Administrative History

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) is part of the world-wide Roman Catholic Women Priests movement that traces its origin to the ordination of seven women to the priesthood by a male Roman Catholic bishop on June 29, 2002. These ordinations took place at Passau in southeastern Germany, on the Danube River, and the "Danube 7" became the first priests of the movement. In 2003 two of the Danube 7 were ordained bishops, with a third woman from the group receiving episcopal ordination in 2005. Additional ordinations of deacons, priests, and bishops followed throughout the world. The Roman Catholic Church has denied the validity of any ordination in the movement, and it has excommunicated women who have received ordination. The Women Priests movement has affirmed the validity of its ordinations, claiming that the Roman Catholic male bishop who ordained the first woman bishop was a bishop with apostolic succession within the Roman Catholic Church in communion with the pope.

In the wake of the ordination of twelve women in Pittsburgh in 2006 there emerged a new group called Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP)--North America. This group divided in early 2007 into a separate Canadian organization and one called RCWP-USA. ARCWP began as the Southern Region of RCWP-USA. In 2010 members of this southern regional group, led by Bishop Brigid Mary Meehan and priests Janice Sevre-Dusynska and Judy Lee, broke away from RCWP-USA to form the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. Their differences of opinion with RCWP-USA over decision-making and social activism precipitated the break. ARCWP dates its origin as a separate organization within the world-wide Women Priests movement to October 21, 2010.

Since 2010 ARCWP has established its own governing structure and carried out the ordinations of many deacons, priests, and bishops who have gone on to pursue a variety of ministries. The ARCWP is an intentionally non-hierarchical organization that aspires to a consensus model of governance. According to its Mission Statement, "The Association of Roman Catholic women priests, therefore, responds to this call from the Holy Spirit, in our time, by preparing, ordaining and supporting qualified women and men, from all states of life, who are committed to a model of Church grounded in Jesus’ vision of an open table, where all are welcome. By our living and ministering within a community of equals, we are respectful of differences among people. In the tradition of our mystics and prophets, we challenge the dominance of patriarchal systems by promoting practices of equality that lead us to recognize and stand for justice on behalf of all people, locally and globally, and on behalf of the urgent needs of Eco-justice for our planet."

For information on ARCWP's current activities, visit the organization's website.

Scope and Content

The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) records are arranged into seven (7) series. The arrangement scheme within each series varies. The ARCWP records are a combination of paper and electronic formats. Both of these formats have been integrated into the arrangement scheme and are available to on-site researchers. Paper documents are stored in cardboard boxes and folders, as are some audio and video materials. Electronic records (ER) reside in electronic folders on a computer server and are clearly identified as such on the inventories (e.g. ER-1, ER-2, etc.). Some duplication of material exists between the paper and electronic folders, but researchers are advised to consult both formats when studying the collection. For example, a researcher interested in consulting records from Series 1 pertaining to the 2012 Annual Meeting of the ARCWP should look at both Box 1, Folder 2 and at ER-1 of that series.

Series 1: Corporate records, 2010-2016, (0.3 cubic feet), encompasses ARCWP's foundational documents, its institutional histories, its budget-making process, and its annual meetings where the largest number of priests and deacons have gathered in one place. The series is arranged alphabetically by folder title. ARCWP is a highly decentralized organization with every member being welcome to take part in board matters, the only exception being bishops, who are excluded from administrative roles so that they might devote themselves fully to pastoral ministry. Discussions of a corporate or strategic nature are not confined to the records in this series: Researchers should also take a close look at Series 2.

Series 2: Circles and Committees, 2010-2016, (0.3 cubic feet), documents communication and decision-making among ARCWP members through an evolving constellation of circles and committees devoted to particular issues. The series is arranged alphabetically by folder title, with most folders documenting one of the circles or committees within ARCWP. A Yahoo listserv has been an important avenue for internal communication. Correspondence from the listserv can be found throughout the collection, but much of it has also been gathered together in folders at the end of this series.

Series 3: Ordinations, 2009-2016 (0.3 cubic feet), contains the ordination certificates for members of ARCWP. It also contains subject files, arranged alphabetically, that document aspects of the ordination process within ARCWP. At the end of the series are listed event files, arranged chronologically, that document or depict individual ordination events since 2010. Not every ordination event has a file in this series, and the amount of material about each ordination can vary widely.

Series 4: Outreach, 2007-2015 (0.6 cubic feet), documents the public face of ARCWP. Whereas Series 2 is more concerned with internal communication, this series documents how ARCWP members communicate its vision and ministries to the outside world. Included within this series are advertisements, press releases, talking points, and media news articles about the Women Priests movement. The series also documents involvement with social action organizations such as Call to Action (CTA) and activist events such as the annual School of the America's Watch (SOAW) protests near Fort Benning, Georgia. The ARCWP collection also contains snapshots of websites and web blogs established by its members. These sites document the priests' ministries. Marquette University harvests these sites twice a year using a software called Archive-It. Sites related to ARCWP can be found among those listed here.

Series 5: Biographical files [Partially restricted] (3.0 cubic feet), contains information about individual priests, deacons, and bishops within ARCWP. These files can include documents sent by the individual member for inclusion in the ARCWP archives as well as documents gathered by the ARCWP archivist and placed in a member's file to provide a record of that person's activities. These files are not like the "personnel" files that might be maintained by a hierarchical church institution. They are better described as "biographical" files; nevertheless, the files may include information of a personal nature. ARCWP members can decide whether they want their file to be open for research during their lifetime. The inventory lists the members of ARCWP that have consented to have their biographical files open to researchers. Other files remain restricted. Within the restricted boxes can be found records pertaining to the Compassion Circle established under the ARCWP Constitution. The Compassion Circle deals with allegations of harmful conduct to self or others involving a member of ARCWP. Circle members intervene to resolve the interpersonal or intrapersonal conflicts and behaviors. Due to the sensitive nature of its work, the Compassion Circle's records are restricted for the life of the priest being helped.

Series 6: Subject files, 2011-2015 (0.3 cubic feet), consists of material grouped in folders across a wide range of topics pertaining to ARCWP and its ministries. The files are arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Series 7: Mary Mother of Jesus (MMOJ) Community, 1994-2016 (2.4 cubic feet), documents a prominent example of the many ministries established by women priests in ARCWP. The MMOJ community formed through the celebration of House Masses arranged by Brigid Mary Meehan (ordained a priest in 2006 and a bishop in 2009), first in Falls Church, VA, and later in Sarasota, FL. As the community grew, it found a home for its Masses and events at St. Andrew Church, United Church of Christ, in Sarasota. Community members in nearby Sun City Center, FL have also had the opportunity to celebrate House Masses arranged by Katy Zatsick (ordained a priest in 2010). This series documents MMOJ liturgies held in private homes and at St. Andrew Church, and it includes liturgy planning documents, orders of worship, bulletins, and photographs. This series also documents internal management of the community and the communication among its members. Included within this series are some personal papers of Katy Zatsick and Brigid Mary Meehan. Among the holdings from Meehan are many photographs and video recordings of her involvement in the women priests movement as well as video from her long-running GodTalk television series.