Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Congratulations to Teresa Hanlon on being ordained Deacon for RCWP Canada. Teresa was ordained on October 14th, 2021, in Lethbridge, AB.
Please find below reflections from Teresa, her sponsor, and two people who attended the ordination, as well as a photo gallery.
"Signs for the Times" - Reflection from Teresa
I am a couple of weeks past my ordination into the diaconate now, and have already been asked to pray with someone who is dying, to baptize two babies (one not yet born), and to bless an upcoming (second) marriage for an elderly widower in my neighbourhood. What happened October 14 is significant for me, but also for the southern community of Lethbridge where we live.
I recall several poignant moments from that evening, the vigil feast of Teresa of Avila. In the first hymn, David M.’s voice and piano playing struck my ears with beauty and the music carried me to high places with accents on the violin and the guitar. My body received the song with such exultation!
Bishop Jane’s homily evoked feelings of pride in me to be part of this movement with meaningful principles and images of connection to Christ, the vine. The presence of Catholics who had not been to Mass for decades affirmed the existence of Christ’s call in the RCWP to those who are weary or burdened.
When I heard the litany of Saints, I was fortified and deeply touched. I sobbed at the mention of “Indigenous Children Martyrs” as my hand-sewn moccasins embraced my feet. May Indigenous wisdom bless this community!
Both the chant of “Holy Spirit” with the invocation of gifts and profound silence during the laying on of so many communal hands sunk deep into me. As I mentioned at the outset of this article, the ancient ritual was powerfully stirring (as it is already bearing fruit). Especially charged for me, were my husband Vincent’s hands on my head. We do not touch each other this way and the combination of love, blessing, and infused Spirit deeply anointed me, body and soul. I was also moved by my godson’s hands, by hands of couples, and colleagues and also Jane, bishop, and Felix, priest, separately and finally priest Ruth, my RCWP mentor-trainer and Murray together. To be held by so many for so long was humbling and a profound honour. Later, other RCWP laity shared that they, too, extended their hands on-line to bless me. Such a wide embrace. Thank-you to all who attended, prayed, and sent love my way.
Another aspect of this celebration speaks hopefully. A Lethbridge inclusive community of faith is rising. I was moved that the Woodrows and Slatterys attended. They are not family or close friends or people that I know personally. They came in support of this ordination because they are local to Lethbridge and have worshipped with St. Brigid’s. The hope that I understand in their presence at the ordination Mass is that this vocation will bring about a renewed Catholic church experience for many who are seeking a renewed church, an inclusive liturgy, a place to heal, and/or a home for worship and social justice action. God/de is faithful. God/de is so very, very, good. I am honoured to serve as your deacon in this community of faith.
- Teresa Elder Hanlon, Lethbridge, AB. November 1, All Saints, 2021
Sponsor talk by Pat Boehm
Throughout my years of friendship with Teresa I have watched the journey of the pilgrim seeking God by the use of her gifts. First of all by offering numerous bible studies at the parish church, faithfully providing music at the parish masses, leading bereavement groups, leading RCIA , and speaking at CWL groups and parish missions. Teresa encouraged others by her fervour and Spiritual direction became important as she encouraged others to take training in formation. I watched as she attained a Doctor of Ministry and I wondered what would be next. Her spirit kept questioning and prompting. All the while the doors at the parish kept shutting. Many of us here know how painful that can be.
Sometime ago now, Teresa and I were immersed in spiritual companioning. She told me that she was struggling with a strong call to be able to provide more to the parish, but nothing seemed to be open to her. We were both struggling with the patriarchy and lack of inclusivity within the church, and I suggested she investigate the woman priest movement. Teresa began a long and careful discernment process which brings us to this moment.
Those of us who know Teresa know her as an intuitive, wise, steadfast, loving person whose heart is always open to others. I would like to end with this poem by Antoinette Roeder from the Presence Magazine which describes to me Teresa’s journey: "Jonah’s whale: Not the Whole Story"
Reflections from those who attended the ordination
Reflection by Rev. Ruth Preston Schilk, who was the first reader at the ordination and is an ordained Mennonite, working with the United Church:
I felt a weighty honour being asked to read one of the scripture passages, because the Living Word also dwells in the written Word.
I marvelled at how this ordination was very much a bodily experience for all of us. We received and sang rich music. We heard and expressed faithfulness, challenge, and commitment. We ate and drank heaven-sent and home-made food of Life. We gazed at beautifully poised flowers and Teresa's humbled prostrate body. We laid anointing hands upon her. We walked among each other, and we kept silence together.
I experienced Communion in a very full sense of that word --ecumenically and eucharistically through the presence of the Trinity along with those visibly present in chronos time and those long-hidden in kairos time. Together with the cloud of witnesses, I rejoiced in Teresa's resounding YES to God's call on her life to capital 'M' Ministry.
In short, "Wonder" and "Hospitality" were the descriptors of the day.
Reflection by Cat Charissage, who was a candle bearer at the ordination:
I had several profound experiences during the ordination liturgy, plus a humorous one just before the rehearsal in the morning. As we were all wandering around looking for our name tags on certain pews, a friendly man introduced himself to me. "Hi, I'm Murray, Ruth's husband!" (I may be getting the name wrong even here, and if so, I apologize) Well, I knew Ruth, one of the Spiritual Directors in Lethbridge, and we'd been remembering her husband in prayer as he was living with cancer --- and proceeded to have a delightful conversation with Ruth's spouse. Only much later, when I asked him about going back and forth to the Tom Baker Cancer center, did he wonderingly say, "I've never had cancer. . . "! I skipped a beat or two, then asked him "Who is it, exactly, that you are married to?!?" That was my first introduction to the womanpriest Ruth --- not my friend here in Lethbridge, but hopefully a new friend in Calgary!
The ordination was deeply moving and beautiful. I caught myself with a big grin, noting "No one has said anything that I've found offensive!" I was revelling in the welcoming inclusive language, the dignified humility of the presiders, and the deep sincerity of all involved. It reminded me of how guarded I've kept myself at "regular" liturgies, steeling myself against the ubiquitous sexist language and hierarchical underpinnings of the liturgical structure.
During the Litany of the Saints I felt the large church (McKillop United) fill up slowly and then increasingly quickly with the presence of all the holy ones we invoked, along with all the other holy ones who came to give their blessings whether we knew their names or not. It reminded me of standing in line for a potluck lunch at a very happy family reunion, seeing old friends and meeting others I'd only heard about. It was welcoming, and we all belonged.
I was touched at Communion time that the presiders took their bread and wine after all the rest of us had taken ours. Throughout much of history, the male head of the household ate at the table first, and only if there were leftovers did the mothers and the children get some nourishment, a fact that felt reinforced at every mass I'd attended. But all of us need nourishment, and it's a servant leader who does not grab first, and ensures that resources are shared.
I am so happy that I was invited to Teresa's ordination, and to participate as a candle bearer. As a cradle Catholic, I'd found deep meaning in the symbolism of the rituals and teachings, and I studied theology for 8 years as a young woman. I left the Roman Catholic church soon afterward in despair about so much inequity and atrocity I found in the history of "Church". Now, almost 35 years later, I see a beam of hope. Thank you.