DioCal celebrates 40 years of women’s ordained ministry

On Saturday, July 12, the Diocese of California celebrated the 40th anniversary of women in the priesthood with a Celebration of Women’s Ministry. Over 200 women and men from throughout the diocese attended. The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, eighth bishop of California, presided at the service, which was held in the Great Quire of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

The Celebration of Women’s ministry commemorated the ordination of 11 women to the priesthood on July 29, 1974 at Church of the Advocate, Philadelphia. The women had previously been ordained deacon. The Celebration of Women’s Ministry was especially meaningful in the Diocese of California because the first ordination of a woman took place there. The Rt. Rev. James Pike, fifth bishop of California, ordained the Rev. Phyllis Edwards as deacon rather than deaconess.

The liturgy for the Celebration of Women’s Ministry included the music of Hildegard von Bingen sung by the Vajra Voices and Psalm 23 as adapted by Bobby McFerrin. The gospel text was the story of the Canaanite woman from Matthew, proclaimed in Chinese, Spanish, and English. The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Lyman preached.

A highlight was of the service was Bishop Andrus bestowing recognition on each of four pioneering priests: the Rev. Susan Bergmans, the Rev. Dr. Flora Keshgegian, the Rev. Dr. Fran Toy, and the Rev. Dr. Katherine Ward. He knelt before each one, thanked them, and then stood to bless each for their leadership within the Diocese of California.

The Choral Eucharist was envisioned and organized by the Rev. Este Gardner Cantor, with help from the Rev. Jane McDougle and the Rev. Donald Schell.

photos: the Rev. Este Gardner Cantor and the Rev. Sam Dessordi Leite