Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Monday, January 02, 2012

Welcome Home to the Barque of Peter


Yesterday (1 Jan 2012) Papa Benedetto officially established the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for those groups of Anglicans in the United States who seek to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.  It was created in light of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.  It is the 2nd Personal Ordinariate formed under Anglicanorum coetibus. It was almost a year ago  on 15 January 2011 when the 1st Personal Ordinariate, The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, was established for England & Wales.
Pope Benedict XVI appointed Rev. Jeffrey N. Steenson as the first Ordinary. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1980, he served Episcopal parishes in suburban Philadelphia, Pa. (from 1983), & Fort Worth, Texas (from 1989), before becoming canon to the ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande (New Mexico & far west Texas) (in 2000). In 2004, he was elected bishop of that diocese. Fr. Steenson was educated at Trinity College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Harvard Divinity School & the University of Oxford, where he received a doctor of philosophy degree in 1983.
Fr. Steenson & his wife Debra were received into the Catholic Church in 2007, after 28 years of ministry in the Church of England & the Episcopal Church. Fr. Steenson was ordained for the Catholic priesthood in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2009. He was instrumental in establishing the formation program for Anglican priests applying for the Catholic priesthood as part of the ordinariate. Fr. Steenson teaches patristics (the study of the early church fathers) at the University of St. Thomas & St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, TX.
Like Bishops, the ordinaries are appointed by the pope. The head of an ordinariate has similar responsibilities in canon law to a diocesan bishop & is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. But if he is married, he may not be ordained a bishop That means he cannot ordain priests (a bishop would assist in doing this as needed). He does have permission to wear a pectoral cross & miter, & to carry a crozier.
With the exception of married former Anglican & Episcopal clergy (deacon, priest bishop) who are joining the Catholic Church, the discipline of a celibate clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, will, as a rule, be followed. However, the ordinary “may also petition the Roman Pontiff, as a derogation from canon 277, para 1, for the admission of married men to the order of presbyter on a case by case basis, according to objective criteria approved by the Holy See.” (Anglicanorum coetibus, Article VI). (Notes: a) This means all current Anglican/Episcopal bishops will be ordained as priests, not bishops. If, as in the case of Fr. Steenson, a former bishop is named ordinary down the road & is married he will remain only a priest. b) But somewhere down the road it is likely that the new ordinary will be celebate. From what I read, I assume that he will then be ordained a bishop.)
Our Lady of Walsingham, an Anglican Use Catholic Church in Houston TX is the Principal Church of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
This is really only a 1st step in the journey. Over the next few months the "lay faithful will be engaged in a process of catechetical formation, following the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to prepare them for reception and full communion. The clergy will be enrolled in an intensive program of priestly formation, based at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, that will run concurrent with the spring academic semester. The Ordinariate will need a set of norms to govern its life, and the assistance of the Canon Law Society of America is proving invaluable. Financial resources must be secured, but the prayers, encouragement, and support of so many in the Catholic Church have already been a tremendous blessing." (About the Ordinariate) There will be difficulties as there have been in England, but that is to be expected.
These are exciting times for those of us who are serious about Christian unity. Papa Benedetto is working to bring about true ecumenism & unity. He is doing so by standing up for what the Catholic Church teaches unapologeticly. This new ordinariate is 1 of the fruits of his effort. He knows that this is only a beginning. He knows that full fruition of his efforts will come after he is gone. That doesn't matter. He is simply doing what he must as chief shepherd & allowing it to come to full fruition in God's timing, not his.
It was not surprizing that the 1st ordinariate was named in honor of Mary under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham given the millenial long devotion to her under that title. Nor was the fact that it was placed under the patronage of Blessed Cardinal Newman. The title of the US Ordinariate is a reference to the authority given to St. Peter as the 1st Pope. The chair stands for the teaching authority of the Pope.  Also, that Our Lady of Walsingham was made patron isn't surprizing. (Note, for those who are unaware, every Catholic diocese has a patron saint(s).  Usually the Cathederal is named after that saint.) The coat of arms for the Chair of St. Peter Ordinariate reflects both the name of the ordinariate by the Keys of St. Peter & Our Lady of Walsingham's patronage by the lily that is like the one held by Our Lady of Walsingham.
You can read the official decree here.

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