BAR HARBOR (AP) – Four of 11 women who were ordained as Episcopal priests 32 years ago participated in funeral services for the Rev. Katrina Swanson, a fellow member of the “Philadelphia 11.”

The Rev. Katrina Swanson died of colon cancer last August in her Manset home. She was 70.

On Sunday at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church, her funeral service was conducted by four of the five surviving members of the “Philadelphia 11,” who made headlines on July 29, 1974, in Philadelphia when they became the first women ordained priests in the denomination.

More than 200 people attended the service that blended traditional and contemporary liturgy and music. Swanson’s ashes were buried in the church’s memorial garden.

The members of the “Philadelphia 11” who attended the two-hour funeral Mass were the Revs. Merrill Bittner, 58, of Bethel; Alison Cheek, 79, of Tenants Harbor; Carter Heyward, 60, of Brevard, N.C.; and Emily Hewitt, 62, of Washington, D.C.

Bishop Chilton Knudsen, the head of the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, also participated. The Rev. Marie M. Fleisher, 62, of Buffalo, N.Y., the fifth surviving member of the group, was unable to attend.

“It’s very helpful and satisfying to be able to talk about her and remember her and send her on her way with our blessing,” Cheek said after the service.

The 11 women were ordained priests in the Episcopal Church in direct defiance of official church rules.

The ordinations were considered by many to be a major victory for women’s rights in Christianity.

Their status as priests became official after the Episcopal Church approved the ordination of women in 1976.


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