Fr Jeffrey Steenson: Pastoral Letter

1 02 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the Name of the Lord! The Ordinariate is finally off and running, after much anticipation, work, and prayer. We have many exciting things that are happening, and we want you to be aware of them as we launch this new endeavor. We are going to try to use our website and our Facebook page as our vehicles to keep you informed of current news until our communities and our communication are better organized.

Candidate Formation Weekend

We have just completed a wonderful Formation Weekend in Houston for the priest candidates and their wives for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  With deeply moving contributions from His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the formation faculty of St. Mary’s Seminary, Marcus Grodi of the Coming Home Network, Fr. Paul Lockey (Pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Houston), Fr. Scott Hurd (Vicar General) and Dr. Margaret Chalmers (Chancellor), we have begun to take the first steps in preparing a group of very dedicated men for ordination.

As the Ordinariate was only established this month, this was our first opportunity to come together in mutual discernment and encouragement.  There were many questions asked, and we certainly don’t have all the answers, but we know where to look.  The goal of coming into full communion with the Catholic Church orients us in the right direction, and we are joyfully confident of our future.  I am deeply moved by the courage and the faith of these men and their wives, who are going to be used by God to contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ.

We dealt particularly with the theological foundations for the Ordinariate, very much in line with Pope Benedict’s moving words about the nature of the Ordinariate in his address to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Jan. 27.  He spoke of the importance of distinguishing the Tradition with a capital T from particular traditions by pointing to the groups of faithful coming from Anglicanism, “who wish to join the full communion of the Church, in the unity of the common and essentially divine Tradition, preserving their own distinctive traditions, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral, that are in keeping with the Catholic faith.”  It is indeed a journey to full communion that we are on, but our identity is embraced by the Catholic Church.  “There is, in fact, a spiritual wealth in the various Christian confessions that is the expression of the one faith, a gift to be shared and to be discerned within the Tradition of the Church.”

Installation of the Ordinary

On Feb. 12, Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal DiNardo will help to inaugurate the Ordinariate at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston.  At this mass at 3 p.m., I will be invested liturgically with the responsibility of leading the Ordinariate.  Your prayers and your presence are very welcome!  I have been overwhelmed with the prayers and good wishes of so many in the Catholic Church who have opened their arms and their hearts to us.  And very touching too have been the words of encouragement from other Christians as well who rejoice to see God’s people listening to and following their consciences.

We are now working diligently to lay proper foundations for the Ordinariate, both canonical and civil, and once this has been completed, we expect to be able to receive groups and congregations in the near future. We know that communities have lots of questions regarding the entry into the Ordinariate. There is an information form on the website (www.usordinariate.org) for those who may wish to explore this further – particularly in the “Resources” section of the site.

We are expecting that the Ordinariate will include three categories of corporate membership – parishes, quasi-parishes more commonly known as missions, and smaller groups of people that could be designated public associations of the faithful.  All former Anglicans who are now in full communion with the Catholic Church or who are preparing to be received are eligible to belong to the Ordinariate. We will work carefully with the local Catholic bishop to facilitate this process of discernment for those communities who approach us.

How To Join the Ordinariate

There have been many questions regarding how one joins the Ordinariate. Our founding document, Anglicanorum Coetibus gives us direction regarding membership in the Ordinariate.

AC IX. Both the lay faithful as well as members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, originally part of the Anglican Communion, who wish to enter the Personal Ordinariate, must manifest this desire in writing.

As the document indicates, no one is automatically a member of the Ordinariate. Rather, it is required that anyone who wants to belong to the Ordinariate needs to submit a petition in writing for membership. All membership request letters need to be sent via the US mail so that the Ordinariate has a hard copy record with both names and signatures. We also request that any other documents or lists sent to us electronically need to be in PDF format and sent as attachments. A sample membership letter can be found on our website, as well as the community profile questionnaire and a clergy information form.

Please be patient with us in responding to these requests. We have very limited personnel, and it may take some time before you hear back.  But do not worry!  The Ordinariate will soon be served by a very competent administrator to help manage this very complex process of incardinating clergy and incorporating groups. This will help us in our ability to respond to questions and requests in as timely a manner as possible.

Currently our focus and priority is on the identification and creation of stable Ordinariate communities. However, we are also aware that there are individuals or single families who will want to join the Ordinariate. Assigning individuals to the various local communities is going to take time; we first have to see where our communities are going to be located and get them established before we can begin connecting more isolated individuals/families to our existing communities. This mean that our individuals are going to need to be patient with us as these communities are created. We do not want anyone feeling neglected, however with limited time and resources our priority must be getting our communities established and our clergy ordained before we can turn our attention to our individual members. Nevertheless, we are maintaining a database of everyone who desires to join the Ordinariate to keep track of the names and locations of our members so that we will eventually be able to connect individuals with communities in their geographic area.

Particular Situations

If you are an individual or single family who currently has your letter with an Episcopalian or Anglican Church, we need you to send us a letter stating your intent to join signed by you/and your family (please have your name(s) printed as well so we can legibly read your names). If there is an Ordinariate community within a reasonable distance from you, we may suggest that you join them to do your preparation to come into the Church. If not, we will ask you to attend your local Latin Catholic Church and come into the Church through their RCIA program. Upon accepting your request, we will try to assign you to the care of the closest Ordinariate community, though this may take some time for us to get this organized.

If you are in a local parish RCIA program, after you have joined the Church send us a letter declaring your status as a member of the Catholic Church, and you can be formally enrolled as a member in the Ordinariate.  It is likely that some of our individual members will not be in close proximity to an established Ordinariate community. Therefore we would ask that you worship in your local Latin Catholic parish, but maintain a tie with the Ordinariate parish that is closest to you.

If you are an individual or family that has already joined the Catholic Church but you are of an Anglican background, please send us a letter stating your intent to join signed by you/and your family (please have your name(s) printed as well so we can legibly read your names). We will then send you a letter of acceptance, and assign you to the care of the closest Ordinariate community within a reasonable distance as soon as we are able. If the community is of such a distance that it is not practical to worship with them, we ask that you worship as you can with the community, but that you continue to use your local parish as your primary place of worship.

We know that it is likely that there will be individuals assigned to the care of groups that could be more than a hundred miles away. We suggest that communities keep in touch by online communication such as parish bulletins, being notified of community events, meeting in various places and having morning/evening prayer, etc. As communities develop, we hope that we will be able to have communities in closer proximity to our members. After we are more organized, we may be able to find ways for members who are geographically close to each other to be in touch. Until we have more numerous formal groups, communities and parishes, this is our best solution for meeting the needs individual members.  If you move, let us know your new address.

If you are an Anglican parish that is interested in corporately joining the Ordinariate and you have not already done so, your rector needs to contact Fr. Scott Hurd to begin the process by identifying your parish and filling out a community profile questionnaire.

If you are an Anglican community or group (but not a formal parish) who is considering joining the Ordinariate, and you have not done so already, your members need to individually or as nuclear families submit letters to us regarding your personal intention to join the Ordinariate. The leader of your group (or a designated member if there is no formal leader) needs to contact Fr. Scott Hurd to identify your group and request a community profile questionnaire for your community to complete. If your leader is an Anglican cleric, then he needs to contact Fr. Scott Hurd and get specific information on how to proceed.

If you are a Catholic group of former Anglicans, each person or nuclear family must submit a letter stating your intent to join signed by you/and your family (please have your name(s) printed as well so we can legibly read your names). In addition, your leader needs to send a letter to Fr. Scott Hurd identifying how many members you have in your group that are submitting their names for membership. Also, please let us know if you have a particular Catholic priest who is assisting your or guiding you as a group, and/or if you have a diocesan contact person, along with all his or her contact information.

If you have a group of mixed Latin Catholics and Anglicans, your members also need to send the Ordinariate individual or family letters stating their desire to become a member. Your leader must also fill out a community profile questionnaire, and contact Fr. Scott Hurd regarding how to proceed, if the group or community has not already done so.

If you are a member of a Pastoral Provision parish or community, each person or nuclear family must submit a letter to the Ordinariate stating your intent to join signed by you/and your family (please have your name(s) printed as well so we can legibly read your names).  Membership in the Ordinariate is separate from membership in your parish. Please be aware that decisions about the status of pastoral provision parishes will be made by the local diocesan bishop, in consultation with Fr. Steenson and your community’s leadership.

Finally, if you are a Catholic priest of Anglican background who is currently incardinated and functioning in a Latin diocese, we would like to know who you are, and if you are interested in assisting or having some form of association with the Ordinariate. At this point we are only able to compile a list of names and contact information. However, if groups are forming in your area with no clerical shepherd, and if your local bishop consents, we may ask for your assistance.

Practical Matters

Finally, I want to address the practical matters of creating an Ordinariate. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter has been launched in a spirit of apostolic poverty. We begin with nothing but our faith, and trust that God will provide the necessary resources to accomplish this holy work. Unfortunately, like a diocese, an Ordinariate needs financial support so that we can serve our people. In justice, we need to be able to pay the person who is going to be our administrator, and we are also creating a formation process for our ordination candidates that require expensive technology to support so that it can be accomplished via distance learning. Until we have enough parishes to support our efforts, we must rely on the generosity of individuals to help this work get underway.

Your prayers and your gifts are very much needed and gratefully received. The Ordinariate is recognized as a non-profit tax exempt organization under the umbrella of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and contributions for its work are fully deductible for federal tax purposes. We have Paypal links at the top and bottom of the “Support” page on our website or by mail to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, 7809 Shadyvilla Lane, Houston, TX 77055.

There was a remarkable moment at the Formation Retreat this past weekend in Houston when our Chancellor summed up the mission of the Ordinariate by saying simply, “Our patrimony is people.”  This so beautifully echoes the decree from the Holy See that established the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter just one month ago: our essential work is the salvation of souls.  We are deeply grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for making all of this possible.

May God bless and protect you as you open your hearts to the Holy Spirit’s call!

Yours faithfully in Christ,

Fr. Jeffrey Steenson
Ordinary


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