PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The first female priest to be ordained in a breakaway black Catholic Church says the church is a reflection of who she is.

Deacon Rose Vernell, a former nun and school administrator from New Jersey, will be ordained Sunday in Washington by Bishop George A. Stallings Jr., a priest who left the Roman Catholic Church in 1989 in a well-publicized dispute over allegations of racism and sexism.

''This church is a reflection of who I am as an African American Catholic, as opposed to my being in a European church with a white male authority,'' Vernell said.

''For the first time as a Catholic, I can worship in a holistic way. I don't have to be an African American six days a week and worship in a European church on the seventh.''

Vernell, 50, will lead the Imani Temple West Philadelphia and will celebrate her first Mass on Sept. 22.

''It's been a long time coming,'' she told The Philadelphia Inquirer Tuesday. ''It's been the result of a lot of planning and a lot of prayer, and I feel like it's a milestone.''

The Washington Archdiocese said Stallings' departure amounted to self- excommunication. He then founded the African American Catholic Congregation, which claims 3,500 members in six cities, including two temples in Philadelphia. The church combines African and gospel music with traditional elements of Catholic service, backed by an African American vision of religious teachings.

A lifelong Catholic from Asbury Park, N.J., and the widowed mother of two, Vernell became an Oblate Sister of Providence in Baltimore after high school.

She later served in missions in Charlotte, N.C.; Detroit; Buffalo; and St. Paul, Minn.

In 1971, she left the religious order to become a teacher and administrator in a Catholic school in St. Paul. She married a year later, and in 1982, took charge of a Minnesota food bank.

In 1986, she took a post with Catholic Charities, establishing education and day-care programs for female-headed households. She returned to Asbury Park in 1990 and became involved with Stallings' church.

As deacon, she has been leading services at the temple since June, where she has a congregation of about 80 members.