Elaina Jo Polovick

San Francisco, CA

I am a woman and I am called to be a part of the Catholic Church and to ordained ministry. And I’m so grateful for this opportunity to share part of my story with you today. The first time I felt called to the priesthood was when I was twelve years old. I grew up in South Bend, Indiana in a Catholic culture dominated by the conservative tendencies of the University of Notre Dame and the priests of the congregation of holy cross who pretty much ran all the local parishes. When I was twelve my family took me to a deaconate ordination ceremony and when the deacons prostrated themselves on the ground I had an overwhelming feeling that I was called to join them - not just in that moment but in my life. I felt that I wanted to be a deacon and a priest. I wanted to give my life to the Church. I had never heard anyone talk about women's ordination and I don’t think I even knew that there were other Christian denominations with women priests. Yet, something stirred deep inside of me. It was a feeling and a longing that did not subside. I remember trying to brush off that experience after the ordination but couldn’t stop thinking about it. A couple days later I asked a couple people about feeling like I wanted to be a priest and the general response was that sometimes women want to be priests but eventually you figure out that you're really meant to do something else like get married and have kids or be a nun. I just assumed this would be true for me, and part of me wanted it to be true but I could never escape the feeling that I was called to be a priest. I would memorize the parts of the mass said by the priest and practice saying them in my head and while all my friends were imagining themselves as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and so on I often found myself imagining what it would be like to go to a seminary, to live in a community, and to perform the sacraments. There were many things I didn't agree about with the church - it's treatment of homosexuality, it's inadequate dialogue with other religious traditions, and the patriarchal systems especially the language in the mass. But despite these things I continually fell in love with the Church. In high school and college I became incredibly involved in campus ministry. I went on and led retreats, I led faith sharing groups, and I fell in love with liturgy. In the midst of falling in love with God I began to feel wounded by the Church and confused by my vocation. Why would God place this call on my heart if it wasn't possible? Why would he want me to feel the anger, hurt, and pain of having my vocation to the Church rejected? These are questions I still struggle with but I feel I have begun to find the answer in those who have affirmed my vocation. In many ways I feel I have been called to share my story so I can begin to live into my call to ordinated life. I met a wonderful seminarian when I was in college at Loyola University Chicago who believed in women’s ordination. For first time in my life I felt that my call to be a priest was not just a dream but also a real part of who I am. This Jesuit introduced me to the Catholic Worker community closest to Loyola and I began to surround myself with people who believed in the radical Jesus of the gospels who challenged authority. I started to wonder what am I called to do with my vocation. There have been people now in my life that have affirmed my vocation that it has become so deeply rooted in me that I cannot let go. I cannot let go of who I am, who God has made me to be, and called me to be. Now I’m studying at the Jesuits at the Jesuit School of Theology working on my Masters of Divinity. In the past year and ever since I felt a call to the priesthood I have taken up my call to ordained ministry as best I can by preaching, leading liturgy, and ministering to the communities that will have me. I am called to ordained ministry in the Catholic Church and I will no longer be afraid to say it.
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