Nun presides at Catholic wedding in Canada01 August 2017 | by Ellen Teague
“It is a beautiful step forward for women in the Church" said Sr Pierrette Thiffault
A nun has presided at a Catholic wedding in Canada with the permission of the local hierarchy and of Rome.
The Vatican authorised Sr Pierrette Thiffault of the Sisters of Providence to officiate at the wedding in a Catholic church at Lorrainville, 400 miles west of Montreal in Canada, on 22 July. The rural diocese of Rouyn-Norand in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region has a shortage of priests.
“I was happy and proud to be able to provide this service for my diocese,” she said afterwards, underlining that the request to preside over the wedding came from her bishop.
A religious sister for 55 years, Sr Pierrette is a pastoral worker in the parish of Moffett, which neighbours Lorrainville, and she had taught catechism to the groom when he was a boy. She received authorisation in a letter dated 23 May 2017 from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, led by Cardinal Robert Sarah. She met the couple on three occasions prior to the ceremony for marriage preparation.
“It is a beautiful step forward for women in the Church" she reflected.
Sr Pierrette reminded the local press she was not ordained and therefore was not able to exercise any priestly function.
The presence of a woman behind the altar - where only the matrimonial liturgy, and not the Mass, took place - is an exception provided for by the Code of Canon Law promulgated in 1983 by Pope St John Paul II. According to Canon 1112: “Where there is a lack of priests and deacons, the diocesan bishop can delegate lay persons to assist at marriages, with the previous favourable vote of the conference of bishops and after he has obtained the permission of the Holy See.”