What’s it like being the only female cleric at the synod on young people?
Luke Hansen, S.J. in America, Jesuit Review,October 22, 2018
Rev. Martina Viktorie Kopecká at the Synod on young people (Credit: Vatican Media)
Note: Have you made mistakes on fundamental issues? How many? How often? As for me I have countless mistakes from young age, most of them in good faith, which drove me to call myself “an ignorant idiot” which I continue to be even now.
But looking back at 84 years of mountain climbing, I find most of my mistakes turned out for my own unthought-of, unexpected good, which confirms me in my conviction: “To those who love God everything turns out for their own good.” I modified that saying to read, “those who love Good” instead of “God” because my mind questions the very existence of a God who created Hell on earth, and enjoys himself in heaven.
Two big mistakes made
Two big mistakes I made in life: it is about Falling in Love, first with a lady, then with a young man. Being a youth in the teens with no guile like young David pasturing sheep, goats and cattle, also praying on top voice and studying by reading loudly to reach parents busy with other things, I found I was receiving poor marks for Math in class. To get over it, I asked my elder brother’s advise, the assumption being elders always knew the answer.
Pat came the instant advise: "Don’t you say 36 prayers daily? In the prayer: “Memorare” to Mary what do you say: “It was never heard anyone who prayed to her was left unanswered.” Just say it confidently and your problem will be solved. Just from that moment that one prayer became most meaningful to me. All 36 prayers were all lip-service, without understanding what those prayers meant
Mad with devotion to Mary
That was the historic beginning of my prayer life. That made me go mad with devotion to Our Lady too gory to write all details here. From that moment I started praying to Our Lady trusting my prayer will be answered and she really did. At least I fancied all good things were happening due to that prayer, though it was all pure child psychology.
From that moment I became head-on-heels with love of Our Lady; she became the only God I prayed to; on my ordination souvenir I printed “Cause of my joy”; gave many inspiring talks on her painting her as “the tainted nature’s solitary boast”; listening to my love life with Mary talk at ordination, a youngster wanted to become a missionary; became one in AP, now in US(Chacko Puthumayil) who will vouch for it.This is proof on a platter: “those who love good everything turns out for their own good.”
Running off the track
But have I been running in the right track of spiritual and devotional life from the beginning? Not at all. What I did, could be best described as: “Bene currit, sed extra viam” (Ran very well but out side the track.” That right insight came to me only when I was editing the New Leader flying through stormy winds of furious controversy, where my job was to bear witness to “the Whole truth in Charity” come what may. For comfort my scripture professor Fr. Jacob Mulloore, whom I had introduced as a scripture columnist, used to come to my office to console me saying: “James, it was not different for Jesus, you are right inside the track and running, not out side. Find strength in Him.”
Fr. Mulloore, a saintly soul now in heaven, even came to visit me in my humble home in Thammamam, living as “no-body”, God bless his soul. The lesson I learned in life is this: “What matters most in life is to try one’s best to be honest to God, to oneself and honest to others,” even when you may be running outside the track. That is, what counts most before God, if there is a God, is subjective truth, not the objective one not within the reach of all.
Course correction finally
It was when steering the New Leader through stormy winds and dashing waves I realized that Our Lady was not the model for me, but Jesus sleeping within me to float above. On such a stark realization I was forced to do a course correction and tell my Heavenly Mother Mary: “You have done your duty to take me to Jesus: ‘to Jesus through Mary’, and please don’t be offended if I don’t pray to you for anything, of course with no filial love diminished.” To this day I don’t pray to Mary or any saints, because I don’t want anything which Jesus, both a friend and model for me cannot provide.
My experience could be most unacceptable to many readers – and no complaint — as each one of us have to steer his/her own lonely furrow, following one’s own light of reason. As long as you do that you are running well within the right track as in the case of Rev. Martina Viktorie Kopecká 32, the age of Jesus in public ministry. See story below. Jesus was most opposed by the elderdly high priestly leadership of his times.
Youth synod: tragic comedy?
By calling a world gathering a “youth synod” will not make it youthful, if their number does not cross even half of the participants; and what is worse if they are not given active participation and voting rights. Tragic comedy would be issuing a magnificent statement as though it were the result of deliberations of youth, but full of outdated ideas of the superannuated in the church averse to any change.
Doing it without their consent, participation or voting, would be cheating the world of youth at worst. At best it would be seen as the best PR exercise to fool the credulous public but for a short time only. It will never help the church regain its lost credibility. Nor will it make the church bend with age, a youthful community of Jesus in his thirties, who still continues to be a live force reliving and revealing His rebellion and revolt against the high priestly class drowning in sex abuse in the Church all over the world. james kottoor, editor ccv.
Read below the story of lady cleric Martina at the Synod
A young priest in the Czechoslovak Hussite Church has been pleasantly surprised by the welcome and openness she has experienced at the Synod of Bishops on young people, she told America in an interview.
A fraternal delegate, Rev. Martina Viktorie Kopecká, 32, has the distinction of being the only female cleric at the Synod of Bishops, which is taking place from Oct. 3 to 28 in Rome.
Dressed in the liturgical vestments of the Hussite Church—a black robe with an imprinted red chalice and white stole—she delivered an address to the whole synod body on Oct. 11, emphasizing the importance of ecumenical relations, calling the synod a “sign of hope” and affirming the capacity of young people to be bridge builders.
Rev. Kopecká did not go unnoticed. She believes the cardinals and bishops “were surprised, maybe shocked” to see her clerical attire, she told America. “They recognized me as the girl at dinner and now as a priest. It takes some time, but they have accepted me.”
Rev. Kopecká believes the cardinals and bishops “were surprised, maybe shocked” to see her clerical attire. “After my intervention, a lot of people came to me in the hallways, saying they listened to me and were inspired,” Rev. Kopecká said. “I was surprised that they even listened to me. I am quite young and a woman. I wore a white stole. They are not pushing me away. They accept me as a member of the family.”
The fraternal delegates who represent other Christian churches can make interventions in the synod aula and participate in small group discussions, but they cannot vote. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has a delegate, as do ecclesial organizations like the World Lutheran Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council.
Rev. Kopecká is representing the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of 350 member churches “seeking unity, common witness and Christian service.” Even at her young age, she has been entrusted with great responsibility at the W.C.C. She serves on their central committee and 20-member executive committee, and she moderates the ECHOS commission on youth in the ecumenical movement.
“I was surprised that they even listened to me. I am quite young and a woman. I wore a white stole. They are not pushing me away.” “When a human being meets another human being, it doesn’t matter which denomination we belong to,” she said. “We believe in Christ and can find a way—as Pope Francis says—to work and pray together. We are from different cultures and societies, but we have something in common. Young people, through friendship, are learning how to move toward acceptance and respect.”
At the beginning of her experience in the eternal city, Rev. Kopecká was not certain she would receive a welcome, she admitted. She is staying at an international house for clergy and sat alone for her first three meals. “I said: This is a disaster.” On the second day, however, a bishop from Paraguay asked if he could join her. “I said, Yes, please!”
She described the encounter as the first major “turning point” in her experience. The bishop was “really interested in who I am,” she said. “Ecumenical circles are not about papers, documents and institutions. It is about meeting people without any judgment. Yes, I am the girl. I am ordained. But he was interested in my culture and church and, later, many others joined us.” “We believe in Christ and can find a way—as Pope Francis says—to work and pray together.”
Another turning point happened in her small group. “At the first meeting, I felt very vulnerable,” she admitted. “I’m quite introverted, so it is not easy for me to talk in a group with people I don’t know.” But the leader of the group helped create an atmosphere where she felt comfortable, she said.
“I feel accepted. My voice is heard,” she said. “I can even turn the direction” of the conversation and influence decisions. “My answers are valued. We support each other.”
The moderator of the group is Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago. The relator is Auxiliary Bishop Mark Edwards of Melbourne, Australia. Several young people have spoken about their high regard for the welcoming and inclusive spirit of Bishop Edwards. On Oct. 15, Bishop Edwards invited Yadira Vieyra, a young auditor from Chicago, to read part of the group report to the entire synod.
Rev. Kopecká said the W.C.C. strongly supports young people, inviting many young leaders and speakers and “trying to be inclusive.” With the diversity of 350 member churches, she said, a consensus model of decision-making is “very, very difficult” but enriching. In fact, the Synod of Bishops has reminded her of the open-minded climate of the W.C.C.
“I feel we are touching very, very sensitive issues in the synod, like child exploitation,” she said. “People are speaking to each other very openly. I would not have expected the mutual acceptance, the variety of the topics, the richness and diversity. It is not about bringing divisions and differences but charity, which builds the Christian community.”
In her intervention to the synod, Rev. Kopecká referenced her conversion to Christianity at age 20. “When I heard the voice of God, I left everything and I followed that inspiration,” she told the synod.
In the interview with America,Rev. Kopecká described her native Czech Republic as a highly secularized society in which people generally do not want to be part of any institution, especially the church. She noted that her parents, who are both medical doctors, are “spiritual” but not Christians or churchgoers.
She could not have foreseen her conversion to Christianity or call to ordained ministry. She had been working as a highly paid manager in an international company and “had everything,” except for education. She decided to go to Charles University in Prague to study theology, simply because there were no entrance exams. She explained, “I had no knowledge of the Bible or Christianity.”
She started to take classes in Hebrew, Latin, systematic theology and biblical hermeneutics. In studying Hebrew, she said she discovered the values she had always been looking for. At first, she told herself it is only a science: “No, Martina, don’t believe in anything.” But she was being drawn into a mystery. “For me, ordination is not a question of gender but human dignity and equal possibilities.”
“I could not help myself,” she recounted. “Day by day, I realized this is the way. I fell in love with Jesus. I realized this calls me to become a member of the church.” So she began visiting parishes and considering baptism. Later, the “amazing work” of priests inspired her to quit her job and pursue ordination.
She has studied theology, psychology and special education and has worked as a crisis counselor. She was ordained at age 30 and is currently working as a pastor. She is also pursuing a doctorate in ecumenical theology at Charles University, which involves attending seminars, teaching classes and writing a dissertation.
She feels strongly about the ordination of women but also understands the sensitivity of the issue in the Catholic Church.“For me, ordination is not a question of gender but human dignity and equal possibilities,” she said. “Women do a lot of work in the church today and should be considered as spiritual leaders and servants of God. They are doing the hardest work, caring for people in miserable situations. They make the face of the church more human.”
She said her small group discussed the ordination of women deacons. “I understand it is not an easy question. It is sensitive,” she said. “Sometimes I can disagree but I am trying to accept the different contexts and backgrounds.”
The Czechoslovak Hussite Church, formally established in 1920 in Prague by members of the modernist reform movement of Roman Catholic clergy, draws from the tradition of the Czech reformation in the 15th century (a century before Martin Luther). According to the website of the World Council of Churches, the Hussite Church has nearly 100,000 members and “occupies the middle ground between the essence of the Catholic Church (liturgy and the seven sacraments) and the principles of the Protestant churches (teaching and order).” Bishops are elected by a diocesan assembly. The church values dialogue, freedom of conscience and openness to a pluralistic world.
Jan Hus, a leading priest in the movement, sought to purify the church, Rev. Kopecká explained. He criticized indulgences, wanted to preach in the vernacular and asked for theological dialogue. Under pressure, he refused to renounce what he believed. He was burned at the stake in 1415 and considered a heretic for hundreds of years until 1999 when Pope John Paul II apologized and expressed “deep sorrow” for his “cruel death” and praised his “moral courage” as a true reformer of the church.