‘This call comes from God’

— Rev. Mary Keldermans to be ordained as bishop in September

Keldermans is the pastor of Holy Family Inclusive Catholic Church, 2939 Stanton Street, though services have been online only since the pandemic.

By Steven Spearie

The COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the Reverend Mary Keldermans’ ordination as a bishop in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA movement.

Now the installation is moving forward at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre on September 4.

Keldermans, who worked for several Springfield Roman Catholic parishes and received an award from the Springfield diocese for her service to the church before being excommunicated for her ordination to the priesthood in 2014, will have some special guests on hand for the ceremony.

Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger and Dagmar Braun Celeste, two of the “Danube Seven” who were ordained priests on a boat in the Danube River in 2002, have made commitments to being in Springfield.

Celeste is the ex-wife of former Ohio governor Richard Celeste. She lives in Lakewood, Ohio.

Eight bishops from Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA (RCWP) will take part in Keldermans’ ordination, including her predecessor, Bishop Joan Houk of South Bend, Indiana, who retired in December 2018.

Keldermans, 64, was elected by the 24 women priests of the nine-state Great Waters Region in October 2019, and her bishop’s ordination was set for April 25, 2020 before the pandemic halted it.

Keldermans recently said she was “humbled” Mayr-Lumetzberger of Austria and Celeste were attending.

“It means that our movement is continuing, that there is a whole web of support,” Keldermans added. “It’s also life-giving, that we’re here to stay.”

While Keldermans contended she “lined up with 2,000 years of saints and sinners” in the Catholic church, she is riled about who the church deems “worthy to join” and who can receive the sacraments.

Keldermans’ ordination in 2014 incurred a public excommunication from Springfield Catholic Bishop Thomas John Paprocki. The Vatican, which doesn’t allow ordained female clergy, labels RCWP as “schismatic.”

A spokesman for the diocese didn’t return a message from The State Journal-Register Sunday.

“You cannot defend something like that,” Keldermans countered, “because the call to priesthood, the call to ministry comes from God, and it comes from the people who you minister with. That’s how it was in the early house churches, but (women leaders) got erased from history. We’re here, and we’re saying this call comes from God.

“You don’t turn your life upside down like (I did) without it being deep, deep in your soul that you feel God talking, that you feel God calling. There’s no man on earth that is going to tell me God didn’t call me for this. This priest part of me, this is what I’ve always done. This is how I’ve always talked, so people have gotten used to me.”

RCWP is not, Keldermans said, “a women’s movement. It’s a reform movement in the church.”

At the ordination, Keldermans will be presented a crozier Houk’s husband, John Houk, hand-made from wood.

“I told (Houk) that I will pass it down (to my successor),” Keldermans said. “That way her fingerprints will always be on the Great Rivers Region.”

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