Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Meet our Chaplains and Priests

Ann Bayly, Community Chaplain

Ann came to the Upper Room after a long search for an inclusive church community focused on the gospel teachings of love and compassion. She believes the wisdom at the upper room is that each person in the community has gifts to share.  

Ann received her Certificate of Chaplaincy from Global Ministries University in 2021.  She has been inspired by Judy Cannato’s book “Field of Compassion” and looks forward to offering the gift of compassionate listening to anyone seeking kindness and understanding. 

Ann spent many years teaching in both public and Catholic schools, before joining her husband working in a family owned business.  John and Ann were married for 36 years before his passing in 2004.  Together they have two daughters, one son, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law and eight grandchildren.  Ann loves spending time in her garden or hiking and walking in nature alone or with family and friends.

Julie Corron, Priest, ARCWP, Community Chaplain

Julie was ordained a priest on September 18, 2021, through the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and in the company of her beloved Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community. Julie brings her belief that we are all here to care for each other to her chaplaincy work Capital District Psychiatric Center and in the community. She loves to create special rituals for weddings, baptisms, healing, funerals, and all the wonderful moments of life in between. Julie is also a writer, editor, and yoga and meditation teacher. 

My call to ordination: "I first heard my call in childhood, a time and place when there were no women priests. So I set it aside and built a different sort of life for myself. Decades later, in the supportive community of the Upper Room, I finally stepped into the fullness of my call to priesthood. Around this same time, I discovered my main ministry of chaplaincy, the beautiful work of companioning individuals through the most challenging times of their lives."

Denise Hackert-Stoner, Priest, ARCWP 

As a nature photographer who specializes in close-ups of insects and plants, Denise can often be found out on a trail with her husband Scott, often on her knees or belly, inspecting some tiny living thing.  She is constantly amazed at the beauty of nature and the Divine Presence in all of it.  Denise has two grown children, Emily and Nathan, and six unique, interesting, and loving grandchildren, who share her enthusiasm for the natural world.  Denise holds a degree in Elementary Education and a Master's Degree in English, both from the College of Saint Rose.  She recently earned her Doctor of Ministry from Global Ministries University.  She is an instructor for People's Catholic Seminary, and has designed and teaches a story-based course for adults who wish to accompany the children in their lives on the spiritual path.  Denise enjoys crafting both liturgical and non-liturgical services for her beloved Upper Room community, facilitating meditative walks in nature, and using her writing and photography skills to enhance these experiences.  She also loves recognizing life's sacramental moments, and creating services to help celebrate or mark these moments.  From Baptism or child blessing, to Marriage or couple blessing, to Healing services, to wake and funeral services, Denise is always honored to hold these sacred moments and the people living through them in tenderness.

My call to ordination: Hearing but Not Listening:  How My Call Finally Found Me

"I was always the priest for my family.  I just didn’t recognize that fact.  I was always being called to ordination, I just didn’t listen.  Mostly I didn’t listen because I don’t waste my time listening to the impossible.  But the call was there regardless.  It never let up.  Whenever an event occurred; a birth, a death, a birthday or anniversary, the call would come.  Usually the call came in the voice of an aunt or cousin, or parent.  “Do you want to say a few words, Denise?”  And I would be ready with the words.  The words that set those moments apart, that cemented them in group memory, like photos in an album, marking them as milestones in family history, connecting them to the Reality that lies within and beyond all of us and all of our events.  It wasn’t until years later that the impossible became possible; that the call rose above a whisper, and that I began to listen.  As so often happens, listening led to action.  Action led to becoming, and here I am, an ordained priest, called out from the community that I love, to serve." 

Deven Horne, Community Chaplain

After retiring from a thirty plus year career in education and raising a family in the Catholic Faith, Deven had time to rediscover and follow her heart’s yearnings for groundwork ministry in the community. The work of the Upper Room Community and her Spiritual Direction provided a spring board for the next chapter in her life. To build on her experiences, knowledge, and skills and use those skills to foster the feeding of her soul and align her being with living fully in the great mystery of God’s divine love is a blessing and a challenge. The Chaplaincy course in 2021 was a great avenue for bringing together spiritual and action-based work to live and work in community and to together re-vitalize every day the way of love, compassion and justice. One of her passions is elder care and she has developed and presented on Legacy Wills, living with joy, and caregiver support. Deven is blessed with a diverse family which has kept her humble, grounded and open to the suffering and joy in the world. 

Terri Kersch, Community Chaplain

Community Chaplaincy Certification has offered Terri the opportunity to ‘give back’ by serving those struggling with change and/or the challenges of everyday life. Terri retired from RPI as their Certified Health Education Specialist.  She currently enjoys part time work as a Certified Wellness Coach. 

Terri has been married to Walter for more than 50 years, is a mother of two amazing adult daughters and a grandparent of four quite wonderful young men.  She enjoys the quiet life of rural Rensselaer County and thrives as a lifelong learner.

Terri believes in the healing power of connection and brings her training in wellness and life balance to Chaplaincy.  With gratitude and a little joy mixed in, she promises to listen carefully and offer skilled 1:1 support as you travel your life journey.

Lynn Kinlan, Priest, ARCWP 

The inclusivity of the Upper Room and the lure of a theology of blessing and creation theology are the inspirations behind Lynn’s call to ordination. Belonging to a community that is moving beyond the scolding of atonement is for her, the path less travelled that has made all the difference.  Lynn finds it liberating to be in the company of believers who join as full participants in prayer and worship, eager to break open the meaning of scripture as it may have been understood in the early church. Her service as a priest is focused on sacramental occasions, learning from scripture and writing prayers, poetry, liturgical text and meditation vignettes. Lynn previously worked with the NYS Division of the Budget and taught high school and college English. She is married to Bernie Kinlan, also a member of the Upper Room. Their three sons and daughters-in-law and two grandchildren are special joys in our lives. 

My call to ordination: Hearing the Call to Priesthood

"The Holy One loves us more than we can imagine. Ever forgiving, always understanding, our Holy One desires an intimate relationship with us. There are innumerable pathways of response to this Divine invitation, none better than others. Ordination to priesthood is one pathway that fits just right for me, like a favorite stretched out sweater on a brisk and gusty day. 

I yearn to know the Divine, to immerse myself in the ineffable mystery of God and creation. I want to be ever aware of the Presence of the Spirit of God without losing my head entirely from the practicalities of life (now where is my phone? How late am I for that meeting? Do I put cilantro or chili powder in this recipe I’ve made a hundred times?). 

 Priesthood is one way of satisfying the burning desire to know the Holy. Study before ordination provided some understanding of progressive theology. Continuing study allows me to see the early pre-empire church as a model and interpret scripture with new eyes. This new way of seeing the Divine is still being constructed and its exciting to be part of that. 

Serving as a priest in the Upper Room allows me to give back. I would not have had the courage to be a priest were it not for the people of the Upper Room who bring the Spirit of God alive with warmth and creativity. Finding my way here has been a pathway to grace and contentment. I am forever grateful." 

James T. Marsh, Priest, ARCWP

Jim’s call to ministry came early in life but didn’t happen as planned. After leaving Franciscan formation, he was involved in many “local” ministries with youth, the elderly, the LGBT community and those affected with/by HIV and AIDS. In hindsight, ‘those years were very formative’ in developing the pastoral mindset and skills necessary for ordained ministry. In 2010, he met Bridget Mary Meehan and was introduced to the Women Priest Movement. Much to his surprise, ARCWP called him to orders and he was ordained a priest in 2016 as an out, loud, proud, gay man.  A graduate of Siena College and retired from NYS Education, he prefers to spend time between Albany and his Florida home. He currently is providing pastoral ministry to the residents of a local nursing home where his mother resides. A graduate of Siena College and retired from NYS Education, he prefers to spend time between Albany and his Florida home. He is available to celebrate all sacraments in any setting.

Dennis McDonald, Priest, ARCWP 

Dennis McDonald is a life-long Catholic who believes in the community of equals and that all who are called to priesthood be affirmed in their calling. He has spent his life ministering to young people in church ministry as a youth minister and in education as a college administrator. He is a member of The Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community, a community of equals ministering to members and the greater community through liturgical and sacramental services, as well as educational and social concerns ministry. Dennis was ordained a deacon in 2015 and priest in 2016, after a two-year program of study.  In addition, he has a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and a Master’s Degree in Education.  Dennis is available for baptisms, weddings, memorial services/funerals, anointings, and visitation to the sick.  He is, also, available to just meet and talk with anyone who needs a listening ear.  

My call to ordination:  A Lifelong Dream Realized – Dennis McDonald

"I responded to the call to priesthood, because it was a call I had heard since early childhood, and one that when it was finally before me there was no other answer than a resounding yes.  

Throughout grade school and high school I served as an altar boy, and frequently had thoughts of being a priest, and I had good role models in the priests with whom I interacted. The call was there, clear and inviting.

When I was confirmed I felt I was being called by the Spirit to be open to God’s plan for me.  It was a very intense feeling and on the day of my Confirmation I experienced a deep awakening of the Spirit within, and felt for the longest time that the priesthood was in my future.  

Falling in love and getting married meant that any sense of ministry through the priesthood was set aside for many, many years. But, over the course of my life I stayed connected to the Church and lived out the call without being “officially” ordained.  My positions at both the Diocese and at the College of Saint Rose allowed me to minister to others, to be of support and encouragement during difficult times, to share with others the deep belief that we are each called by God to minister in the world .  

As the years have passed, I have often reflected on the deep sense of calling that I have felt throughout the years.   And there was always an emptiness, a longing to respond to the call I had felt since a young child, to serve the people of God through the ministry of priesthood.  

And so, when Mary Theresa approached me after a few months of being engaged in the Upper Room, on whether I had thought of being ordained, it was like a whole new, old world opening up before me. I was finally able to answer the call that had been part of me all those years.  It has been a blessing in my life to offer my ministry to the Upper Room Community and beyond. And the dream that I held finally came to fruition thanks to women being open and inviting to a man longing to answer his call."  

Suzanne O'Connor, Minister

My call to serve: "Growing up Catholic formed me. Our identity was that of a Catholic family. We attended weekly Mass and Catholic schools, gathered to pray during Advent, fasted during Lent and celebrated Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, Weddings and an Ordination!

In 1978, my father was ordained a deacon in the Archdiocese of New York. Yet, it disturbed me that though my mother attended every class and retreat required for the men, she was not eligible for ordination. Yet her service was both expected and invisible. The recognition of gender inequity in the Church was born in me when I was not yet 20 years old.

My father’s ordination sparked something deep within me. I buried the idea because it was not even a possibility. Years later, I learned of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests and explored that path to ordination. Yet, it was an internal struggle; I knew it was not for me. I was saddened because it was the path chosen by so many in my spiritual circle. I felt left out and adrift. What was my call?

Through a friend, I heard of One Spirit Interfaith Seminary. I attended an information night and was both intrigued and terrified. Late one night, I heard a voice that said “Step into the life that I have prepared for you.” Shortly thereafter, I enrolled and I was totally immersed in spirituality from an interfaith, inter-spiritual lens. On June 3, 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, I was ordained in my bedroom surrounded by light and love. The energetic connection to my classmates and my One Spirit seminary mentors could not have been stronger, had we gathered together in a church. I have found my call. Here I am. I am ready."

Donna Panaro, Priest, Chaplain, ARCWP

Donna graduated from Lexington Theological Seminary in 2009 with a M.A. in Pastoral Studies. She completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education with Hospice of the Bluegrass in Lexington, Kentucky. Donna was ordained as a priest in 2012 by ARCWP. Donna is a certified Eden Alternative Associate. Donna has studied Buddhism and values contemplative practices. She completed level one of Healing Touch in 2020. Donna moved to New York in 2018 and is part of the Upper Room Community. Donna is a chaplain at Wilkinson Residential Healthcare Facility in Amsterdam, NY. Donna enjoys creating inclusive liturgies and rituals for important life events such as weddings, funerals, anointing of the sick, births and home blessings. Donna is married to Kim Panaro, ARCWP and has three adult, biological, children, Matthew, Elizabeth and Sarah. She has one son by marriage. Donna loves to play golf, walk, travel and meditate. She enjoys being in nature, going to the beach and creating slideshows.

My call to ordination: "My call to the priesthood was a gradual realization. I was raised as a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC) from birth through college age. I was very active in the UCC church. I had a friend who was Catholic when I was young. One day I asked my friend’s mother what a nun was. When I heard her description of a nun I said, “Do you have to be Catholic to be a nun?” The way I felt about being a nun could be my first realization of a call, but my understanding of a call was in an infant stage.

Since there were no UCC churches in my college town, I decided to try different denominations. When I went to the Catholic Church, I was smitten by the poetic prayers, by kneeling during church and by the awe I felt when I attended my first Catholic funeral. After college, I joined RCIA and became Catholic at the Easter Vigil. I began teaching in a Catholic School and took classes to be a certified catechist. The catechist education planted seeds that led me to later go to Seminary. It was a Disciples of Christ Seminary with a small Catholic program. I did four units of Clinical Pastoral Education as a Hospice Chaplain.

The document from the Vatican that shunned ordaining women jolted me. In my angst I discovered the website for Roman Catholic Women Priests. I cried and knew I was being called to be ordained."

Kim Panaro Priest, ARCWP, LCSW-R

Kim was ordained deacon in 2015 and priest in 2016. Her call to a deeper commitment to a life of gospel service came early in her teenage years. The traditional options open to women in the Roman Catholic Church did not fit the mission she felt called to. When ARCWP came to the Capital District and the Upper Room Community was formed, Kim found her spiritual home.  Kim is a clinical social worker in a high school. She has a special love of creating unique rituals such as highly personalized  liturgies, weddings, home blessings, blessings for people in transitions, grief and healing rituals.  She is an avid believer in working for a more just society, church and world.   Kim believes strongly in the value of interfaith and interreligious study, meditation  and contemplative practice and  fostering community. Kim holds a  Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and a Master’s degree in Social Work. She is a long time devoted vegan and animal activist. She is available to speak to anyone who has an interest in speaking with her. She is happily married to Donna Panaro ARCWP. Kim has one biological son Sam and 3 adult children through marriage. 

My call to ordination: "I was touched by a deep experience of God’s presence when I was 12 and attended my first retreat. I knew that the gospel would be a big part of my life. I received a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and connected for several years to various religious orders. Although I have always struggled with issues in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, I have always felt completely at home with the gospel and following brother Jesus. 

My work for social justice led me to collaborative work with Pax Christi and the Catholic Worker Movement.  This led me to a belief that there is value in making a deep commitment to living the life of gospel compassion and justice in a fully committed way. For many years I attended a relatively progressive and active parish.  At some point however, I felt that I grew past that “Sunday morning” lifestyle. I yearned to make a difference in the lives of other disenfranchised Catholics. 

In 2013 Mary Theresa Streck, a friend and fellow activist, introduced me to ARCWP. I knew I had my answer. I was ordained deacon in 2015 and priest in 2016.  Now, I am happily married to another priest Donna Panaro, and we share a deep love for and commitment to the vision of ARCWP and the Upper Room community. I know my priestly calling is to stand at the outer edge of the inside of the church."

Kathleen Ryan, Priest, ARCWP

Kathie was ordained June 27, 2015.  She embraces the Theology of Blessing, and believes we are all one, regardless of our faith tradition. Kathie loves presiding and co-presiding with members of the Upper Room. She loves studying, and currently is focusing on Hebrew and Judaic Studies at SUNY Albany.

Kathie is a chaplain at the Grand Nursing Home in Altamont. She has an active role in ARCWP and is currently the Circle Leader for the association.

Kathie has a Masters in Social Work, BA in Spanish Education and Religious Studies. 

For the last 30 years she has worked with individuals who suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, and grief and loss. 

Kathie was married for 46 years to Edward Ryan. Ed supported her call to priesthood and studied right along with her.  Ed crossed over on February 7, 2016. They have two sons and five grandchildren.

My call to ordination: "From as far back as I can remember I wanted to belong and participate in church. As I grew up I took on every role I could. They included cleaning the church, lector, eucharistic minister, parish council president etc.  All the while I believed there was more for me to do so I did what was permitted, I entered the convent.  After a year I knew convent life was not for me.  Fast forward to a wonderful marriage, children and grandchildren, my life was full but I still had this deep longing to fully belong to the church.

One day a friend mentioned she heard about a group of women priests.  I was distracted and dismissed it. A month later a different friend mentioned there was a group of women priests coming to Albany for a presentation. I listened this time and attended the presentation by Bridget Mary Meehan. I knew immediately this new church formed by women was for me.  My husband, Ed and I wanted to be a part of this new church. Again, I realized I wanted more than membership in a new church.  Ed and I prayed and talked about the possibility of me studying for ordination. Ed had always believed I was called to be ordained. I reached out to Mary Theresa Streck and after more prayer and discernment was on the path to ordination. Looking back, I believe my desire to belong and participate in the church in a deeper way was the Holy One calling me.  I was ordained on June 27, 2015 and my call continues.

Lindy Sanford-Martinez, Priest, ARCWP

Lindy’s ministry includes support for the homeless, survivors of domestic violence, those challenged by brain injury, cancer, other major health issues as well as those experiencing death and dying.  She practices Celtic Spirituality using ancient prayers and techniques.  She is beginning to teach this approach to others online.  Birdwatching, caring for her garden, and observing nature are physical forms of contemplation for her. Lindy grew up in Texas, is a grandmother and has lived in Albany, New York for over 20 years.  She is a member of Upper Room Inclusive Community. She was ordained a priest on July 08, 2017.

Mary Theresa Streck, Priest, ARCWP, Ed.D., D.Min., Community Chaplain 

Mary Theresa was ordained a priest on September 15, 2013 through the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests. She is a member of the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community in Albany NY. Mary Theresa is available for sacramental services and pastoral care. She is a trained Spiritual Director and available for spiritual accompaniment. Mary Theresa holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership and a doctorate in Ministry and a certificate in Community Chaplaincy. As co-founder of the People’s Catholic Seminary, she provides courses and seminars in contemporary theology and spiritual enrichment. She is a faculty member of Global Ministries University. 

My call to ordination: "At the age of eight, I heard my first call to ministry and decided that I would join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet when I finished high school. At the age of seventeen I left my family and did just that. My childhood call became my young adult call and that eventually matured into an adult ministry. For eighteen years I worked in schools and eventually began the Ark, Inc., a program for children in a public housing project that focused on breaking the cycle of poverty. In 1984, I left the Sisters of St. Joseph to continue my call to ministry with my marriage partner, Jay Murnane. Together we managed the Ark and for twenty years we hosted a house church in our small apartment in the housing project. During those years, we created liturgies that were rooted in a theology of blessing. When Jay entered eternal life in 2004, I continued my ministry at the public housing project while managing a charter school in Troy. In 2013, I learned about the Roman Catholic Women Priests and began my journey to ordination with them. During the spring of that year, I invited friends to join me for liturgy at my home. That was the beginnings of what developed into the Upper Room in 2014. Today, my ministry continues as a priest, an artist, a spiritual companion, and an educator through the People’s Catholic Seminary."

Debra E. Trees, Au.D, MPM, Priest, ARCWP, Community Chaplain

Deb Trees was welcomed into the diaconate in June of 2015 and ordained a priest of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests on October 8th, 2016 after 20 years of calling and discernment. Finding the community of the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community and participating in liturgies and spiritual growth with grace-filled camaraderie is a major part of her lifework. Deb continues her ministry to all others through service to the Upper Room and the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests in leader-servant positions, learning and sharing as she goes. She is active in her home and career environment in several ways and brings her sense of spirit and grace to her work as an audiologist, serving all, including those with limited resources. Her major work as a priest is contemplative, sharing prayer and communing opportunities with all others, and in her striving to learn and illuminate women’s strength in the Catholic Church and society. She has a special devotion to praying the rosary, which she reframed using Original Blessing theology in “The Companions’ Rosary”. She is available to serve in whatever way is requested of her. She completed a Community Chaplaincy Program through Global Ministries University (GMU) and received her Master of Pastoral Ministry  degree through GMU. Deb is a full time professional Audiologist with a private practice in the Capital District. She is available for deep listening, companionship and community work, and hopes to bring her sense of abundance and grace to all.

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