My Story of Call to Ordination as a Roman Catholic Woman Priest by Katy Zatsick ARCWP

Katy Zatsick, ARCWP at her ordination on February 6, 2010

“Only by the Mercy, Grace and Providence of the Holy One

am I able to say, “Here I am Loving God, I am ready.” 

Some priests said, “tell of your priestly experiences.” After reflection I chose to tell you of my spiritual and life journey to ordination because I desire that you hear and rejoice with me in God’s Mercy, Grace and Providence in my life. I was born and raised into a violent home with alcohol abuse and abuse by two older brothers. I lost two brothers to alcoholism. Wounded emotionally, spiritually, mentally and socially I was programmed for depression, addiction, codependence, enmeshment, without boundaries and enablement of abusers.  With low self-esteem I was emotionally numb and could not express feelings nor have any sense of my real self. I isolated and ran away from family interactions especially with my mother.When I was about 5 years old, I had this dream:“I was in a dark space.  In front of me and larger than I was tall was a white skeleton head with bones, seen on poison bottles. I was standing in front of the head dressed in white like a woman during the ice-ages, spear in my hand. I was ready to confront the skeleton head.”  I knew as a child I was to confront death and destruction, but I did not understand its meaning until much later in my life.Half of my psyche’s energy is a deep, continual emotional and spiritual struggle for my own healing, with death as a possible outcome for much of my life.  The second half of who I am is a commitment in the struggle against injustice in all its forms and ultimately to challenge the RCC’s misogyny and discrimination against women directly with my ordination to become a RCWP.  May you listen with your heart as I tell the truth of my life. I started going steady at 15 and spent most days at my boyfriend’s home, I would marry Joe at age 21 in 1964 amidst Vatican II. I experienced glorious hope for the RCC and for married and women priests.  I served as Eucharistic minister, lector, on parish councils and finance councils.  I began to study, through parish and diocesan offerings, about what the future might be for Catholicism. I studied and followed the teachings of Matthew Fox and Teilhard de Chardin. My daughter was born in 1967 amid the color photos of the deaths in the Vietnam war; children and adults being burned by napalm.  I knew I must stand against war how could we kill children like my own precious daughter? A peacemaker was being called forth. I was active against the War in Vietnam marching in Detroit and Washington DC. Lisa’s father left me on our daughter’s christening day. During the next year in the time I spent in prayer, I heard a clear voice “I am not doing this to you.” Again, being unconscious spiritually, caught in denial of my spiritual wounds of being an ACOA I would not find the meaning of these words till much later in life.  After our divorce I left the RCC for about three years. The betrayal and grief from the loss of my marriage left me without a spiritual and emotional anchor. The RCC offered no support for a divorced single mother. As a single parent in the 60’s, I began my undergraduate work in Business Administration with scholarships, loans and working part time, graduated and headed to MSU to begin my Master’s in MLIR.  There I met Dow Scott and we were married in 1976, Jason being born a year later. We moved to Blacksburg VA for Dow’s work in 1979. I began again to be active in the local parish. Continuing in the roles, I began in Michigan after Vatican II. With the hope for the laity’s influence in the RCC, I became a member of Women’s Ordination Conference, Women Church Convergence and Call to Action. Continuing the study of Vatican thought and changes in the RCC as we read “the signs of the times” I attended conferences at WOC, and participated in Diocesan level conferences on the role of women in the RCC. I continued to grow in my knowledge of what the Roman Catholicism could be in the future if we worked as a community to make it happen. While in Blacksburg I co-founded a non-profit hospice in 1980 in memory of our best man and would remain a volunteer until we left. Bishop Sullivan of the Richmond VA diocese, one of our great peace bishops was very supportive of the laity providing an opportunity to achieve a certificate in Pastoral Ministry, using the same study course as for a deacon. After finishing the two-year program, he commissioned me to minister in the Richmond diocese’s parishes.  I then started a Masters of Pastoral Studies, a long-distance theology degree with LU-NO again under the promotion of Bishop Sullivan who strongly supported the laity in leadership roles within RC faith communities.In the early 90’s Bishop Sullivan asked me to begin a new parish in a small community about 15 miles from Blacksburg. I continued to be a Pastoral Administrator until we moved from the New River Valley. The community had grown to about 90 persons. Through this ministry, I found I could not minister in the framework of the traditional RCC.  I could not teach others to believe what I personally did not believe about sexuality, marriage, the just war theory and the dominance of ordained men as the only decision makers in the RCC.  The marriage to Dow was a spiritual and emotional hell and together re-created the emotional and spiritually dysfunctional home of my childhood for our own children. I had been taught by the RCC that I should suffer to “make up for what lacked in Jesus’ suffering on the cross” and the result being I offered up my marriage as such suffering.In 1996 we moved to Chicago where my spiritual life awakening and life changing events would occur. I finished my Masters from LU-NO in 1997 and at the same time joined an inclusive Catholic community meeting in a very poor section of Uptown. In this community called the St Harold I began learning liturgy “for and with the people of the streets” those who were homeless and suffering from addiction who were regular attendees. I asked some of these members to co-preside with me, the only presider to do so.Set in a Lutheran outreach the congregation was ministered to by the staff of the Eighth Day Center which had been created by religious orders.  Peace and justice research and action were the mission of 8th Day and I was steeped in ministry for Peace. I learned by attending conference, workshops, meetings and actions for justice and peace. I participated in the planning of all of these especially the Good Friday walk each year.I joined the WOC board in 1999 and remained a member until Sept 2005, serving two terms as the Board, while members and staff faced the most challenging times for WOC.  We debated and decided to support the “irregular” ordination of women starting with Mary Rammerman and Denise Donato of Spiritus Christi. We participated in the worldwide search to find a retired RC bishop to ordain Mary Rammerman.  I attended their ordination along with Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger from Europe.  Working with the European male bishops she prepared women to be ordained deacons. Ultimately, Rome turned down the Bishops’ request.  I met Christine at Mary’s ordination and she declared, “We will do this.” Christine returned to Europe and the Danube Seven were ordained. This prophetic action was the beginning of the Roman Catholic Women Priest Movement, first in Europe then Canada, then USA and now spreading worldwide.In 2001 I attended the WOW meeting in Dublin where Sr. Joan Chittister and her Benedictine community defied Rome’s order to keep Sr Joan from attending.  It is one of the great spiritual honors for me to have heard Sr Joan OSB speak about the role of women in the RCC.Also, in 2001 I began my CPE training to become a hospice chaplain.  Blessed with a saintly mentor, a married priest who served two six-month prison terms for crossing the line at the Ft Benning Ga, as a witness against torture and death in Central and South America. I would serve as hospice chaplain in Chicago from 2002 to 2009. In my role baptizing, offering God’s forgiveness, anointing persons before death and providing memorials created by the family members of all faiths.In the fall of 2001, my son Jason joined the US Army “to protect America” As a Lt tank commander he and his platoon were sent to Iraq in January 2005. I argued against his going with Jason and his father who said, “The army will make a man out of him.”October 15, we got the call “Jason was VSI.” He would be flown to Landstuhl in Germany and then on to WRAMC in Washington DC in a medical coma. At WRAMC Jason would reach a new normal after losing an eye and arm to an IED.  Here at age 62 I would spend 8 months at his side. I attended his PT and OT and aided in his daily routine by caring for his colostomy.I speak my truth when I say, “I am saved because of my son’s wounds” It is the greatest paradox of my spiritual and emotional life. I give the origins to Sophia of Holy Mystery.I had this dream in October shortly after my arrival at Walter Reed:“I was in a room the size of a walk-in closet.  It was very dark.  The walls were covered in weapons of war under a deep layer of cobwebs. Straight ahead and above me was a shelf. On that shelf was a tunnel made of spider webs and I knew something was in that tunnel and wanted to attack me. I knew I had to make a choice.  Stay and continue to fight with whatever lived in the tunnel OR I turned to my right and looked out a door. The scene was filled with sunlight, the ground bare but at a distance away was the Tree of Life. I turned toward the Light and knew I would leave the dark room.”I left my husband at WR and began my journey of healing into being who God calls me to be. We did not know if Jason would live the first month, I was at WR.  I spent 8 months praying during Jason’s surgeries for his healing and every day the liturgy of the hours. The surgeries lasted from 2 to his longest 12 hours for the repair of the shattered bones, cheek and eye socket in his right cheek. I also spent my time ministering with other family members at all hours of the day and nights.  I received counseling and spiritual direction from Diane Neu co-founder of WATER walking to her office located not too far from WR.I spent hours downtown DC participating in Iraq anti-war protests and for respite spent time at Jonah House each weekend, once home of the Berrigan brothers. Liz McCallister Phillip’s widow told me, “Do not count the cost when you speak or act for peace” I spent each Wednesday evening at the Quixote Center for my weekly liturgy with peacemakers known for their work in Central America especially in the time of the Contra War.While I lived at WR amidst its suffering caused by our wounded humanness; it was also a time of blessing upon blessing for my dried spiritual soul and my emotions including the deep grief of the wounding of my son.It was the journey to my own coming to consciousness of “how I had lived and not lived my values” and “who I am called to be;” this time is the greatest redeeming gift God will give me in this life. I prayed continually the gospel stories of Jesus healing the blind as Jason was diagnosed as blind upon arrival.  However, I quickly came to my own spiritual awakening that Jason would be healed of his blindness and I was being healed of my spiritual and emotional blindness of who I am and how I lived my life to this point in my life. Who received the greater gift? Praise be to the God of my understanding-Sophia, renewer and healer of bodies and souls.When I returned to Chicago, I visited the chapel at LU-C across the street from where we lived, placed myself in the Presence of God and imagined myself being ordained and meeting Christ. Jesus smiled and gave me my priestly robes. I knew my ordination would come to be.In 2008 I divorced Dow and I turned 65.  Now I had Social Security, alimony and Medicare. I moved to Kentucky to minister with Janice S-D for she and I had served on the WOC board together. I knew the bishops from the Midwest and instead I chose Bridget Mary-Southern Region to be my Bishop because of her deep commitment to, love of and experience of religious community.  I entered the ordination preparation program in 2009 and was ordained deacon in Dec of that year.February 6th 2010 Bishop Bridget Mary ordained Dena O’Callaghan as priest, Mary Ellen Sheehan a deacon, and myself as priest.  I say as I began,“Only by the Mercy, Grace and Providence of the Holy One.

At the age of 77, I thank my parents for life long gifts given to me. From my father the gift of a very strong Roman Catholic faith.  From my mother the gifts of reading, learning and the love of the garden the beginning of my love for God’s creation. From my companions on the journey especially Bishop Bridget Mary who nurtures and models a life lived for and in Holy Mystery, Jack Duffy representing Sophia in our community of Mary Mother of Jesus, my Jungian analyst for 10 years Dr Gus Cwik, and last my continuing spiritual work in AL Anon for providing me the wisdom to continue to grow in God’s Compassion for all and for Mother Earth.  I give thanks for you, each member of our MMOJ community.  You know the story of my life after my ordination as we walk together as the Pilgrim People of God.  I ask your forgiveness if I have hurt you. I give thanks that you are such an important part of my spiritual journey home to our God of Unconditional Love for each of us and all of us. I ask God’s mercy and grace for each of us and all of us as the Pilgrim People of God.
To learn more about my time at WRAMC, please see http://captjason.blogspot.com/ I tried to write in the blog every day while I was there.   With photos Covers Oct 2005 to June 2006.
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