Church prepares to mark 49th anniversary of women’s ordination to the priesthood

July 29 is the 49th anniversary of the first ordination of women to the priesthood. Photo/Episcopal Church Archives

By Melodie Woerman

Episcopal News Service

July 29 – the Feast of St. Mary and St. Martha – marks the 49th anniversary of the first women ordained as priests in the Episcopal Church, and in preparation for this observance and the larger 50th anniversary in 2024, the Diocese of Los Angeles has created resources for liturgical commemorations.

All Saints in Pasadena, Calif., marked July 30 as Philadelphia Eleven Sunday. A document that includes not only historical background but also special collects, readings and a litany that can be used in worship services is available on the diocese’s Commission on Liturgy and Music website.

The 11 women – Merrill Bittner, Alla Bozarth-Campbell, Alison Cheek, Emily Hewitt, Carter Heyward, Suzanne Hiatt, Marie Moorefield, Jeanette Piccard, Betty Schiess, Katrina Swanson and Nancy Wittig – together are referred to as the Philadelphia Eleven.

The women were ordained by three retired bishops: Colorado Bishop Suffragan Daniel Corrigan, Pennsylvania Bishop Robert L. DeWitt and West Missouri Bishop Edward R. Welles II, who also was Swanson’s father.

A documentary about the 11 women and their ordination in Philadelphia’s Church of the Advocate is in final production. View the trailer here.

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