Seeds of the Ordinariate, Part One: Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio
Early Anglican Use Parishes Are Eager to Stand with their New Brothers and Sisters
While we await the announcement of the new Ordinariate for the United States, let's take a look at a couple of the trailblazers who, as a part of the Pastoral Provision, established Anglican Use as a part of the fabric of Catholic life in America. The seeds of the Ordinariate have been planted for a long time.
Our Lady of the Atonement Church Sanctuary
Anglicans becoming Catholic is not new. It has happened often in the years since Henry VIII broke off relations with the See of Peter and took the reins of a "new" jurisdiction. Even former Anglican clergy had been received and ordained into Holy Orders - including Blessed John Cardinal Newman, who is now on his way to canonization.
But with the "pastoral provision," the Holy Father allowed diocesan bishops to establish Anglican Use parishes within their jurisdiction and to ordain former Anglican priests who are married, as Catholic priests. Such dispensations had been granted since the mid-20th Century to Anglican and Lutheran clergy on a case-by-case basis, but the provision set a formal mechanism in place to undertake this work.
Two of the earliest Anglican Use parishes under the provision were in Texas.: Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston and Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio. Recently I had a chance to talk with Fr. Christopher Phillips, pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement, about the early days of Anglican Use.
Fr. Phillips was an Episcopal priest in Rhode Island when he sensed a call to respond to the Pope's invitation through the Pastoral Provision just after it began. Contacting the local Catholic bishop, he was told that this could not happen as the bishop and the bishop of the Episcopal church diocese had an agreement prohibiting the either from taking one another's clergy.
Not too long after that he received a call from a small group of Episcopalians in San Antonio, Texas who asked if he was interested in moving down there and beginning Pastoral Provision parish. The group was even able to scrape together a small salary to support the mission.
Along with his wife and young family, Fr. Phillips moved to San Antonio in January, 1982 and began the process of exploration with the bishop of the Archdiocese. He was ordained in August of 1983 and Our Lady of the Atonement Anglican Use parish was erected.
The parish began meeting in a rented space from a Catholic church in downtown San Antonio. Since most of the group was from the north side of the city, they were always amused to wave at each other on the interstate as they drove down from Mass.
"We were later able to move to the chapel of a convent on the north side," Fr. Phillips commented. "We also were able to find six acres of property and began to think about our own building."
That six acres has now grown to 25 acres with both a church and a K-12 school on the property. Fr. Phillips recently celebrated his 28th year with the parish.
Their building was completed in 1987 with 40 families in attendance. Seven years later, in 1994, Atonement Academy was started with 66 students, fulfilling a dream the parish has had since the first day of their founding in 1983.
From the beginning Atonement Academy was committed to an educational program that was both Catholic and Classical in approach.
Fr. Phillips stated, "Many of the students came from families with no religious background. They were just looking for a good school. Later they, along with their families, began to attend church.
"We are not a selective school. We take everyone who wants to come here. For our parish families, finances will not stand in the way of children receiving a Catholic education. We give away over a quarter of a million dollars in scholarships."
"Spiritual, intellectual and physical all are important components in a well-rounded education," he said. "We even have the three aspects modeled in the building architecture.
"Mass is celebrated every day from the school and it has been that way from the very beginning. Every student must be involved in the choral music program so every child learns to sing properly, all of our kids know how to chant, how to sing in a choir. We have 11 choirs in the school and each one takes their turn in the Mass."
Education is vitally important at Our Lady of the Atonement. It is not seen as an optional activity but as one of the core pillars of their parish mission.
Fr. Phillips explained, "When we look back at the beginnings of the Catholic Church in this country, the council fathers gathered together in Baltimore. They mandated that every parish must have a school and must make it available to all their people.
"In fact, they were forbidden from building a church building until they had built a school building. They were expected to worship in that school building until they could afford to build the church. The school had to come first."
"One of the main apostolates for the ...
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