Donnieau Snyder knew she had to answer the call to priesthood, even though it meant she would be excommunicated from the faith she grew up in.
Snyder, who is currently a deacon, will be ordained as a reverend in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement on April 30 at Trinity Lutheran Church in central Fresno. Snyder and a fellow deacon, Donna Shaw of Southern California, will be ordained as the 125th and 126th women priests worldwide.
The Roman Catholic Womenpriests began in Germany in 2002 and is an initiative that seeks to promote equality for women in the church, including the right of women to be ordained into the priesthood.
Snyder moved to the Central Valley in her teens and currently lives in Stanislaus County. She will be the first woman priest in the movement from the region and the second black woman priest.
Canon law of the Catholic Church says that “only a baptized man validly receives sacred ordination,” Snyder said. “The Roman Catholic Church has yet to open their doors to women in recognizing their call, but the spirit will move regardless.”
In 2008, the church issued its most clear opposition to the ordination of women priests and announced that women priests and the bishops who ordain them would be excommunicated latae sententiae, or automatically.
In spite of that, Snyder said she considers herself Catholic and doesn’t accept excommunication.
“As a woman in the Roman Catholic Church, not having been truly welcomed in all ways, shapes and forms, in worship and community, it’s hard to accept the concept of ‘you’re no longer included,’ ” Snyder said. “How can I be excluded if I was truly never included?”
“Have I ever truly accepted excommunication? No,” Snyder said. “I feel I am more a part of the Catholic Church than I ever have growing up, because I get to really practice the primacy of my conscience.”
Over the past year, Pope Francis has called for more tolerance for gays and lesbians as well as divorced Catholics, but Snyder said there haven’t been enough concrete actions to promote equality.
“I will believe it when I see it,” she said. “Words are just mere words until it’s actually put into action.”
Snyder said she hopes the church will eventually recognize the Roman Catholic Womenpriests’ call for justice and equality.
“We will continue, we will move forward,” Snyder said. “I’ll wait for the Catholic Church.”
Donnieau Snyder will conduct her first Mass as a reverend at 4 p.m. May 1 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 3973 N. Cedar Ave., Fresno.