Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Catholics from Portland area parishes attend the One Spirit - One Call gathering.
Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
Catholics from Portland area parishes attend the One Spirit - One Call gathering.
The message that went out to Catholic women Sunday in the South Park Blocks was this: “We are not male or female; We are all children of God.”

Spoken by Mary Lou Stewart, the words were imparted to the several hundred people at One Spirit-One Call. The event, organized by a group of St. Andrew Church parishioners, was inspired by Jennifer Sleeman, an 81-year-old Irish woman who is standing up to the perceived injustice of treatment of women who are part of the Catholic Church.

Sleeman called for women to boycott the Eucharist, but organizers of Portland’s event called it a “prayerful, positive public witness” rather than a boycott or protest. Attendees were reminded during the event that Mass would be celebrated at noon at the Downtown Chapel. The organization’s website had a link to parishes all over Portland with Mass times that didn’t conflict with the event.

Archbishop John Vlazny pointed out that not everyone is happy about the stance taken by supporters of the event.

“A public dispute about the life of our Catholic family neither strengthens our unity nor advances our evangelizing mission,” he said.

Women were encouraged to wear red, which organizers called a sign the Holy Spirit is calling them to gather in solidarity.

“Why does this institution lag so far behind in welcoming women’s gifts?” said Dr. Andrea Matsumura, a physician and mother.

She stood with St. Andrew parishioners Angela Kremer, Trish Bradley and Jackie Rossini to share their personal experiences and perspectives.

“I claim this church as my own and I am here to stay,” Rossini said.

Throughout the speeches, the women would break suddenly to chant: “We are the Church.”

Music was an integral part of the gathering, with a choir accompanied by harpist Licia Seaman and vocal solo by Ingrid Parmeter and hand-whistling by Sally Cohn. Jane Rickenbaugh, a St. Francis parishioner, choreographed a flowing dance using a long red ribbon as an eye-catching prop. 

Among those in the audience was Donovan Snyder, a non-Catholic there supporting his wife. He said he thinks this event will be a historic moment.

“This could be the start of an amazing movement,” he said.

Over at St. Andrew Church, Mass attendance was low, approximately 97 in the pews. Msgr. Charles Lienert announced that the reason the church was so unpopulated on Sunday was the downtown event. In his homily, he touched on issues relating to racism and classism, and concluded with, “In the eyes of Christ, we are equal,” referring to the Gospel reading from Luke 16.

Back downtown, as speeches and song concluded, event organizer Sarah Granger voiced a call to action, which was described by the group’s website, “We will contribute positively to reform and renewal in our Church. One Spirit - One Call will continue to use women’s wisdom and processes, inviting women to begin holding small gatherings to share their stories and name their hopes and dreams for the church.”