POPE Benedict XVI established an Ordinariate for the United States on New Year’s Day, almost one year since the creation of the Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham for England and Wales (News, 21 January 2011)
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, based in Houston, Texas, will be led by the former Episcopal Bishop of Rio Grande, Fr Jeffrey Steenson, who became a Roman Catholic in 2007 and was reordained priest in 2009. Fr Steenson (left) will be installed as Ordinary of the US Ordinariate on 19 February at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston.
A statement issued on New Year’s Day by the US Ordinariate said that it had been created “in response to numerous requests”; it said that more than 100 Anglican priests had “already applied to become Catholic priests for the ordinariate, and nearly 1400 individuals from 22 communities are seeking to enter”. It said that two of the communities “already entered the Catholic Church” in the autumn “after a period of preparation”.
Fr Steenson asked for prayer “that we may strive to learn the faith, laws, and culture of the Catholic Church with humility and good cheer. But pray too that we do not forget who we are and where we have come from, for we have been formed in the beautiful and noble Anglican tradition. . .”
The Ordinary of the UK Ordinariate, Mgr Keith Newton, said on Monday: “The Holy Father’s vision for the visible reunion of Anglicans with the Holy See continues apace.”
In a pastoral letter published yesterday, the Bishop of Rio Grande, Dr Michael Vono, said that the announcement that Fr Steenson, his predecessor, would be leading the US Ordinariate “has evoked in some a sense of disillusionment, betrayal, sadness and confusion”.
Dr Vono described the new Ordinariate as “a gracious pastoral gesture from the Vatican to those who, with conviction and personal faith, can neither live nor practise their Christianity comfortably in the household of the Episcopal Church or Anglican Communion”. He said that those who had decided to leave the Episcopal Church for the Ordinariate “go with our blessings, prayers and abiding love”.
Dr Vono continued: “Remain steadfast and faithful to the Gospel as you have received it within this Episcopal-Anglican household of faith. Our future is God’s future, and as Lord of the Church Jesus will bring into being what humanity needs in every age. If you are experiencing a sense of betrayal, sadness, confusion or if you are questioning your faith tradition, I pray that it gives way to trust that ultimately God’s will always prevails, and that, in God’s good time, the Church’s definitive future will be revealed.”