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Witnesses
Kathleen Carlton Johnson
Hospice Chaplain
October 1, 2022

I have been a Chaplain to the local Hospice, here where I live in Northern Michigan.  It has been the most extraordinary experience.  I have attended every denomination and many who had never been inside a church.  Some of my patients were bikers, atheists, and true agnostics. The common bond with all of these souls was they were children of God, regardless if they knew it or not.

I could tell you many stories, but this small piece is about Faith and how the Church could extend Christ's mercy to the community.  The Church has the Sacrament of Sick and this has been a blessing in many ways. No longer do we have to wait for the last day or moment to call the priest for what we had once termed the Last Rites. The Church in her wisdom now allows the Sacrament of the Sick to be given when there is serious illness, but it also has a component of forgiveness of sin to strengthen the body and resolve to bring the spirit to a more intimate communication with Jesus.  This second piece can only be given by a priest.  As a Hospice Chaplain, there are times I cannot get a hold of a priest or, because we have so few priests, I cannot find one to give the Sacrament before the person dies. This is a modern dilemma in the Church in rural areas. I do not want to be a priest; God has not given me that role in this earthly life. However, if we had women deacons, we could extend the Church in places where few priests are present in the community. 

Women have been the caregivers and great support of most churches. Why? Because we deal with the personhood of the ordinary. The everyday matters of living. To me, that is what a deacon is. She extends the Church to the common community: visiting the sick and dying, helping parents with family problems, attending as a lector at Mass, burying the dead, and comforting families. As our Christian community shrinks and priests are fewer in number, women are needed to keep the Catholic community alive, much as the early Church used women centuries ago. 

Women have been seen as persons with a family. They have been in the current church rather dismissed if not looked on with suspicion (some desiring priesthood). Women because of the family connection are uniquely equipped to serve the parish and Catholic community because of their family experiences. They could be a source of grace and healing to the coming Church in these very secular and contentious times. Women were at the foot of the Cross, women helped St Paul, and St Peter’s mother-in-law, cured by Jesus, got up from her sick bed and started to serve the apostles. We are here and ready to serve. 

 

Kathleen Carlton Johnson is a Hospice Chaplain in Lake Linden, MI

Organization
“Our St. Phoebe Day celebration was a Catholic mass at its best—coming together, unified at the Eucharistic table, getting nourished through meaningful ritual, prayerful and relevant songs, a challenging message on synodality from scripture, and engaging and honest testimonies from two women in our community. St. Joan of Arc parish today did what Jesus did years ago—fed souls and gave people hope.”
St. Joan of Arc Catholic Community
Minneapolis, MN
Organization
“Together, we are grateful that the ministry and example of St. Phoebe enlivens our community to participate in exploring the unique gifts of women in our faith community. Here at Cranaleith, we feel strongly about creating space for all those seeking wholeness and transformation for themselves, their communities and society. This retreat was an opportunity for us to do just that.”
Cranaleith Spiritual Center
Philadelphia, PA
Organization
“The icon of St. Phoebe is still present in our Chapel today, where we are able to remember her witness and ask her to intercede on our behalf.”
Rosemont College
Rosemont, PA

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