Pensioner Urges Mass-goers to Wear Armbands

By Claire OíSullivan
Irish Examiner
September 24, 2010

THE West Cork pensioner who is calling for a one-day boycott of Mass tomorrow has said anyone who agrees with her sentiments but doesnít feel comfortable staying away from Mass could wear a green armband to church to show support.

Eighty-year-old Jennifer Sleeman has received huge media attention since she first revealed her disgust at the dominance of men in the Church and its inadequate reaction to the horrors unearthed in the Murphy and Ryan reports.

She urged other women to refrain from Mass this Sunday and to stay at home and "pray for change".

Up to 100 people from across the country and as far afield as Australia and the US have written to her in Clonakilty over the past two months to voice support.

Ms Sleeman, a former Presbyterian who converted to Catholicism 54 years ago, said she "just happened to voice what a lot of other people were thinking".

"I am still amazed at the level of support I have received from people. I have had a few people give me lectures on why I should be going to Mass but a lot of my friends have also said that they support me but they just canít miss Mass.

"So Iím saying to people that if you agree with the need for change, get a little bit of green fabric or green ribbon and put it on your arm. You can make a gentle statement in the church."

Many groups of women have contacted her to say they will hold prayer services in their homes and in public spaces this Sunday, rather than attend Mass.

One group of men and women is holding an inclusive Eucharistic service at Southern Cross Road between Bray and Greystones.

Among that group is Soline Humbert, a Frenchwoman living in Blackrock, Co Dublin, who believes she has a vocation for the priesthood and has celebrated the Eucharist every day for the past 14 years. Soline was horrified at the Vaticanís latest warning that women celebrating the Eucharist would be excommunicated.

"Jenniferís boycott is quite a sea-change. She has raised huge awareness around the sexism enshrined in the Church and peopleís belief that it canít continue as it is," said Ms Humbert.

But former Ireland South MEP Kathy Sinnott is one Catholic who wonít be joining the protest. "I have taken part in many campaigns, marches and boycotts but I will not be joining this one.

"At Mass tomorrow I have the privilege, totally undeserved, to be with Jesus crucified. Despite my shortcomings, I will be included in the joy and blessing of the resurrection. Do you think I would miss that for anything?" she said.

The Catholic Communications office has said it "would not encourage people to absent themselves from the Eucharist".

This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Saturday, September 25, 2010


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