WASHINGTON — Anglican parishes in Philadelphia and Indianapolis were received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in early April, and two Anglican bishops in Canada were slated to lead their clergy and congregants into the church later in the month.
The Anglicans are joining the new U.S. Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston, a structure for Anglicans to become Roman Catholics while retaining some of their Anglican heritage and traditions, including liturgical traditions.
The numbers are not large by Catholic parish standards. At St. Michael the Archangel Anglican Parish in Philadelphia, the congregation numbers 25 plus its rector. The St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Use Society in Indianapolis totals 18. In Canada, many parishes have split — sometimes more than once — over doctrinal disputes that have roiled the Anglican Communion in recent years, or abandoned the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada altogether.
The head of the ordinariate, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, is the former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande. A married man with children, he was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M., in 2009, and named to head the ordinariate by Pope Benedict XVI Jan. 1.
The ordinariate, officially inaugurated Feb. 12, is similar to a Catholic diocese, but national in scope. Pope Benedict established the ordinariate Jan. 1 in response to requests by Anglicans seeking to become Catholics.
“We look forward to developing the work of the ordinariate in Philadelphia, in cooperation with Msgr. Steenson and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said an April 3 statement by David Ousley, a former Anglican priest who has been rector of St. Michael the Archangel and is studying to become a Catholic priest. “As with any such transition, it has been a challenging journey. Yet, we already have heard from former Anglicans who are interested in joining us.”
“I think this is precisely what Pope Benedict intended when he created the ordinariate for Anglicans who desire to join the Catholic family that Anglicans originally came from,” Msgr. Steenson said in an April 3 statement. The community was received April 2 into the Catholic Church.
Likewise, the leader of the St. Joseph of Arimathea group in Indianapolis, Luke Reese, a former Anglican priest who is studying for the Roman Catholic priesthood. The group was received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil liturgy April 7 at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.
“We are very grateful to Pope Benedict for giving us this opportunity to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining our Anglican heritage, and to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis which has been very welcoming and kind to our group during this journey,” said Reese in an April 6 statement.
According to an announcement from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, across the U.S. there are nearly 40 Anglican priests studying to be ordained as Roman Catholic priests, and 1,400 Anglican laypeople from 20 communities are seeking to join the church as part of the ordinariate.
In Canada, the first Anglicans to join the ordinariate under the auspices of Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” including Bishops Carl Reid in Ottawa and Peter Wilkinson in Victoria, British Columbia, were to join the Roman Catholic Church April 15.
Other Anglican Catholic Church of Canada congregations and fellowships were expected to follow as soon as April 22. They would become ordinariate parishes-in-waiting in their respective Roman Catholic dioceses, including groups in Montreal; Edmonton, Alberta; Oshawa and Tyendinaga, Ontario; and possibly Vancouver.
Afterward, the Roman Catholic bishops will provide spiritual oversight and priests to celebrate the Anglican Use liturgy for the new Catholics until their own priests are ordained and the parishes can join the American ordinariate.
“We’ve been met with nothing but kindness,” Anglican Bishop Wilkinson told Canadian Catholic News. “Catholic bishops have stepped up to the plate across the country and cared for us.”
Never allowed to officially minister as an Anglican priest in Canada, he said, because he was too “catholic,” Bishop Wilkinson founded the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada in 1977, and Bishop Reid assisted as a layperson in building the new church.
Roman Catholic Bishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, the Canadian capital, described the move as “among the first fruits” of Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution. “While the apostolic constitution left open the possibility of an ordinariate in Canada, this linking of Anglicans in Canada to the United States ordinariate as a deanery attached to it is a good step for now,” he said.
On Jan. 1, Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton, Ontario, received members of an Anglican Catholic Church of Canada group based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.
In addition, an Anglican Church of Canada congregation, St. John the Evangelist, was received into the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, Alberta, last Dec. 18.
Contributing to this story was Deborah Gyapong in Ottawa