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Excommunicated Priest to Ordain Woman to Head Splinter Congregation

Bishop George A. Stallings, the African-American priest who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church for forming a breakaway movement in 1989, has announced plans to ordain the first woman priest for his African American Catholic Congregation on Sunday in Washington.

Deacon Rose Vernell, 50, a former nun and school administrator, will be ordained to lead the movement’s Imani Temple West Philadelphia, where she has been leading services since early June.

A native of Asbury Park, N.J., and a lifelong Catholic, Vernell entered the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore after graduating from high school. She served in inner-city neighborhood missions in Charlotte, N.C., Detroit, Buffalo and St. Paul, Minn., before leaving the religious order in 1971 to become a teacher and administrator of a Catholic school in St. Paul.

Vernell married in 1972 and continued to work at the school for 10 years until she took charge of a food bank in Minnesota. In 1986 she took a post with Catholic Charities, establishing education and day-care programs for households headed by women. She returned to Asbury Park in March, 1990, and soon got involved with Stallings’ movement.

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The African American Catholic Congregation claims 3,500 members in six cities, including two temples in Philadelphia. The temple that Vernell will head has about 80 members.


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