St. Mary the Virgin Catholic Parish in Arlington, Texas, currently part of the Diocese of Fort Worth, will become part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter within the next few months, the pastor announced at Masses today.
St. Mary’s, which has 400 members, was founded as an Episcopal church, but became part of the Catholic diocese in 1994 under the “Pastoral Provision” which granted limited approval for Episcopal parishes to become Catholic and married Episcopal clergy to be ordained as Catholic priests. St. Mary’s was one of a handful of parishes to enter the Catholic Church under this option.
On January 1, 2012, in response to repeated requests from Anglican clergy and groups seeking to become Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI broadened the opportunity for them to do so by creating the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The ordinariate is equivalent to a diocese, though national in scope. Its communities, while fully Catholic, retain elements of their Anglican heritage and traditions, particularly in the liturgy.
Since January, nearly 20 former Anglican parishes or communities have joined the ordinariate, and 22 former Anglican or Episcopal priests across the United States and Canada been ordained Catholic priests. Six of these priests were ordained by Fort Worth Bishop Kevin Vann in June.
The parish’s transition to the ordinariate has the full support of Bishop Vann, who has been instrumental in the formation of the ordinariate and who oversees the pastoral provision for the Catholic Church in the United States.
Reverend Allan Hawkins, the long-time pastor of St. Mary, shared with parishioners a letter from the head of the ordinariate, Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson, which said in part, “I am very pleased that, thanks to the steady and wise leadership of Bishop Vann and Fr. Hawkins, you have come to the threshold of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. We rejoice that you will soon become part of the Ordinariate, the culmination of the journey commenced in 1994 when your parish was received into the Catholic Church under the Anglican Use.”
Fr. Hawkins has led the parish for 32 years; the transition will occur upon his retirement. St. Mary the Virgin was established in 1961 as St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal mission church, and became a full parish in 1969. In 1986, under the direction of Fr. Hawkins, the parish was renamed St. Mary the Virgin. In 1994, it became the first Episcopal parish in the United States to transfer corporately into the Catholic Church, and to retain its property in the transition. That same year, Fr. Hawkins was ordained a Catholic priest.
The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is based in Houston, Texas. Its principal church is Our Lady of Walsingham, a former pastoral provision parish in Houston. Ordinariate communities are located across the United States and Canada, including Florida, where 140 parishioners at the former Anglican Cathedral of the Incarnation in Orlando, Florida, were received into the Catholic Church today as part of the ordinariate.