Christopher Seaton on developments at All Saints’, Kooyong, in this month’s New Directions:
The Ordinariate Down Under
As far as we know, my parish of All Saints’ Kooyong in Melbourne will be the first Anglican Church of Australia parish to join the Ordinariate for Anglicans as a group, though I would be delighted to learn of another ACA parish that might beat us to the post! There are also TAC parishes in Queensland and in Western Australia planning to join the Ordinariate, as well as here in Melbourne, when it is inaugurated in Australia in 2011, and there is a possibility of parishes in Sydney and Adelaide. These first Anglicanorum coetibus in Australia will probably be small; groups of forty or fifty people. But our expectations are that once Ordinariate congregations are established and people have an opportunity to see what we look like, numbers will begin to grow steadily.
The game is up
For Australia’s Anglo Catholics with eyes to see, the ‘game over’ sign has been flashing in front of us for quite a few years now. We’ve never had flying bishops in this country. In 2008 there were three orthodox Catholic dioceses in Australia. Today, two of these are vacant because the bishops were forced to relinquish their sees. In Wangaratta there is a new bishop who licenses women priests. Melbourne is one of Australia’s most revisionist dioceses, yet eighteen months ago there were still eight parishes with orthodox incumbents; today there are four.
How have we survived?
I can only speak for myself and my congregation here at Kooyong. In the absence of any better ideas coming from the Holy Ghost, we have been doggedly soldiering-on day by day, striving to remain faithful. For many years now, each Sunday as I make my thanksgiving after the final Mass I have asked the Lord to show me whether it is his will that I be at this same altar next Sunday. Meanwhile, each Mass we survived to celebrate, each child baptised or loving moment spent in prayer before the tabernacle, seems a small but worthwhile victory for the Lord Jesus.
A world changed forever
The day the Apostolic Constitution was announced was for me, like so many others, the day the world changed forever. I had no doubt that I was living in a moment of grace. The Holy Spirit was now indeed speaking clearly to each and every Anglican through the prophetic words of the Pastor of the Nations. The former professor from Bavaria had identified the needs and longings of Anglican Catholics with a precision, generosity and pastoral sensitivity we had never known from our own Anglican prelates. More to the point, Benedict XVI has definitively called the bluff of each and every Anglican Catholic. Do I have an authentic Catholic heart, or just a pick-and–mix approach to some of the pretty Catholic bits and pieces that take my fancy? The day of the simultaneous press conferences in Rome and Westminster, 20th October 2009, I called my friend Bp. Peter Elliott to enlist as a foot soldier in the march towards the Australian Ordinariate. It is our great good fortune here that Bp. Elliott, an assistant bishop in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, was named as Delegate for the Ordinariate by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. To begin preparing for the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution in Melbourne we formed a working group comprising clergy and laity for both the ACA and the TAC under the chairmanship of Bp. David Robarts, Chairman of FiFA. This working group has been meeting monthly since February 2010 and Bp. Elliott asked to attend our meetings. We hope the Ordinariate (at least in Melbourne) will be inaugurated sometime in the middle of 2011.
At All Saints’ Kooyong we have been holding fortnightly meetings since Easter to discuss the implications of Anglicanorum coetibus, share news about progress towards the Ordinariates in Australia and abroad and attempt to answer people’s questions. Recently we have begun to study relevant sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our priests and senior laity have endeavoured to provide all the information we can about joining the Ordinariate as well as the somewhat bleak alternative of attempting to survive within the ACA. Similar programmes are in place in other Anglican Catholic parishes in Melbourne, notably All Saints’ East St Kilda. All Saints’ Kooyong is one of those ‘gathered’ Catholic parishes where a minority of regular worshippers live within the parish boundaries and the majority come from all parts of Melbourne. We are a very cohesive community and the Wardens, Vestry and the committed laity are all hoping to join the Ordinariate. When the first Ordinariate parish is established in Melbourne we will, of course, be joined by friends from the other Catholic parishes and isolated individuals from revisionist parishes in and around Melbourne.
No museum mentality
Accepting the Holy Father’s gracious pastoral initiative in offering the Personal Ordinariates must not be seen as a last resort if Catholic faith and order can no longer by any other means be seen to be maintained within a corner or two of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. We accept the Successor of Peter’s invitation to enter into full communion with him because as Catholics we can do no other if we take our Lord’s prayer at the last Supper seriously. And Pope Joseph Ratzinger, the World’s Parish Priest, wants us to bring our English Hymnals, our birettas, Evensong, and gin after High Mass with us; because he knows the Universal Church has need of us, and will be enriched by our Anglo-Catholic ‘style’ and the unique pastoral relationships and ministry we have developed over the last two centuries. The Pope is not offering us a refugee camp, or a sheltered workshop, nor a dusty museum to fill with our liturgical oddities. If the Ordinariates do not become a springboard for the new evangelization they will have failed.