Five women ordained deacons by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

Five women ordained deacons by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts

“For me it was about liberation,” said Minnerath, who lives in Jamaica Plain. “It was about being able to live my calling, how I felt that God was calling me with such tenderness and love.”

On July 29, 1974, three retired bishops ordained 11 women to the priesthood in a ceremony at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, according to the Episcopal Church website. The ordination was considered “irregular” by the church’s governing body, but two years later the same panel authorized the ordination of women.

In 1977, M. Jeanne Sproat became the first woman in Massachusetts ordained to the priesthood by the Episcopal Church. She died in 1995, according to a Globe article at the time.

Gates estimated that about half of the diocese’s roughly 210 clergy members are women. Last month, the diocese elected the Rev. Julia E. Whitworth as its next bishop, making her the first woman elected to the position. In 2022, the diocese said it had more than 47,600 baptized members.

His consecration is scheduled for October, when Gates plans to retire.

Lisa Vickers, the only deacon ordained Saturday who plans to remain in that ministry, said she was raised Catholic but has been worshiping in the Episcopal Church for at least 20 years.

Lisa Vickers walked down the aisle to be ordained as an Episcopal deacon at St. Paul’s Cathedral Church. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Her adult children and husband presented her with a red stole during the service.

“There were five women who were ordained today, great, wonderful prophetic voices,” Vickers said in an interview after the ceremony. “This is a place that allows for that and encourages people from different backgrounds, people from different places on their faith journey to come here, explore, develop and grow closer to God.”

The Rev. Dr. Regina Walton, an Episcopal priest who teaches at Harvard Divinity School, said the ordination of five women as deacons is a “great celebration and a gift.”

Mandi Rice, 35, one of Walton’s former students at Harvard, was among the women ordained Saturday.

Rice described his ordination as a “dream come true.” He said he has worked as a hospital chaplain for the past five years and that he plans to serve the church in Missouri, where he grew up.

“I will be back in the community that raised me,” Rice said.

Her husband, David Waters, said he also wants to become an Episcopal priest. He said the ordination of his wife as a deacon is a milestone.

“It’s the culmination of a long journey and the beginning of another journey,” Waters said. “It’s wonderful to see her embark on this new phase of her ministry.”

The service included readings in English and Spanish. A choir performed songs in English, Spanish and Zulu.

Worshipers at St. Paul’s Cathedral Church prayed Saturday during a service to ordain five women as deacons. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

In a sermon, Gates said the role of deacons is often described as “a bridge between the church and the world.” He quoted a poem by Emily Dickinson: “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.”

“It is your calling and it is within your ability, by the grace of God, to be an agent of hope, and you are. You already are,” Gates said. “We have more hope just by looking at you five.”

Gates and Gallagher shared the organizing duties. One at a time, the candidates knelt before Gates or Gallagher, who placed their hands on the women’s bowed heads and consecrated them as deacons.

Afterwards, the women were dressed in red stoles as they stood before the congregation. Gallagher and Gates then presented a Bible to each new deacon.

Standing at the altar before the congregation, the new deacons recited verses from Psalm 119. When they finished, Gates addressed the faithful: “Dear friends, greet your new deacons.”

The cathedral erupted in applause.

Grace Mumita was one of two people who presented new deacon Faith Mbuthia with her red stole. Mumita’s husband, the Rev. Joseph Mumita, is rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Taunton.

Assistant Bishop Carol Joy WT Gallagher, left, of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, ordained Faith Mbuthia, right, as a deacon.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

“We worked with Faith on this trip. We have seen her fight. We have seen what he has been through. And achieving it today is a blessing,” Mumita said.

The fifth new deacon, Sarah Neumann, was sponsored by Trinity Church in Copley Square, according to the diocese.

Minnerath said he plans to serve at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bedford, where he will primarily minister in a children’s program.

He said he previously lived in South America, worked in prisons and ministered in a cathedral congregation for people experiencing homelessness. The community is known as MANNA, an acronym for Many Angels Needed Now and Always, and they gave Minnerath her stole, said the Rev. Amy McCreath, dean of the cathedral.

Minnerath’s mother and grandmother traveled from Minnesota to present the stole to him during the service.

“She has always said she had a calling to be at the altar,” said Minnerath’s mother, Dee. “And she’s making that happen.”

You can contact Laura Crimaldi at [email protected]. follow her @lauracrimaldi.