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Maria Eitz to Be First Female Catholic Priest Ordained in San Francisco

Sophia in Trinity

Maria Eitz to Be First Female Catholic Priest Ordained in San Francisco

Media Advisory / Request for onsite coverage: SUNDAY, MAY 26

WHEN: Sunday, May 26 – 3:30pm

Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, 678 Portola Drive, San Francisco


History will be made in San Francisco on Sunday, May 26 when the first ordination of a Roman Catholic woman priest in the San Francisco Archdiocese takes place. The Most Reverend Olivia Doko, Bishop of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, Western Region, will preside at the ordination of Maria Eitz, who was ordained as a deacon last year. The liturgical rite will be held at a local Lutheran church because the Catholic hierarchy does not recognize the ordination of women.

Eitz is a member of Sophia in Trinity, a local Catholic community where the Reverend Victoria Rue, a Roman Catholic woman priest ordained in 2005, presides at the bi-monthly Mass. The Sophia in Trinity community confirms the call of Eitz to priesthood and fully supports her ministry. More than 100 worshippers are expected to celebrate the ordination.

“Faithful Catholic women who experience a call to priestly service are not waiting for the male-only Catholic hierarchy to ‘allow’ women to be ordained,” says Rue. “Polls indicate and my own experience confirms that people in the pews are ready for this change.” Rue points out that women held priestly office from the earliest days of the church. “Abundant archaeological and documentary evidence exists that proves women were deacons, presbyters and even bishops right up until the first official code of canon law was promulgated by Pope Gregory IX in the 11th century.”

The modern renewal movement to reclaim the tradition of women clergy in the Catholic Church began in 2002, when a male bishop ordained seven women on a boat on the Danube River. Subsequent ordinations (including Rue’s in 2005, Doko’s as a priest in 2006 and then as a bishop in 2010) have produced more than 150 women ordained in apostolic succession as deacons, priests and bishops around the world, including more than 100 in North America.

Despite excommunication by the Vatican or local bishops upon their ordination, the women continue their ministry as part of Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an organization formed in 2004 to bring about the full equality of women in the Roman Catholic Church.

The San Francisco candidate for priesthood, Maria Eitz, has devoted her personal life and her career to improving the lives of children both locally and internationally. As a young woman, she led children to safety and freedom out of East Germany during the Cold War. She also is the founder and director of Medical Volunteers International and has extensive experience creating human rights programs in Asia and Africa for children and parents rendered vulnerable because of wars, natural disasters and famine. Her book Desert Tales is a collection of stories from her time spent living with the Hadendoa, a nomadic tribe in East Africa, where Eitz led a mission of medical volunteers during a terrible drought.

Locally, Eitz founded Respite Care, a service providing free child care, early assessment and interventions for at-risk children, as well as support for their parents. She ran the San Francisco program for more than 35 years until her retirement last year. Eitz also is known in the Bay Area for organizing the Orphan Air Lift that brought children out of Vietnam at the end of that war. Subsequently she adopted four children, including two from Vietnam, and raised numerous foster children. Her book Dark Rice chronicles the experience of adopting her first two children.

Eitz was born and educated in Germany but has lived in America since the early 1960s. A convert to Catholicism, she entered the Church during the Second Vatican Council and was deeply influenced by the noted Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, one of the prime architects of the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church. Rahner took a personal interest in her, guiding her course of studies, and she earned a master’s degree in theology from Marquette University.

Numerous organizations have recognized Eitz for her humanitarian work. She received a Local Hero award from KQED during Women’s History Month in 2010 to honor her outstanding contributions to the local community. In 1981, she received a Humanitarian Award from the Rosicrucians.

The ordination will take place at 3:30 p.m. May 26 at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, 678 Portola Drive in San Francisco.

Media Contact: Susan Fox /, cell: (415) 516-1170 / office: (415) 752-0766 ####