Out of the Depths

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Out of the Depths

The Story of Ludmila Javorova, Ordained Roman Catholic Priest

Ordained secretly during the Communist regime, Ludmila Javorova rose to the priesthood amidst great danger and actively ministered in the underground Czech church for 20 years. This authorized biography chronicles the life and calling of an extraordinary, pioneering woman.

A vicar-general of a major branch of the Czech church, Javorova was ordained in 1970. She served her faith at a time when involvement with Catholicism was punished with imprisonment and death.

Miriam Therese Winter's portrayal, drawn from interviews with Javorova, portrays the singularity of Javorova's life—from the hardships and privations of her early days to the controversy that her ordination stirred up in later years.

An important antecedent to the movement to ordain woman priests in our times, the testimony of Javorova represents the dawning of a new era. An enlightening and inspiring work, this book signals the promise of a time when women's contributions to the church are accepted and welcomed on even the highest levels.

Reviews and endorsements

"'If we wait for a man to approve this, it will never happen, so we must go ahead without it.' Felix Davidek spoke these urgent words in 1970 before secretly ordaining Ludmila Javorova, his trusted aide and a woman, as a Roman Catholic priest in Czechoslovakia's underground church. Winter, a Medical Mission Sister in the United States, tells Javorova's full story for the first time in this compelling chronicle of the Koinotes, the fellowship that Davidek, in partnership with Javorova, formed in the 1960s while Czechoslovakia was under harsh Communist rule. Winter's account of Koinotes is disjointed and clumsy in places, but its essential facts are so intriguing as to cover even a multitude of literary sins. Though told in Javorova's voice, the story reaches beyond her extraordinary ordination to embrace the man who made it possible: Davidek, the passion-filled priest who was consecrated a bishop in the underground church in 1967. Davidek died in 1988, before the fall of Communism in 1989 and before his protégé's clandestine ordination became widely known. Although she is barred by the Vatican from functioning as a priest, Javorova has emerged as a heroine of the women's ordination movement, particularly in the American Catholic Church. Proponents of the cause will applaud her courage, and even opponents will find it difficult to not be impressed with her spirituality and humility."
Publishers Weekly


"A Medical Mission Sister, Winter . . . writes on Czech-born Ludmila Javorova (b. 1932), a Catholic who ministered to the underground church in Czechoslovakia under communism. During the long, complex process of spiritual survival, Javorova was ordained in December 1970 by a friend of her family, Bishop Felix Davidek (1921-88), himself clandestinely consecrated. A scholar and physician, he served a large hidden network of believers, despite his imprisonments and illnesses, and ordained several unnamed women and some married men. The book combines Winter's own commentary, lengthy texts from her taped interviews with Javorova, and the story of controversial Bishop Davidek. An official Vatican statement in February 2000 declared the ordinations invalid while compassionately recognizing the severe circumstances under which they occurred. The humble Javorova never celebrated mass publicly and accepts official church teaching. This informative personal record of suppression of basic human rights is recommended for academic and public libraries.
Library Journal

Paperback / 272 pages
Dimensions: 5 3/8 x 8 1/4