My Friend Judy Moore

Recently I lost another friend. She was Judy Moore. Reverend Judy Moore, an Episcopal priest whose final years were spent ministering in Albuquerque, NM. My friendship with Judy goes way way back to 1951 when we first met in second grade at James A. Garfield School in Willoughby Hills, Ohio.

Judy was new to the school. Our teacher, Mrs. Toth, asked Jolie and me if we would show Judy “the ropes,” that is, introduce her to the other kids, take her to lunch and recess, and make sure she got on the right bus at dismissal. We did. And before long, Judy and I were best friends.

Like most little girls, Judy and I dreamed about what we would be when we grew up… (photo by Olia Danilevich – Pexels)

We had many things in common. We both loved school, we both liked to read, and we both had two brothers and one sister. In fact, her brothers, like mine, were named Johnny and Pauly! We soon learned we had differences too. For one thing, I was Catholic (a rarity at our school) and she was Protestant. At that time I had not yet learned the fine distinctions between mainstream Protestantism and the Episcopal church. In my second-grade brain, if you were Christian but not Catholic, you were Protestant. Simple.

Back then we were not allowed to go to each other’s church, except maybe for a funeral or wedding. But we soon learned we shared some religious practices—like prayer. I recall one summer staying overnight at her house. When it came time for bed, she announced, “I always say my prayers before I go to bed.” I was delighted and said, “I say my prayers too.” She added, “I like to say mine by the window where I can see the moon and stars.” I confessed that I mostly knelt beside my bed, but I liked her idea. Soon the two of us were kneeling side by side by the open window, talking to God.

A few years later, Judy told me she wished she could be a priest. It surprised me that she called her minister “priest” just as we Catholics called ours. As for my becoming a priest, the thought never crossed my mind. Only men were priests in both of our churches. Judy said that after their Sunday service when the church was almost empty, she would sometimes sneak into the pulpit and pretend she was giving a sermon. But back then, we pretty much assumed that neither of us would ever be preaching from a pulpit. (We were both wrong.)

In sixth grade, our parish, St. Felicitas, opened a new school. My parents said I was now going to this school. I was heart-broken—mostly because that meant leaving all my friends at Garfield—especially Judy. Throughout high school, we continued to keep in touch, but once I graduated and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame, we had no contact for years. Judy went on to receive a Masters of Arts in Theater from Kent State. Then, in the early 1980s, I heard a rumor that she was studying to be a priest. We connected again, and I was privileged to attend her first Mass at Grace Episcopal Church in Willoughby in 1986.

My GIRLFRIEND Judy was a priest!

What do I remember most from that incredible event? I remember seeing Judy, fully vested, presiding at the altar. I remember her pronouncing the words of consecration in language very similar to the language our priests used. Before communion, I remember their Bishop explaining what this sacrament meant to them and then inviting us to receive communion if we so desired. One of the “peak experiences” of my life was receiving the host from Judy’s hand.

I was serving as novice director during this time. One evening I invited Reverend Judy over for supper to share with us the story of her discernment to the priesthood as well as some of the joys and challenges of being a priest—especially a woman priest—in her church. That sharing was rich and inspiring.

Reverend Judith Ann Moore

In her obituary, Judy was praised for her “lifelong calling to be a minister in her beloved Episcopal church.” She had great skills as a teacher and director, and her “love for storytelling made her sermons come alive.” She also possessed a gift “for celebrating others’ joys and supporting them in their troubles.” Judy’s many gifts were already in her—in “seed form”—when we two little girls met in second grade so many years ago. Over the years those gifts grew and flourished as she poured herself out in loving service as a priest. How blessed I am to have had Judy as my friend.

For reflection:

Did anything stand out for you in this reflection?

Do you have (or did you have) a good friend who has had a significant impact on your life?

This essay reflects some of the changes in the church over the past 70 years. What are some of the changes in your church that you have witnessed during your lifetime? Which ones do you welcome? Which do you resist?

Our song today is “Friends” written in 1983 by Michael W. Smith and his wife Deborah. Smith said he wrote this song for a good friend who was moving away. Whether you are missing a friend who has moved away or whether you are experiencing the loss of a friend through death, perhaps this song might give you comfort…

As usual, I welcome your comments below. Your words enrich my blog!


  1. Joanne Bennardo on August 7, 2023 at 7:58 am

    Dear Sister Melannie,
    Thank you for a beautiful reflection on the bond of friendship, and may I offer my condolences to you at this time of loss.
    As we age, our losses certainly build, yet I am always surprised how with time our good and loving God miraculously and gently lays grace and gratitude in that void.
    Feel my hug. Joanne

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2023 at 9:33 am

      Joanne, Thank you for your words (and hug). I especially liked “with time our good and loving God miraculously lays GRACE and GRATUTUDE in that void.” That’s been my experience too. Thank you! Melannie

  2. Debbie on August 7, 2023 at 9:31 am

    I’m sorry for your loss. I recently was at the Episcopal Church and when the woman priest consecrated the sacraments I wept with joy. As a lifelong Catholic I had never experienced that. Her homily also struck a cord in me as a woman who could relate to my walk. Such a gift!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2023 at 9:35 am

      Debbie, What a beautiful experience you describe here… your tears and joy… your sense of her homily striking cord “in me as a woman.” Thank you for sharing that experience with us! Melannie

  3. Sherri on August 7, 2023 at 10:53 am

    I had not heard that Michael W Smith song in many years, but it immediately brought back a memory from my high school senior retreat. I recall a large circle of friends hugging each other as we listened (and sang) the song. I, too, have lost some of those classmates and friends over the years. My heart goes out to you as you mourn the passing of your good friend.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2023 at 9:37 am

      Sherri, Yes, songs have a way of transporting us back in time… Glad this song conjured up such fond memories for you. Thanks for sharing! Melannie

  4. Celeste on August 7, 2023 at 11:22 am

    Sister, please accept my sympathy for the loss of your good friend. Friendships lasting a lifetime seem to be rare nowadays. Thank you for sharing this and making me think about the differences in churches and their traditions. I pray that everyone everywhere will work for peace and love.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2023 at 9:39 am

      Celeste, I agree with you that “friendships lasting a lifetime seem to be rare nowadays.” We’re so mobile and so busy, it seems. I know how lucky I am… Thank you. Melannie

  5. Paula on August 7, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friend, Judy. What a blessing friends are in our lives! I miss the friends that I have lost this year but know I will see them again some day.

    One of the changes in the church I have seen is the change from altar boys to altar servers which allowed girls to serve. The change happened when I was an adult so I could not serve. I am able to serve as a Eucharistic minister and feel blessed every time I serve.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2023 at 9:43 am

      Paula, Thank you for pointing out these two changes in our Catholic Church: opening serving at the altar to girls (in most U.S. dioceses and parishes) and the welcoming of lay men and women to become Eucharistic ministers. I, for one, welcomed these changes. And I’m glad to hear how “blessed” you feel every time you serve! Melannie

  6. John E Hopkins on August 8, 2023 at 7:16 am

    Thank you, Sr. Melannie, for introducing us to Judy in such a heart-felt way. In a very real sense you brought her back to life. Now I so much want to meet her! The image of the two small girls kneeling at an open window, saying their prayers to the moon and stars, will stay with me forever. Just beautiful! You have my deepest condolences.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2023 at 9:44 am

      John, Thank you for responding so tenderly to this tribute to Judy. Writing it made me re-appreciate how lucky I was to know her all these years. Thank you! Melannie

  7. Rose on August 8, 2023 at 9:19 am

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Melannie. But you have written such a beautiful tribute to your friend. I’m sure Judy is smiling at you right now. And that song! In my mind’s eye, I can still see the Clown Ministry performing that song on the stage at Regina High School. It evokes (literally) a flood of memories. Thank you!

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2023 at 9:48 am

      Rose, As I a said earlier, I love the way an old song can so easily conjure up images from the past. I too have fond memories of the Clown Ministry at Regina High School. What a lovely service they performed for all those years–for the school community and beyond… Thanks for share that! Melannie

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