Minn. woman retraces road to ordination
- Article by: FRANK LEE
- Associated Press
- April 5, 2014 - 12:05 AM
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Marty Meyer-Gad wouldn't take "no" for an answer when she thought of becoming a priest in the Catholic Church.
"It is an act of breaking an unjust law ... but I'm not a rebel," said Meyer-Gad, 66, of Santiago Township.
She was ordained a Roman Catholic Womenpriest in Chicago in 2010 — a move that puts her at risk for being excommunicated by the Catholic Church.
She recently published her memoir, "Seventy-Four Cents," about her ordination, her ambivalence and the Catholic Church's teachings that only men can be priests, the St. Cloud Times reported (http://on.sctimes.com/1hif8O6).
"My ministry is writing and that's part of the reason why I wrote the book," said Meyer-Gad, who volunteers at a hospital in Princeton after working at Wal-Mart.
Those varied roles define her: She was in a convent. She worked at Fingerhut in St. Cloud. She got married. She served as a chaplain for about a year, each, at the St. Cloud VA Health Care System and St. Cloud Hospital.
According to the website of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests, "We, women, are no longer asking for permission to be priests." The website also says ordained women are ministering in more than 29 states.
"I'm not looking for people to form a congregation. I do not have a weekly, monthly — whatever — group of people to lead in worship even though that's been my whole life," Meyer-Gad said.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis' stance is "women who claim to have been ordained Catholic priests in fact have no relationship to the Catholic Church because their ordination is not valid."
"I'm against the ordination of women; I'm against the ordination of men," Meyer-Gad said. "We have too many expectations on priests because we ordain them to this kind of professional 'be-all, end-all' kind of thing."
Mary Magdalene, First Apostle, is a parish with Roman Catholic Womenpriests that holds services at St. John's Episcopal Church on Cooper Avenue South in St. Cloud.
"I don't introduce myself as a priest," said Meyer-Gad, whose husband, Bruno Gad, encouraged her to pursue the priesthood. "I introduce myself as 'Marty.' "
She entered the convent at 14 years old, working in worship training at the two largest Midwest dioceses, Detroit and Chicago, according to her biography.
"Growing up, I was influenced by the ceremony in the church," she said of entering the convent. "You know how girls played house? Well, I played church."
Her ideal is returning to the early church, which had no priests, but she said she sought ordination because she was angry with the Catholic bishops.
"I'd like us to go back to having no priests," Meyer-Gad said. "When a group gathered, someone led the prayer, and if someone had a knack for it, they would lead it more often."
Elsie McGrath of St. Louis was Meyer-Gad's program director when she was studying to be an ordained Roman Catholic Womenpriest like McGrath.
"Marty is a very interesting woman," McGrath said. "She's not outgoing, but she is very forceful in stating her positions and making sure people don't misinterpret her or ignore her."
Meyer-Gad received her master's degree in liturgy from St. John's University's School Theology/Seminary in Collegeville in 1979.
"Marty is very liturgically literate," McGrath said. "And I'm sure it was when she was in the midst of all of it that she realized she really did have a call to ordination herself, because her strong suit is presiding at liturgy."
McGrath pastors at Therese of Divine Peace Inclusive Roman Catholic Community in St. Louis, where she presides at weekly liturgies, witnesses weddings and holy unions, leads funeral and memorial services, listens and counsels.
"Marty touches people with the way she leads prayer," she said. "She's also a very intuitive woman who has a real soft spot for people who are looked down upon by the majority of folks."
McGrath works closely with applicants, candidates and deacons who are discerning a possible call to ordained priesthood within the RCWP movement.
She said of Meyer-Gad, "She really, really goes out of her way to be with you when you really have a need for someone."
Meyer-Gad said she has considered converting to a domination that does ordain women, but an ordained Episcopal woman she knew begged her not to do it.
"She said, 'Marty, don't you dare. The Catholic Church needs you; don't abandon them. Get ordained in the Catholic Church,' " Meyer-Gad said. "It's her certainty that has kept me going."
Meyer-Gad was ordained by Bishop Joan Houk of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests of the Great Waters Region.
"Why do I remain Catholic? Vatican II instilled in me an understanding that every baptized person is a member of the priestly people, so the Catholic Church is as much my church as it is the pope's church," Meyer-Gad said.
Meyer-Gad finished her self-published memoir in January and called it "Seventy-Four Cents" because that's all she had in her pocket when she left the convent.
"I left because of a new Mother General, who did not know how to handle things," she said of not accepting a teaching position offered by the Mother General.
She said she entered the convent because it was expected when she was growing up in Pierz that every family should have someone enter the priesthood or the religious life.
"I felt called to be a priest, but I could not go to the seminary, so the convent was like the next best thing," Meyer-Gad said.
Meyer-Gad said Jesus treated men and women as equals and that worship leaders were drawn from those assembled.
"As priesthood became a profession, the expectation that every baptized person is called to ministry was lost," she said. "My call to be a priest stems from my baptism."
© 2015 Star Tribune