In some ways the Springfield group is breaking new ground both for the Anglican Use and the new Apostolic Constitution.
REPUBLIC, Missouri (Catholic Online) - When the Vatican recently announced the reception of Anglican communities into the Catholic Church it was a dream come true not only for Anglo-Catholics seeking their own pastoral provision, but also for many Roman Catholics with Anglican backgrounds.
Over the last thirty years there has been a quiet but steady trickle of Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church. In the American province of the worldwide Anglican Communion, “The Episcopal Church,” it began with alterations to the Book of Common Prayer in 1979 and increased with the ordination of female clergy, along with the widespread acceptance of homosexuality.
Springfield Missouri is home to about four Episcopalian parishes and two continuing Anglican parishes. There was one small Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) parish about ten years ago, but it was later disbanded and the chapel sold. That being said, there are currently no Anglican parishes within the city that are interested in entering the emerging Anglican Ordinariates within the Roman Catholic Church.
However, that does not mean Springfield is lacking individuals with Anglican backgrounds who have taken interest in accepting the pope's offer. That being the case, a few pioneering Christians are starting their own prayer group in Springfield, with the intent of eventually forming an Anglican Use parish under the pastoral care of the soon to be Anglican Use ordinary bishop. They've named their group simply “Anglican-Use Catholics of Springfield Missouri.”
They have made their presence known to the Anglican Use Society, and are seeking direction from officials within that organization. They have also made their presence known to the diocesan bishop of the "Anglican Church in America," the provincial affiliate of the TAC. Likewise, they have notified their local Roman Catholic diocesan bishop of their intent.
The group is small but diverse. Shane, the group's coordinator, simply felt a calling. He and his wife are former Evangelicals, turned Episcopalians, who eventually converted to the Roman Catholic Church about ten years ago. After putting up a group page on Facebook, he immediately received the support of over a dozen friends, many of whom live in or near Springfield. The emerging group has received interest from diverse people. One is a former Episcopalian who is without a church home at this time. An active Episcopalian couple has also expressed interest.
The rest of the group consists of Roman Catholics who have become disillusioned with the current vernacular celebration of the contemporary mass, and are now seeking something more traditionally “Catholic” but simultaneously have no interest in the Traditional Latin Mass. The group also has some Baptists who have expressed interest, and even a few Evangelicals from other Protestant traditions.
The initial intent of the group is to gather for prayer. The first prayer meeting, using the Anglican Office, will be held in either January or February of 2010. They hope to meet weekly in Springfield, either in a chapel or else in a public room set aside at a local library. Once established in a regular prayer setting, they hope to grow significantly with God's blessing.
Those within the group who are not currently in the full communion of the Catholic Church will obviously use this time for personal reflection on the prospect of conversion and whether or not that's the right decision for them. All however, are welcome to join in prayer, regardless of where their faith journey eventually leads them.
Already, an Anglican Use Catholic priest in Kansas City has graciously offered to drive one-hundred-sixty miles to celebrate mass with the Springfield group once in a while. The Anglican Use Society has also offered much help in the way of communication and advice.
The group hopes to receive more help as soon as the Anglican Ordinariates are established, and an ordinary bishop is assigned to a region that covers them. In the mean time, the group works in cooperation with others. Roman Catholics continue to receive the sacraments in their diocesan parish until such a time that the Springfield group eventually gets their own priest.
Non-Catholics within the group might continue to go to their respective churches for Sunday services until ready to convert, or else some might consider the Springfield group their “place of worship” for a time. It is hoped that things will work out in such a way that non-Catholics within the group will be received into the Catholic Church together, under the Anglican Use rite, at such a time when the ordinary bishop is established and can provide the needed pastoral provision.
In some ways the Springfield group is breaking new ground both for the Anglican Use and the new Apostolic Constitution. Traditionally, Anglican Use parishes have been created when a group of Episcopalians (Anglicans) decide to convert together, usually with an Episcopalian priest who guides them and is himself ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. The Springfield group is different in the sense that it's starting from scratch, on its own, having no more than a few former Episcopalians to get it started, two of which are already members of their local diocese within the Roman Catholic Church.
The remaining members are both Catholics and non-Catholics who have no Anglican background, but have expressed an interest in the Anglican Use liturgy. What's happening in Springfield demonstrates that one doesn't need to follow the traditional model to start an Anglican Use parish. Where there is a will there is a way. Individuals who desire to have the Anglican Use Liturgy in their area, can work toward attaining it, if they are just willing to meet together, seek God's will, and pray.
Shane Schaetzel is a 4th degree Knight of Columbus and parishioner in the Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau. He resides in Republic Missouri with his wife and two children. Shane works in the medical field and converted to Roman Catholicism in the spring of 2000.
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