IN PRAISE OF...

 

Rev. Sterringer’s book, Forbidden Grace, is wonderfully fashioned with an open heart, an enlightened theological mind that is well grounded in the historical facts for an enchanting, compassionate and full of empathy journey into two women’s lives. Rev Sterringer transports, transcends and seamlessly interweaves the inspiring life of St. Hildegard of Bingen with her life and ministry today as an ordained woman priest.   She guides us clearly in a masterful way into the inner and outer landscape of the countless challenges, pains, and woundings they each encountered.  They both responded to their challenges in a respectful and dialogical process, and hopefully in which healing and evolution can continue to unfold inclusively in the world.

     By following God's personal calling, she is able to express her journey in translating the understanding and the embodiment of these understandings. This book is a testament to two courageous women, separated by nine hundred years, who have shown incredible tenacity, boldness, conviction, and commitment to Christ's personal call.

     Forbidden Grace is a wondrous journey of two souls filled with wisdom that is particularly relevant to the predicaments of our modern life. This book supports each of us and the church to reclaim and renew our feminine energy.   It is a call to all God's children for inclusivity, a call to Love one another, and a call to wholeness versus discrimination.  Every reader will benefit from what she shares and explores in Forbidden Grace.  I highly recommend taking the journey as readers for the "Forbidden Grace" that you may find. 

     --Bishop PHILIP RUIZ BELZUNCE, Ph.D., DD, ND, SMFT, President, Good Shepherd Companions (US), Bishop Ordinary, Licensed Psychologist, Supervisor/Licensed MFT

Throughout history women are redacted from the story.  The narrative of our grief is still unripe. The green acorn still waits to fruit.  The new song still hammers in the dark in search of the music for our time.  It takes prophets living on the edge to listen for the song, to call us forth, to proclaim the will of God and hold us to account.  

      Forbidden Grace is a compelling story of just such a prophet. Rev. Shanon Sterringer writes honestly of her story with its struggles, its messiness, its crests and troughs, with the mystic and prophet Hildegard of Bingen as the wind that carries her.  The juxtaposition of the two words in the title is a paradox of our time and it takes a brave woman to carry that.  I was captivated by her journey. 

     Learning to consciously live in the light which is sometimes bewilderingly dark (how else can one see the stars?) Shanon reminds us of the lone falcon ‘turning and turning in the widening gyre.’  As the poet, WB Yeats continues, ‘Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold’  

     What Shanon knows – it is in the ‘fall apart’ comes the song of a new way, as it is the invisible sap running in the veins that ripens the fruit . . . what Hildegard called veriditas, that brings humanity to its fullness.  Even as the hammer pounds, the prophet in Shanon sings us forth. For what is this song if not hope?

Reincarnation? We cannot know these things. However, for those who are open we do know Spirit abides us. And for us Hildegardians we know Hildegard is speaking today. 

     --COLLEEN KEATING, Poet and author of Hildegard of Bingen: A Poetic Journey


“Forbidden Grace” is a beautiful and spiritual masterpiece, depicting Reverend Dr. Shanon Sterringer’s journey from lay sacristan in her home parish of St. Anthony of Padua’s in Fairport Harbor to answering the call to become a female priest. Through sheer determination at the spiritual risk of excommunication, Sterringer searches for spiritual meaning in her life and establishes her own Catholic parish a few blocks away at The Hildegard Haus. 

     Reverend Sterringer, an expert in all things Saint Hildegard of Bingen, not only demonstrates her clear emotion and devotion to the twelfth-century German mystic, but uncannily reveals how similar their lives were, as they each shattered their own glass ceilings. Compellingly honest, gut-wrenching, sad yet uplifting, we revel in the story that in the end, is ultimately triumphant. It’s an inspiring story of faith that will stay with you long after you’re turned the last page." 

     --DAVID DUPUIS, award winning author of The Seven Keys of Hildegard

 

Forbidden Grace is an extraordinary account of the lives of two women separated by 900 years, yet touched by the same divine grace. Sterringer offers readers a front row seat as she examines the synchronicities that connect her faith story to that of Hildegard of Bingen. The thematic treatment of their journeys allows a forward and backward movement like the waves of an incoming tide that allows ideas and events to seep into one’s consciousness. The reader comes away with a deep recognition of the spiritual bond between two women who have both wrestled with God.

    This memoir is a stunning tapestry woven of two parallel lives. Throughout, the author assures us that God’s grace is forbidden to no one despite over 2,000 years of history that has often maintained otherwise. As an ordained woman priest, Rev. Sterringer has joined the ranks of women who refuse to participate in erecting barriers against divine energy. Forbidden Grace encourages us to watch for synchronicities that nudge us to recognize and accept our own callings.    

     -- JOYCE RAY, award-winning author of Feathers & Trumpets, A Story of Hildegard of Bingen

This beautifully written book recounts the compelling spiritual journey of a young woman whose love for God moves her to seek ordination to the priesthood. Autobiography and biography meet as the Rev. Shanon structures the account of her life’s itinerary with parallel episodes from the Life of Hildegard of Bingen. With humility and good humor, Shanon draws us into her candid memoir of call, courage, and commitment, with its blessings, disappointments, and upheavals. Retreat from her goal never surfaces as an option for this strong, courageous woman. Her energy, like her faith, radiates from the pages of this book. Readers will wonder how she keeps going, and they will not want to put the book down until reaching the end. Buoyed by the ever-renewing vitality of the Holy Spirit, Rev. Shanon learns, in Hildegard’s words, “to be carried like a feather on the Breath of God.”

     --BEVERLY KIENZLE, professor emeritus, Harvard Divinity School, author of The Gospel Homilies of Hildegard of Bingen.

This is a fascinating and innovative book weaving a number of different themes into a many-layered tapestry.  The story of the medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen is interwoven with the author’s own journey into the priesthood. The significance of role models who are like you is clearly charted, along with the search for a theology to challenge the dominant culture. Both women’s stories are told in a lively way that will draw readers in and enable them to find their own story in both contemporary culture and in history – or should it be her story?   The author likens both stories to chipping away at a tunnel into a seemingly forbidden cave. This book is a significant addition to the clearing of the rubble that has blocked women’s entry into positions of authority within the Christian church.

     --THE REV. DR JUNE BOYCE-TILLMAN MBE PhD, MA, LRAM, FRSA, FHEA, FISM, Professor Emerita of Applied Music University of Winchester, UK; Extraordinary Professor at North-West University, South Africa

Rev. Dr. Shanon Sterringer's work Forbidden Grace brings to us the remarkable story of Hildegard of Bingen.  Through and with Sterringer, the voice of this ground-breaking Catholic woman leader resounds through to today.  She adeptly shows us that Hildegard walks with us still providing companionship and inspiration especially for women like Sterringer who are breaking ground for Catholic women's leadership today. 

--THERESE KOTURBASH, womenpriests.org

Forbidden Grace: Hildegard von Bingen and A Modern Woman's Call to the Catholic Priesthood

 

Rev. Shanon Sterringer, Ph.D

 

Forbidden Grace: Hildegard von Bingen and A Modern Woman's Call to the Catholic Priesthood is a behind the scenes glimpse over the last twenty-two years as Dr. Sterringer has journeyed through degree programs, formation, ministerial positions, and personal tragedies as she made her way towards ordination to the priesthood. It is a narrative of her successes, failures, challenges, and experiences regarding ecclesial leadership as she recognized and responded to her vocation or call. Today she is pastor of an independent Catholic community based in the charism of St. Hildegard of Bingen.  

          This memoir narrates years of painful and uncomfortable experiences, not from a place of anger or resentment, but from a place of gratitude and love. It is a testament of one woman’s decision to risk everything, including years of deep-rooted relationships and a blossoming career to seek ordination as a priest within the Catholic tradition. Her journey took her to Austria, to be ordained on the banks of the Danube River, where the women priest movement began years earlier. The Roman Catholic Church has prohibited women’s ordination for centuries as a result of deeply rooted patriarchy and has shut-down future discussion of the issue.  Despite this magisterial mandate, God continues to call women to this role, and women continue to respond. The call comes through what some describe as an experience of forbidden grace.

          This book is creative non-fiction and weaves together the stories of two women, Hildegard von Bingen and Shanon of Fairport Harbor, both empowered by Living Light (divine presence) to respond to their vocation.  Their stories are told thematically as they align with one another nine centuries apart and in two different places in the world.  The synchronicities that link the two together cut across the restrains of time and space. This book is a story of hope, perseverance, and faith in a world where true Christian love abides, and authentic discipleship is a response of the heart, uninhibited by social and cultural obstacles. A world where women and men participate equally as ordained ministers serving in persona Christi, carrying light out into the world. 

          Forbidden Grace is the story of the remarkable and unique journey of a medieval German mystic called to sainthood and a modern Roman Catholic woman called to priesthood and the unlikely relationship that developed between the two.  Drawing courage from this spiritual relationship, Sterringer offers an honest explanation for what she experienced as a life-long Roman Catholic woman called to the priesthood and why she chose to walk away from all that was familiar and comfortable to follow her vocation.  

This book is scheduled to be published in Fall 2021.