Pope Benedict XVI has established an ordinariate for Anglican groups and clergy across the United States who wish to become Catholic. This is only the second structure like this in the world. The Pope also has named a Houston professor and former Episcopal bishop, Reverend Jeffrey N. Steenson, to lead the ordinariate.
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - According to the Vatican Press Office (News.va) earlier today the first pontifical act of the New Year is the erection of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter in the Bishops Conference of the United States.
It is very rare for the Vatican to make such announcements on a Sunday. One person linked to the Ordinariate with whom I spoke on Thursday noted that, if such an announcement does come on January 1, it will be quite unusual and indicate the high level of importance they are placing on it.
A rough translation of the Act, which was written in Italian follows:
ERECTION OF THE PERSONAL ORDINARIATE OF THE CHAIR OF SAINT PETER AND THE NAMING OF THE FIRST ORDINARY
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the norms of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, has erected the Personal Ordinariate of The Chair of Saint Peter in the territory of the Episcopal Conference of the United States of America.
At the same time the Holy Father Benedict XVI has appointed the first Ordinary, the Reverend Jeffrey Neil Steenson.
[The press release also contained a brief resume of Fr. Steenson which is included at the end of this article.]
The website is now live at www.usordinariate.org. The Ordinariate is under the protection protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham and will be based at Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church and Shrine in Houston, TX. Press conferences are scheduled for Monday, January 2 with the new Ordinary.
Today's announcement ends a two-year wait by those who have indicated an interest in this special invitation by Pope Benedict XVI to reunion with the Catholic Church while maintaining much of their Anglican Patrimony.
Until this announcement, pre-Ordinariate activities, including the processing of clergy dossiers, took place through the Archdiocese of Washington as Cardinal Donald Wuerl was appointed by the Holy Father as the delegate to oversee this work. He, Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth and Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester were assisted by Reverend Scott Hurd, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington (and a former Anglican priest). Fr. Hurd will serve a three-year term as vicar general of the ordinariate. Fr. Steenson has also been heavily involved in the organization of the Ordinariate, particularly in the area of educational formation.
Msgr. Keith Newton, Ordinary for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for England and Wales, released the following statement after hearing of the erection of the Ordinariate and the selection of Fr. Steenson as his counterpart in the U.S.
"Monsignor Keith Newton has enthusiastically welcomed the appointment of the Reverend Dr Jeffrey Steenson as the first Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of The Chair of St Peter, erected today in the United States.
"On hearing the news of the appointment by Pope Benedict XVI, Mgr Newton said, 'Fr Steenson is a warm and compassionate priest with a wealth of experience, and I am delighted by his appointment."
"The appointment of Fr Steenson marks the official establishment of the second Personal Ordinariate for those from the Anglican tradition who wish to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, whilst retaining those elements of Anglican liturgical and spiritual patrimony consonant with Catholic faith and practice. Dr Steenson formerly served as a bishop of the Episcopal Church before being received into the Catholic Church, and ordained under the Pastoral Provision.
"Speaking of the erection of the US Ordinariate, Mgr Newton said, 'The Holy Father's vision for the visible reunion of Anglicans with the Holy See continues apace. As we enter in 2012, we pray that many more will take up Christ's call - ut unum sint - and fulfil the prayer of generations for an Anglicanism united but not absorbed'"
This is truly a historic day for the Catholic Church in America. What was once considered an impossibility by many observers inside and outside of the Church has now become official in America.
While the Pastoral Provision had given opportunities for Anglican clergy and laity to establish Anglican Use parishes and practice since 1980, this was only possible if the local bishop was willing to support and underwrite the process.
Now, clergy and parishes will have a jurisdiction that is specifically tasked with establishing such parishes and societies as well as the formation of priests. The parishes will be fully Catholic, while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage, particularly in the liturgy.
Rocco Palmo, on his blog "Whispers in the Loggia," gives further insight into Fr. Steenson's role as the Ordinary:
"Even as Steenson will be able to exercise the full authority of a bishop among his nationwide flock, the Anglicanorum provisions and Catholic theology preclude the elevation of a married cleric to the episcopacy. As Ordinary -- that is, head of an ecclesial organ "juridically equivalent to a diocese" -- he will have full membership in the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"In addition, any former Anglican bishops ordained to the Catholic priesthood may use the use "the insignia of the episcopal office" after seeking Rome's permission, and are entitled to sit in the episcopal conference with the status of a retired prelate. (To date, one other prior Episcopal hierarch, the now-former Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida, was also ordained a Catholic priest in 2009. The 61 year-old cleric serves in the diocese of St Petersburg.)"
Currently, over 100 former Anglican priests have applied and nearly 1,400 individuals from 22 communities have already indicated a desire to enter the Ordinariate.
On the Ordinariate website, there is also an opportunity to support the work. Fr. Steenson writes, "The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter has been launched in a spirit of apostolic poverty. As we reach out to gather those groups of Anglicans in the United States (and initially for Canada as well) who are seeking to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, we know this is truly a response of faith. We begin with nothing but our faith, and trust that God will provide the necessary resources to accomplish this holy work."
Rev. Jeffrey Neil Steenson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
Carl and Lois Davis Visiting Professor in Patristic Studies, University of St. Thomas/St Mary's Seminary, Houston, TX (2009-). Licensed in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Undergraduate course: THEO 3382 - God, One and Triune (autumn, 2009).
Graduate courses: YHS5304 - Patristics; CG5312 - Patrology (spring, 2010).
Received into the Roman Catholic Church (Advent 2007); ordained deacon (Dec. 13, 2008) and priest (Feb. 21, 2009) under the Pastoral Provision for married Anglican clergy; incardinated in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
Recipient of Louisville Institute Sabbatical Grant for Pastoral Leaders (2008).
Sabbatical study at the Instituto Patristico Augustinianum; in residence at the Pontifical Irish College (2008-2009).
Taught core curriculum course (THE2311 - Western Theological Tradition), in the University of Dallas Rome Program (Spring 2009).
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, Albuquerque, NM (2004-2007); Canon to the Ordinary (2000-2004).
Served on the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops.
Member of the Board of Trustees, Nashotah House Seminary.
Member and Officer of the Board of Directors, The Living Church Foundation.
Member of the Board of Directors, The Anglican Digest.
Rector, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Fort Worth, TX (1989-2000).
Member of the Board of Directors, The Living Church Foundation.
Officer of the Episcopal Synod of America.
Member of the Board of Trustees, Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest.
Member of the Board of Trustees, The University of the South.
Rector, Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA (1985-1989).
Lecturer in Anglican Theology, The Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.
Member of the Steering Committee of the Evangelical and Catholic Mission.
Assistant, All Saints' Church, Wynnewood, PA (1983-1985).
Tutor and Adjunct in Theology, The General Theological Seminary, New York.
Doctoral Studies, University of Oxford (Christ Church) (1979-1983).
Assistant, All Saints' Church, Highfield, Oxford, England.
Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow (1979-1983).
Ordained Anglican Priest by the Bishop of Oxford in Christ Church Cathedral (June 29, 1980).
Sportswriter, The News-Sun, Waukegan, Illinois (1972-1979).
D. Phil. (Theology), University of Oxford, (1979-1983). Thesis: "Basil of Ancyra and the Reception of the Nicene Creed."
M.Div., cum laude, Harvard Divinity School (1976-1978) (New Testament/ patristics).
MA., summa cum laude, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1974-1976) (church history).
B.A., cum laude (history), Trinity College (1970-1974) (history).
Birthdate: April 1, 1952.
Family: married to Debra J. Arnold in 1974; children: Kristina (33), Eric (30), John Mark (24).
Interests: Flying (private, commercial, instrument-rated, ASEL & ASES).
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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