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MARYLAND: 10 Episcopal nuns in Archdiocese of Baltimore to join Catholic Church

MARYLAND: 10 Episcopal nuns in Archdiocese of Baltimore to join Catholic Church

By Sotto Voce http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2009/08/10-episcopal-nuns-in-archdiocese-of.html August 27, 2009

After seven years of prayer and discernment, a community of Episcopal nuns and their chaplain will be received into the Roman Catholic Church during a Sept. 3 Mass celebrated by Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien.

The archbishop will welcome 10 sisters from the Society of All Saints' Sisters of the Poor when he administers the sacrament of confirmation and the sisters renew their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the chapel of their Catonsville convent.

Episcopal Father Warren Tanghe will also be received into the church and is discerning the possibility of becoming a Catholic priest.

Mother Christina Christie, superior of the religious community, said the sisters are "very excited" about joining the Catholic Church and have been closely studying the church's teachings for years. Two Episcopal nuns who have decided not to become Catholic will continue to live and minister alongside their soon-to-be Catholic sisters. Members of the community range in age from 59 to 94.

"For us, this is a journey of confirmation," Mother Christina said. "We felt God was leading us in this direction for a long time."

Wearing full habits with black veils and white wimples that cover their heads, the sisters have been a visible beacon of hope in Catonsville for decades.

The American branch of a society founded in England, the All Saints' Sisters of the Poor came to Baltimore in 1872 and have been at their current location since 1917.

In addition to devoting their lives to a rigorous daily prayer regimen, the sisters offer religious retreats, visit people in hospice care and maintain a Scriptorium where they design religious cards to inspire others in the faith.

Throughout their history, the sisters worked with the poor of Baltimore as part of their charism of hospitality. Some of that work has included reaching out to children with special needs and ministering to AIDS patients. Together with Mount Calvary Church, an Episcopal parish in Baltimore, the sisters co-founded a hospice called the Joseph Richey House in 1987.

Orthodoxy and unity were key reasons the sisters were attracted to the Catholic faith. Many of them were troubled by the Episcopal Church's approval of women's ordination, the ordination of a gay bishop and what they regarded as lax stances on moral issues.

"We kept thinking we could help by being a witness for orthodoxy," said Sister Mary Joan Walker, the community's archivist.

Mother Christina said that effort "was not as helpful as we had hoped it would be."

"People who did not know us looked at us as if we were in agreement with what had been going on (in the Episcopal Church)," she said. "By staying put and not doing anything, we were sending a message which was not correct."

Before deciding to enter the Catholic Church, the sisters had explored Episcopal splinter groups and other Christian denominations. Mother Christina noted that the sisters had independently contemplated joining the Catholic Church without the others knowing. When they found out that most of them were considering the same move, they took it as a sign from God and reached out to Archbishop O'Brien.

"This is very much the work of the Holy Spirit," Mother Christina said.

The sisters acknowledged it hasn't been easy leaving the Episcopal Church, for which they expressed great affection. Some of their friends have been hurt by their pending departure, they said.

"Some feel we are abandoning the fight to maintain orthodoxy," said Sister Emily Ann Lindsey. "We're not. We're doing it in another realm right now."

The sisters have spent much of the past year studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council. They said there were few theological stumbling blocks to entering the church, although some had initial difficulty with the concept of papal infallibility.

In addition to worshipping in the Latin rite, the sisters have received permission from the archbishop to attend Mass celebrated in the Anglican-use rite - a liturgy that adapts many of the prayers from the Episcopal tradition. Mother Christina said 10 archdiocesan priests, including Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden, have stepped forward to learn how to celebrate the Anglican-use Mass.

The sisters expressed deep affection for Pope Benedict XVI. The pope exercises an authority that Episcopal leaders do not, they said. The unity that Christ called for can be found in the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope, they said.

"Unity is right in the midst of all this," said Sister Catherine Grace Bowen. "That is the main thrust."

The sisters noted with a laugh that their love for the pope is evident in the name they chose for their recently adopted cat, "Benedict XVII" - a feline friend they lovingly call "His Furyness."


'Diocesan institute' to be formed for Episcopal nuns joining Catholic Church

By George P. Matysek Jr.
Catholic Review
August 27, 2009

When 10 Episcopal nuns in Catonsville join the Roman Catholic Church in September, they hope to form the first "diocesan institute" in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

"A diocesan institute is an institute of religious men or women who take vows and live in community and they are overseen directly by the diocesan bishop," said Dr. Diane Barr, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "They have a special relationship with the bishop."

Diocesan institutes differ from religious communities of "pontifical rite," like Dominicans and other large orders, whose governance model is under the authority of the Congregation for Religious in Rome, Dr. Barr said.

Dr. Barr said the archdiocese is working with the Holy See to help the sisters become a diocesan institute. Discussions are also being held with Vatican officials about whether the sisters will retain their name, "Society of All Saints' Sisters of the Poor."

The sisters will maintain ownership of their 88 acres of property in Catonsville after they enter the church, Dr. Barr said.

Archdiocesan leaders, including Anne Buening, Father Matthew T. Buening, Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Rosalie Murphy, Sister of St. Joseph Constance Gilder and Monsignor Robert J. Jaskot have worked closely with helping the sisters in their discernment. The nuns have undergone an education process similar to those enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

"This is a very sophisticated crowd," Dr. Barr said. "They had done their homework before they got started, so they had good questions."


Fr. Warren Tanghe writes about his conversion


Next Monday, August 31st, my appointment as Chaplain to the All Saints' Sisters of the Poor officially will come to an end. On Tuesday, September 1st, I will retire from the active ministry of The Episcopal Church ('though for procedural reasons my pension probably won't kick in until December).

On Thursday, September 3rd, the Archbishop of Baltimore will receive ten of the twelve Sisters and myself into the (Roman) Catholic Church in the Convent chapel.

I have submitted my renunciation of membership in The Episcopal Church and the exercise of the ordained ministry within it, effective from that date.

I arrived at the decision to return to the communion of the Holy See separately from the Sisters, 'though our paths were intertwined. As I gave a retreat on the marks of the Church ("one, holy, catholic and apostolic") very much along the lines of things Bp. Michael Ramsey had said about the Anglican Way, I could not resist the recognition that they no longer applied to the church of which I was part.

As I spoke at an Anglican-Orthodox conference at St. Vladimir's, I realized that we had let "catholic" become one stream or option within Anglicanism, where the Tractarians argued that whatever its members may have thought it is of its nature catholic - and also that my church had altered or abandoned not a few of the foundation-stones on which this argument was built.

At the GAFCON I was confronted with the reality that the new global Anglicanism is thoroughly Evangelical in its theology and its life, and that while its leaders went out of their way to create a safe place for catholics, we would remain a small oddity well out of its mainstream.

At Lambeth I heard Cardinal Kasper announce that the goal of full communion between the Anglican and Roman communions, the stated goal of our ecumenical discussions, was no longer a realistic option - and then, at the Conference's end, heard the Archbishop of Canterbury assert of the Communion I had thought to be a church, a separated fragment of the one Church, "we need to become more like a church". All of these moved me to conclude that it was only in the Roman communion, and no longer in the Anglican, that I could be the Catholic Anglican I am.

The Sisters' process started with an attempt to become informed about the various different Anglican bodies to which our Associates, retreatants and other friends were decamping, so that we would be better equipped to understand what was going on, and to minister to them. Representatives of most of the substantial Anglican groups, both within and outside the Communion, were invited to speak to the Community. Over time, however, it became clear that none of the Sisters was comfortable within what The Episcopal Church had become: as a result we were seeking to be informed, not simply to minister to others, but to find a place where we might take refuge when the time came. Initially, the Community looked only at "Anglican" options, but none of these seemed to work for us.

So, rather hesitantly, the Sisters invited representatives to speak about the provisions for Anglicans who wished to preserve something of their patrimony made by the (Roman) Catholic and Orthodox Churches. After inviting additional presenters to speak about specific areas, the Sisters unanimously discerned that God is calling the Community to full communion with the (Roman) Catholic Church, and asked to be received. The Archbishop of Baltimore required a further period of instruction and mutual discernment, which led the Sisters to reaffirm their sense of God's calling. And he asked me to continue in my ministry to them as an Episcopal priest until that period came to an end.

Because of the limited capacity of the chapel and the constraints of our ongoing construction, admission to the Mass at which we will be received must be by invitation only. While the date of the Sisters' reception was known a month ago, the Archbishop "embargoed" it until today. I learned that I would be received alongside the ten Sisters only last week.

I ask your prayers as each of us and the Community collectively prepares to enter this new stage in our Christian journey. I wish that circumstances had allowed me to share this news earlier - and indeed that they had allowed me to write personally to each of you.

In Christ and our Lady,
Warren Tanghe

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