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Ordained female priest says Mass at St. Francis House

In 1998, Janice Sevre-Duszynska stood up in the middle of an ordination service and shocked her entire congregation when she demanded the Bishop to ordain her into priesthood.

Sevre-Duszynska said the Bishop sounded like Darth Vader at the time, commanding her to go back to her seat and stop disrupting the service. However Sevre-Duszynska said she did not view her actions as disruptive. Rather, she said she was acting as the voice for all women.

While Sevre-Duszynska did not fulfill her dream of entering the priesthood at that service, she became an ordained priest on August 9, 2008 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Sevre-Duszynska visited Columbia on Wednesday to say mass at St. Francis House and screen the documentary “Pink Smoke Over the Vatican,” which focuses on the controversial movement of women seeking priesthood within the Catholic Church.

Before the mass, Sevre-Duszynska spoke of her journey into priesthood and the exclusion of women in the Catholic Church.

A former journalist and teacher, Sevre-Duszynska said she fulfilled her lifelong dream when she became a priest in 2008. As a child she helped clean the church and would pretend she was the one giving mass.

“Sometimes when the church was empty, I would make believe that I was a priest at the altar. I would raise up the bread and wine during the consecration of the Eucharist… I would bless the people of God,” Sevre-Duszynska said.

Sevre-Duszynska finally fulfilled her childhood dream in 2008 when Bishop Dana Reynolds ordained her into priesthood. On that day Sevre-Duszynska officially joined the Roman Catholic Womenpriests.

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests originated in Germany in 2002 with the ordination of seven women. Since then, over 145 women have entered the priesthood worldwide.

The Catholic Church refuses to recognize these women priests. In Pope John Paul II’s 1994 Apostolic Letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he gave the final word on female priests in the Catholic Church by saying, “We declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful.”

For female priests, breaking through the 'stained-glass ceiling' means excommunication from the Catholic Church. For Sevre-Duszynska, this exclusion of women illustrates an injustice in the church.

“Pedophile priests; they’ve had a little slap on the hand by the Vatican, but they’ve not been excommunicated. But we women have been excommunicated, an excommunication we do not accept,” Sevre-Duszynska said.

Sevre-Duszynska explains the validity of her ordination is rooted in the following of the apostolic succession of the Roman Catholic Church.

Local Catholic Kate Edwards doesn’t see the problem with female priests in the Catholic Church.

“I think women absolutely should be allowed to be priests because it doesn’t really make sense for a denomination that preaches equality for women and everything else to kind of have that ‘but wait, you’re not allowed to be priests.’ So it doesn’t really make sense to me,” Edwards said.

The RCWP aren’t exclusive in their preaching. They want to spread the word of God to all people of the world.

“Everyone is welcome to our Eucharist, even if you’re not Catholic…everyone is welcome at our table,” Sevre-Duszynska said.