Monday, May 07, 2007

In LA, "Merging Onramps"

The US' largest diocese got its first married priest yesterday, as former Episcopalian cleric Bill Lowe became Fr Lowe again, this time after being ordained by Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles under the auspices of the pastoral provision.

Lowe, 68, a father of three and grandfather of five, spent 32 years at an Episcopal parish in Massachusetts before crossing the Tiber -- and the Mississippi -- in 2002.

First among the ordination revelers was the woman who, one parishioner suggested, should be called "Mrs. Father."
The kiss came moments after the Rev. Bill Lowe was ordained as the first married priest in the nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese late Sunday afternoon.

It was delivered by his wife of 44 years, Linda, just outside the sanctuary at Padre Serra Parish in Camarillo, where about 700 people had gathered to watch a father become a father. It came a heartbeat before one of Lowe's first acts as a Catholic priest.

"He blessed me," Linda Lowe said....

More than 70 men have used the 27-year-old [pastoral] provision to become Catholic priests in the U.S. Lowe, who is 68 and retired in 2002 after 32 years as an Episcopal priest in Newton, Mass., is the first in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Mahony said people should view the ordination as an exception and not an indication the church may change its requirements and bring in more married priests.

Many of the parishioners weren't listening. Worried about the shortage of priests, they viewed the ordination as a symbol.

"I think it's opening a door for married priests in the future," said Michelle Paschen of Camarillo. "And yes, I think priests should be married."

John Blankenship, 68, of Camarillo went further.

"I think it's great that we're moving forward," he said. "Hopefully that will eventually lead to women being priests."...
The couple views the ordination as a partnership, just like the rest of a life that has brought them three adult children and five grandchildren.
"We don't know what God has in store for us," Bill Lowe said earlier, "but we're up for the adventure."

They've been in Camarillo for about four years. He's always laughing and, according to parishioners, always has time to listen and help. She's into tennis and gardening and understands that as the wife of a Catholic priest, she may be under as much scrutiny as her husband.

"Early on, I found it a little frightening," she said. "Being the wife of a priest is not new to me but it's new to everyone in the (archdiocese)."

Others predict that attention focused on the marriage and the spouse will fade as Lowe goes about the day-to-day work of being an associate pastor at Padre Serra and ministering to people's needs.

"I think it's a 10-day wonder we're looking at as far as the focus being on Linda," said the Rev. Jarlath Dolan, senior pastor at Padre Serra Parish. "And if the focus is on Linda, I can't think of a better person to handle it."

The Lowes view the priesthood as a calling from God. That's why it's hard to answer questions about "why" other than that Bill Lowe didn't like being retired.

"The real reason can't be put into words because this is what God is calling us to do in this time and in this place," Linda Lowe said.

Lowe is not only the first married priest ordained in the archdiocese but also the first Episcopal priest. Mahony, in his homily, spoke of how the paths of different Christian communities run parallel.

"Today your onramp has merged with our onramp," he said.
Speaking of the SoCal cardinal, Philadelphia will be rolling out the red carpet for Mahony tomorrow night as he gives a National Constitution Center lecture on immigration reform.

A longtime advocate for the rights of migrants, and currently the US bishops' frontman in calling for a more just and humane treatment of undocumented workers amid an amped-up immigration debate, Mahony led the church's strident push against a 2006 bill that raised the specter of jail-time for those found to have aided, or even fed, an illegal immigrant.

After the cardinal made headlines for publicly exhorting his priests to break the proposed law if it passed and telling the National Catholic Reporter in an interview that Catholic legislators couldn't vote "in good faith" in favor of the legislation, the bill -- passed by the House -- died in a Senate committee.

Chuck Kirman/Ventura County Star