The Basilica Cathedral Choir Spring 2014
Photo provided by: 
Michael Jensen

Why Do I Stay?

Twenty-five years ago, had anyone told me that I would become a member of a Church that didn’t ordain women, I would have laughed. I was Lutheran and interested in becoming a pastor. During my senior year in college, I shared these hopes with our college pastor who laid out the long path toward ordination. Realizing that starting a family was more important at that time of my life I postponed the pursuit of ordained ministry.

In 1995 I was invited to interview for the choral director position at The Basilica. The invitation didn’t come as a complete surprise. I had just conducted choirs of The Basilica, Temple Israel, and the College of Saint Benedict in an oratorio commissioned by The Basilica: Uvacharta Bachayim: Choose Life by Mona Lyn Reese. I was surprised though when this important Catholic church offered me, a Lutheran, the job.

Four years later I became Catholic. This wasn’t a big leap. The Lutheran Church in which I grew up taught me the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. So, with Johan as my sponsor and the choir watching through the grates of the sanctuary I was confirmed on April 11, 1998. I truly felt I had come home despite the unsettling fact that the old hope of becoming a pastor was still very much alive.

These past 20 years have not always been easy. I have been called a “turncoat.” I have wondered if I am a hypocrite? Why am I in a Church that doesn’t ordain women? I have indeed wrestled with the decision to remain. 
Though tremendously important to me, I can’t claim that the Cathedral Choir and Choristers or the opportunity to make music in our glorious space are the primary reasons I stay. I also don’t stay because of humans, ordained or not. Human endeavors will fail. Humans themselves fail and sin as we have seen in the heart-breaking abuse cases. If I had put my faith in humans I would have left long ago. 

Rather, the Eucharist, sharing in the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ is the primary reason I stay. I love being part of a Church that has a mystery we struggle to comprehend at its center: the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It is something that is so much greater than ourselves and yet one with ourselves. 

Blessedly, I have also been afforded the opportunity to be a pastor of sorts in this Catholic parish. My beloved choir members recognize this. And I am truly blessed to serve them. I also help to form the faith of many children. I have presided at Stations of the Cross, Morning, Midday, and Evening prayer. This has certainly fed my pastoral sense. I cherish these opportunities and am grateful for them.

I may not agree with everything the Catholic Church stands for and I will continue to question and struggle. But I will do so coming to the table with all of you to remember who we are—beloved children of God, the Body of Christ. 

 

Comments

Thank you, Teri, for sharing the reasons for your choices in such a candid and truthful way. Yes, it is not humans we put our trust in and yet it is humans like you who help me to realize that I am in the best place for me to live out my Christian commitments, despite decisions by the hierarchy. I love you and the music that you have brought to the Basilica in many forms, through the liturgy and through people of all ages.

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