By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
More than 100 people gathered at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday, Feb. 1, to witness a historic event: the ordination of the first trans and nonbinary Catholic priest. Kori Pacyniak was welcomed into the priesthood by the small progressive international Roman Catholic WomenPriests (RCWP) movement.
Contemporary campaigns to add women to the Catholic priesthood began in 1911 and culminated with seven women being ordained by willing bishops in the Danube River in 2002. The movement has continued to grow, with grassroots communities in 32 states and several countries. The denomination reimagined the priesthood to not be limited to celibate heterosexual cisgender men. Instead, the group ordains anyone regardless of gender, sexuality or marital status. They aim to create communities where all are welcome and everyone is equal.
During the ordination, the bishops as well as everyone in the audience took turns laying hands on Pacyniak, a simple gesture of prayer that highlighted the work to diminish hierarchies within the church. In a typical Roman Catholic rite or ordination, only the presiding bishop and other priests participate in this essential part of the rite.
“I am overwhelmed with joy because I never dared to dream that it would be possible to be be ordained in a movement (RCWP) — and with the support of a community (Mary Magdalene the Apostle Catholic Community) — that fully affirms my gender identity,” Pacyniak said. “I’m excited about future opportunities to minister at the intersection of faith, sexuality and gender.”
Pacyniak has several degrees and has worked in churches for years prior to the ordination. They hold a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and a Master of Sacred Theology from Boston University School of Theology. They are currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Queer and Transgender Studies in Religion at UC Riverside. Pacyniak has been a pastor at Mary Magdalene the Apostle Catholic Community (MMACC) since 2017 and was made a deacon in 2019.
MMACC was founded in 2005 by Jane Via, who used to work as a religious professor and as a county attorney in the office of the San Diego District Attorney. Via is now a bishop and presided over Pacyniak’s ordination. The community has become home to many people driven out of the traditional Roman Catholic Church, whether because they are divorced, LGBTQ+ or unable to worship in good conscience.
MMACC meets on Sundays at 5 p.m. at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Serra Mesa.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.