An Interview with an Ordinary

Very nice interview of Msgr. Steenson and great article by Deborah Gyapong.

Head calls for redoubling of efforts to build and rebuild relationships with confreres still in Anglican Church
By Deborah GyapongFour former Anglican clergy lie prostrate for the Litany of the Saints. Deborah Gyapong / CCN.Four former Anglican clergy lie prostrate for the Litany of the Saints. Deborah Gyapong / CCN.

Ordinariates for former Anglicans must be a bridge to Christian unity and a force for true ecumenism says the head of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

“If the ordinariate is to be anything worthy and worth keeping for the long term, it must be an instrument of Christian unity,” said Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson in a homily Dec. 14 as Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, of Ottawa ordained four former Anglican ministers Catholic priests.

“It’s a remarkable balance we are called to embrace today,” the Houston-based Chair of St. Peter ordinary said. “We believe everything that the Catholic Church teaches and ultimately this requires we have to join the Catholic Church, in saying the life we left was, while holy, and good and praiseworthy and honourable, was incomplete and we needed fullness.”

“But we also can’t be obnoxious converts either,” Msgr. Steenson said.

“We are called to redouble our efforts to build and rebuild our relationships with confreres who have stayed behind in the Anglican Church,” he said. “Because remember, it is Christ’s will that we should be one.”

“The heart and soul of the ordinariate is the conscientious conviction of our members that we must embrace the Petrine ministry in all its fullness,” he said, noting the Second Vatican Council’s text Lumen Gentium says “if in conscience one has come to believe that the Catholic Church has been made necessary by Christ, then one has an absolute obligation to enter it and to remain in communion with it.”

“This is why these four men and their people have made great sacrifices in leaving behind the ecclesial homes that once nurtured them,” he said. “But the Catholic Church asks us also to keep these old relationships alive, for we are to be the first fruits of the harvest of Christian unity.”

The Catholic Church’s theology of orders is oriented to the goals of the unity of faith and the fullness of Christ, he said. “The great Western Schism that brought Christian individualism and private judgment and untold numbers of ecclesial communities, this has certainly affected the way that many Western Christians think of the Church.”

In an interview, Msgr. Steenson called the Petrine Ministry a “non-negotiable.” This is the role of the Successor of Peter, the Pope, as the head of the Church and a sign of unity.

“I don’t mean to be harsh about this,” he said. “Ecumenism has been hurt because neither side has been really been telling the truth to each other, or it’s the elephant in the living room they don’t want to talk about.”

Ecumenical talks must be “clear on what divides us,” he said. “It’s important for Anglicans to understand there are certain things they have embraced in their common life that are simply forever irreconcilables with the Catholic faith.”

The ordination of women and “new teachings on human sexuality” are among them, he said.

Though Msgr. Steenson has the jurisdiction of a bishop, as a married Catholic priest he cannot become one. Therefore, in Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral, the Ottawa archbishop ordained Bryan Kipling Cooper, Douglas Hayman, both of Ottawa, John Hodgins of Toronto and James Tilley of Oshawa to serve as priests in the ordinariate.

“Kipling, Douglas, John and James, my sons, your lives have been ones of commitment and patient witness as your credentials were studied, your competencies honed and your commitment tested,” Prendergast said. “Clearly, your formation and ministry in the Anglican tradition have provided you solid spiritual bedrock on which you have been shaping your lives since you entered into full Communion with the Roman Catholic Church. You are witnesses to Christ and to the truths of Catholic Christianity—often at a cost to yourselves.”

With these ordinations, the POSCP now has 53 clergy, but Msgr. Steenson expects that number to grow to 60 by the summer of 2014. Pope Francis has approved former Anglican clergy in Edmonton and Vancouver and they will be ordained, Msgr. Steenson expects, by Easter. He also hopes to have a priest ordained for the ordinariate in Atlantic Canada next year as well. That will bring priests in the POSCP’s Canadian Deanery of St. John the Baptist to 15, he said. Canada’s Dean, Father Lee Kenyon was unable to attend the ordination due to a recent fall on slippery stairs outside his rectory in Calgary. Msgr. Steenson said the Deanery is set up so that all monies donated in Canada stay in Canada to serve ministry there.

In the first two years, the emphasis has been on clergy formation, but now the ordinariate has clear direction from Rome to put its energy “into building up communities” so it does not become “a simple missionary society for Anglican clergy that want to come serve in the Catholic Church,” Msgr. Steenson said.

“Now we’re going to have to emphasize congregational development and evangelization,” Msgr. Steenson said. “We need to strengthen these parishes and make them attractive places that will function for the purpose they were created, to bring people into full communion.”

Msgr. Steenson estimates about 3500 lay members for the ordinariate, but its communities are already growing.

The POSCP, established Jan. 1, 2012, was the second of three ordinariates that have been established around the world under Pope Benedict’s 2009 Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. The first is the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established Jan. 2011; and the third is the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, established in June, 2012.

In Advent, all three ordinariates began using an approved Divine Worship for Catholics of Anglican patrimony that incorporates the sacral language of the Book of Common Prayer with its “thees” and “thous” and many elements of the English Missal (a translation of the Tridentine Mass into sacral English) that many Anglo-Catholics around the world preferred.

The Catholic Church “has bent over backwards to welcome us,” said Msgr. Steenson. “They have been incredibly accommodating in terms of helping us with the traditions that are important to us.”

Msgr. Steenson sees ordinariates’ Divine Worship as a vehicle for new evangelization as well, especially in its recovery of sacral language, something the Congregation for Divine Worship aimed at in its new translations of Mass texts for the Roman Rite.

“Young people seem to really get it; they really appreciate it,” he said. “You cannot use pedestrian language when you are talking about the great mysteries.”

“At 61, I am in a different generation, but I have been just astonished by young people in North America how interested they are in the recovery of this traditional language,” Msgr. Steenson said. “It creates a space in their souls; it sanctifies a space in their souls.”

“They have to deal with all of this noise and garbage the culture throws at them. It’s important their prayer language is different,” he said.

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