Reverend Joan (Part One)

Phyl Campbell By Phyl Campbell, 27th Dec 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Short Stories

One day, I might hope this won't be "general fiction," but something fallen away Catholic women and men can celebrate as they move out of the dark ages of Catholic history. Unlike the voice in the story, though she shares a lot of my history, I never made nor intended to make a promise to return. However, I know many others who await the day where feminism and equality touches the hardest hearts in the Vatican. Whether or not that includes you, be at peace.

Part One of Four

This is Part One of a Four Part Series. I beg your patience and hope you will enjoy the adventure being laid out in this tale.

An Introduction

I wondered what to call the new priest. “Father” was out. “Mother” didn’t seem to fit –

“Why don’t you just call me your friend, because that’s what I’d like to be,” she said, guessing at my uncertainty, “or 'Joan,' or 'Reverend Cutter.' ‘Servant of God’ also has a nice ring to it,” she said with a smile.

In the end, “Reverend (Rev.) Joan” stuck. That’s my first and fondest memory of Cottonmouth’s first and only (so far) female priest. She was only there for a summer before being reassigned. I was 34, married, a mother of two, and happy to be going to Mass again. Like many young Catholic feminists, I was on strike until the Church accepted and ordained women. As soon as the former pope claimed his little piece of Heaven, and the gender ban was lifted, I went to make good on my promise.

Not everyone can handle change, though

However, ordaining women (and married couples) did not automatically shift the minds of traditional churchgoers. Cottonmouth’s parish was no exception. Though many were warm, some were only frostily polite. Others were downright hostile. Yes, even in the middle of Mass...

“What the Hell you thinkin’ woman? Gettin’ up there and preachin’ as if you know somethin’ I don’t?” This from an old man in his late-sixties, Mr. Franklin Cotton, the spokesperson for close-minded, ageist, and sexist pigs. He was named after his great-grandfather Mr. George C. Cotton, one of the Cottonmouth founders. Mr. Cotton was same man who told 10-year-old me that girls had no business reading scriptures to the congregation during Mass.

It wasn't the first time, and it wasn't just priests

Scripture reading, called lectoring, was done by a lay-member of the parish. The same person used to do it all the time, but when I asked him to teach me, he was very receptive. I could read well and had a clear speaking voice that was uncharacteristic for my age. Many people said it was good seeing a child so interested in the Mass, but not Mr. Cotton. He used to sit in the second pew from the front – no one sits in the front pew – and glare at me as I read from the scriptures every Saturday night. He always wore a suit to church, and never smiled unless I made a mistake. Then it was a short smirk, a scowl for messing up his penitent train of thought, and another scowl for good measure. I was never nervous speaking at school recitals or plays, but his stare always gave me butterflies. Mom and Dad said I should ask him why he didn’t get up there and lector, since he didn’t think I was old enough. But I liked being able to “perform,” and didn’t want this guy taking it away out of spite. And sitting in the lector’s chair in front of everyone, I got in less trouble then when I sat next to my big sister, who would pinch me or try to make me laugh in church.

I wasn’t the only target Mr. Cotton had. I caught him backing my little sister in a corner, saying, “it must be a sin for you to parade about like an altar boy.” This happened just after our bishop told us that the term “altar boy” would be changed to “altar server” and the Vatican allowed girls to start serving at Mass. My sister, following my example, was one of the first guinea pigs of the new Mass. While I may pick on my sister until she cries (or bleeds), I’m family. He was not going to pick on her. Scared as I was, I walked up to him and said, “Mister, go pick on somebody your own size.” I was 15 then, and actually taller than he was. He sulked away. He still glared, but we heard a lot less out of him. The new priest, however, was fresh meat.

With a stiff upper lip

Even though she continued her homily as though she had heard nothing, I knew too well his detrimental affect on people – even stubborn, loud-mouthed ones -- which is why I chose to approach her during the sign of peace. Except I didn’t know how to address her. But once she introduced herself, I shook her hand, introduced myself and said, “I’m really glad you’re here.” Then I invited her to join my family for supper after the Mass.

Saturday night dinner out – usually pizza – had been a family custom since I was five. I also thought that the invitation would give Rev. Joan a chance to get away from the church and the rectory long enough to breathe. Without hesitation, she accepted.

Looking Ahead to Part Two

Part Two of Reverend Joan finds Joan with the woman's family at the pizza place, discussing life's unusual callings. I hope you will be called to read on, LEAVE A COMMENT, or CREATE YOUR OWN ARTICLE FOR WIKINUT.

The 4 Part Series:
Part 1 -- This Page
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Catholicism, Hate, Men, Persecution, Perseverance, Religion, Sexism, Women, Women As Priests, Women Discrimination, Women Of Achievement, Womens Issues

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
28th Dec 2013 (#)

Good evening, Phyl; I look forward to all of the parts. Would you like them shared in parts or at the conclusion with links? ~Marilyn

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
28th Dec 2013 (#)

Wow -- you hopped on fast. Why not wait until all four parts are shared. I'm adding pictures now, but should have them all up in a day if merciful mods are willing... ;)

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
28th Dec 2013 (#)

wow Phyl...this could be pretty looking forward to next part...sharing...

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author avatar Connie McKinney
28th Dec 2013 (#)

Great start. I can't wait to read the other parts.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
28th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks, Connie!

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
29th Dec 2013 (#)

Thought provoking indeed Phyl, we need a change of heart to move on to another level. This applies to all beliefs - quintessence of best of both worlds - siva

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
30th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks, Siva! You always know the perfect thing to say! What a way with words you have!

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author avatar Kingwell
10th Jan 2014 (#)

It's a change badly needed. I will read on.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
10th Jan 2014 (#)

Best compliment I could be given. Thanks so much, Kingwell.

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