Monday, January 22, 2007

The Provision: Still Spreading

Next month in LA, a former Episcopal priest will be ordained a transitional deacon in the home stretch to becoming the first married priest in US Catholicism's largest diocese later this year:
Like all prospective Roman Catholic priests, Bill Lowe has studied for tests packed with questions on dogma, Scripture and church history.

This week, however, the Camarillo man faces a query that makes him unique among his peers: What to get wife Linda for their 44th wedding anniversary, which just happens to be today?

"I'm sure we'll be going out to dinner," said Lowe, 68, who with Linda has three grown children and five young grandchildren.

"But beyond that, I'm a little perplexed," he admitted....

For Lowe, the provision offers a second chance at a career he reveled in for more than 30 years.

"Retirement was very hard for me," he said. "I like to call on people, to help, to be out and about. I knew I was called to be a priest."

While at The Parish of the Messiah in Newton, Mass. — population 81,000 — Lowe was known for wearing his Episcopal priest's collar into the local ice cream parlor and doughnut shop for impromptu gab sessions he called Holy Hanging Out. He also organized after-service parades from the church to the 19th-century home he and Linda shared less than a mile away, inviting everyone into the huge back yard for barbecue.

The occasion will be much more formal Feb. 10, when Thomas Curry, the bishop whose pastoral region includes Ventura County, presides over Lowe's ordination as a deacon. After the ceremony at Padre Serra Church in Camarillo, the parish the Lowes have attended since moving to California four years ago, Bill Lowe will be able to perform baptisms, funerals and weddings without Masses.

His ordination into the Catholic priesthood — with Cardinal Roger Mahony presiding at Padre Serra Church — is not yet scheduled, but Lowe has been told it could take place well before the annual ordination of priests from the neighboring St. John's Seminary, which typically occurs in June.

Why the rush?

"It's an exciting situation," said the Rev. Thomas Anslow, vicar for canonical services for the archdiocese. Then he laughed. "You could say this is all kind of virgin territory for us," he added....

Discussions also swirled around the subject of what to call Linda, with tongue-in-cheek results.

"Someone suggested ‘Mrs. Father.' She loves that one," Lowe said. "Her favorite, of course, is ‘Linda.'"

Linda Lowe, who at 66 has a bachelor's degree in psychology, spent 20 years working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, likes to play tennis twice a week at Valle Lindo Park in Camarillo and, lest anyone forget, already has more than 30 years' experience as the priest's wife under her belt, is up for the challenge of a new chapter in her life.

"We've been among the first to do other things," she said with a laugh. "I'm not afraid of adventure."