Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA
Administrative History/Scope and content

Administrative History

Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA (RCWP-USA) 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.

RCWP-USA grew out of Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP)-North America, which had formed in 2006 in the wake of the ordination of twelve women in Pittsburgh. In 2007 RCWP-North America split into RCWP-USA and a separate Canadian organization. RCWP-USA recognized five geographical regions in the continental United States: East, South, Midwest, Central, and West. Over time the regional boundaries shifted, with a Great Waters region replacing the Central region. In 2010 members of the South region broke away to form the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP), a separate organization within the wider movement.

According to the movement's mission statetment in 2020, the mission of RCWP-USA is to "prepare, ordain in Apostolic Succession, and support primarily women who are called by the Holy Spirit and their communities to a renewed priestly ministry rooted in justice and faithfulness to the Gospel."

For information on RCWP-USA's current activities, visit the organization's website.


Scope and Content

The Roman Catholic Womenpriests-USA (RCWP-USA) records are arranged into eight (8) series. They include paper and electronic records. Paper documents are stored in cardboard boxes and folders, while 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.). Access to the electronic records is provided though a special computer in the archives reading room.

This series arrangement reflects the entire universe of archival records produced by RCWP-USA. So far, the organization has sent only a small portion of its records to Marquette. Some series are empty at the present time. As Marquette receives additional accessions from RCWP-USA, these new records will be integrated into the collection, and this finding aid will be updated. 


Series 1: Ordinations and ministries, 2002-2020, (2.6 cubic feet, plus 250 kilobytes of electronic records), documents ordination events and the ministries supported by RCWP-USA. The series contains a variety of document types. The electronic records consist of spreadsheets that RCWP-USA uses as databases to track ordinations and ordinands. These spreadsheets document ordinations around the world for both RCWP-USA and ARCWP. Paper records include official ordination certificates for RCWP-USA members. The original certificates are restricted, but researchers may view copies with personal information (i.e. date and place of birth) redacted. In addition to ordination certificates, this series includes summary sheets for each ordination and individual files documenting each ordination event within RCWP-USA. These event files usually contain an order of worship and any related articles or communications. No records pertaining to ministries have yet been received for this series.

Series 2: Corporate records, 2008-2018, (0.5 cubic feet, plus 2 megabytes of electronic records), contains the original paper founding documents for RCWP-North America as well as iterations of RCWP-USA's Regional Program Coordinator (RPC) Manual. The series documents the organization's annual retreat events. It also contains electronic annual reports submitted by the Vision Keepers Circle made up of members from across the regions within RCWP-USA who collaborate to assess how RCWP-USA is living out its stated mission. The series also includes an electronic chronological list of formal leadership roles since 2006 and the names of members who have held those positions.

Series 3: Minutes of Meetings, 2007-2019, (48 megabytes of electronic records), consists entirely of electronic records. These documents provide valuable information on the work of the various committees and circles within RCWP-USA.The series is arranged chronologically. The first electronic folder contains valuable overview documents that list the various committees and circles and note any meetings that occurred but are not represented by minutes.

Series 4: Regional records, (0.0 cubic feet). No records have yet been received for this series.

Series 5: Organizational issues, (0.0 cubic feet). No records have yet been received for this series.

Series 6: Outreach, 2014-2019, (0.2 cubic feet, plus 234 megabytes of electronic records), documents the public face of RCWP-USA. It contains electronic calendar documents listing events either hosted by the movement or attended by representatives of the movement. Because the organization has relied on newspaper and magazine coverage to disseminate its messsage, the series contains many clippings of media reports about RCWP's actions. Paper publications are also a part of this series. Marquette also harvests RCWP-USA's website twice a year through a service called Archive-It.

Series 7: Individual members and supporters (0.8 cubic feet), consists of files devoted to individual members of RCWP-USA, containing information about their lives and ministries. Only the files of deceased members are open to researchers at the present time. These members are listed alphabetically on the inventory. All other files are restricted. The series also contains files pertaining to non-member supporters of RCWP-USA; however, none of these records have yet been received.

Series 8: Background articles about women's ordination, 1988-2020 (0.3 cubic feet), consists primarily of newspaper and magazine articles, arranged chronologically, that provide background and context on the movement for women's ordination. These publications differ from the articles in Series 6; the focus here is on women's ordination in general and not on the specific activities of RCWP. The series also documents the the intended Pastoral on Women that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) began in the late 1980s but never completed. The controversy surrounding the Pastoral had an impact on many of the women who would later pursue ordination with RCWP-USA.