Need for unity drew Father Jonathan Duncan to Rome

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

Correspondent

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Father Jonathan Duncan, pastoral administrator of St. John Vianney Ordinariate Community, is the newest priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. A former Episcopalian priest, he was ordained March 29.

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Fr. Duncan offers a priestly blessing to his wife, Elizabeth. With them are their two-year-old son Alexander (right), five-year-old Bennett, and three-month-old baby Lucy (being held by Elizabeth).

After years of prayerful discernment, Jonathan Duncan, 31, former rector of Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Cleburne, was received into the Catholic Church on All Saints Day 2013. It’s a decision that’s brought him peace and a renewed sense of mission. Within five months, he would be ordained a Catholic priest on March 29.

But his five and a half-year-old son, Bennett, viewed the change in Sunday morning routine a little differently.

“He missed the beautiful, Gothic familiarity of Holy Comforter and wanted to know why we were going to church in a school cafeteria,” confessed the newly-ordained Father Duncan, who now serves as parochial administrator for St. John Vianney — a Roman Catholic mission church of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Worshippers meet inside Marti Elementary School in Cleburne — a setting young Bennett is beginning to like.

“After I explained we were leaving one church and joining a new church, he just gave me an odd look and, like any typical five-year-old, said ‘OK,’” the dad remembered. “My wife, Elizabeth, and other family members were certainly supportive about my decision.”

Born the son of an Assembly of God pastor, the West Memphis, Arkansas native gravitated to the Episcopal Church as a teenager. Almost as soon as he was baptized and confirmed, the new Anglican began considering a call to the priesthood.

After earning a master of divinity from the Nashotah House Theological Seminary, Fr. Duncan was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2008 and began working with youth and young adult ministry at St. Alban Episcopal Church in Arlington. Holy Comforter welcomed the young husband and father as its new pastor in November 2010. The Duncans are also parents to two-year-old Alexander and three-month-old Lucy.

His journey toward Catholicism began when he was invited to join a young clergy study group. During the meetings, participants discussed documents related to the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission — an ecumenical organization that tries to find common ground between the two faiths.

“For me, coming into the Church had to do with recognizing the absolute necessity of union with the See of Peter and realizing the authority the Magisterium offers is not a burden, but a gift,” Fr. Duncan explained.

As Holy Comforter’s rector, he led members of the congregation in studying a commission document entitled, “The Gift of Authority.”

“This study led me, and others, to a deeper understanding and appreciation of Papal Ministry as a true gift from Jesus Christ for strengthening the brethren,” he added. “This gift means, for me, a strengthening in worship, in mission, and most of all in teaching.”

Following the lead of other former Anglicans, Fr. Duncan and some members of his flock decided to join the Catholic Church in 2013 and become part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. A year earlier, Pope Benedict XVI established the Ordinariate for those groups of Anglicans in the United States and Canada who seek full communion with the Catholic Church. This is the second Ordinariate created after the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was established in January 2011 for England and Wales. In June 2012, the Personal Ordinariate of the Southern Cross was formed for former Anglicans living in Australia.

“It was a wise and pastoral solution to help bring people into the Church en masse,” Fr. Duncan said, referring to the new canonical structure. “It allows Anglicans, Lutherans, and others to join the Catholic Church without denying the culture and traditions they developed in their former churches.”

The decision to leave the Episcopal Church was a struggle, Fr. Duncan admitted, but some members of his congregation followed him to the Catholic Church.

Tex-Ann Quimby now worships at St. John Vianney Parish and will be received into the Catholic Church this Easter. She credits Fr. Duncan for guiding her through the process.

“I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and decided this is where I have to go,” she said. “You find the truth.”

Fr. Duncan’s March 29 ordination to the Catholic priesthood was a first-time experience for the convert.

“He’s one of the sweetest, smartest people I’ve every met,” Quimby added. “He has an aura of godliness and exudes love.”

Thanks to their pastor’s outgoing personality and preaching ability — as well as traffic from the new Hwy. 121 Chisholm Trail Pkwy. — St. John Vianney parishioners expect their small congregation of 75 to 100 members to increase.

“I think this ordination is preparing us to grow,” Quimby said.

One of Fr. Duncan’s spiritual mentors, Father Timothy Perkins, called his friend’s ordination, “a joyful homecoming.” The former Anglican priest is now parochial administrator at St. Mary the Virgin Parish in Arlington.

“I’m excited about the many gifts Jonathan brings to ministry. I know him to be diligent both in prayer and research,” he enthused. “His gentleness of spirit is accompanied by clarity of thought so that he is able to teach effectively and preach the Gospel faithfully.”

Fr. Duncan is a young man, and the Church can expect many years of pastoral service from him Fr. Perkins said, adding, “I am confident many will be blessed by his ministry both in the Ordinariate and in the Diocese of Fort Worth.”

See Also

Former Episcopalian priest Father Jonathan Duncan completes his journey to the Catholic priesthood

Fr.-Duncan-w-Bp-Olson-BUTTON.jpgDuring a spirit-charged ceremony that expressed Christian unity, former Anglican rector Jonathan Duncan was ordained a Catholic priest for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter by Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson.

Fr.-Duncan-Portrait-BUTTON.jpgAfter years of prayerful discernment, Jonathan Duncan, 31, former rector of Holy Comfort Episcopal Church in Cleburne, was received into the Catholic Church on All Saints Day 2013. It’s a decision that’s brought him peace and a renewed sense of mission. Within five months, he would be ordained a Catholic priest on March 29.

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