“A new model of ordained ministry
in a renewed Roman Catholic church”

Part I.  Mission
Roman Catholic Womenpriests (RCWP)
is an international initiative within the Roman Catholic Church.

       The mission of Roman Catholic Womenpriests North America is to spiritually prepare, ordain, and support women and men from all states of life, who are theologically qualified, who are committed to an inclusive model of Church, and who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to minister

Part II.  Principles

We believe:

  1. Women and men are created equal by God and can therefore equally represent Christ;
  2. Jesus offered an example of inclusiveness and respect of persons that led, in the early Church, to the practice of ordaining women and men from all states of life as deacons, priests, and bishops;   
  3. We affirm that no intrinsic connection exists between priesthood and mandatory celibacy; 
  4. We are called by the Holy Spirit from within our communities to follow Jesus as our model of empowerment and generous service, rejecting all forms of domination and control; 
  5. We are called to live as a community of equals, inclusive and respectful of   differences;
  6. We are called to transform hierarchical structures by creating new, community-based structures for discernment and the recognition of the gifts of all; 
  7. We are called to a model of ministerial priesthood that is grounded in our common Baptism, in prophetic obedience to the Spirit, in a teaching authority based on Scripture and Tradition, and in "reading the signs of the times"; 
  8. We are called to renew Theology, Liturgy, and Pastoral Practice to better reflect the spirit and teachings of the Second Vatican Council as expressed in Gaudium et Spes.

We pledge to:

  1. Exercise collegial leadership in all our decision-making processes.
  2. Operate on the principle of subsidiarity in governance, recognizing that decisions affecting local and regional communities are made at those levels.
  3. Honour the spiritual authority of women, the faith experience of women, and the history of women's service to the church and the Gospel by giving all our members an equal voice in governance.
  4. Support candidates seeking ordination by helping them discover their particular giftedness and their call to a specific pastoral ministry.
  5. Elect all office holders by democratic process, after extensive consultation with all members, ordained and non-ordained.
  6. Set term limits for administrative office holders.
  7. Institute a periodic review of structures.
  8. Hold one another to mutual accountability, spiritual authenticity, and moral integrity consistent with Gospel values.
  9. Support ourselves financially, each according to her or his profession.

We envision:

       The RCWP initiative as a renewal movement within the Roman Catholic Church that is transitional, and whose goal is to achieve full equality for women and men within the Church.
       RCWP as a communion of local and regional entities whose common purpose is to promote the ordination of women and men in full Apostolic Succession as a matter of justice and faithfulness to the Gospel.

III.  Structures

1.  Preamble

        As companions on the faith journey, we participate together in the mission entrusted by Jesus Christ to his disciples.  We are all equal and one in the Spirit with the People of God/de.  The structures that follow are intended to function in concentric circles rather than hierarchically, to provide a framework for modelling a renewed priestly ministry to the church.  These structures also express our commitment to forming community together, to offering generous support and loving service to the People of God/de, and to being accountable to the Spirit and to one another.

2.  Membership in RCWP

       The membership of RCWP is comprised of Roman Catholic Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Ordinands (those who have an ordination date), and Candidates, (those who have been accepted into the Program of Preparation). Each member of RCWP belongs to and represents a wider circle which includes but is not limited to her/his spiritual counselors and mentors, advisors, family members, friends, and fellow seekers, both Roman Catholic and from other denominations, who wish to collaborate in achieving a renewed Roman Catholic Church. 

3.  Candidates

       Women and men who express an interest in ordained ministry are referred to the Regional Program Coordinator.  The following are required prior to acceptance of an applicant into the Program of Preparation:

  1. For an individual under 55 years of age: Master of Divinity, Master of  Theology, or the equivalent.  For those 55 and over, a Bachelor of Theology, or the equivalent.  Sometimes the theological study and the Program Units may be undertaken concurrently, if the applicant is able to do this.
  2. A résumé and copies of all relevant documents, including:  baptismal and confirmation certificates; two letters of reference; all theological and pastoral degrees and transcripts; and, two recent photographs.
  3. An interview with one of our Regional Program Coordinators, (RPC), formerly called Program Assistants.  The applicant will be asked to travel for this interview to the RPC who lives nearest to her/him, or the RPC may delegate one of the other RCWP members to conduct the interview and report to the RPC.
  4. Strong pastoral experience.  If this is lacking, at least one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education or 3 academic courses in Pastoral Studies are strongly recommended.
  5. Before acceptance into the Program, Unit 1 must be completed.  This consists of writing a synopsis of one's life story and the story of the applicant's growing awareness of a possible call to priesthood. Unit 1 also has a spirituality question.
  6. A criminal background check from the police.
  7. A psychological evaluation by a Licensed or Registered Psychologist or Psychiatrist, preferably one who has experience evaluating candidates for ministry and/or priesthood.  A report is submitted by the Clinician to the Regional Program Coordinator concerned.  (See Addendum A: Custody of the Records of RCWP Candidates).
  8. Candidates need to be aware that ordination in RCWP is for service. Therefore, Candidates who do not have the support of a local community to whom they will eventually minister will work with other ministers to find or build a base community which will affirm their call and support them in their ministry.  Ministries could include but would not be limited to:  Liturgy; Continuing Education in the Faith; parish ministries; Community Outreach;  Ministries to marginalised persons and groups; and Spiritual Companioning.

       Candidates will also be advised that the Program of Preparation is first and foremost a discernment process, and that admission to the Program does not automatically guarantee ordination.

4.  Local Circles

       It is primarily from within the local community that the Holy Spirit calls forth candidates for priestly ministry.  It is in this local circle that ordained Ministers find the support and nurturing they need to live out their priesthood.  The local community is also where RCWP members will have the opportunity to discover the pastoral needs of their region, but their ministry is not limited to those needs.  For example:

  1. Develop a positive image of women in the Roman Catholic Church.
  2. Engage in ecumenism which includes full recognition of other Christian denominations as well as recognition of common principles and formation of common goals with the other religions of the world.
  3. Model people-centred and joyful proclamation of the Gospel.
  4. Offer a receptive pastoral response to individuals involved in divorce and remarriage so that all feel welcome at the Eucharistic Table.
  5. Take a supportive stance with regard to women's health, social and economic well-being.
  6. Reach out to youth, to the underprivileged, to those involved in chemical dependence, to the elderly, and to all other marginalised persons of the community.

       The Priest serves the local community by presiding at Eucharist and other sacramental celebrations.  She/he will take particular care to respect recognized Roman Catholic liturgical rubrics and to utilize inclusive language in the celebration of the sacraments.

5.  Regional Circles

       A region is a geographic entity, the boundaries of which are determined by such demographic parameters as size, location, population, and culture.  Regional boundaries, although established by consensus in October 2006, will be subject to periodic re-evaluation and possible change as RCWP continues to grow.  In North America, there are five regions in the Continental USA, (East, South, Mid-West, Central, and West) and two regions in Canada, (East and West).  For more specific information, see Addendum B, Regions of RCWP.

       Priests, Deacons, Ordinands, and Candidates belong to a geographical region.  Each region will have a Regional Administrator and a Regional Program Coordinator.  Once the region is functioning well, a Bishop will be chosen by the members of that region in a democratic and fair process of election.  See Addendum C, Election of Bishops.

       Affiliation with a region will generally be by geographic boundary.  A person who physically relocates from one region to another may choose to remain affiliated with the first region for an indefinite period of time.
The administration of a region will be carried out in a participatory rather than hierarchical fashion.  Ideally, decisions affecting the region as a whole will be made by consensus after adequate and appropriate discussions have taken place among the members.

       Discussions may also take place within the region in relation to matters affecting the National/Continental or International Circles of RCWP.  Regional decisions in these matters will then be taken to the National/Continental or International group by elected representatives using established lines of communication.

5.1 Regional Administrator
       The Regional Administrator will be responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the region. This person will be chosen by the group from among members of the region who are eligible.  Eligibility requirements may vary from region to region because of the specific make-up of an area.  It is assumed that the Regional Administrator will not only have administrative and managerial skills, but will also have the ability to work collaboratively and collegially with others, and will be familiar with the RCWP Vision of church and priesthood as well as with the Program of Preparation.

5.2 Regional Program Coordinator
       The Regional Program Coordinator will be chosen by the International Program Coordinator and members of the region from among the eligible members of the region.  In some cases the RPC may also hold the position of Regional Administrator.  Eligibility requirements will be set by each region but these requirements will be consistent with norms established by the International Program Coordinator in conjunction with the National/Continental and International Leadership Circles.  These norms will serve as guides in determining the degree of autonomy each Regional Program Coordinator has. International and National/Continental norms will take precedence.

       The Regional Program Coordinator will be responsible for accepting Candidates into the discernment stage of the program.  This person will also be responsible for ensuring that a Candidate's background is consistent with Program Requirements.  Individual differences in Candidate preparation will be noted by the Regional Program Coordinator and will be discussed, if necessary, with the International Program Coordinator or with other Regional Program Coordinators.  The Regional Program Coordinator will have some discretion in this regard based on the types of individual differences noted.

       The Regional Program Coordinator will be responsible for working with the Candidates in collaboration with the International Program Coordinator, with whom she will keep in regular contact about the Candidates she is mentoring, either by working directly with the Candidate(s) or by asking a particular Priest (or Deacon) to work with the Candidate(s).  The Regional Program Coordinator will be responsible for signing off on an individual Candidate's program.  Decisions regarding the Candidate's readiness for diaconate and priestly ordination will be made by a team consisting of the Regional Program Coordinator (or her/his delegate), the International Program Coordinator, the Regional Administrator, and the Bishop.  Three out of four of these team members must agree that the Candidate has fulfilled all of the requirements for ordination and is deemed to be ready.

       The Regional Program Coordinator will maintain continuous communication with the National/Continental and International Leadership Circles so that continuity and consistency between programs are maintained.

5.3 Bishops
       Bishops will be ordained according to the Rite of the Roman Catholic Church to continue the line of Apostolic Succession.  In collaboration with others concerned, Bishops will have a major role in deciding about Candidates’ readiness for ordination to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate.

       Within each region, the Bishop's duties will be primarily pastoral and sacramental rather than administrative or managerial.  In terms of governance, the bishop will work collegially with the Regional Administrator and the Regional Program Coordinator to assure that the goals and missions of the region are carried out. 

       In communion with the Roman Catholic Church, the bishop is the point of unity among all RCWP members in that Bishop’s region.
The bishop's authority will be sacramental and liturgical and will be clarified as the community grows.  The region is administered by the Regional Administrator.  Decisions about ordinations are always made in conjunction with the bishop.  

       The pastoral duties of the regional Bishop will include not only working with the Priests, Deacons, and Ordinands in the region but will also include communication with any Candidates or lay people who wish to discuss items of pastoral concern.  The Bishop will also engage in ecumenical conversation and dialogue with people of other faith traditions.

5.4 Priests
       Priests will be responsible for working with their individual faith communities and for carrying out their individual ministries in ways that reflect the rich heritage of Roman Catholic tradition and that shape a more inclusive, Christ-centred church in the twenty-first century.  Rooted in a response to Jesus who called women and men to be disciples and equals in spreading the Good News, we are called to exemplify the changes we wish to see in the church.

       It is understood that each priest has her/his own ministry and the gifts of this ministry are to be recognized and honoured.  A partial list of possible ministries includes: hospital chaplaincy; home church leadership; spirituality and retreat work; parish ministries; and online ministry.  It is, nevertheless, imperative that each priest understand her /his ministry in relation to the Church as a whole, as well as in relation to the needs of his/her particular region.  To that end, priests will:   

  1. Work for justice and the human dignity of all persons.
  2. Model a leadership of service and empowerment in all pastoral practices and activities.
  3. Model unity in diversity.
  4. Live in solidarity with the marginalised and oppressed.
  5. Model inclusion and inter-dependence; 
  6. Model non-violence and respect for persons;
  7. Model a reflective and contemplative spirituality;
  8. Live and walk humbly with God/de in the mystery of life.   

       Priests will work together for the common good of the people of the region.  The scope of this mandate will be discerned by each priest in communion with other priests and the bishop of that region.  Communication is of the essence.  Therefore, it is assumed that all priests will be in communication with each other and with their Bishop on a regular basis.  Priests will also actively pursue communication opportunities with Deacons, Ordinands, and Candidates, as well as the non-ordained members of their faith communities.

5.5 Deacons
       Deacons in RCWP are always transitional deacons (i.e., they are on the way to priestly ordination).  When they receive the Scriptures from the Bishop at diaconal ordination, they are exhorted to, "Believe what they read, preach what they believe, and practice what they preach."   Ideally, deacons will minister within and with the support of a faith community for at least six months before ordination to the priesthood. They, together with the priests of the region, are responsible for carrying out their individual ministries in inclusive, Christ-centred ways, as well as for exemplifying the changes that RCWP wishes to see in the church.

6.  North American Circles

6.1 North American Leadership Circle
       The North American Leadership Circle is composed of the elected administrators of the North American regions.  This circle will be elected for three year terms, renewable once.  Each administrator elected by her region will be accountable to her region for decisions made as a member of this continental circle.  Each circle member will consult with her region before making decisions on its behalf.  Areas of decision-making will include, but not be limited to: the oversight of programs, policies, events, or other activities at the national/continental level; representation of RCWP North America to ministerial, reform, and other organizations, both within and outside of the Roman Catholic Church.  Responsibilities will include regular reports from activities at the national/continental level to the regions.

6.2 North American Council of Vision-Keepers
       The North American Council of Vision-Keepers is composed of one member from each region, elected for a three-year, non-repeatable term.  This body is tasked with keeping us accountable to our vision by keeping information flowing among regions as a sort of corresponding secretary function. It is to provide forums for ongoing spiritual reflection, theological analysis, pastoral strategies, etc., in living out priestly ministry and offering new models of discipleship in the church.

       Each member is responsible for preparing an annual regional report.  The Council of Vision-Keepers will conduct, as a body, an annual review of the regional reports, evaluate practices, and make recommendations for the future to the North American Leadership Circle which will be shared with all members of the various regions.

7.  International Circles
(the following is accepted, pending international approval)

7.1 International Leadership Circle
       The International Leadership Circle is composed of five ordained members, not more than two from any given country, elected at large with not more than one from any given region, but with no bishops, since their sacramental and pastoral functions should be kept separate from administrative tasks. The five members of the circle are elected for three year terms, renewable once, with staggered elections for the sake of continuity.  The area of decision-making shall encompass matters of world-wide concern (e.g. the RCWP model of ministry; qualifications for ordination; ongoing dialogue with church leaders to transform the current hierarchical model into a more open, participatory model; matters of fidelity to the Gospel and our Catholic heritage; ecumenical and interfaith interactions internationally; interactions with worldwide reform and justice organizations; protocols for international meetings).  Ideally, decisions will be made by consensus but, failing a consensus, by vote with a simple majority needed.

7.2 International Council of Vision Keepers
       The International Council of Vision Keepers is composed of one member elected from each region.  Bishops are eligible for election to this Council.  Terms of office are two years, for up to three terms, with elections staggered for continuity.  This body will advise the International Leadership Circle act as an accountability group between the International Leadership Circle and the Regional Circles from which the members are elected. This Council is encouraged to invite non-members to advise them on specific issues from time to time.  This Council will also implement a conflict management team to arbitrate disputes and serve as a forum for appeal.

7.3 International Program Coordinator
       The International Program Coordinator is responsible for ensuring that the Program of Preparation is delivered in a timely and consistent manner by the Regional Program Coordinators.  The International Program Coordinator will be chosen by the International Leadership Circle in consultation with the International Advisory Council for a term of five years.

IV.  Periodic Review

       This entire document with the names of its signatories will be archived.  It will be open to revision and updating one year from its date of ratification and thereafter every two to three years by an ad hoc Structures Committee made up of at least one member from each region.

“A new model of ordained ministry
in a renewed Roman Catholic church”
Ratified on 3 February, 2007

Canada- East  
Jean Beauchemin
Marie Bouclin 
Johane Filiatraut      
Canada – West  
Michele Birch-Conery
Monica Kilburn-Smith
Jim Lauder

Roberta Meehan yes
Gloria Carpeneto
Marie David
Eileen DiFranco
Andrea Johnson
Jean Marchant
Gabriella Velardi-Ward
Cheryl Bristol
Dagmar Celeste (responded,    but abstained)
Joan Houk
Rose (Ree) Hudson
USA- Midwest (continued)
Alice Iaquinta
Elsie McGrath
Judith McKloskey
   (electronic absentee vote    submitted one day late due    to late notification of    deadline)
Regina Nicolosi  
Kathy Redig
Mary Ellen Roberston
Kathy Sullivan Vandenberg
USA - South
Eleanora Marinaro
Bridget Mary Meehan
Janice Sevre-Duszynska
Ruth Broeski
Juanita Cordero
Olivia Doko
Kathleen Kunster
Dana Reynolds
Victoria Rue
   (electronic absentee vote    submitted one day late due    to illness)
Suzanne Thiel
Toni Tortorilla
Jane Via           

Final Count as of February 4, 2007:
35 (Thirty Five) Yes,
01 (One) Abstain

Custody of the Records of
 RCWP Applicants, Candidates and Ordained Members

  1. The report of a psychological evaluation of an applicant is an extremely sensitive document.  Psychologists are required to keep these reports and the backup testing materials under lock and key both under states laws, and by the American Psychological Association Ethical Standards.  They are also forbidden by law to share the report and/or any content or backup testing materials with any other individual in any way whatsoever without either:  1) the express written consent of the applicant (see RCWP Form); or, 2) a court order.  In cases of a court order the psychologist limits the amount of information surrendered to the barest minimum required by the court order. 
  2. RCWP Regional Administrators and/or Regional Program Coordinators who receive and view such reports will follow the same standards as those required by law for clinical psychologists, or the American Psychological Association Ethical Standards.  When a Regional Program Administrator or Program Coordinator ceases to function in that office, all reports and copies will be surrendered to the new person(s) taking office.  Program Administrators and/or Program Assistants will hold these records and all other records pertaining to an applicant through ordination to the ministerial priesthood.
  3. Once an individual is ordained to the ministerial priesthood in RCWP all documents regarding that individual will be surrendered by the Program Administrator and/or the Program Assistants to be held in a central location under lock and key.  Ideal for this purpose would be a bank safety deposit box under RCWP's name.  Whether this location is regional or national will be determined by the RCWP National Leadership Circle or successor body.  Fees for safety deposit box rental(s) may be paid by RCWP.   
  4. Records pertaining to any RCWP candidate or RCWP ordained woman or man may be copied and forwarded, with the written permission of the candidate, to whomever the candidate or ordained woman or man chooses, or under Order from a court.  Under no circumstances will RCWP surrender original documents. 
  5. RCWP documents pertaining to applicants, candidates, and ordained individuals are to be maintained until RCWP ceases to exist as an organization.  Should RCWP cease to exist as an organization during the lifetime of the individual concerned, all records are to be returned to that individual.  If RCWP ceases as an organization and should RCWP be unable to locate an individual after a search by a professional agency extending no more than five years, the documents will be shredded.  Should RCWP cease to exist after the death of an individual, all records pertaining to that individual will be shredded.

RCWP Regions of the USA and Canada

Canada East  
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia 
Prince Edward Island
Canada West  
British Columbia
North West Territories 
USA Central  
New Mexico
North Dakota  
South Dakota
USA East
District of Columbia (DC) 
New Hampshire 
USA East, continued:
New Jersey
New York 
Pennsylvania (eastern half) 
Rhode Island  
West Virginia
USA Midwest
Missouri   Ohio   
Pennsylvania (western half) 
USA South
North Carolina 
Puerto Rico
South Carolina 
USA West

Election of Bishops

       The Regional Administrator makes available a list of possible episcopal candidates to those in the region who are eligible to vote.  Priests, Deacons, and Ordinands in a region are eligible to vote for the Bishop of that region.
Postal votes will be sent to a Voting Supervisory Committee (VSC) consisting of three people who are not eligible to be bishops and who are persons known for their integrity.  These three committee members are elected by the region in which the VSC resides. The VSC must be persons from a region other than the region electing a bishop.

       (For the first episcopal election, the VSC would have to be in Europe-West.  Thereafter, the International Leadership Team will determine where the VSC is.)

       Postal votes are sent to the VSC and have the name of the sender on the envelope.  The VSC checks the name on each envelope against the list of voters in the region, and then removes the vote inside and destroys the envelope.  The vote itself would give no indication of who had sent it, but would simply name up to 3 persons voted for as bishop, the first name being the voter's first choice.

       The Voting Supervisory Committee then proceeds as follows:

  1. They call a meeting with two elected witnesses present, at which the votes are counted.
  2. The names of the episcopal nominees for each region, with the number of votes obtained from the region, are then sent from the VSC to the present Bishops.  Each of these bishops, before she receives the results of the voting, will sign that she accepts the RCWP Mission Statement and Structures.
  3. Each of these Bishops then sends back secretly to the VSC the name of the one person she would choose to ordain as a bishop.
  4. The VSC informs the bishops about the results of the bishops’ voting.  In case of a tie, the VSC organizes a second voting between the two highest contendants.
  5. Finally, the VCS informs the region/s concerned who has been elected for episcopal ordination. Only the name of the elected person is revealed, not the names of those in second or third place.