San Joaquin to ordain first female priest

A new day has come to the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. With the departure of former Bishop John-David Schofield and his supporters, the priesthood in that diocese is now open to women.

The diocesan press release:

On June 27, 2009, when the Rt. Rev. Jerry Lamb asks God to “make her a priest in your Church,” it will be the first time these words have been spoken in the Diocese of San Joaquin.

The historic moment will come during the service of the Ordination of a Priest. The woman being ordained is the Rev. Suzanne Ward, affectionately known as Suzy. The service begins at 1:00 pm at Church of the Saviour in Hanford.

The Rt. Rev. Nedi Rivera will preach. Bishop Rivera is suffragan bishop of the Diocese of Olympia and, in a missionary partnership, is also provisional bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Oregon. The first Hispanic woman to be ordained a bishop in The Episcopal Church, she is well-known in this diocese as the daughter of the late Victor Rivera, third bishop of San Joaquin.

Suzy celebrated her 12th year of ordination to the diaconate on June 14. During those 12 years, she has worked toward a master of divinity degree at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, awarded on May 17, 2009, with a certificate in Anglican studies through an association with Trinity Episcopal Seminary.

Suzy has assisted with the leadership of the continuing St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Visalia since its establishment in early 2008.

San Joaquin has had many female deacons over the years and now boasts four female priests, all of whom were ordained in other dioceses. Women were first ordained to the priesthood in The Episcopal Church in 1975. After June 27 there will be only two dioceses left that have not ordained a woman, Quincy (in Illinois) and Fort Worth.

Suzy and her husband, Jon Ward, who have been married for 30 years, are both teachers in the city of Tulare. Jon teaches third grade and Suzy teaches kindergarten. Their children are Annalissa, an attorney who works for Michael Glass, our diocesan chancellor, and Jon-Ethan, a staff sergeant in the army national guard, currently deployed to Iraq. He will not be able to attend his mother’s ordination, but he will be sent a “live-feed” of the service, which he promises to stay up all night, if necessary, to watch.

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