I’ve always felt a call to serve. I’ve heard God’s call since I was a teenager. After college, after much discernment, I entered a religious community. But, within two years, I discerned out. Somehow it wasn’t the place for me. I think God knew I needed to have children to really know what love is.
The call to serve, however, never left. I was blessed that my parish had an adult faith formation director who recognized my call, and that my diocese had a lay leader formation program. God gave me a path to ministry as a married woman and mother.
In my seven years of formation, I began to feel that I was not just a parish leader; I was a servant-leader of the diocese, our local church. I felt part of a team, until the day formation ended.
The deacon candidates in our formation program were highlighted in our diocesan newspaper so that the church community could get to know them. Our bishop invited the candidates and their wives to dinner so he could personally get to know them. I never had those opportunities.
The men also had the rite of ordination wherein the Church recognized their call and the completion of their formal preparation, and found them worthy to be received as servant-leaders. The Church rightly celebrated their ordination, prayed for them and asked for God’s blessings upon them.
The men were ordained. I received a certificate.
I received a certificate from the bishop in the context of graduating from a program. I was regarded as a prepared minister in the diocese, and for that I am grateful, but it hurt deeply that I was not received as a servant-leader of the Church, by the Church. The Church didn’t say that I, too, have been called and found worthy. I didn’t receive, in the presence of the community, the blessing of the communion of saints.
As I recognized the pain that the Church doesn’t offer a rite for me, I decided to join my fellow brothers in their rite, from where I was sitting in the church that day.
I imagined myself prostrated on the Cathedral floor with them, hearing the litany of saints being sung and the prayers in people’s hearts storming heaven. I imagined the bishop laying his hands on me, handing me the book of the Gospel, and saying those powerful words: “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
It has been a very painful journey — I’m not going to lie. Yet while I feel pain, I also feel very blessed. I am blessed that I was formed as a minister, that I got to know people in the diocese, and that I feel a sense of community with the other servant-leaders.
Slowly, I’ve come to realize that I’m already serving the Church as a deacon. Being a deacon is not about a particular job or title. It’s about serving God’s people, the Church, in community with others. It’s about being part of a team where my gifts and talents are being utilized.
As an adult, married woman lay minister, God continues to show me a path.
My prayer is that the Church can formally recognize there are women like me who are being called by God and dedicating our lives to bringing about, with God, a reign of love, peace and justice. What I desire is to be received by the Church as one of her servant-leaders.
Rose Lue, an Advanced Lay Leader, currently serves the Diocese of San Jose, Calif., as a member of the justice commission, the committee for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, and mental health ministry. A long-time member of St. Simon Parish in Los Altos, Rose is a community organizer, justice advocate and trained spiritual director. A wife and mother of three, she has a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministries from Santa Clara University. This testimony is edited from what Rose shared at the prayer service for the Feast of St. Phoebe in 2020.