WOMEN

Amid Priest Shortage, Vatican Gives Nun Permission To Conduct Catholic Wedding

With one wedding under her belt, Sister Pierrette Thiffault says she's ready to give it another go.

08/04/2017 11:49 EDT
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Catholic weddings are typically presided over by a priest.

With no men around to do the job, a nun recently stepped in to officiate at a Catholic wedding in Canada.

Sister Pierrette Thiffault performed the wedding on July 22 in Lorrainville, Quebec, after her local bishop obtained the permission of the Vatican, according to America magazine.

Thiffault is a member of the Sisters of Providence, a religious congregation of women. She’s worked in pastoral ministry for years, and has taught Catholic doctrine to students. She’s reportedly known the groom, identified as David, since he was in high school. 

It was Thiffault’s first time conducting a Catholic marriage, La Stampa reported.

“It was a new experience for me,” Thiffault told the Catholic News Service. “It was good for the diocese. It was also an experiment for the Catholic Church.”

The Quebec diocese of Rouyn-Noranda is currently experiencing a shortage of priests. Sixteen priests serve 35 parishes spread out over nearly 9,300 square miles.

It’s unusual, but not particularly revolutionary, for women to be able to step in to perform Catholic weddings. Although church doctrine still teaches that only men can preside over the Eucharist, Catholics believe that the ministers performing the wedding are actually the bride and groom themselves. During the wedding ceremony, the priest merely acts as a witness.

As a result, Catholic canon laws allow for a layperson to officiate when a bishop, priest or deacon isn’t available ― as long as that substitute has the permission of the Vatican. Thiffault got her green light in May.  

Thiffault told America magazine that she’d be willing to have a second round. 

“I imagine the authorization will not be given only for one marriage,” she said. “If I can help, I will accept.”

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