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.
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.