Ordination of Sister Diane Stier
Date: May 27, 2017
Time: 2:00 PM EST
Where: Emmaus Monastery
From Sister Diane:
After over 50 years as a Roman Catholic, the last 30 lived in religious community, I was received into the Episcopal Church in April 2013. While my journey toward priestly ordination was not the primary impetus for the move into the Episcopal Church, it did make possible what had previously been impossible. The call I have felt to priesthood for some time is now coming to fruition.
I feel that God is calling me, not to something new, but rather that God is inviting me to enter more deeply into that which God had already formed in me. I am committed to the monastery and to the ministry of contemplative presence that is our charism. But I continue to feel called to sacramental ministry – and that is the call I am inviting you to celebrate.
My understanding of a call to ‘priesthood’ was no doubt shaped partly by my some of my experiences as pastoral associate and chaplain in the Roman Catholic parishes in which I served. So often I would be with persons who wanted to be anointed, or who wanted to celebrate reconciliation. We would have shared deeply and personally, but then I would have to call “the priest” to actually celebrate the sacrament with those persons. We are a sacramental people – it is in our ‘bones’ to mark certain moments with these ‘outward signs’ of God’s grace and presence, with word and water and oil and bread and wine. To have essentially participated in the prayers for healing or the soul-baring of ‘confession,’ but be unable to “sacramentalize” that experience with the individual was painful and frustrating. It was often difficult to find a priest available, and then the priest was essentially a ‘stranger’ called in to ‘perform’ a function. I had no answer to the question from some of these people, “Why can’t you just do this?” except that, “I’m not ordained.” I struggled with the sense of being called to something I could not do, because it simply wasn’t an option in the Roman Catholic Church in which I was so totally immersed.
That interior sense of call was much more than something I “wanted to do.” It seemed much more like a part of the person God had called me to be. And God affirmed that call, I think, through the experiences in my life. Over the 30 years we’ve been in the area, I have participated in many community services – ecumenical gatherings, funerals, weddings. I was privileged to preach in some situations – or give “reflections” if it was in a Catholic church. After one funeral, the Lutheran pastor said to me, “I hope you get to preach often – because you have that gift.” A United Church of Christ pastor said to me years ago, “Why are you in a church that doesn’t want you? We would LOVE to have you as a pastor in our denomination!” My answer was always that I was Catholic, and ordination just wasn’t a possibility. But those comments continued to beg the question: Was I really responding as best I was able to what God asked of me? Was I really making best use of the gifts I had been given?
I was aware of Roman Catholic sisters who had joined the Episcopal Church and who were ordained, but that hadn’t really entered my mind as a possibility for me. Sr. Linda-Susan first broached the topic a few years ago, I think. She was quite direct in asking me "If you really feel God's calling you, how dare you not respond?" I thought I could NOT respond, only because answering the call to priesthood meant leaving my comfortable “Roman” catholic world and moving into another – perhaps “Anglican” catholic – space. I also spoke with some of my sisters in the Association of Contemplative Sisters, and especially with Sr. Jean Alice McGoff (the homilist at the Ordination), my Carmelite spiritual director who has known me since I was 12, about the move into the Episcopal Church and about seeking ordination. They have been nothing less than affirming and supportive.
I would be honored and blessed if you would join me on a day that means so much to my life.