Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sudbury Woman 'Ordained' Priest; Marie Bouclin Took Vows Not Sanctioned By Catholic Church

Sudbury's Marie Evans Bouclin has become the second woman in Canada to be ordained a Roman Catholic priest.

Bouclin was one of three women called to the priesthood by Bishop Patricia Fresen at an ordination ceremony at West Hill United Church in Scarborough on Sunday afternoon.

The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church does not recognize the validity of the positions Bouclin and Fresen hold in the church, but there was no mistaking where the congregation at Sunday's service stood on the issue.

The standing-room-only crowd of a couple of hundred people, many from Sudbury, burst into spontaneous applause on several occasions as it welcomed six ordinands to the church's new order.

Along with Bouclin, Cheryl Bristol and Mary Ellen Robertson of the United States were called to the priesthood by Fresen, one of only three female bishops worldwide. Two women and one married man were called to the diaconate, and will eventually become Catholic priests.

The ordination service was held by an organization called Roman Catholic Womenpriests, whose vision statement calls for a new model of ordained ministry in a renewed Catholic church.

Its mission is to spiritually prepare, ordain and support women and men from all walks of life who are committed to an inclusive model of the church and are called to minister to their communities. Bouclin, 66, is a former member of the Sisters of Charity who left the order more than 40 years ago and later married Albert Bouclin, a Sudbury dentist.

Unlike many Roman Catholics who have abandoned their church, Bouclin has remained committed to fighting for reform from the inside.

A former high school teacher and French-English translator, Bouclin once worked for Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

But she was fired from that position about 15 years ago for publicly expressing her belief that women are entitled to hold full membership - and leadership roles - in the church.

Bouclin, who was ordained a deacon in a secret service last year, was literally beaming after Sunday's two-and-a-half hour ordination. If she had any doubts before that rank-and-file Roman Catholics support the ordination of women and married men as priests, they flew out the stained-glass windows of West Hill United Church.

Bouclin was bursting with pride and hope that Catholics, who may not be as outspoken as she has been in challenging the church, believe it is time for change in the organization.

Plouffe is on record recently as saying that, while he respects Bouclin for her faith, ordaining women breaks from the teachings of the church. Plouffe said he would not consider Bouclin's ordination valid, because only men can be ordained. Bouclin is optimistic that will change as a result of Sunday's service.

The ceremony was filled with music and prayer. And while the liturgy was virtually the same as that heard every Sunday in traditional Roman Catholic churches, it was startling for some to hear it delivered by women. Even more unusual was the sight of Fresen breaking bread and presiding over the mass.

Marie-Paule Paquette is a friend of Bouclin's, and she spoke to The Sudbury Star on behalf of a group of women who attended the ordination. Paquette is an active member of St. Jean de Brebeuf Roman Catholic Church in Sudbury, although she also supports the work of Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

Paquette said many members of St. Jean de Brebeuf support Bouclin and other women who are called to become priests.

A friend or family member of each ordinand was called to speak about why their loved one should be called to the priesthood or the diaconate. Bouclin's husband, Albert, spoke on behalf of his wife of more than 30 years.

He said Marie had been preparing for this moment for her entire life. "My family and I are extremely proud of Marie. We support her to the fullest," said Albert.

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