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Local woman ordained by priestess organization

Submitted photo Linda Wilcox was ordained by the Roman Catholic Womanpriest organization last month. The group is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.

An Afton woman, who for the last several years has been pursuing her own path to priesthood, was recently ordained in a ceremony last month by the Roman Catholic Womenpriest organization.

Linda Wilcox went through her ordination ceremony Aug. 16.

The Roman Catholic Womenpriest group is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church.

The ordination of Wilcox, and two other women, took place at the First Universalist Unitarian Church of Minneapolis in front of nearly 500 people.

Unlike some faiths and denominations, the Roman Catholic Church does not permit or recognize women priests or deacons.

Wilcox, who considers herself a lifelong, devout member of the Roman Catholic Church, said she recognizes the conflict that exists between the church's teachings and traditions and her desire to become a priest.

Many people ask Wilcox why she doesn't just leave the church, instead of dealing with all of the criticism and controversy, but all Wilcox answers is that she wants to fight gender bias associated with the Roman Catholic Church's view on the priesthood, a role it reserves for celibate men.

"I would really like to stick around and make a difference, even if it's just a little move in the right direction and change this church that I love," she said.

Wilcox said she is hopeful that in the future that women who want to be recognized as priests in the Roman Catholic Church may be on the right path to finding acceptance in the church, but she said she knows that day is a long way off.

"I think there will be more women priests, but not necessarily accepted," she said. "I like to think the horses are out of the barn and they're not going to catch them.

"The idea is out there inspiring people, but it's going to take a long time. I heard that it takes the church a hundred years to change its mind, so I have a feeling I won't see the day when it is accepted, but we have to start someplace and this is my bliss."

Wilcox said the majority of her friends and family, and even a group of clergyman, have been extremely supportive of the journey she has taken, but she has had a fair share of people who do not support what she is doing.

"In a perfect world everyone would support me, but I really think we need to respect where other people are in their thinking and where their consciences take them," she said.

Finding her purpose

A mother to four children, Wilcox, 61, graduated in 2005 with a master's in theology from St. Catherine's University, and it was around that time that she said her eyes started to open to the number of women theologians there actually are.

"It was at that time that I realized there were a lot of women theologians which was a whole new world of ideas for me," she said. "I had always sort of seen the world from a male perspective."

Initially Wilcox had no intentions of becoming a woman priest; the idea hadn't even crossed her mind, but her life took a dramatic turn at an annual conference she attended for an organization that lobbies for reform in the Roman Catholic Church, when she saw a woman standing behind the alter.

"I never questioned anything, but when I got in my 50s, I guess I'm a real late bloomer, I started to ask questions and was trying to find answers to my faith, life, death, suffering, all these big questions," she said. "I feel like I've always had a deep spiritual life, looking for answers and the mystery of things -- now I really feel like I found my purpose and and it feels so good."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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