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Member Stories

Ali and Tim Kirkpatrick

members since 2010

The very first time we attended MMACC, my husband and I felt like we were home, after years of searching. There was joy, community, kindness and humility evidenced in every prayer, every person and every priest. This was the kind of Catholic church I had been raised in and that we had been searching to find again. The spirit of Vatican II is alive and at work at MMACC, while it seems to be extinguished with greater force every year in traditional parishes. The masses are beautiful, thoughtful and inclusive. The pastors challenge us to live out the gospel in the world today, not out of guilt, shame or obligation, but out of joyful celebration of God's love for us, as individuals and as a people. We are so happy to bring our three children to this church, where they are taught that God's love has no boundaries, and neither should ours. - Ali and Tim

Wanda Arsulich

member since 2008

For me, Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community embodies the very best qualities a religious community can have: great joyfulness, love of all people, beautiful Roman Catholic spirituality, and vibrant, active, caring members. This combination made it irresistible, and that is why I chose to be baptized here. It was what I had always sought, but never quite found before coming to Mary Magdalene. - Wanda

Dane Ripellino

member since 2008

I came to MMACC about 4 years ago. My spiritual evolution has taken me from a monastery, to the ordained Roman Catholic priesthood, to a few years in the Episcopal church, a year in the Unitarian Universalist church, and to MMACC. I search, and learn. MMACC provides me the roots in Catholic history and ritual, and a vibrant understanding of what it means to follow the life, person and teaching of Jesus. I joined because it is a web of support and faith, in a tradition that is most familiar to me. Here my doubts and faith can live together, as I struggle to make sense out of life.

While my spirituality is deeply personal, it also needs to be expressed with other believers. MMACC feels like home.

Here, people don’t get caught up in the form that points to the divine, but use the structure to connect to the divine. The Church’s purpose, in my understanding, is simply to connect us to God, and God’s people. If it does that, use it. If not, move on. Catholicism can too easily and too often get trapped in the form itself, and then it becomes lifeless, ceasing to provide meaning.

I stay because I am supported to live out my faith as a gay man. As a gay man, I know I am loved, accepted, and good, as is the holiness and love of my partnered relationship.

The community accepts as self-evident, the equality of all people and access to loving service is the call to all. We are committed to removing obstacles to this truth. This means anyone woman or man, who feels called to ordination could potentially serve in this way. Any gay man or woman could serve the community (in and out of MMACC). Is this not colossally obvious?

I joined because, over time, people in the community showed their love in action to me, and to each other, and to the greater world. It is not a closed system, where only the elite or select are welcome, precisely as Jesus himself repeatedly demonstrated.

I stay because I see courage in the acts of people, staying power to bring small changes to the world, a sense of hope, based in the words of Christ. It takes great courage to think and experience for oneself, to make the Catholic faith of our forefathers, and foremothers, our own, based on personal experience, and not on abstract dogmas.

Essentially I stay because these people help me experience God in myself, in this group, and outside the group. They are love in action, and service, with great intelligence, warmth, humor, sensitivity and courage. -Dane

Cherie and David Herrera

members since 2007

Finding MMACC gave me hope for the Catholic Church that I had lost over the years. I feel joy and gratitude every time I am at mass and I miss our celebrations when I attend other churches while I’m traveling. I decided to become a Catholic right after Vatican II when I was a young adult at university and what I read in the Documents of Vatican II resonated with me. By the time I was 60 I had become disillusioned when I saw that the increasingly conservative hierarchy seemed to be returning to pre-Vatican II attitudes. I lost hope that anything would change until, in 2006, my spiritual director spoke so excitedly about how the new progressive community of MMACC was actually trying to live Vatican II.

I love the inclusive, accepting, welcoming, loving, supportive community which I am so happy to be part of. I enjoy the beautiful liturgies and songs prepared with such care and love and the inclusive language used in both. I am thrilled to hear such meaningful homilies done by women. I didn’t realize how much my soul longed to hear God speaking through a woman’s perspective and not only from the male point of view. I also feel such joy that my husband, who had taken, in his words, “ a sabbatical from the Catholic Church," decided to come with me one Sunday a year after I had joined the community. I had surely missed celebrating our faith together for all those years. -Cherie

After not going to mass in the Catholic Church for over three years, I felt drawn to MMACC in 2007 because my wife was so enthusiastic about what she experienced in mass and with the community. I found in MMACC such congruence with my life and my work that I knew I belonged there.

I teach courses in ethics and leadership and in social justice at the workplace in the graduate school at the University of San Diego. Although disillusioned with the traditional Catholic Church, I am a firm believer of Catholic Social Thought and I refer to it in my classes. I found its concepts, often absent in the traditional Catholic Church, were present in MMACC: social justice and equality, visibly evident in our women priests; the dignity of the person and inclusiveness, represented by the loving acceptance of those discarded from the traditional Church and/or society; democracy and participation in decision making in all MMACC’s activities from the ordination of priests to the preparation of liturgies and songs. In addition, the love, joy and prayers for each other, the participation of all in the consecration of the bread and wine, the invitation by the priest to God’s table to everyone who is called to partake of the Eucharist are all very meaningful.

In MMACC, I have found meaning again in God’s word, in the message of justice and inclusiveness discovered in the Gospel readings that are not part of the traditional lectionary, and in a loving community. - David

Pat Russell

member since 2007

There is a moment during my week when I can quietly absorb the camaraderie and sincere belief of fellow sojourners of Christ, at the Mary Magdalene community gathering. The gathering truly is a community, a place and time that attracts all manner of fellow travelers, each taking a shared moment to renew and refresh for the continuing journey. If the definition of “catholic” is universal, then Mary Magdalene defines community.

I am struck by the image of many travelers meeting at a crossroads. They rest, they share their stories. They talk about their journeys and the trails that got them there. They seek information and guidance and they share it. They pause to recommit to the journey, then they slip away to carry on. They are inspired by the greatest traveler of all, Jesus the Christ. These shared human moments of community are the divine gift.

The challenge to follow Christ remains, the road stretches on. Thank God for the meetings at the Crossroads. -Pat

Bev and Phil Bennett

members since 2006

How soul satisfying to want to come to Mass, even altering other plans to focus on celebrating with our spiritual family at MMACC! Phil and I always feel warmly welcomed, embraced by our community, and enriched by the other educational and social opportunities available in our church family. We have been able to enjoy serving on the Social Committee for five years now, have greeted and ushered our friends, and now Phil serves on the MMACC Board of Directors. These commitments have allowed us to get to know and value so many of our members and add to our sense of belonging.

As a native San Diegan, I have been deeply involved in the Roman Catholic community since elementary school days at St. Patrick's. As a student at the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, and USD, I was encouraged to think critically, ask questions, and become involved in church activities. Wherever our travels with the US Navy took us, we immersed ourselves in parish programs, teaching CCD, adult education, fund raising, serving as lectors, and on school boards.

We were enthusiastic when the "open windows" of Pope John 23rd and the Second Vatican Council seemed to promise Roman Catholicism and the world a path back to the inclusive message of Jesus As a result, I have suffered for several years now from grief and disappointment as the canonical church departed from the blessings of Vatican II. Phil supported me in not abandoning my roots, so it was with great joy that we discovered MMACC. Participation in this truly inclusive community allows us to remain Christians and Roman Catholic in good conscience. After proclaiming ourselves "roaming Catholics" for several unhappy years, we are now able to say, "How good it is to be home!" - Bev and Phil

Esther LaPorta

member since 2005

I do not consider myself an overly religious person, although I was raised in a Catholic household and educated in Catholic schools. As a faithful participant in my local parish for many years, I could no longer ignore the fact that what I believed and the causes I championed were not in sync with those of the Church in Rome. I made the decision to leave the community of people with whom I had worshipped – not such an easy decision when many are your close friends. I was not seeking another faith tradition.

With the establishment of a Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community, I had an opportunity to grow with a community of individuals who are seekers in a spiritual journey, people who embrace equality, diversity and change. These fellow searchers are what make MMACC the vibrant entity that it is. It’s been my privilege to serve as a member of the Board since its beginnings. When I look at the faces of my fellow congregants during Mass each Sunday, I realize that we have more in common than not and that together we represent a positive force for change, not only in the Roman Catholic church, but in the world. - Esther

Becky and Cal Wilder

members since 2005

One of the beauties of the Roman Catholic Church for my husband and I was that one could find comfort in the familiarity of the ritual of the Mass anywhere in the world. For us, we also found comfort in our own parish where members like us viewed the world with a different perspective than most Catholic parishes. Our values tended to be more inclusive, rather than exclusive to varying degrees, I presume, most of us having been influenced by the changes created by the Vatican II documents. Then, practices and ideology began to change again, and we, as a couple began to feel a discomfort in what we felt we were being a party to, such as the exclusion of women as priests, the exclusion of gays and gay marriages, the strict stance of birth control and abortion, the hesitation of the Church to fully support victims of abuse within the clergy, the infallibility of the Pope, and on and on.

Vacillating between parishes, ready to give up, we discovered Mary Magdalene Apostle Catholic Community, renewing our hope and faith that we as a community can move forward pursuing the values we feel can contribute to peace and just for all. We miss many of the African American, and Latino rituals of our former parish, and from time to time participate in those rituals, but rituals alone cannot speak to injustices.

For the past five years we have gradually become more involved in the activities of M.M.A.C.C from “setting the stage” for Mass, to now being newly elected to the community council, as well as participating in charitable and social justices causes. We are enjoying the camaraderie of new friends. We have learned more about the historical perspective of the early church than at any other time giving credence to our beliefs. Furthermore, M.M.A.C.C has inspired our granddaughter to pursue her own spiritual journey at a time when as a teenager she was becoming disinterested.

We know there are many struggles ahead, but we ask the Cosmic God to “guide our feet.” –Becky and Cal

Sandy and Ray Trybus

members since 2005

MMACC has been a pivotal part of our lives since its inception. We joined because we were excited and moved by Jane’s decision to seek ordination – once the time and place were set, we knew we had to be there, and we were! There was a powerful sense in that event of returning to Christian origins, of taking personal responsibility for shaping who we are and what we do as Church, rather than simply being passive recipients of whatever is sent down from remote authorities claiming to have the sole right to discern the mind of God.

What has sustained us since then is the continuing reality of being in a radically (i.e., from the roots) inclusive community trying its best to live the Gospel in this time and place – a place where all are truly welcome. We are as active as we can manage in the community, serving as Scripture readers, Eucharistic ministers, writers of the weekly Prayers of the Faithful, and whatever else we are called to do. Ray has served on the Board of Directors and is its current chair. It is no exaggeration to say that MMACC has become a center point of our lives, and that much else that we do or don’t do revolves around MMACC people and activities. Though our grown children have their own divergent approaches to spirituality and meaning in life, we never hesitate to let them, and our grandchildren, know how much this community means to us. -Sandy and Ray

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