Called to Testify: Millie Clark

Photo credit: June Caldwell’s mother Millie Clark enjoys a moment with her great granddaughter Madelynn. Photo circa, 2017.

We conclude this last week of women’s history month by recognizing the vital role which mothers, aunts, grandmothers and great grandmothers often have in passing on the faith to the next generation. In this guest reflection, June Caldwell shares a picturesque memory of her late mother Millie Clark’s influence on her faith formation as a lector. -Ellie 

The summer before I was in junior high school – which was 12 years after the Bonner Bridge connected Hatteras Island to the mainland of North Carolina – my family took our first vacation on the Outer Banks. My parents, three of my four brothers, paternal grandmother, and I stayed in a sun-bleached one-story ocean view cottage on stilts in Avon. Across Highway 12 the realty office was open for coffee, questions, and a swim in the community pool. We arrived on Saturday in time to unpack, go for an ocean swim, and eat dinner. In the mid 1970’s the island had minimal development compared to today. All the stores were mom and pop’s – no big box stores. 

The next day of our vacation was Sunday. My father most likely would have preferred to go surf fishing. My mother squelched that idea by insisting we look for a Catholic church so we all could attend Mass. Our family traveled up and down Highway 12 in my grandmother’s overcrowded blue Chevy searching for a Catholic Church. After a long morning, an island native suggested trying the U.S. Naval Base in Buxton near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (Our Lady of the Seas Catholic Church in Buxton had not been built yet.) By the time we got to the naval base it was too late to attend Mass, so we toured the lighthouse instead. My whole family, minus my acrophobic grandmother, climbed the spiral staircase to the lantern room. A stunning ocean view complete with surfers awaited us.

When we walked into the naval chapel the following Sunday, a priest was seated just inside the entry door. As we filed in to search for a pew, the priest reported that he needed a lector. For some unknown reason he asked me if I would be the lector for Mass. My mother thought it was a good idea, so I agreed. I have my mother’s insistence to attend Mass during our family vacation – and a priest who took a chance on inviting an adolescent girl to read – to thank for this beginning of my long ministry as a Proclaimer of the Word. 

June Caldwell

June Caldwell

June resides in Coudersport, Pennsylvania where she serves as a lector at Saint Eulalia Parish. Following this experience of a family vacation that opened up her call to serve as a lector, June struggled to serve at her home parish because she was female. However, she was then welcomed into this vocational role as a college student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

DD postscript: If you would like to testify to a woman who has shaped your faith, particularly in diaconal calls to liturgy, Word and service, please email Ellie Hidalgo.

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“[I hope the Church ordains women to the diaconate] to bring a wider witness and expression of God’s life, love, and presence to the people of God. Women’s voices and leadership will heal, encourage and empower the lives of men, women, and children. It will call forth a new understanding of church vocation and enrich Catholic family life.”
Deedee Van Dyke
Catholic Chaplain, Joliet, IL
“The first Apostle was a woman, Mary Magdalena. She continues to remain a tower of strength for women in ministry today. If more women were ordained to the diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church, I believe we would have more meaningful and spiritually enriching homilies, and our liturgies would embrace and welcome all to the Eucharistic table.”
Sonja Grace
“If I was ordained as a deacon, it would not be a means to an end, but rather it would be a continual invitation to a deeper and broader journey with Christ. Deacons are asked to become outwardly more visible as hands in service to the Church. To respond to such a vocation would be a treasure, a deepening of my inner faith life enriched by the outward experiences of ministry and service. Both the inner and outer journey become a longing to seek and know the Christ we are called to serve.”   
Nina Laubach
Student, MDiv program at Princeton Theological Seminary

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