By: The Rev. Fr. Hermogenes P. Verano, DPA
Mission Priest, Diocese of Greater Manila Area

This is only a wishful thinking as a reaction to the recent on-line conversation of the IFI General Secretary, the Rt. Rev. Joel O. Porlares with an IFI Bishop from the United States regarding how a woman priest should be addressed.

When the Iglesia Filipina Independiente admitted women into priesthood, it was quite elating to me although I was a bit cynic knowing that the history of the presbytery is patriarchal. As a believer of the equality of men and women, I am in the opinion that female priests can do if not undo the men in doing the task reserved for male priests.

Perceivably, I can see that there is now a very positive sign of acceptance of woman priests in the parishes and missions. Surely, seeing women at the altar regularly is now a permanent fixture during the Holy Mass celebrations in the next generations ahead; and I am quite sure it will increase more based on the reports of many women entering the seminaries at the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary in Mabini, Pangasinan and the St. Paul Theological Seminary in Guimaras. The demand for them in the parishes and missions continues to prosper.

What a significant scenario indeed for a Church that is conventionally traditional and patriarchal as well. This is a good copy for women's liberation from being sidelined in the activities of the church to a mere support only in the ministerium of the Church.

My problem here is that, "What should be an apt address for them?” Traditionally, we follow the Roman Catholic Church’s culture of addressing the man priest as, "Reverend Father." The term “Reverend,” I understand is a sign of respect or honor attributed to the men of God. It is also an address for Protestant pastors. The term "Father," as we know, is a symbolism of a priest being the spiritual head or leader of the worshipping community. 

Logically speaking, is it not proper that we call the woman priest as "Reverend Mother"? As the leader or head of the parish or mission, it is just apt and an inclination that she be called, "Reverend Mother"? Not only so as a priest, but if she is married (which is allowed by the IFI), then the more she should be called "Reverend Mother". An appendage to her name is called for. I know that it will make it awkward for the first time. But as per observation, it is only on the first time that we find names unusual but when used frequently and regularly, it already becomes casual and accepted. Being used to it, it later comes smooth and formal eventually.

Relatively, the head of any Roman Catholic Church nunnery, particularly the sisterhood of a missionary group, is called as "Mother Superior." Nuns are different from priests. They are not allowed to officiate in the Holy Eucharist, more so with the institution of the Host for the Communion. They have their own congregation, exclusively women. Yet our woman priests have members of the worshipping community of men and women in a parish or mission. 

So, why not call our woman priests as "Reverend Mothers." There is no equivalent English term for “Reverend Father” but “Reverend Mother.” We refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “Mother of Humanity.” Why not then, spiritually, a woman priest as the mother of the worshipping community?



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