Member Stories

Kristina Bak

“I cried through my first Mass with the Eugene Sophia Christi community. From the moment Toni Tortorilla began her processional into the chapel, I felt I had come home to the Church I’d dreamed of through years of alienation. At Saint Anne’s in Seattle I’d been baptized at age thirty into a Catholic Church passionate with the promises of Vatican II and the inclusive social justice encouraged by our beloved Archbishop Hunthausen. I was offered a spiritual Mystery to embrace and explore. Later in that decade I was radically challenged to examine my attitudes toward race, materialism, and the status quo by Father Ted Kennedy, Dame “Mum Shirl” Smith, and the Redfern Catholic community in Sydney, Australia. All along the way I was guided by hard working, deep thinking, prayerful nuns, the first of whom I met in Seattle explained her role to me as “sort of a lady priest.” As a convert, that was the Catholicism I knew and loved for a decade before it all slipped away through my own geographical relocation and changing attitudes in the Vatican. Now when I make the long drive over the mountains from Central Oregon to Eugene for Mass, I feel again the heartbeat of a living Church.”

Carol Zolkoske

“Everyone in my family knows where I will be each 2nd Sunday of the month. I will be in Eugene for the Sophia Christi Catholic Community Mass. This has been a special time for me since Sophia Christi was established in 2007. I drive, in all sorts of weather, almost 60 miles one way in order to attend. What, you may ask, is worth all that trouble? Do I go because it’s an obligation, because all my friends and family are there, or because I like to drive? The answer is no. This is the short list of the many reasons. I go to participate in a Spirit-filled mass and to listen to faith filled homilies that make sense for my life. I attend because Sophia Christi is inclusive. The members are kind and caring people from all walks of life. Strangers are made to feel welcome. The choir and accompanying piano have energy and enthusiasm. I enjoy the delicious potluck afterwards where there is much laughter and visiting. Much has changed in my lifetime in the area of social justice, for which I am grateful, but what I am most grateful for is the opportunity to attend Catholic Mass with a kind and compassionate woman priest.”

Danielle Bastien

“I was drawn to Sophia Christi because of the way the community lives out the value of inclusion. Language in the liturgy reflects the worth of each person and that God is both feminine and masculine and not always personified. The Eucharistic table is always open and welcome to all people, no conditions. In addition, I appreciate that the community is rooted in social justice and is working to create change, and all of this is done with a grounding in the radical messages of the Bible and Catholic Social Teaching. Community members are welcoming, and I connect well with Toni’s pastoral presence which is both passionate and gentle, wise and humble. I continue to be a part of the Sophia Christi community because I am inspired by the values, way of being, and people that are a part of this community.”

Judith Manning

“I belong to a Catholic parish that’s known for being progressive (but not progressive enough to suit me). The priest is OK but gives very intellectual homilies that leave me cold spiritually. I love my parish family, and will continue attending there to be part of that. But I also go to Sophia Christi. Though it’s only once a month, it meets my spiritual needs. Toni’s homilies are always inspiring and moving. Sophia Christi also gives me another parish family to love, which I do.”

Ron and Mike

“Ron was the first to come to Sophia Christi. He was invited by a friend of his and he liked what he saw. Then he invited me and I also liked Sophia Christi. We especially like Toni’s the warm and welcoming attitude. We both like her homilies and her messages in the monthly newsletter. We enjoy the music and the group fellowship. It is a small group and you get to know most everyone. It is a warm and friendly group.”

Rosemary Johnson

“For 87 years I was a second-class citizen in my religion and now I feel resurrected. Being part of Sophia Christi has lead to a deepening of my faith and commitment to progressive Christianity.”