Common prayer: Catholics with Anglican heritage celebrate 10th anniversary
FORT WORTH — “Doubly blessed.” That’s how Father Christopher Stainbrook feels 10 years after the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus changed his life.
The decree, issued by Pope Benedict XVI on November 4, 2009, authorized the establishment of Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. At the same time, it allowed them to retain the treasures of Anglican patrimony — liturgical texts, sacred music, and customs of pastoral care.
In 2011, Fr. Stainbrook was vicar of St. Timothy Episcopal Church in Fort Worth when he decided to resign from that post to request admission to Holy Orders within the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Structured like a diocese, the ordinariate encompasses the United States and Canada.
“I’m blessed to be part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and to be stationed here,” said the pastor of St. John Vianney, an ordinariate parish in Cleburne. “We have an exceptionally close relationship with the Diocese of Fort Worth and Bishop Michael Olson, who is extraordinarily helpful and supportive.”
Members of St. John Vianney joined more than 350 parishioners from North Texas’ three other ordinariate congregations, St. Thomas Becket in Fort Worth, St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, and Denison’s St. Michael and All Angels, for a Dec. 7 Mass held in St. Patrick Cathedral to mark the 10th anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus. Bishop Steven J. Lopes, leader of the U.S. Ordinariate, celebrated the Mass using Divine Worship: The Missal — a distinct liturgy derived from the classic books of Anglican religious tradition that is fully Catholic in content and expression. Seven other priests from the ordinariate concelebrated with him.
Bishop Olson served as homilist. Calling the anniversary a “joyful occasion,” the bishop reminded the congregation of the Diocese of Fort Worth’s foundational role in promoting the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Former Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann offered early support, counsel, and steady assistance to North Texas Anglicans interested in joining the Catholic faith. On June 30, 2012, he ordained six former Anglican clergy to the Roman Catholic priesthood in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church. Fr. Stainbrook, Father Charles Hough III, and Father Timothy Perkins returned to Fort Worth to participate in the anniversary Mass.
“It is not an understatement that the experience of the Anglican faithful and Catholic Church in Fort Worth served as an instrumental catalyst for the movement of the Holy Spirit to prompt the Holy See to establish the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter,” Bishop Olson suggested.
Houston, home of the chancery and Our Lady of Walsingham Cathedral, is the head and body of the ordinariate.
“But Fort Worth has its soul,” the bishop added lightheartedly.
Held on the feast day of St. Ambrose, the Mass provided an opportunity to tell the story of the fourth century convert and Bishop of Milan who grappled with discord between the Nicene Catholic Church and the Arians in his community. An eloquent writer and theologian, St. Ambrose had witnessed failed attempts by the local Church to bring about peace through political compromise and church leadership.
“What was required of him was not being right and not being nice, but a true conversion in the truth and the authentic charity that only comes about with God’s grace through Baptism and full communion in the Church,” Bishop Olson explained. “Ambrose converted from thinking about the Church to thinking in communion with the Church.”
A similar journey was traveled by Catholics who have come into full communion corporately through the establishment, formation, and development of the ordinariate.
“It is the blood of Christ alone that transforms and heals the bloody wounds of our past, both our individual history, and our corporate history,” he pointed out. “It is the shared, corporate experience of authentic faith and communion that enables us to review our histories, to examine our consciences — corporate and personal — neither with bitterness nor nostalgia.”
The anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus allows us to better understand the words of St. Ambrose, the homilist said, quoting, “Let your door stand open to receive Christ. Unlock your soul to Him. Offer Him a welcome in your mind and then you will see the riches of simplicity, the treasures of peace, and the joy of grace.”
Any milestone provides a time to look back on what’s been accomplished with gratitude and, at the same time, offers motivation for future progress, Bishop Lopes told the North Texas Catholic. The California native was named bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in late 2015.
“When you think about a project as big and difficult as setting up a new diocese in a territory involving North America, it’s amazing what’s been accomplished in the first 10 years,” he enthused.
Eighty priests currently serve 45 ordinariate parishes in the U.S. and Canada. Approximately 20,000 worshippers attend Sunday Mass. When Lopes was ordained bishop, the ordinariate had no seminarians. Today there are six in formation.
Other Personal Ordinariates are Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.
The ordinariate is still an abstract concept for most people.
“But the more our parishes grow and begin to look and act like Catholic parishes, the more the Catholic community will respond to us as something familiar, as something known, and as brothers and sisters in Christ,” Bishop Lopes said.
North Texas Catholics are more aware of the ordinariate because several parishes flourish in the area.
“Our priests collaborate with the diocesan priests and there is a real sense of common mission,” he continued. “It’s a mission of reaching out and inviting people into the Church.”
Brian Codington was baptized Catholic but left the Church as a teenager before he was confirmed. Reading news stories about the U.S. Ordinariate piqued his curiosity. When he learned an ordinariate faith community, St. Timothy, was meeting at St. Mary the Assumption Church in Fort Worth, the lapsed Catholic attended a Mass.
“I showed up during Lent, enjoyed it, and started taking my wife and son,” said Coddington, who is drawn to the added reverence and tradition of ordinariate liturgies. “The people were inviting and welcomed.”
Renamed in honor of St. Thomas Becket, the parish now meets each Sunday at the Catholic Center for Mass celebrated by its parochial administrator, Father Kenneth Bolin.
“It’s been a nice transition,” added his wife, Sarah, who explored the Methodist and Church of Christ religions before becoming Catholic. “I’ve enjoyed our church family experience, the traditions, and beauty of the services.”
In 1994, St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington was the first Episcopal parish in the world to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, bringing with it congregants, clergy, and property. A pastoral provision, issued by the late Pope John Paul II in 1980, permitted the ordination of married Episcopal clergy to the Catholic priesthood and the retention of certain Anglican traditions.
The parish joined the ordinariate in 2015 and is now led by Father Prentice Dean.
Father Timothy Perkins, the pastor at St. Mary the Virgin from 2013 until 2016, reunited with his former parishioners following the anniversary Mass. Now the ordinariate’s vicar general, he considers the recent canonization of John Henry Newman another cause for celebration. The new saint was an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism, becoming a cardinal and one of the faith’s most noted theologians and philosophers.
“The challenge for us, as the ordinariate matures, is to hold fast to the mission of reaching others who have not yet found full communion in the Catholic faith,” Fr. Perkins observed. “We must draw them into our witness with charity and love so as many persons as possible hear the Good News of unity and peace.”