Cindy and David had their religious wedding on Saturday, July 22, celebrated by… a woman.
The exceptional ceremony took place in a Catholic church at Lorrainville, 650 km west of Montreal in Canada.
In the rural diocese of Rouyn-Norand in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region, the lack of priests is such that the bishop called on the assistance of Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence.
Why Sr Pierrette?“
You need to ask my bishop,” she smiles, explaining that in this zone several priests are responsible for up to seven or eight different parishes each.“
I was happy and proud to be able to provide this service for my diocese,” she says.
Authorized by Rome
Although rare, such an event is in fact authorized by canon law.
“Where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages, with the previous favorable vote of the conference of bishops and after he has obtained the permission of the Holy See,” says Canon 1112.
“A suitable lay person is to be selected, who is capable of giving instruction to those preparing to be married and able to perform the matrimonial liturgy properly.”
Hence, on May 23, Sr Pierrette received the necessary mandate in the form of an authorization from Rome after her name was proposed by the Congregation of Divine Worship and for the Discipline of Sacraments.
A member of the Sisters of Providence the past 55 years, Sr Pierrette is a pastoral worker in the parish of Moffett, which neighbors Lorrainville, where the wedding took place on July 22.
In fact, it was as a catechist that she came to know David, the husband when he was a high school student.
During the three months prior to the ceremony, she met the couple on three occasions.
“It was a mission of evangelization, that’s for sure,” Sr Pierrette comments, noting how she had had to explain various aspects of the ceremony to the gathering.
Unable to conceal her joy at being able to celebrate the wedding, she says she was proud of her bishop’s decision.
“It is a beautiful step forward for women in the Church."
However, she is equally proud of the couple she wed, and even “a little” proud of herself. And in spite of her initial apprehensions, the ceremony went well.
She is now ready to do it again whenever requested and she has no doubt that in future lay people will be called to play an increasingly significant role in the liturgy.