Meet Albany's First Female Catholic Priest

Sep 16, 2013

Mary Theresa Streck of Albany, the city's first female priest
Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Religious history was made over the weekend in Albany when the city's first "woman priest" was ordained.

On Sunday, Mary Theresa Streck of Albany was ordained a woman priest in the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. A former Sister of St. Joseph, Streck is an artist and peace activist who is cofounder and director of the Ark Community Charter School in Troy.

You didn't know there were "female priests?"  Bridget Mary Meehan is a "presiding Bishop" in the faith. She explains that when the Catholic Church was in its infancy, there were women who served as apostles and priests.

uring the 12th century, a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. Recent headlines suggesting Pope Francis may consider allowing priests to marry seems to reflect the changing cultural norms of modern society, and could possibly signal allowing women to return to the priesthood, although that seems far off.  In an article dated September 14th, Catholic Online says, "If a change happens, it will be the result of careful deliberation, pastoral and prayerful contemplation. "

Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany spokesman Ken Goldfarb responded to a request for comment on Sunday’s “ordination” by email, saying in part, "The ceremony is not regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as a valid ordination, as evident by the fact it is not taking place in a Roman Catholic Church." Goldfarb added, "The sacraments she celebrates are not considered valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church."

Nevertheless, Streck will now carry on the ancient tradition: taking on the role of spiritual leader of a 40-person strong Catholic community — a rainbow congregation of gay, straight, divorced, married and single  folks — who expect to gather for services at the same Unitarian church on Washington Avenue in Albany where Streck was ordained. The first meeting is set for October 20th at 3 p.m.

According to a poll often cited by the women priests, over 70% of Catholics in the U.S. support the idea of allowing women to be priests. The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests movement counts 150 in its ranks. The movement began in 2002 with the ordination of seven women along the Danube in Europe.