Catholic Cardinal positive about the future of Anglican Ordinariates
By Mary Ann Mueller in Houston
Virtueonline Special Correspondent
HOUSTON, TEXAS---The evening started with the sustained reverberating echo of the bell emanating forth from Our Lady of Walsingham's (OLW) bell tower calling the Catholic Anglican Use congregation to communal Evening Prayer.
A hush fell over the assembling flock. The silence grew more profound as the deepening darkness grew. Each low-pitched resonating sound of the bell eventually turned the jeweled stained glass windows into blackened geometric shapes.
Choir candles were lit on Our Lady of Walsingham's golden reredo, leaving the Eucharistic wicks flameless. Silently, two Catholic saints from the English Reformation struggle, St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher -- both depicted in their distinctive 16th Century English garb -- watch as preparations are made for the recitation of Evening Prayer from the Book of Divine Worship.
Finally, the deep-throated gong of the massive church bell faded, leaving behind a pervasive silence that penetrated the soul and readied it for an evening encounter with God through metered prayer.
The Rev. James Ramsey, OLW's pastor entered from the Gospel side sacristy. He was dressed in a coal black cassock topped with a long flowing white surplice. Around his neck was a wide black tippet, sans any embroidered seminary patches. He doffed his black pom-topped biretta to the Tabernacle, acknowledging the Eucharistic presence of the Lord behind the small locked doors. To the Epistle-side of the Altar, a suspended sacristy candle's tiny flame danced and flickered within a ruby-colored encasement affirming Christ's hidden presence.
The Rite I Anglican Use Evening Prayer was about to commence.
"Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as the incense, "Fr. Ramsey said thus starting an ancient prayer ritual which has tumbled from Anglican lips for centuries. Dropping to his knees, he led his congregation in the Penitential Rite, his voice joined with those of others to form a blended unified voice of joint public confession.
"...we have erred and strayed from Thy ways like lost sheep ... we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts ... we have offended against Thy holy laws ..."
Then all too soon, Evening Prayer was over. The Psalms appointed for the day have been antiphonally recited, the twin lessons for the evening have been heard and the familiar words of the Magnificat, the Nunc Dimittis, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed have all been prayed, perhaps from memory.
Even the Suffrages and General Thanksgiving are known by heart. The various collects are also familiar to the ear save perhaps for the Collect seeking the Lord's favor on the Anglican Heritage in the Catholic Church.
"... Watch over the Anglican heritage within Thy Church, we pray Thee, that, led by Thy guidance and strengthened by Thy Grace, that [Anglican] Use may find such favor in Thy sight that its people may increase both in holiness and number ..."
"Let us bless the Lord," Fr. Ramsey urges.
"Thanks be to God," comes the rich response, followed by Fr. Ramsey's benediction dismissing the people to reassemble in St. Jude Hall where a special visitor is waiting.
When this honored guest is formally introduced to the Anglican Use crowd, he receives an immediate standing ovation. This mysterious person is no stranger to Our Lady of Walsingham and has even celebrated Mass at the church's high Altar, albeit with a deacon whispering cues in his ear. He is a slender man and is dressed simply in the well-tailored black clerical suit of a priest, but the silver chain, which is draped across his chest and is attached to a pectoral cross, hidden in his pocket, belies the fact that he is more than a neighboring cleric.
However, last Wednesday evening this extraordinary individual did not wear the vivid scarlet silk cassock, another visual clue to his identity. There is no denying that the man-of-the-hour is a Cardinal Prince of the Catholic Church and OLW's reigning archbishop -- His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo.
Cardinal DiNardo inherited Our Lady of Walsingham Anglican Use Catholic Church when Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza retired in 2006. OLW has a long history with bishops, archbishops, and now the cardinal of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston stretching back to its very foundation, more than 25 years ago under the episcopal leadership of the late Bishop John Morkovsky.
Because of this rich history, OLW and the two other thriving Anglican Use parishes in Texas, Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio and St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, are perhaps taking a leading visible role in the implementation of the recently proposed and promulgated Anglicanorum Coetibus thus forming the Anglican Ordinariates.
Already William Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has travelled to the United States to personally discuss the implications and implementation of Anglicanorum Coetibus and the resulting Anglican Ordinarites with his brother bishops in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Our Lady of Walsingham is very fortunate to have Cardinal DiNardo as her episcopal Latin Rite leader because the good Cardinal looks with favor upon his Canterbury children, and as their spiritual shepherd is more than willing to help his Anglican Use family make their way safely into the Anglican Ordinariate with as little difficulty, snafus and trepidation as possible.
The Cardinal would not hazard a guess as to when the Anglican Ordinariate would be formally established other than to say that Pope Benedict XVI in the Anglicanorum Coetibus has mandated the Ordinariates, therefore, they will happen in Rome's good timing. He urged abundant patience as Vatican wheels churned out the details.
In fact, the Cardinal hopes that his established warm relationship with OLW will continue even after the Anglican Use parish becomes a formal part of the Anglican Ordinariate. He would like to have a close fraternal bond with the first Ordinary -- whom he hopes is a Catholic bishop and not a Pastoral Provision priest, even one who formerly may have been an Episcopal bishop -- of the new Ordinariate. He would welcome invitations to visit OLW since the church would remain tucked within the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston much like the Vatican is located within the city walls of Rome.
Looking towards the future actuality of an American Ordinariate, Cardinal DiNardo has already joined with Archbishop Josť Gomez of the Archdiocese of San Antonio -- home to Our Lady of the Atonement Anglican Use Catholic Church and OLA Academy -- and Bishop Kevin Vann of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth -- home to St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Use Catholic Church in putting their mitered heads together and forging a way for the three Latin Rite jurisdictions to transfer their Anglican Use parish and school properties to the Anglican Ordinariate when the Vatican-designed ecclesial structure gets up and running.
"Who gets the property?" Cardinal DiNardo asks teasingly tongue-in-cheek, sounding much like an Anglican in so doing.
For the Catholic Archdioceses of Galveston-Houston and San Antonio and Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth the transfer of established Anglican Use properties to the new Ordinariates will be relatively smooth.
However, in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, where there is some notable interest in entire Episcopal parishes converting such as St. Bartholomew's did in 1994, thus becoming St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Use Catholic Church, the smooth transfer of property could be more problematic with The Episcopal Church's on-going property litigations in that diocese.
Although Cardinal DiNardo is very supportive of the Anglican Use personal parish and the fruition of the Anglican Ordinariates, he advises caution in the fleshing out of the skeletal structure put into place by Pope Benedict with the Anglicanorum Coetibus and its accompanying Norms.
He noted that the Anglicanorum Coetibus was not only a work of the Holy See, but more importantly the document was a work of the Holy Spirit seeking unity.
Cardinal DiNardo also sees the Anglican Use parish as an effective Catholic evangelization tool to not only reach out to the spiritual marooned Episcopalians in this country and Anglicans abroad to bring them into the fullness of faith in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church through the See of Peter and to also bring those disenfranchised Catholics who have left the Church and discovered Her again through the beauty and majesty of the Anglican Use liturgy.
However, the Cardinal warned against Anglican Use parishes becoming a select group and failing to enter into the cross pollination of liturgical and spiritual enrichment with the wider Latin Rite Catholic Church. He did note that the Liturgy is celebrated in at least 15 different languages within his archdiocese.
A check with the Galveston-Houston Archdiocesan directory shows that Mass is celebrated in several languages and dialects including but not limited to: English, Spanish, Latin, Chinese, Korean, Polish and Vietnamese. So the Anglican Use Elizabethan English adds a nice complement to the multi-linguistic Archdiocesan liturgical celebrations.
Cardinal DiNardo feels that it would be very prudent if once the Ordinariate gets up and running that the transferring Ordinariate priests continue to receive some monetary assistance from their local Latin Rite dioceses for on-going financial support at least in the terms of health insurance and retirement benefits until the Ordinariate can afford to foot the entire cost of a married priest and his family needs. He explained that in the beginning the Ordinariate will be small with few self-sustaining parishes and would therefore be financially strapped while the Ordinariate will have to immediately be able to support its own Ordinary and his immediate chancellery structure.
"Go slow." Cardinal DiNardo emphasized, reminding his Anglican Use audience several times to be patient as the internal workings of the Ordinariate are developed and put into place, reminding the group that the Anglican Ordinariates are a work in process.
He noted that patience, common sense and good humor will be needed by all as the details of the Ordinariates are developed and hammered into place while imploring the intercession of the Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Walsingham and realizing that eventually things will fall into place.
"Everything can be worked out," the Cardinal explained.
Cardinal DiNardo's positive enthusiasm and passion for his Anglican children was evident. His dark Italian eyes danced as he freely moved away from the podium to personally interact with the members of his audience. He would return frequently to scribble notes to himself about a comment made, a question raised or an insight gleaned from this interchange of thoughts, ideas and concerns with those for whom the Anglican Ordinariate would most impact spiritually.
He readily admitted that there are some American bishops who do not share his favorable impression of the Anglican Use parish structure perhaps borne out of some less-than-positive past experiences with faults falling on both sides.
Noting that the United States already has a long history of Anglican Use personal parishes, he said that he would like to see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops form a commission to help implement an American Anglican Ordinariate; however, due to his own hectic schedule and other episcopal and cardinalate commitments, he would not be able to directly participate on such a commission, but would be willing to lend his personal insights gleaned from having an Anglican Use parish within the confines of his archdiocese.
He said that Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church would serve as a laboratory of how well an Anglican Use Pastoral Provision parish functions in developing a canonical structure.
He has also consulted with former Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande Bishop Jeffery Steenson who is now a Roman Catholic Pastoral Provision priest and is a visiting professor of Patristic Studies at the University of St. Thomas Center for Faith and Culture in Houston and who was in attendance at the Cardinal's presentation. Fr. Steenson is able to clue Cardinal DiNardo in on some the internal canonical workings of The Episcopal Church, which helps the Cardinal better understand the spiritual and temporal needs of his Anglican Use flock.
The Cardinal noted that Texas is unique in all the United States because the state already has three established and thriving Anglican Use personal parishes as well as St. Anselm of Canterbury Anglican Use Catholic Mission in Corpus Christi, thus giving the Lone Star State the largest concentration of Anglican Use groups in the US.
In addition to OLW's co-founding and current pastor Fr. Ramsey, other clergy on hand Wednesday evening with OLW ties were: co-founding pastor the Rev. James Moore; former pastor the Rev. Bruce Noble and his twin brother the Rev. David Noble; and the Diocese of Victoria's the Rev. Wayne Flagg, who was OLW's first priestly vocation.
At least two Anglican Use deacons were in attendance at the meeting including: the Rev. Mr. Michael Noble (no relationship to the Fathers Noble twins) from Corpus Christi's St. Anselm; and the Rev. Mr. James Barnett, OLW's own permanent deacon.
Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) priest the Rev. Lewis Berry, who lives in Texas, was also in attendance last Wednesday night to interact with his Anglican Use brethren. TAC has been most urgent in seeking reunion with the Pope Benedict XVI and the Holy See of Rome.
Quietly remaining in the shadows and observing were: the Rev. Michael Earthman, Cardinal DiNardo's chauffeur and Our Lady of the Atonement Academy's headmaster Ralph Johnston from San Antonio.
Following Cardinal DiNardo's question and answer presentation, he spent another hour intermingling with his flock focusing on each person and making them feel as if they were the only other person in the room.
-----Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline
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