such as: Addiction Counseling, Juvenile Justice, and Marriage Counseling. She served in several agencies and community programs throughout the Cincinnati area for many years with her deeply compassionate spirit. She worked with the Cincinnati /Hamilton County Courts programs for women from abusive situations and suffering from substance and alcohol abuse. She served on the Anti-Trafficking Commission, Committee to Abolish the Death Penalty in Ohio, and volunteered on the Spiritual Care Team of the American Red Cross.
Tish learned about the Association for Roman Catholic Women Priests in 2011, and again felt the call to once again take a step forward in her spiritual life. She was accompanied by several other ARCWP women priests in the Cincinnati area, and was ordained on May … in Cincinnati, Ohio. She immersed herself in her ministry of comforting the sick and dying at her Assisted Living home and brought the Sacraments and Liturgy to them as well as other places in the city. Tish fiercely fought her many health issues to joyfully connect with those in need of spiritual comfort. Her ARCWP sister and brother Priests treasured Tish’s presence, and know she is forever a helping powerhouse as we move forward on our journey. Aligning her place for burial with her Native traditions, she chose a Green Burial, where many old-time friends attended with reverence and joy for her new Life. We in ARCWP are forever blessed by Tish’s presence among us. Knowing Tish and her immense generosity has touched our lives, and we feel her presence among us every day.
Joan was from Merritt Island Florida. She had been married and had a daughter Charlene who was the “light of her life.”
Joan Throm was a woman of deep faith, high energy and great compassion. She definitely had a disciple’s heart. From an early age at 14 she was called to serve others as a Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph near Buffalo, NY. A true daughter of St. Francis, Joan had a great love of creation, and was driven by a deep awareness of God’s love for her which nurtured her desire to serve others.
Because of her calling Joan pursued ordination as an interfaith minister leading worship services both at a LGBT church in Coco, Fl., as well as Courtenay Springs where she lived in an Independent Living Facility.
By profession, Joan was a nurse. She also facilitated grief support groups for thirteen years. She enjoyed teaching art journaling, volunteering as an usher at the Coco Village Playhouse, the Brevard Zoo and King Center Preforming Arts. Joan was an avid swimmer and like the energizer bunny never seemed to run out of energy. She started a recycling program where she lived, and loved road trips in a huge camping van. Joan was a care giver to those who needed her and would drive people to doctor’s appointments or field trips. She had a passion for God and a passion for people.
Joan contacted ARCWP in 2014 and began her journey with us to ordination. She was ordained a priest in January 2016. Joan expressed to her daughter how important her ordination was to her. She said: “Charlene, you are the light of my life and I love you more than words could ever express. I look at my ordination as akin to the day I held you in my arms after giving you birth. It is right up there with my wedding day to your dad, the day of my religious profession of vows and the day of getting my doctorate Degree becoming Dr. Mom. With all my heart, I desire to love and serve God and others with my whole being.” And our gracious God says, “Come my beloved continue to serve me through ordination to the priesthood.”
One of Joan’s proudest moments in ministry came when she presided over her daughter’s wedding to her life partner Cathy.
“From Withered Flowers to Seeds of Rebirth”
Ed Ryan, husband of Kathie Ryan, and a long-time friend of ARCWP passed away recently.
Ed believed in the ordination of women and encouraged Kathie on her journey to become a Roman Catholic Woman Priest.
As Kathie was studying and preparing for ordination, Ed was very excited about the study of progressive Christian theology.
Ed participated in the process with Kathie, as she often would read to Ed her preparation unit papers and theology books.
Ed encouraged Kathie to continue her education, going forward.
ARCWP has established a special memorial fund, supported by the donations given in honor of Ed Ryan; seed money, a place for those to begin their education in Progressive Christian and Feminist theology via “People’s Catholic Seminary.”
We will miss Ed.
May the memory of his life provide new energies to one’s prophetic call;
nurturing new life, hope, and joy in the ongoing
renewal of the Catholic Church.
Rev. Dr. Adele Decker Jones died on April 22, 2015. She was instrumental in planning her own Memorial liturgy which was held on Saturday May 9th in Villa San Antonio Chapel, San Antonio, Texas. As a retirement home resident in San Antonio, Texas since 2009, Adele was friend, counselor and prayer companion to many even before she was ordained.
Her experience as wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother prepared her in her journey to priesthood. This journey began formally in 2008 when she connected with Bridget Mary Meehan, the ARCWP Bishop. She was already a Third Order Franciscan and had developed a private counseling practice and taught workshops, seminars, and retreats.
Adele completed her AA and her BA then later earned a Masters in Theological Studies earned in 1988 at the Oblate School of Theology in Texas and in 1991 she was the fourth woman to graduate from the Oblate School of Theology in 90 years with a MDiv degree. In 1997 she graduated from Garret Theological School of Northwestern University with a Doctor of Ministry Degree.
In the words of fellow priest Dr. Judith Lee, “It is one who seeks joy where there is disappointment and grief that has the courage to choose to become a woman priest . . . [We] went to San Antonio to minister to Adele . . . Instead she ministered to us and we came away immeasurably enriched, knowing that we had been in the holy presence of a woman of great wisdom, and joy.”
Adele was ordained a Roman Catholic Woman Priest with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests on September 10, 2011 in Falls Church, Virginia.
Her Funeral Liturgy closed with this blessing:
May God bless us as we go forth.
May the angels lead you into paradise, Adele,
May the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city,
The new and eternal Jerusalem. May choirs of angels welcome you and lead you into
the heart of God.
Rick Sapp was the videographer for the first U.S. Bishop’s ordination in 2009. He also covered several major ordinations for ARCWP.
Rick passed away on 7/16/15. His funeral was held at St Thomas UMC in Manassas, VA. Our heartfelt prayers and condolences to his family especially Nancy, Katie, Robin and Talon.
Rick was the producer of GodTalk which aired on public access TV in Northern, Virginia for ten years. We are grateful for the gift of Rick’s dedication and time, in support of GodTalk; and shared vision of spiritual programming that built bridges of understanding between different faith traditions.
Rick’s enthusiasm for women’s equality and empowerment was evident in every production event and in every show aired.
“I will miss Rick but I also feel that his love and presence will be with me and with our movement forever.” Bridget Mary Meehan, 7/18/2015