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BALTIMORE, MD: Monsignor Steenson gives USCCB update on Ordinariate of St. Peter

BALTIMORE, MD: Monsignor Steenson gives USCCB update on the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
As Ordinary he is participating in Pope Benedict's "work of welcoming" Anglicans into the Catholic Church

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
Nov. 13, 2012

Last November, when Jeffrey Steenson stood on the floor of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB), he was simply a visiting Pastoral Provision Catholic priest incardinated in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, teaching patristics at University of St. Thomas and St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.

What a difference a year makes. He came back to the USCCB to make his first report on the spiritual and temporal progress of the Ordinariate, a unique ecclesial structure he now heads.

Late Monday afternoon, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson returned to the floor of the USCCB as the founding Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, making him a full member of that body of Catholic bishops as he oversees an ecclesial jurisdiction encompassing the entire United States and Canada. He came with a power point program of pictures and accompanying texts to update the entire USCCB membership on how the Ordinariate's establishment and early growth is going.

Last year, the USCCB's Fall General Assembly was presented with the scuffling of the much-hoped-for Anglican Ordinariate. At that time, the promised Ordinariate was still a concept - a work in process - a dream yet to become true.

On Dec. 31, there were no priests, no churches, and no people; in fact, there was no Ordinariate. However, two Ordinariate-bound communities were patiently waiting in the wings along with 67 Episcopal and Anglican priests. Eventually, 35 clergymen made their way through the early initial steps towards Catholic ordination.

As the year ended, the long road towards Catholic ordination still stretched before them. On Jan. 1, the New Year dawned and the American Ordinariate was given its first fragile breath of life. In rapid secession, Fr. Steenson was revealed to be the new Ordinary, the Ordinariate's website was unveiled, an initial news conference was held, Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston was named the principal church, and initial Ordinariate personnel were announced.

The unfolding of the unique Catholic structure became worldwide news. As February got underway, Pope Benedict XVI's vision was more firmly established with the formal Institution of the Ordinariate and the enthronement of its Ordinary. At that point, Fr. Steenson, the former Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande, became a protonotary apostolic monsignor.

The first wave of converting Anglican clergy seeking the Catholic priesthood started to begin their weekly Saturday Seminary classes and slowly the Ordinariate began to take shape. Monsignor Steenson was kept very busy with teaching, overseeing the establishment of the nuts and bolts of the Ordinariate, solving problems which invariably cropped up, and participating in the various liturgical celebrations happening within his far-flung jurisdiction, all while maintaining his responsibilities to his Houston-based family as husband, father and grandfather.

He logged many, many miles all around the United States and Canada. Spring folded into summer and the Ordinariate saw the first wave of new communities join, including St. Michael the Archangel in Philadelphia and its first officially incardinated priest, the Rev. Eric Bergman, a Pastoral Provision priest from the St. Thomas More Anglican Use community in Scranton, PA.

Eventually, the first Ordinariate ordination took place. The Rev. Matthew Venuti in Mobile, AL, became a Catholic priest at the hands of Catholic Archbishop Thomas Rodi. The Monsignor presented a short show and tell via charts and pictures as he proudly revealed the statistics for the Ordinariate. Among the pictures were familiar faces showing some of the new Ordinariate priests and deacons and those who ordained them.

The bishops who helped the Chair of St. Peter's with its first wave of ordinations included: Washington's Daniel Cardinal Wuerl who ordained Rick Kramer, Mark Lewis, and Edward Meeks; Baltimore Archbishop William Lori who ordained Jason Catania, David Reamsnyder, and Anthony Vidal; and St. Augustine Bishop Felipe Estévez who ordained Nicholas Marziani. Several ordinations were uniquely noteworthy. Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde ordained former Charismatic Episcopal Church Bishop Randy Sly into the Catholic priesthood; Des Moines Bishop Richard Pate ordained Chori Seraiah.

The new Catholic priest has five small children. Charleston Bishop Robert Guglielmone ordained Jon David Chalmers who is the husband of the Ordinariate's Chancellor, Dr. Margaret Chalmers; Catholic Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann ordained the "Fort Worth Six" -- Mark Cannaday, Christopher Stainbrook, Timothy Perkins, Joshua Whitfield, Charles Hough III, and his son, Charles Hough. Monsignor Steenson told the USCCB that the twin ordinations of a father and son into the Catholic priesthood make for an interesting historical note. Father Hough-the-Third, the long time Canon to the Ordinarily for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, was now the Ordinariate's Vicar for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations; while his son, Father Hough-the-Fourth was named rector of Our Lady of Walsingham Anglican Use Catholic Church, the principal church of the Ordinariate. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo just recently released Houston's Our Lady of Walsingham to the Ordinariate for the princely sum of $10.

The Texas-based monsignor also travelled to Calgary, Canada, to witness the ordinations of John Wright and Lee Kenyon by Bishop Fred Henry. The latest event, in the continuing string of ordinations, was over the weekend when Belen Gonzalez y Perez was ordained a transitional deacon in New York by Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto of Brooklyn.

The clerical ordinations in the Ordinariate show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Eight are now in the pipeline for ordination while a second wave of Anglican clergy seeking entrance into the American Ordinariate is just starting to form. Currently, there are 23 priests incardinated in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. That number is expected to grow.

"It overwhelms me that 69 men are still interested in exploring the question of vocation to priesthood," Monsignor Steenson told his USCCB comrades, who hinted that some Anglican bishops - former collogues of his in the Episcopal House of Bishops - have privately touched bases with him asking pertinent questions. Beyond that tantalizing hint, the erstwhile Episcopal bishop remained mum, his lips sealed.

Getting the Ordinariate established, up on its feet and running or at least walking fast, is more than just getting a number of Episcopal and Anglican priests ordained into the Catholic Church. There is much written in Anglicanorum Ceotibus and its Complimentary Norms which provide the customary for the Anglican Ordinariate to follow as it develops.

Monsignor Steenson told his fellow USCCB colleagues that it is paramount that the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter's first work is of Christian unity as it is the vehicle to bring the unique elements of the Anglican patrimony to be shared within the wider Roman Catholic Church. One problem, which seemed to crop up early and had to be swiftly addressed, was the creeping use of the traditional Latin Mass within the emerging Ordinariate.

"We've struggle with the question whether the Extraordinary Form [Tridentine Latin Mass] can be used in the Ordinariate communities," the Monsignor explained, even though in 2007 Benedict XVI has issued a motu proprio entitled Summorum Pontificum that allows for any Latin Rite Catholic priest to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass at will. Priests in of the Ordinariate are Catholic Anglican Use clergy of the Latin Rite.

"The Extraordinary Form in not an integral part of the Anglican Patrimony, which has one of its core principles the liturgy be in the vernacular," the former Episcopal bishop explained referencing Article XXIV in the Book of Common Prayer: "Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people Understandeth" which calls for public prayer in the church or the celebration of the Sacraments not to be in a language that is not understood by the people. Therefore Latin is considered a foreign language if the mother tongue is English, even 16th Century Elizabethan English.

In August Monsignor Steenson squelched the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Mass within Ordinariate communities as not in keeping with the full richness of the unique Anglican patrimony that the Ordinariate is bringing into the Catholic Church. He gratefully reports that his pastoral and patriarchal decision on the matter has the support of the Vatican.

"The Ordinariate will grow by using Anglicanorum Coetibus as an instrument of Catholic unity and evangelization," the Ordinary explained. A key element of the Anglican patrimony is the Anglican Use liturgy that relies heavily on the Book of Common Prayer. The current Book of Divine Worship (BDW) used by the Pastoral Provision and Ordinariate groups is being revived to reflect conformity of texts shared with the new 2011 Roman Missal.

The massive BDW was originally complied a decade ago by using elements of the 1928 and 1979 Books of Common Prayer and the 1973 Roman Missal making the Anglican Use prayer book large, cumbersome and heavy.

However the Book of Divine Worship cannot be sold short. It is the bedrock upon which the original Anglican Use liturgy was grounded. It provides for traditional (Rite I) and contemporary (Rite II) versions of Daily Office, the Holy Eucharist, the Propers, the services for Baptism, Matrimony and Burial of the Dead, and the complete Psalter. The plan is that all Rite II options are to be retired and the emerging Anglican Use liturgy be written in the traditional Elizabethan English as in best keeping with the Anglican patrimony.

Should an Ordinariate congregation desire a more contemporary use, the recently released Third Edition of the Roman Missal is to be utilized. The goal in developing a common Anglican Use liturgy is to "strive for substantial unity within the Roman rite while including those liturgical texts proper to the Anglican tradition including the Creed, Gloria, and the Prayer for Humble Access..."

The Anglican Traditions Commission is working on establishing an Anglican Use liturgy for all personal Ordinariates worldwide including the Chair of St. Peter in the United States and Canada; Our Lady of Walsingham in England and Wales; and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia, as well as any other Anglican Ordinariates that might be erected in the future.

This is a daunting task because each locality has its own ethnic flavor and national customs. In Anglicanism each Province has its developed its own distinctive Book of Common Prayer reflecting national concerns and societal needs.

Thus the American BCP is different than the Canadian or the New Zealand, or the one used by the mother Church of England. But by not taking on a "cafeteria approach" in the developing Ordinariate liturgy with the minimizing of options and unifying of liturgical rites, the emerging Anglican Use Sacramentary promotes the respect and integrity for the Anglican patrimony.

"It's a massive project," Monsignor Steenson noted about the work of the Anglican Traditions Commission is doing to create a unified Anglican Use prayer book.

"The cultures of the three Ordinariates - the UK, the US/Canada, and Australia - are somewhat different. The business of trying to come up with one liturgy to unite us all has proven to be a challenging task."

The Anglican Traditions (Anglicanae Traditiones) Commission is a joint task force of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Congregatio pro Doctrina Fidei) and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of Sacraments (Congregatio de Cultu Divino et Disciplina Sacramentorum).

So far new Anglican Use rites for marriage and funerals have been developed. Since the Ordinariate is less than a year old it is operating on a shoestring that the Monsignor said the financial situation was "dire".

The startup expenses of the Ordinariate have been costly with few resources to draw upon. Total income for the first 10 months of existence has been $235,625. There are 35 communities attached to the Ordinariate and another 1,336 individuals who have written seeking personal entrance into the Ordinariate.

Monsignor Steenson also reported to his USCCB colleagues that the Ordinariate's governing statues have been approved which paves the path for the development of a governing council and that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is seeking that their Canadian Ordinariate-bound groups be formed into a deanery which may eventually branch into a separate Canadian Ordinariate.

The Monsignor also noted that on Feb. 2, 2013, in celebration of its first year of existence, the Ordinariate would be hosting an important symposium on the Mission of the Ordinariate, which will bring the newly installed Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to the United States.

This is to be Archbishop Gerhard Müller's first official visit where he is to be joined by Cardinal Wuerl, the Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Ordinariate in the US; and Monsignor Steven Lopes of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who is also the Secretary to the Anglican Traditions Committee. The one-day symposium is to be held at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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