Michelle Henriques

Duluth, Minnesota

"I spent my high school years passionately involved in my religion & theology classes, searching for the why to find only one answer: I AM. Those two words go beyond theological and philosophical questions. They are the answer to my life's meaning and the meaning for every life in this universe. Ignoring each being's individual and communal I AM destroys his/her/its essence and beauty, destroying the sacredness, destroying the soul. As a child, like many of the women called to the diaconate here, I played "Church" with my cousins and friends more often than playing "House," "Adventurer," or "Explorer." At each of our "masses," I was the priest—not only because I demanded it, but because even at the age of 5 I had the entire mass memorized. I knew every prayer, every blessing. I was in awe of the mystery and miracle of transubstantiation. We would take sandwich bread and smash it to utter thinness and tear it into circles and "bless" it for Eucharist. (Due to our reduced numbers, I would also serve as Canon for High Holy days.) I was lucky enough to be selected for a scholarship to attend the private college preparatory school from 7th to 12th grade. There, a deacon named Chico Anderson taught Theology and from 7th to 9th grade we took mandatory religion courses. I fell in love. My spirit soared in these classes (I also bloomed in English, Literature, History, and Foreign Language classes). I ended up privately studying the works of St. John of the Cross, Therese of Liseaux, and Teresa of Avila throughout my high school years under Chico's guidance. As a high school junior, I began reading the lost gospels and started studying ancient Aramaic. A friend and his father began teaching me Hebrew. I went to The College of Saint Catherine intending to major in Literature and Vocal Music Performance on a full academic scholarship. There, I met Shawn Madigan, CSJ, Dr. Thomas West, Ph.D., and Joan Timmerman, M.A., the three theologians who would guide my spiritual quest and academic theology degree. My double major became a triple major (and then a quadruple major adding Art to the mix—and I did it all!). Through illness and financial crises, I still fought to learn and progress as a person. I wanted to know. I needed to answer the question of humanity's salvation for all, despite gender. I focused on Feminist Theology, working on the Female Disciples and Mystics of Jesus. I studied Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Mary Magdalene, Margery Kemp, Teresa of Avila, Gemma Galgani, Rhoda Wise, Maria Esperanza, and Anneliese Michel. Personally, I prayed with St. Francis of Assisi, St. Padre Pio, St. Joan of Arc, St. Phoebe, and St. Mary Magdalene. With their help, my family and community's guidance, my scholarship, and the trials of my life that have helped me grow in Christ, I have become the Catholic lover of the world that I am today. And Jesus became for me not just brother and savior, but dearest heart and friend, beloved and lover, teacher and messiah. He is my coexistent, twin soul. And, for that reason, I am called. I have always been called. I am not just sister and friend. I am teacher and servant. I am lover and beloved. And if God finds me worthy, if Jesus walks besides me and has called me—chosen me to serve—cannot the Church accept my service?"
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