I was baptized in 1938, ordained a priest of the Diocese of Cleveland in 1963, and married in 1982. It is a blessing to have received all seven sacraments, but an injustice to be denied the opportunity to exercise my priesthood in the Catholic Church because I married.
Our class of twenty-five was ordained during Vatican II and we were energized with the fire of the Holy Spirit to bring new life to the People of God.
My first assignment was a parish on the west side of Cleveland where our Christian Family Movement (CFM) group of open and loving parents and children was a microcosm of what a parish or church ought to be.
Next, I was sent to a wonderful racially diverse parish in Akron where I loved working with our parish family and immersed myself in social justice, interfaith activities, and local government. But I began to sense a deep loneliness.
After nine years, I was sent to be part of a fantastic team of two priests and a religious sister at a downtown parish in Akron where we were chaplains at two hospitals and initiated multiple programs to serve our parishioners and the many homeless and indigent who came to our door.
Shortly after I arrived, a young lady joined the parish. We began talking about the church and became friends. My loneliness lessened when I was with her. After five years we realized we were in love, and, because of celibacy, that beautiful and holy realization was fraught with fear and danger.
The church made celibacy mandatory in 1139 because of its desire for power, control, and patriarchy. It is a practice that can and should be changed.
My wife-to-be and I prayed and entered counseling. I wanted to be honest with the people of the parish and told them two months in advance that I was taking a leave to consider marriage. Although most were supportive, some were not.
In 1982,nineteen years after ordination, my wife and I married, and we have two wonderful sons and a daughter-in-law. I have worked in the nonprofit sector, including as a development director for a food bank and Meals on Wheels program. I used each of my jobs as an opportunity to minister to folks in need. One of the many blessings of marriage is that my wife and I cared for one another during life-threatening illnesses.
A priest is always a priest. There are ex-clerics but not ex-priests. I continue to exercise my priesthood when asked to marry couples, lead funeral services, baptize, or visit the hospital. No one is turned away. All are welcome.
I believe an inclusive priesthood of married and single men and women would be a blessing to the church. My wife and I are actively working with forward-thinking groups to encourage the church to become more open and alive with the heart of Jesus. In conscience, I could not return to exercise my priesthood within the church while it continues to exclude women and those who are married. It is my hope and prayer that this will change, but in the meantime I try to live each day fully because it is truly a gift from God.