The Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Bishop Kieran Conry, has published a Pastoral Letter for Lent 2011 in which he makes the following comments about the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham:
The second thing that is happening is that we are welcoming into our Catholic community groups who have decided to leave the Church of England but wish to remain together as a community themselves. This is in response to a decision taken by Pope Benedict himself and announced in October 2009.
There is undoubtedly some confusion about what all this means, but the first thing to say is that it will affect very few of you. At present only one group in our diocese has announced its intention to take this step, and that group is down in Eastbourne.
What the Pope has set up is a body called the ‘Ordinariate’. It’s a word we don’t often (or ever) hear in church, but what it means is a sort of diocese but without a geographical territory. It has its own ‘Ordinary’ (equivalent of a bishop, and eventually possibly a bishop) and its own priests. In some places they may have their own churches, but in our case they will probably use a local church for Mass.
The most important thing to bear in mind is that they are fully part of the Catholic Church in this country. The members of the Ordinariate will be received into the Church at Easter, alongside others who have taken the more traditional way into our community. Their priests will be ordained at Pentecost and will then begin ministering to their communities.
There are still questions to be resolved, finance being one of them. The Pope has asked us to be generous, and we will do what we can; some of these communities will probably be very much smaller then our parishes, and it will be difficult for them to support their priest (and family in many cases).
I would ask first of all that you pray for all those who are joining our Catholic community at Easter, because that is what Lent was originally, a time of intense preparation on the part of those people called Catechumens and then a time when the rest of the Church associated itself with them in prayer and fasting.
For many it has been a long journey, and it is a time of profound change; they are leaving a place they have been for a long time – usually another church – and coming to a new home, a place that is less familiar. When the gospel today talks of building a house on rock rather than sand, it speaks to us all. We are all challenged to find a sure foundation for our lives in Jesus Christ and his Church, and then to go on building on that foundation. And like most houses, it’s a building that will never be finished; there will always be something left to do. Lent is a time to do some of that work.
I hope that you have a fruitful Lent and come to Easter refreshed and renewed.
With all good wishes and my prayers for the clergy and people of this diocese.