With only 16 priests serving about 35 parishes scattered over almost 9,300 square miles, the Vatican granted her permission to officiate the wedding in Lorrainville, Quebec.
Sister Thiffault is a Sisters of Providence member. The latter is a religious congregation made up entirely of women. She is an experienced person, having worked in the pastoral ministry for a number of years. She has taught Catholic doctrine. The Sister has known David, the groom, from the time he studied in high school. She told the Catholic News Service, “It was a new experience for me. It was good for the diocese. It was also an experiment for the Catholic Church.”
Permission for the Quebec wedding from the Vatican was sought by Bishop Dorylas Moreau, the bishop of Quebec Diocese of Rouyn-Noranda. Even though the popular story was that Pope Francis is changing the Catholic landscape for the betterment of women, the bishop said this wedding was done as per an old provision of the canon law. This law allows an exception for any lay person to officiate at any wedding in case a bishop, deacon or a priest cannot be found. That layperson is independent of standard church recognized gender. The officiating person could be either a male or a female. Bishop Moreau pointed out this case represents an exceptional situation and not an event which happens on a regular basis.
Although there are only 16 priests to meet the needs for 35 parishes, the diocese has about 75 nuns and zero deacons. An effort is being made to make the situation more normal. Sister Thiffault conducted the wedding on July 22. The church where the wedding was done was near the Moffett parish where Sister Thiffault was a pastoral worker. The couple could not be contacted for an interview.
Sister Thiffault described her involvement as “work of evangelization.” This is as she met the couple a number of times to help them prepare for marriage. She continued on to say that she would not hesitate to officiate again if such a need arises.