Former Anglican priest Father Jonathan Duncan completes path to Catholic priesthood

By Joan Kurkowski-Gillen


April 10, 2014

Bishop Michael Olson lays hands on Jonathan Duncan, ordaining him to the priesthood.

During 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.

The March 29 Ordination Mass was held at St. Mary the Virgin Church in Arlington — the first Episcopalian parish in the United States to enter corporately into full communion with the Catholic Church.

“So many of us began our journey to the Catholic faith in this place,” said Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate who concelebrated the liturgy with Bishop Olson and several priests. “May the Lord bless us in the work the Holy Father has given us to do. (We’re asked) to be an instrument of Christian unity in a world that always seems to be pulling apart at the seams.”

Addressing the congregation inside the historic church, the leader of the Ordinariate thanked Bishop Olson and the Diocese of Fort Worth for their support in welcoming former Anglicans — like Father Duncan — into the Catholic Church. More than 50 former Anglican priests now serve the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

“May it be one of the things that draw people closer to our Lord Jesus Christ,” Msgr. Steenson added.

Established in 2012, the Houston-based Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter oversees lay groups and clergy in the United States and Canada. It is the second of three “diocese-like” structures created worldwide under Pope Benedict’s 2009 Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus which allows Anglicans to become Catholic while maintaining approved parts of their liturgical, spiritual, and pastoral practices. Some of the distinct elements of liturgy considered “gifts to be shared” include the use of Tudor English, components of the older Roman Rite, and prayers stemming from the English Reformation.

Ordained a priest for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth in 2008, Fr. Duncan served as assistant pastor at St. Alban Episcopal Church in Arlington and rector at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Cleburne before announcing his decision to join the Catholic Church in September 2013. He was received into the Catholic faith on All Saints Day and was ordained a deacon on Feb. 14 in San Antonio by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller.

Bishop Olson, who heard Father Duncan’s promise of obedience and anointed his palms with sacred chrism during the Ordination Rite, said it was a privilege to welcome him to the Catholic priesthood.

Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for former Anglicans in the U.S. and Canada, prays over newly-ordained Fr. Duncan, the ordinariate’s newest priest.

“It’s very important that the Ordinariate continues to work for unity as it collaborates closely with the local Church of Fort Worth to spread the Gospel and build the kingdom of God,” the bishop told the North Texas Catholic.

In his homily, Bishop Olson said the call to the presbyteral order is anchored in three things: listening, gratitude, and ministry.

“Never neglect the gift we’ve been given as priests to (represent) the image of Christ, the head and shepherd of the Church, as we govern, teach, and sanctify always, always in service,” he advised.

Priestly ministry must be so Christ-like that the needs of others are put first.

“We are ordained to a ministry of inconvenience and interruptions,” the bishop added. “The Lord speaks to us and we have to listen. Listen to, recognize, and hear his voice that we might follow what He says to us, so compassionately, again and again.”

After the laying on of hands by Bishop Olson, Msgr. Steenson, and local priests from the Ordinariate, Fr. Duncan’s wife, Elizabeth, and his five-year-old son, Bennett, carried a gold-colored chasuble up to the altar. The couple also have a two-year-old son, Alexander, and three-month-old daughter, Lucy.

Father Timothy Perkins, parochial administrator of St. Mary the Virgin, served as the vesting priest who outfitted Fr. Duncan with the symbols of his ministry. Bishop Olson presented the newly ordained priest with a paten and chalice.

Many of the people the 31-year-old priest shepherded at his former Anglican parishes attended the ordination. Some now worship at the Ordinariate community of St. John Vianney in Cleburne where he is parochial administrator.

“We’re here today because Fr. Duncan is our parish priest,” explained Bob Theimer, who converted to Catholicism with his wife, Nancy, several years ago. “Those of us who made the transition think the Ordinariate is wonderful. We started out in the Episcopal Church 15 years ago and kept growing closer and closer to the Catholic Church. So for us, it’s coming home.”

Theimer called his pastor a phenomenal person who knows his Church history.

“He knows his history, the Bible, and is very rooted in Catholic doctrine,” he said.

Fr. Duncan exercises his priestly ministry for the first time by concelebrating his Ordination Mass.

Fr. Duncan is the fourth former Holy Comforter rector to join the Ordinariate. The list includes Father Stephen Jones, the Ordinariate’s Vicar of Clergy Father Charles Hough, III, and retired rector Father Richard McHenry who was received into the Catholic Church during Fr. Duncan’s first post-ordination Mass celebrated March 30 at St. Mary the Virgin.

A musicologist known for his appealing singing voice, Fr. Duncan selected hymns and choral music for his ordination Mass that reflected the beauty of both the Anglican and Catholic traditions. A combined choir from St. Mary the Virgin and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Fort Worth sang compositions written for the Church of England during the offertory and communion. Prelude music featured “Ave Maria” by Franz Biebl and, during the Mass, the “Our Father” was sung in Latin.

Fr. Duncan said he hopes his ministry serves as a conduit that will bring people together.

“I know God used my time as an Anglican for good,” he explained. “It was the Anglican patrimony and truths of the Catholic faith that first drew me to the Episcopal Church, and it is now those same blessings from God that are calling me into union with the See of Peter through the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.”

See Also

Need for unity drew Father Jonathan Duncan to Rome

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.

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.

Published (until 4/10/2114)