Ordained Priest 2013

Ordained Deacon 2012 

Irene Senn

 Master of Divinity 

 BA Sociology   

 I am the oldest of eight children and the oldest cousin on both sides of the family. My parents both came from large families so there was always lots of activity. I attended Catholic grade and high school in Marion, Indiana. I went to Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin for two years before marrying my husband, Bob, in 1966 and moving to West Allis, Wisconsin. When our first son was two years old I returned to school at Alverno  College. I took a semester off when our second son was born and was pregnant for our  oldest daughter when I graduated with a BA degree in Sociology in 1974. I began work  on a theology degree in 1982 when our youngest daughter was in kindergarten and  graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in 1992 from St. Francis de Sales Catholic  Seminary in Milwaukee, WI.  

Over the years, I have served in parishes both as a volunteer lay minister and as a  professional minister. I served liturgically as a lector and Eucharistic Minister. I also  served on the Human Concerns and the Religious Education committees as well as on  the Parish Council. Because I love to sing, I’ve been in choirs. Professional positions  were in Youth Ministry and various Adult ministries

My journey to ordination began many years ago but, of course, “women can’t be  priests,” so I allowed myself to veer away from the path, most likely because at that  point there was no path. However it seems as if my whole life journey was preparing me  for ordination. Although I had sporadically kept a journal for a number of years, I began  journaling consistently on January 1, 2010. The recurring question I had experienced  began to more clearly emerge as I wrote it in my journal, “When I retire is it from my current position or is there something else that I am to be about?” It always felt that  there was “something” but I couldn’t figure out what that “something” was. At some  point that year I began to write another pertinent question, “OK, Holy One, where do  you want to find me?” And several months later that changed to, “I don’t need to know  the destination, God, but I do need to know what the next step is.”  

That same Spirit, which always leads one into the unknown, had guided me during  the more than twenty years that I served in justice and peace ministry with a  congregation of women religious. In this position I worked to educate the sisters and  associates about a range of issues, planned peace events, represented the  congregation on several boards and committees, filed shareholder resolutions and  entered into dialog with a number of publicly traded companies regarding issues such  as sweatshops, rights of workers, environmental racism, and more. 

Then, another question was raised for me, but this time by the sister to whom I  reported in my position as the justice and peace director of the Sisters of St. Francis of  Assisi. That question was the impetus which allowed my heart to open. At the end of a  monthly meeting she asked me, “Irene, are you being challenged here?” It left me  feeling vulnerable and inadequate. Perhaps it was that vulnerability that allowed me to  open to other possibilities. The very next day I attended a luncheon at which Roy  Bourgeois spoke about his activities with SOA. During the Q&A afterwards he was  asked about the trouble he was in with the Vatican regarding his support for women  priests. When I heard his response – that it didn’t make sense to be challenging the  injustices in the world if he wasn’t also challenging them in the church – a wave of peace  washed over me and I thought, “That’s it, isn’t it, Holy One. That’s where you want to  find me!” And so, not long after this, I applied to RCWP in 2011 and, after acceptance,  began the program of discernment. I was ordained a deacon in 2012 in Indianapolis, IN and a priest in 2013 in Milwaukee, WI. 

The Spirit’s voice had prompted me by raising a series of recurring questions in my  mind, over the course of years. I finally discerned the answers. The Spirit who had been  so very patient with me, allowed me to come into the awareness of my call at just the  right time and to follow it to priesthood. 

Since ordination, my ministry has included: serving a house church community in  the Milwaukee area; celebrating other sacraments; providing spiritual direction. My  journey continues to unfold, still into the unknown but I continue to trust the loving  presence of the Spirit as my guide. I served for six years as the Program Coordinator for  candidates in discernment in the Midwest Region and now serve as the Region Administrator. I am a member of the Compassion Circle of RCWP-USA and as RCWP USA representative to COR (Catholic Organizations for Renewal).  

My husband, Bob, and I are parents to four adult children, in-laws to their four  spouses, and grandparents to nine wonderfully energetic young persons. Unlike many  people our age we moved several years ago to an old farmhouse with over 8 acres of  land. We have done a lot of work both inside and out since our move. I continue to  appreciate being surrounded by so much beauty – not the manicured beauty of well tended flower gardens but the wild beauty of the unfettered natural world. Currently I  am working on a memoir of my call to priesthood. 

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