In a town in the Netherlands:
The Calvinists, in their elegant gothic church, an edifice they acquired at the Reformation, taught that no sacerdotal mediation was necessary between the believer and God. There was no sacrament of holy orders, no real presence in the Eucharist. The Catholics, in their solid 1930 brick building, strongly emphasized the importance of the priesthood and the Mass. Today’s young Catholics in Zevenbergen should be forgiven if they seem to have forgotten the centrality of both, for now the priest arrives only once every five weeks.
This does not mean that there is no reason to go to church other Sundays. Nor does it mean that there is no resident pastor. The pastor is now a nonordained woman, Pastor Eveline, who does not offer Mass, hear confessions, or anoint the sick.
The change from resident male priest to female pastor was not an easy adjustment for some parishioners. Even now my friends in Zevenbergen, a young Dutch-French couple who studied in Chicago, are still getting used to it. Each Sunday, Pastor Eveline leads a service of readings and songs. She has a fine voice and is aided by a good choir, a splendid pipe organ, and a highly competent organist. Wearing a beautiful vestment, something between a priest’s chasuble and deacon’s dalmatic, she processes to the altar led by two altar boys (no altar girls!). Her sermons are long by American standards, but they are delivered with passion and enthusiasm. After the readings and a prayer, she goes to the tabernacle and removes a large ciborium containing hosts consecrated by the priest on his last visit. She and an elderly man distribute Communion to the congregation, and the service concludes quickly. When I visited, everyone was invited to come to an area behind the altar to examine a collection of Greek and Russian icons Pastor Eveline had assembled. No one seemed in a hurry to leave, and many stayed to fill the front pews for a baptism that was to follow.