Recently, I spent a week in Ireland to celebrate my husband’s 60th birthday. One night we found ourselves in a postage stamp of a pub in a tiny town in county Limerick.

Mary had owned and operated this pub for forty years, we’d been told. Nothing outside identified it as a pub, but a small sign with a puffin on it and the word Guinness. We cautiously walked in to find a small bar with four barstools and just behind a partition, a room that was about six feet by six feet with a wee fireplace and wee flat screen TV.

For a while, the only other patron besides us was the local Catholic priest, Father Joe. It seemed very much as if he was in his home. Clearly he spent most of his evenings at Mary’s, having a pint and hanging with the locals. He was quite charming and a great storyteller – seems to be in the Irish DNA. He introduced himself as the parish priest and I wondered if and when I might I tell him of my priesthood. We chatted for twenty minutes or so, but when he mentioned that his priesthood was a second career -he had been a chef somewhere in the U.S. before he got his call- I couldn’t resist revealing to him that I, too, was a second-career priest.

Father Joe was quite opinionated about lots of things. In the course of our conversation, we heard his views on the U.S. election, on the Irish government, the Anglican church in Ireland, his obsession with an Irish TV show called Travellers – which documents a group of Irish gypsies who are involved in all kinds of nefarious business endeavors. “They are rich as Croesus and never get caught since they are itinerant.” But when I said, “I am a priest in the Anglican Episcopal church,” there was the longest pause yet in the flow of conversation. I could see him try to square the information he had about me prior to this revelation with this latest piece of information. There was a curious twinkle in his eye when he said, “You’re the first one I’ve met.” By that he meant you’re the first woman priest. At one point he inquired about my seminary experience. He wanted to know what it takes to be a priest in my church, as if it couldn’t be as legitimate, I wondered? Turns out, he and I went through fairly similar processes.

What makes one a priest? In both his denomination and mine, it is a combination of being called by God, being vetted by parish and diocese, some kind of formation and education, ongoing discernment, and finally the laying on of hands by a bishop, a kind of apostolic succession through the sacrament of ordination. In his church, my priesthood is illegitimate. In his church, my church is illegitimate! I remember once marrying a couple where the brother of the groom who was a Catholic priest threatened not to come to the wedding because it was being presided over by a woman. At the last minute, he did show and afterward asked to have his picture taken with me – he in his habit and I in mine.

Father Joe in Ireland does the same thing I do, marry people, bury people, strive to help people see God acting in their lives, and preside at Christ’s table. He did finally say, “There are many ways to glorify God.” And with that, we had another pint.