Boston Heights -- On May 24 Mary Eileen Collingwood will take another step in her journey of faith and service to the Lord.

Collingwood, a deacon with the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests, will be one of six women ordained at 1 p.m. at Brecksville United Church of Christ, 23 Public Square.

While the Roman Catholic Church does not allow women priests, the ARCWP has almost 200 women priests worldwide, according to spokesperson Janice Sevre-Duszynska, who is also a priest.

Members of ARCWP consider themselves to be Catholic and their ordinations in "apostolic succession" to be valid, Sevre-Duszynska said. However, due to breaking Roman Catholic canon law and ordaining women, the group has been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, she said.

Collingwood was ordained as a deacon with ARCWP June 22, 2013.

"As deacon, I have conducted prayer services, funeral services and anointed the sick," Collingwood said. "I have spent my deaconate time in service to others as [and were] needed."

Unlike some mainstream religious organizations, the association of women priests "welcomes all at the table," according to Collingwood.

"No one is ever excluded," she said. "We embrace the disenfranchised in our community - those who find no comfort in the Catholic parishes and live on the margins.

"All are the people of God," she said. "All are welcome at the table as equals."

Collingwood and her husband, Richard, have lived in Boston Heights since 2006 and have seven children. Collingwood has spent her life in church ministry, including graduating seminary with a degree in theology.

An "awakening" led Collingwood to the priesthood, she said.

"I realized that the most repressed people since the beginning of time have been women," Collingwood said. "And I really do love my church, to the point where I'm willing to step out of their roles and policies to live the change that really needs to happen today to bring women into equal positions. It really needs to be done to help make the Church whole."

The Roman Catholic Church is one of the last remaining institutions which does not allow women in roles traditionally filled by men, such as the priesthood, Collingwood said.

More than half the people in the world are women, Collingwood said.

"[But] our policies, both secular and religious, have been totally written by men," Collingwood said. "Women have had no input in our canon law or our pastoral teachings -- even the Bible was written by men."

Since men wrote most of the laws, there no insight into the feminine divine era, Collingwood said.

An ordination of a woman priest is considered "illicit" by the current canon law of the traditional Roman Catholic Church, Collingwood said.

However, that will not dissuade Collingwood and the organization.

"We like to say we are being called to prophetic obedience to the Holy Spirit," she added. "I hope to be able to die one day to know my footprints were going in the right direction, so to speak."

Collingwood has worked for 40 years in a variety capacities with the Diocese of Cleveland. She will be ordained by bishop Bridget Mary Meehan. Others being ordained as priests include: Irene C. Scaramazza of Columbus; Mary Bergan Blanchard of Albuquerque New Mexico and Marianne Therese Smyth of Silver Spring Maryland. Susan Marie Guzik of Eastlake and Barbara Billey of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, will also be ordained as deacons.

Brecksville United Church of Christ will allow Collingwood and another women priest to say Mass and liturgies each Saturday at 5 p.m., beginning June 7.

The ceremony is open to the public.

For more information contact Brecksville United Church of God at 440-526-4364.

Collingwood said she is being called to live the change that needs to be embraced by the Roman Catholic Church.

"Hopefully things will go from there as far as growing a community," Collingwood said. "But, even with that, wherever there is a need I can go to, whoever needs to be anointed, receive the sacrament or would like to receive home Mass or in a different facility -- if I can do it -- I will be there."


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