by Dennis Dalman
During the ordination of three women priests last Sunday, there were tears flowing throughout the church, but they were tears of joy.
The ordination, which is not recognized as valid by the Roman Catholic Church, took place at a “guest” church, St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud.
One of the ordained priests is Bernie Sykora, 80, of Sartell. The other women priests are Martha Sherman of Salem, S.D. and Corene Besetzny of Red Wing, Minn. The three were ordained by Bishop Regina Nicolosy, also of Red Wing.
Almost 250 people attended the historic ceremony in St. Cloud, which has long been a bastion of Catholicism. The ordination of women priests is punishable by excommunication from the Vatican-based Catholic Church. That is, those involved in the ordination, cannot take the holy sacraments, such as the Eucharist during the Mass, but the women do anyway in purposeful disobedience of orthodoxy.
“I was exuberant, exhilarated and delighted all through the ceremony,” said Jeanette Blonigen Clancy of Avon, an author on religious and spiritual issues who has a master’s degree in theology. Blonigen Clancy is a member of the Community of Mary Magdalene, First Apostle movement, an organization of Catholics that stresses more inclusiveness for the Catholic Church, including the ordination of women priests. Also known as the “Womenpriest” movement, the ordination of women began in 2002 when male bishops ordained women priests on a boat in the middle of the Danube River in Germany.
Blonigen Clancy said she cried – tears of joy – at many points during the ordination in St. Cloud, as did many others.
The ceremony began when the pastor of St. John’s Episcopal Church welcomed the guest congregation to use the church as a venue for a historic event – the first ordination of women priests in the St. Cloud area and one of the first women priest ordinations in the 2,000-plus-year history of the Catholic Church.
Just before ordination, when Bishop Nicolosy asked each ordinant if she was ready to become a priest, each said, “Yes, I am ready.” After Sykora answered yes, there came time for a laying on of hands during which members of the congregation came forward to touch the heads of the women and say a few words. Sykora’s nephew came forward.
“That’s when I lost it again,” Blonigen Clancy said.
Sykora has been one of her friends for several years. She knew what a powerful moment the ordination was for Sykora and for women worldwide.
“I found it beautifully inspiring and joyful and uplifting to think women were doing in that church what we have been barred from doing for thousands of years,” Blonigen Clancy said. “That laying on of hands was so moving, it easily got to me.”
During the service, Blonigen Clancy sang in the choir – songs that had been chosen by the three ordinants, songs that had been edited slightly to change male pronouns to female ones. One song, for example, contains the line, “God my Mother come to me, lift me up so tenderly.” In other songs, the word “Lord” has been changed to “God.”
Blonigen Clancy was impressed people came from such a wide area to attend the ordination: including from the Twin Cities and South Dakota. She was also pleased USA Today published a story about the ordination and the story had been translated into Spanish and published in Colombia in South America.
“It was a ceremony of emotion-filled joy and awe,” she said.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.