|Call Waiting: Five stories of women who want to be priests|
The Little Flower That Couldn't
Read about St. Therese of Lisieux's desire to become a priest.
Delle Chatman is no stranger to prejudice. Even as a young girl, she recognized that societal forces beyond her control were trying to limit what should have been limitless possibilities for her life. So when, at age 12, Chatman began to sense a call to the priesthood, she quickly sized up the church teaching banning women's ordination as "just another form of prejudice."
"As an African American woman, I'm kind of used to it," says Chatman. "But you can't pay attention to that, or you'll just become a bitter, angry, and unproductive person. You have to simply do what you feel called to do, and let God take them on."
That can-do attitude has been key to Chatman's success as a screenwriter, director, and teacher, not to mention as a single mother of a 6-year-old daughter. But when it comes to her call to the priesthood, she has discovered--through much prayer--that letting go is the most constructive approach to the impasse she faces with the institutional church.
"I've spent a lot of time running from this, but last year I decided that I was just going to surrender," she says. "Now I see it not so much as a decision I have to make, but rather an answer I have to receive."
The question has dogged Chatman nearly her entire life. Like many with a calling to the priesthood, she remembers "saying Mass" as a child. "I think I've always had a love of the Eucharist, and I wanted to be the conduit for that flow of grace," she recalls. "I guess I felt like I was meant to do it."
"For 14 years, I was wandering in the wilderness of intellectual arrogance," she says, half laughing. "But Jesus ran me down and made it clear I needed him or else I was going to be marching to the tune of my own ambition."
These days, Chatman has pieced together a life that includes a conglomeration of ministries--both in her professional work as a writer, producer, and teacher, and in video projects for nonprofit organizations and as a member of a lay-preaching team at her Chicago parish.
"I may not be wearing a collar, but I still feel I'm in the mission field," she says.
Still, she struggles with the question of whether formal ordination is necessary to fulfill her call to ministry, and she plans to pursue a master's of divinity degree--just in case. But she is no naive dreamer. "We are not going to be ordained anytime soon in the Catholic Church. It's just not going to happen," she says.
Still, she trusts that there is a reason things are as they are. "I'm confident I'm being led on a path that's best for me," she says. "I've kind of come to a realization that I've already been 'ordained' because God has said, 'I want to use you as a minister.' That is something the Catholic Church can't take away from me."