An Episcopal parish since 1842, Mount Calvary Church has been a bastion of orthodox Anglicanism in the Baltimore area. In a strong majority vote, the parish now begins a journey into the Roman Catholic Church as an Anglican Use Parish. Parish rector, Fr. Jason Catania states, "Nonetheless, I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit has guided us to this moment, and that God is leading us forward toward the rebirth and renewal of Mount Calvary. And so once again, I ask that you continue to pray for me and for our entire parish family, as each of you remain in my prayers."
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - On Sunday evening, October 24 Mount Calvary Episcopal Church congregation voted by an overwhelming majority to leave the Episcopal Church and become an Anglican Use parish in the Catholic Church. The decision was not reactionary but came after several years of evaluation, discussion and prayer.
At the beginning of October, I reported on this small Episcopal Congregation in the heart of Baltimore who had begun the process of calling for a vote to leave the Episcopal Church and coming into full communion. This vote is a milestone in the long journey that began three years ago when, during a retreat in October of 2007, the Vestry voted unanimously to explore the possibility of becoming a part of the Catholic Church.
In a letter to the parish immediately following the vote, the Rev. Jason Catania, rector of Mount Calvary Church, wrote, "Needless to say, I welcome this decision of the parish, and I have written to the Bishop of Maryland informing him of my own intention to also enter the Catholic Church and to seek ordination as a Catholic priest. Father Reamsnyder [Editor - The other priest on staff at Mount Calvary] has also written to the bishop stating the same intention.
"As for many of you, this decision of mine was the culmination of much thought and prayer. I have not come to it without a degree of sadness, sadness at what Blessed John Henry Newman described under similar circumstances as the 'parting of friends.'
"I will regret no longer being part of the same ecclesial community with a great many people who are dear to me, clergy as well as laity. That includes the small number of members of the Mount Calvary family who do not feel called to embark on this journey.
"If you are one such person, please know that the clergy and people of Mount Calvary will continue to welcome you and care for you as a brother or sister in Christ. No one is being expelled, no one is being cast out."
During the past three years of discernment for the parish a lot has happened on both sides - their Episcopal/Anglican affiliation as well as Catholic reception. The Episcopal/Anglican world has continued to disintegrate based on the continuing insertion of unorthodox and even heretical influences. Even this month at the Lausanne Conference of World Evangelization, a panel of Anglicans offered their perspective that the Anglican Communion beyond repair.
At the same time, Pope Benedict XVI has opened the arms of the church through the new initiative - the Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution calling for the creation of "personal ordinariates" (essentially non-geographical dioceses) for groups of Anglicans entering the Roman Catholic Church while retaining elements of their tradition.
Now, a two-fold process begins. The church must negotiate its exodus from the Episcopal Diocese, including the issue of property and facilities. At the same time, they will begin a course of action toward full communion.
According to Canons of the Episcopal Church, "All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located." (Canon 7.4)
Some parishes that have left the Episcopal Church have lost all land and church property in the process. Others have been able to purchase the land and buildings. Still others have chosen to seek a legal solution to maintaining their property.
It was just a year ago, in September 2009, that a convent of Episcopal nuns, All Saints Sisters of the Poor, with whom the parish had a very close relationship, was received into the Church.
Not all members of the parish will be a part of the new Catholic congregation. In a press release about the church's actions, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland reported that Of the 45 eligible voters, 28 were present at the meeting and cast written ballots for both resolutions. The ballot for the resolution on leaving the Episcopal Church resulted in 24 yea votes, 2 nay votes and 2 abstentions. The ballot for the resolution on entering the Catholic Church as an Anglican Use parish yielded the same results.
The Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, bishop diocesan of Maryland, said in the release, "I am saddened that members of this small congregation have found a need to leave the Episcopal Church, of which Mount Calvary has been a part since 1842. For those who are leaving I wish God's blessing upon them."
Fr. Catania has handled the situation very carefully, fully aware of the seriousness of their endeavor and the lives affected. In respecting the need for proper due process with regard to their disaffiliation as an Episcopal parish, he is quoted in the press release, saying, "It is the hope of the clergy, vestry, and people of Mount Calvary that this transition can be accomplished with efficiency and with all due sensitivity to all involved.
"We are grateful for those members of the leadership of the Diocese of Maryland who were present to observe the meeting, and we look forward to working with the Diocese as we begin this journey seeking to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit."
As the Associate Editor of Catholic Online, I was especially gratified to see that the parish had included, in its November newsletter, those comments of encouragement printed in Catholic Online as a result of our previous article. Truly, this parish will receive many more prayers and encouraging words in the days ahead.
In his letter from the newsletter, Fr. Catania ends by saying, "In the short term, very little will change in the day-to-day life of the parish. Mass will continue to be celebrated daily, as it has since 1868. Confessions will be heard, the sick will be visited, the poor cared for. But there will come a point, inevitably, when things do change, and the prospect of change is always a little frightening.
"Nonetheless, I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit has guided us to this moment, and that God is leading us forward toward the rebirth and renewal of Mount Calvary. And so once again, I ask that you continue to pray for me and for our entire parish family, as each of you remain in my prayers."
I would encourage our Catholic Online family to join in praying for these pilgrims as they continue their journey toward full communion.
Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
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