I met Janice Sevre-Duszynska in Louisville Kentucky, during the ordination of 70 years old Rosemary Smead, a former Carmelite nun. The ordination, to my surprise, was guarded by a policewoman with a large weapon. I heard her saying "security reasons”. That day she invited me to follow her at home in Lexington.
Shortly after my arrival, I became convinced that we were living inside an enchanted house. It was that moment of the year when spring is exploding: the streets of concrete turned completely white for the falling of cherry blossom petals. For two weeks I sat with her at sunset in the porch that face a big wild garden. As she spoke, in the fresh grass the black shadows of bare branches moved like the hands of a clock and extended up to touch us. Janice is a beautiful woman of Polish origin. She’s 65. She has red hair and porcelain skin. She had two husbands and two children, one husband had been violent with her, an 18 year old son died in a motorbike accident. Twenty-five years have passed since that day. Showing me the poems written in that period, she added: "I walked through hell, I did not run away, I did not destroy another person, I sat on this deck and I cried"
Janice looks at the same time very young and very old. When she speaks, she often mentions justice and activism, but sentences that are so strongly political are pronounced with a refined taste for choosing the right word and using a baroque quote from sacred texts. Sometimes while talking she corrects herself as if she were writing aloud. In 2001, she was in federal prison for three months for a peaceful civil disobedience against US foreign policy and against the famous School of the Americas, the center of combat training for soldiers of South America (dubbed by some “school for murderers”) in Fort Benning, Georgia. Despite this, Janice continues to take part in protests and social movements in the United States and South America. She firmly believes that you have to put yourself at risk to get justice. I remember when she asked me with burning eyes why the Pope does not put his body on the battlefield to demand the end of war. And yet she’s so far from a certain stereotype of hero. She desired her entire life to be a priest. She spoke loudly about it to everybody she knew in the Church. She went to bishop conferences showing banners to ask for women ordination.
In 1998 she resolved to present herself for ordination at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Jan. 17, her 48th birthday and the day C. W. Howell Jr. was being ordained a priest in Lexington. "When I decided on it, my body shook like an earthquake for three hours," she said. "Even thinking about it, I was aware of just how much strength it would take.” Than she told me about the action: ”I was in the cathedral, all the candidates for priesthood sat there. I stood up, I threw my coat away, and I went towards him: “Bishop Williams! Bishop Williams! I’m called by the Holy Spirit to present myself for the ordination. My name is Janice and I ask this for myself and for all women” and he went: “Get back to your seat, you’re disrupting the service!” instead I prostrated in the nave with a tiger lily in my hands. I prostrated myself to the altar and that’s when he said: “Get back to your seat , you’re interrupting the service!” I stood up and I added: “I’m all the oppressed women in the bible. I am Sarah, I am Annah, I’m Elizabeth, I’m Veronica, I’m the woman that touched the end of Jesus garments , I’m the woman who poured oil over Jesus’s head, I came here today with the help of my patron saint, saint Joan of Arch, hoping you’ll ordain me for all women. Will you ordain me?” and than he didn’t and that’s when people came acting like I was a crazy woman trying to move me away. I didn’t appreciate it. I hoped when I was prostrating that some of my friends priests would make a circle around me and show some solidarity. Nothing happened at that time. They weren’t ready”
Janice is member of the Women's Ordination Conference, the oldest and largest organization working for ordination of a renewed priestly ministry in the Catholic Church. She was ordained Roman Catholic Woman Priest in 2008, excommunicated and than arrested by Italian police in Vatican in 2013. At first when Pope Francis was elected she hoped that the time was coming for the change, but today she doesn’t believe it anymore. Many women have told me: “We’re doing this for the future, we’re not going to see the change in our life time"