Priests group based in Tiffin

PHOTO BY SETH WEBER Association of U.S. Catholic Priests Executive Secretary Sister Jacquelyn Doepker works in an office at the St. Francis Spirituality Center. The first three months she had the job, she was working from her bedroom.

Tiffin is the base of a national organization fighting for human rights, and its executive secretary can be found at St. Francis Senior Ministries.

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, founded in 2011, promotes change inside and outside the Catholic Church.

“Our concerns are your concerns: good liturgy, social justice, the role of women in our church, immigration policies that reflect Gospel values, the dignity of all human lives, and a church that welcomes all the People of God,” the AUSCP’s website states.

The Rev. Bob Bonnot, chair of the AUSCP Leadership Team, wrote Gov. John Kasich Feb. 13 about ending Ohio’s executions. This stance was adopted formally by AUSCP during a leadership meeting in June 2016, he said.

Kasich recently delayed executions in 2017, but Bonnot asked him to “go a step further” by ending executions, because of the sanctity of human life and because Bonnot said they waste state funds and can lead to innocent people being killed.

One man who almost as wrongfully executed is Darrick Jamison, said AUSCP Executive Secretary Sister Jacquelyn Doepker. Jamison spent 20 years on death row in Ohio, but was released after being found innocent, she said.

Doepker, a Tiffin native and graduate of Calvert High School, joined AUSCP in 2014 when she found out the organization had an executive secretary position available. She looked into the group’s stances on issues such as immigration, climate change and human rights and felt it would be the right fit. 

“I looked at the site and saw they were working on social issues. I wanted to promote and help with that sort of thing,” she said.

AUSCP also pushes for married men to become ordained priests and for allowing women to serve as deacons, which Doepker said she views as important issues within Catholicism.

Doepker’s work includes maintaining the organization’s databases and sending out bulletins. Because the position is located in Tiffin, the city is the current base of AUSCP, Bonnot said.

Doepker works at an office at St. Francis Senior Ministries, which is rented out by AUSCP.

“I started in my bedroom and that lasted about three months,” she said. “It’s a privilege to have it based in Tiffin. A lot of people didn’t know where Tiffin was. It promotes the city as well.”

Doepker’s passion for social justice isn’t a recent occurrence, as she began speaking out against executions in the 1970s. She worked as a teacher in Toledo with people who had severe behavioral issues and was invited to work with a priest in a prison ministry.

“I began to see the connections with these youngsters with troubles who could end up there,” she said. “It opened my eyes to a lot of what was going on.”

She also has been an advocate for undocumented immigrants locally and has joined protests in opposition to local immigrants who have been arrested. She said those who come to the U.S. to work and “are serious about living in the U.S.” should receive sympathy.

“People come here to escape something that is not good in their lives,” Doepker said. “Once you hear their stories, you realize the main things they’re escaping are poverty and violence.”