Ordained Pret 2013

Ordained Deacon 2012 

Bernie Sykora

Global Ministries University 

Master of Arts Education/Special Need

Bachelor of Arts Education

Maryknoll Community

I longed to be at the altar to celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist throughout my life. My parents were very devout people, who lived on a farm in southwestern Minnesota, about four miles from the nearest church, but we didn’t miss a Mass, and we went to a neighboring church if there was no Mass at our  church, so it was quite an effort at times.  

I attended Good Counsel Academy, a Catholic boarding high school in Mankato and  the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph for one year. I then joined, and spent five  years in the Maryknoll community before leaving. I earned a B.A. degree from  Maryknoll Teacher’s College in New York and was assigned to the Panama Canal Zone,  where I stayed until leaving the order after five years. I then began teaching in various  school districts in the state of Minnesota for 25 years, including St. Cloud. While  teaching in Redwood Falls, MN, I married Don Sykora. We moved to the St Cloud area  where I earned a Master’s Degree from SCSU in the education of children with special  needs. I taught Special Education in the St Cloud School District until my retirement.  

Those special needs children taught me to formulate ideas in clear structure and to  express them effectively. They helped me to develop a caring heart and empathy for  people. My own family of four provided another classroom for learning compassion and unconditional love. Bernie also had the opportunity to be involved with a family in  Zimbabwe. My friends, relatives and I assisted the children in the Ndlovu ( Elephant )  family in their education and other necessities of life. I was able to visit the family on a  couple of occasions. They have been one of the biggest blessings in my life. All of  these lessons assisted in preparing me for the leadership role that emerged for me  years later in the Community of Mary Magdalene, First Apostle.  

When I do go back to the greater Catholic Church, I’m offended by a lot of the  language that excludes women. In fact, I have a hard time ignoring it. During my active  membership in the Church, I became aware of discrimination against women. The pain  of exclusion of women in liturgical language became more and more intolerable.  

I became involved with the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement after attending  Mary Smith’s ordination on August 16, 2009. Bernie initiated the formation of the group  that would evolve into Mary Magdalene, First Apostle. I led the organizing of a series of  Catholic Masses presided over by Mary, first in an apartment building in Sartell, then at  St. John’s Episcopal in St. Cloud. On January 27, 2011, Bernie announced to the group  that she could no longer deny her own vocation to the priesthood, confessing a calling  she had tried to reject because of her age. Throughout my life I had longed to be at the  altar to celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist. I believed that the Roman Catholic  Womenpriests would alleviate a shortage of male priests, which has led parishes in the  St. Cloud diocese to cluster and share pastors.  

I applied, after much prayer and discernment, to the Roman Catholic Womenpriests  Midwest region and was accepted. I began taking classes from Global Ministries  University in theology. I was ordained a deacon April 15, 2012 in Indianapolis IN and, at  age 80, was ordained a priest on June 23, 2013 in St. Cloud MN. After I was ordained to  the priesthood, we were able to have more services in the area.  

A sister priest, Mary Smith, has said that I have been a main force behind the formation  of the Mary Magdalene parish in St. Cloud. It’s because I really believe in the cause of  equality for women. As Mary said, I’m very strong in that way and I am one of the  women in the RCWP who has decided that it’s time to roll up our sleeves and simply  move forward. Our Liturgy is quite similar to the regular Roman Catholic ordination  Liturgy. The differences are that we use inclusive language, which means we do not  address God as ‘male’ and also when addressing the people in the pews, we do not address them as ‘brothers’ but as ‘brothers and sisters. Men promise obedience to the  bishop; we do not do that. We believe that the obedience is to the person of Christ,  then our almighty God and to the community, not specifically to a bishop because we  do not believe in the hierarchy as male priests do.  

Although I remain listed on the leadership team of the Community of Mary  Magdalene, First Apostle in St Cloud MN, which is pastored by Rose Henzler, I am now  mostly retired to an assisted living circumstance. Working on the community leadership  team afforded me a view of the feminine Godde, who gives me much comfort and joy.  

I was married to Don for 49 years before his death, and together we raised four children,  who have given us seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. All of my offspring  and most of my seven living siblings support my call to the priesthood.    

We members of the Roman Catholic Womenpriest movement are trying to reform the  church from within. We wish to do this by being ordained, changing to more inclusive  language, and by adding a relational aspect to our liturgies—said simply, by  “ordination, re-imaging, reshaping and restructuring.”

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