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Celebrating Women’s History Month honoring West Ohio clergywomen - Part 3

This week we continue celebrating Women's History Month by sharing more journeys of clergywomen serving West Ohio.

Construyendo confianza para traer esperanza a su comunidad
Building trust to bring hope to her community

In 2018, Mary Carmen Padilla and her husband, Leo, were recruited to plant a church for Hispanics in Fremont, Ohio. Shortly afterward, they became licensed local pastors and moved to Ohio to serve a community they knew.

“Before then,” Mary Carmen recalled, “I was ordained by Christian International in 2013 in Monterrey, Mexico. I worked with the bishop of the Oriental Annual Conference as a Volunteers in Mission coordinator and served as lay leader.” 

In Fremont, Mary Carmen and Leo created partnerships with Hayes Memorial United Methodist Church and Living in Faith Together to start Camino de Vida (Way of Life), a Hispanic worshipping community. LIFT is an ecumenical group of seven churches that work collectively in Fremont.

Pastors in the city of 16,000 understood the need for a ministry that served the Spanish-speaking community, but attempts were unsuccessful in moving beyond being a charity. Mary Carmen and Leo were the answer to serving with engagement. Understanding the culture and the language made the difference.

Building trust among the Spanish-speaking community is key. Everywhere she goes, Mary Carmen distributes flyers and talks to everyone she encounters. The flyers are an invitation to English-Spanish classes and a weekly Bible study. While knowing the language is an asset for Mary Carmen, some don’t believe she is from Mexico or a pastor.

She understands the distrust. Ever present is the fear of attracting the border patrol. Mary Carmen keeps her papers on her as she has been advised. About 17% of the county’s population is Spanish speaking. Most are seasonal migrants and full-time residents; some don’t speak English, and others don’t speak Spanish.

Today, Camino de Vida has grown into a strong worshipping community and outreach ministry focused on a demographic that once lacked meaningful engagement.

Mary Carmen remembers people in her father’s church who did not believe in women pastors. “In Mexico, in our conference, more than 90% of the pastors are male,” she said. “Very few females.” That did not stop her from going into ministry. She hopes to fulfill her call by being herself and serving others to transform lives.

Mary Carmen loves seeing the power of the gospel bring transformation: “to be able to see how the Holy Spirit gives gifts to new Christians to become new believers, new leaders and new servants of God.”

For women coming into ministry, she offers wisdom from Galatians 3:28, NRSV, which reads, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Breaking perceptions and becoming a leader called by God

Watching the Rev. Jessica Cavinee in action as a wife and a mother looks so natural. In 2008, at a local charge conference, she knew God called her to be more than the roles she lovingly filled.

After spending many years in youth ministry, Cavinee realized her call to ordained ministry in the summer of 2015. A provisional elder, Cavinee was approved for ordination by the West Ohio Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Prior to leading a two-point charge, Rushsylvania and Zanesfield United Methodist churches, Cavinee led youth ministry. When she began seminary, she broke the molds in which others put her. Cavinee said, “Many people along the way … thought I would not be able to attend seminary or lead because I am a woman, a wife and a mother. It wasn’t just the limitation of my gender but [also] their perception of all the limitations associated with my gender.”

Although there were a few along the way who discounted her call, there were more, men and women, who encouraged Cavinee to listen to and act on God’s call. 

Cavinee loves ministry and watching how God works with and through the familiar and normal. “Serving in ministry,” she said, “allows me to see the extraordinary within the ordinary, each and every day.”

When Cavinee began seminary, she encountered many who challenged her call because she is a woman. She was told that as a wife and a mother, she should be home; otherwise, she was neglecting her family. Cavinee endured comments about her hair, her body language and her leadership abilities. Never caving to the negativity, Cavinee said, “The opinions and biases of others are not my own. I focus on what I know. I am called by God, who equips me for the ministry I am called to do.”

Married to her husband, Blake for nearly 25 years, Cavinee has balanced it all. Her family is proud of her accomplishments. For her children, she is a living example of what one can accomplish by moving beyond the limitations that others set.

For women, wives and mothers who feel a call to ministry, Cavinee said, “Be confident in your call. God has called you. You are unique and wonderful. Celebrate being called, enjoy exploring your call and find joy in being the leader you have been created to be.”

Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist