A Michigan woman is facing excommunication so she can be ordained the first female priest in the state.
Lillian Lewis, 75, is a life-long Catholic who was one of the first women to attend the theology graduate school at Marquette University in 1960. However, the recent scandals of the church and the exclusions of certain groups has frustrated Lewis and she said she wanted to be ordained to offer another path to women in the church.
“I have four daughters. None of whom belong to the Catholic church any longer,” Lewis told ABC News. “They look upon the disastrous recent past … with such disgust … they say this religion is not for me.”
On Saturday, Lewis hosted 200 people in her back yard including other religious leaders, as she was ordained by officials from the Roman Catholic Womenpriests. The organization started in 2002 and advocates a “inclusive, Christ-centered Church for the 21st century… rooted in a response to Jesus who called women and men to be disciples and equals living the Gospel.”
Officials from the Catholic Church in Michigan did not find the ceremony valid and said those who attended were at risk.
Bishop Paul Bradley of the Catholic Diocese of Kalamazoo released a statement, according to WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo, Mich., which said any attendee at the ordination risked being placed “outside of full communion of the Catholic Church.”
In spite of the warning, Lewis said the ordination ceremony was well attended and no one arrived to protest the proceeding, although she said there was a large police presence to keep the peace.
Lewis said after her ordination she wasn’t sure exactly what duties she would perform as priest, although a neighbor gave her one good idea. Lewis said a neighbor with his son and girlfriend had walked by the ceremony, and after realizing a woman was being ordained asked if the new priest would marry him and his girlfriend.
“My husband said, ‘I think she’ll do it,’” Lewis said. “I’m going [to do] what St. Francis did, he heard Christ say ‘repair my church’ and that’s all I want to do. I just want to make up for the wounds and make blessing and make joy and make happy where ever I am going.”
As for Bradley’s warning, Lewis said she was completely unconcerned.
“What can they do to me? Rip off my stripes or tell me I can’t use my Ph.D.?” Lewis said. “I want to free people of fear and move into joy.”