Mgr Jeffrey Steenson: Inaugural Homily – ‘The Chair of St Peter and Christian Unity’

13 02 2012

The Chair of St. Peter and Christian Unity


“Behold how good and joyful a thing it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1). With all our hearts, let us thank Pope Benedict XVI for this beautiful gift, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, and let us pray that it may further the goal of Catholic unity. When Cardinal Wuerl told me that the Holy Father would establish the Ordinariate under this name, I truly rejoiced, for it goes to the heart of what our mission should be. And it helps us to understand why our Lord entrusted His Church to St. Peter in the first place.


So much ink has been spilled over the interpretation of these words of our Gospel, which Jesus spoke to Peter in Caesarea Philippi – “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt. 16:18). Of course, for Catholics, the authoritative interpretation was provided at the First Vatican Council. But we must honestly acknowledge that Christians have read this text in different ways. Even amongst the church fathers there was not unanimity over what “On this Rock” means precisely. The great Augustine himself said that the reader must choose – Does this Rock signify Christ or Peter?  (Retract. 1.20). But Augustine quite properly would not have thought this a matter of either/or. For Peter brings everything to Christ. The trajectory is clear. We are Christ’s and Christ is God’s (I Cor. 3:23). I am grateful that, over the course of my ministry, the teachings of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have been so clear on this point – the Church exists to bring souls to Christ. But, as our text plainly affirms, Jesus has invested Peter with a ministry of fundamental importance. And he does so by employing three verbs in the future tense – I will build my church … the gates of hell will not prevail against it … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus speaks in the future tense, he draws all things to himself; we know then that this commission does not end with the historical Peter. The whole life of the Church on earth until the end of time is anticipated in this moment.


In this context, listen to St. Anselm, the 37th Archbishop of Canterbury, perhaps the greatest theologian ever to grace England’s green and pleasant land:  “This power was committed specially to Peter, that we might therefore be invited to unity. Christ therefore appointed him the head of the Apostles, that the Church might have one principal Vicar of Christ, to whom the different members of the Church should have recourse, if ever they should have dissentions among them. But if there were many heads in the Church, the bond of unity would be broken” (Cat. Aur. Mt. 16:19).


The first time we find Matthew 16:18 specifically applied to Peter’s successors, the Bishops of Rome, came amidst a controversy between Pope Stephen and Cyprian of Carthage in the middle of the third century. At the risk of sounding pedantic, I hope that you will permit me to speak briefly to this, because it is very relevant to the Ordinariate. In the Anglican tradition, the church fathers are held in high esteem; here is where we were taught to find our bearings on theological questions.

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Whispers in the Loggia: “Brethren in Unity” — History in Houston As Ordinariate Launches

13 02 2012

From Whispers in the Loggia:

Clad in the pontificalia of a bishop yet still the married father of three, this Sunday made for a unique moment in the life of the Stateside church as Jeffrey Steenson — once head of the Episcopal church’s most sprawling diocese — was liturgically installed as founding shepherd of the nationwide Ordinariate for Anglicans entering the Catholic communion, dedicated to the Chair of St Peter.

While the Anglican Use Mass in the Cathedral of the new jurisdiction’s see-city of Houston had initially been slated for next Sunday to coincide with the venture’s patronal feast, the liturgy was moved up in light of next weekend’s consistory to accommodate the presence of two of the top Vatican project’s key American movers: Cardinals Donald Wuerl of Washington (Rome’s delegate for the US’ implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus) and Galveston-Houston’s Daniel DiNardo, who’s released his archdiocese’s Our Lady of Walsingham parish to serve as the Ordinariate’s de facto cathedral, technically termed its “principal church.”

According to a pre-Mass briefing, Steenson — a onetime sportswriter and Oxford-trained patristic scholar ordained a Catholic priest in 2009 — was elevated to the honorary prelature during the rite.

Though precluded from becoming a Catholic bishop due to his marriage, the new monsignor — who, unlike his English counterpart, Msgr Keith Newton, has taken to donning the violet zucchetto normally reserved for bishops — enjoys full membership and voting rights in the USCCB. Within his charge itself, Steenson essentially has all the responsibilities and privileges of a diocesan bishop or eparch, save two: the ability to perform ordinations and consecrate oils.

With the Ordinariate’s erection by CDF decree on New Year’s Day, the number of American Catholic jurisdictions now stands at 198. Some hundred priests and as many as two thousand laity are expected to enter the structure just in its first wave; the first community to directly join the Ordinariate, Baltimore’s Mount Calvary parish, was received by Steenson in late January. Given earlier indications from north of the border, the reach of the quasi-diocese is likewise to include Canadian groups seeking to take up Pope Benedict’s 2009 offer of joint entry to Anglican communities wishing to full communion en masse.
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Houston Chronicle: Chair of St Peter Photo Gallery

13 02 2012

To see pictures of the Mass of Institution for the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, click here.

Houston Chronicle: ‘Bringing ex-Anglicans into the Catholic fold’

11 02 2012

By Kate Shellnutt in the Houston Chronicle:

The Rev. Jeffrey Steenson’s colleagues joke that during the past several years, he’s gone from a church heretic to a hierarch.

Even though he has been a Catholic priest for only about three years, Steenson was Pope Benedict’s pick to lead a brand-new structure for Catholic converts from Anglican churches, a position he officially takes on this weekend in Houston.

Catholic bishops and leaders from across the country will fill downtown’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart at 3 p.m. Sunday for his installation as the head of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

The ordinariate consists of Catholic parishes that maintain some traditional Anglican prayers and music in services. Like most of the members of these communities, called Anglican Use parishes, Steenson used to be an Episcopalian, an Episcopal bishop, in fact.

He converted to Catholicism in 2007, after spending most of his career studying the church fathers, striving for ecumenicalism and, ultimately, feeling God put on his conscience that the Catholic Church was the “one, true, holy and apostolic” body.

A married father of three and amateur pilot, Steenson joined the church under provisions initially made for former Anglicans in the early ’80s by Pope John Paul II. About that time, the first Anglican Use parishes formed in the U.S., including Our Lady of the Atonement in San Antonio and Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, now the headquarters for Steenson’s ordinariate.

The announcement came as a surprise to Steenson and members of the local parish, which years ago “had been meeting in borrowed chapels and rented warehouses. We wouldn’t have imagined it would have come to this and that Houston would be the headquarters for this nationwide (ordinariate),” said Clint Brand, a parishioner at Our Lady of Walsingham and professor at the University of St. Thomas. “It’s a recognition of what converts have carried with them into the Catholic Church. We can now reclaim the tradition that taught us to be Catholic.”

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Bishop Peter Elliott’s report on the Ordinariate in England

3 02 2012

From the Personal Ordinariate of  Our Lady of Walsingham’s official website:

The first birthday of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was celebrated fittingly on Sunday January 15th  2012  at St James, Spanish Place, with Solemn Evensong, Sermon, Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, Te Deum and Benediction. Together with other clergy, I assisted in choir at this act of thanksgiving on the last night of a fascinating two week visit to London.

The Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton presided and preached. What I found most encouraging was not only his “upbeat” message, full of his own warmth and pastoral confidence, but the sense of achievement and joy among the large congregation who had gathered for the celebration.

The choir of St James brought forth the best of the Anglican Patrimony, wedded to the English Catholic heritage,  We entered to Parry “I was glad when they said unto me” (vivid memories of the coronation in 1953). Stanford provided the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis. “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!” accompanied the Eucharistic procession, while the canopy over the Sacrament was borne by four robed Knights of Malta. Stanford again gave us his Te Deum, while Elgar provided a limpid O Salutaris, not forgetting the traditional translation of Benediction used across three centuries by the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament.

What I discerned in London is an Ordinariate that is growing steadily, facing challenges, especially church sharing, yet moving ahead. Nevertheless, some Catholic journalists have claimed that undue control is being exercised over the Ordinariate by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. Frankly I do not share that concern.

The Bishops I talked to want the Ordinariate to flourish and are not overprotective. But, to be realistic, at this stage the Ordinariate is very young, a “nursling in arms”. It needs much support, care and encouragement as it gradually finds its place in the wider Church. It will not be absorbed and it will not be turned into an ecclesiastical nature reserve. Nor should we heed mischievous rumors that some people are reverting to Anglicanism out of disappointment. Long ago, that tale was spread about Blessed John Henry Newman himself. It is a standard fantasy, the gossip of those who feel insecure about other people’s choices. In fact, new groups are forming and emerging and individuals are quietly making their choice for unity.

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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 ( 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.

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Bishop Kevin Vann: The Ordinariates and Christian Unity

30 01 2012

Bishop Vann, of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, writes in the North Texas Catholic:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
One of the blessings about the life of Faith here in the Diocese of Fort Worth, especially with an eye to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, has been the lived experience of the Pastoral Provision and the recent announcement of the establishment of the “Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter” on January 2, 2012 at Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas. As I said at the news conference, both are, I believe complementary, yet distinct expressions of the Lord’s will that “all may be one.” They are first ecclesial movements toward something — full communion with the See of Peter — and not away from something.

Read the rest here, beginning on page 2.

National Catholic Reporter: New ordinariate and 1980 pastoral provision: An analysis

24 01 2012

From: National Catholic Reporter Online

WASHINGTON — How are the new U.S. Catholic ordinariate for former Anglican groups and the 1980 U.S. pastoral provision for Episcopal (Anglican) priests who become Catholics different? What do they have in common? What does the presence of Catholics in the new ordinariate mean for other Catholics?

The pastoral, canonical, ecclesiastical and other questions posed by the new developments are numerous and challenging, but here is an attempt to sort out a few of the bigger ones.

To take the third question first, other Catholics — Eastern or Latin rite — who were baptized or confirmed into the church as Latin or Eastern Catholics can legitimately participate in the life and worship of an Anglican-use Catholic community, but ordinarily, they may not become a formal member of that community.

An exception is marriage, for which church laws similar to those applying to Latin-Eastern rite Catholic marriages would come into play: An Eastern or Latin Catholic marrying a Catholic in the new Anglican-use ordinariate could become a member of that ordinariate if the couple agrees on that decision.

Going back to differences and similarities between the 1980 pastoral provision and the new ordinariate, the 1980 provision was aimed chiefly at meeting requests of individual Anglican clergy. It allowed exemptions from celibacy for those who were married and sought to enter into full Communion with the Catholic Church but also wanted to continue their life commitment to ordained ministry, only now as Catholic priests.

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NCR: Preserving Anglican patrimony

9 01 2012

Charlotte Hays writes at the National Catholic Register:

Father Jeffrey Steenson, who was named by Pope Benedict XVI on New Year’s Day as the first to lead the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, said that the new ordinariate for former Anglicans and Episcopalians must be true to both the Catholic Church and its Anglican patrimony.
An obviously overjoyed Father Steenson, 59, who according to one report sported cufflinks with the motto “Keep Calm & Carry On,” said that Pope Benedict, who authorized ordinariates for former Anglicans and Episcopalians in 2009, had charged them to preserve certain elements of Anglican worship.

The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham — the first one to be created — was established in the United Kingdom in January of last year. The Chair of St. Peter is the second ordinariate to be erected, though Anglicans in Australia also hope to have an ordinariate established there.

“The establishment of the Personal Ordinariate is a historic moment in the history of the Church,” Father Steenson said. “For perhaps the first time since the Reformation in the 16th century, a corporate structure has been given to assist those who in conscience seek to return to the fold of St. Peter and his successors.”

A former Episcopal bishop who entered the Catholic Church in 2007 and was ordained a Catholic priest in 2009, Father Steenson proclaimed himself to be “mesmerized” by the name of the new ordinariate.

“I am so excited about the title of the ordinariate,” said Father Steenson, “because we who are pilgrims coming into the Church want to embrace this beautiful teaching, the primacy of St. Peter in Rome, where St. Peter sits in his chair and teaches us.”

Speaking in a press call-in from Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church in Houston, an Anglican-use parish founded in 1984 that will serve as the principal church of the ordinariate, Father Steenson was flanked by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Kevin Vann of Forth Worth, Texas.

Bishop Vann is in charge of formation for former Episcopal priests who seek ordination to the Catholic priesthood under Pope John Paul II’s 1982 Pastoral Provision.

Married Priest With a Miter

Father Scott Hurd, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who will serve as vicar general of the ordinariate during its first year, was also on the call. Father Hurd is a former Episcopal priest.
More than 100 former Episcopal priests in the United States have asked to become Catholic priests under the ordinariate provisions, while around 1,400 laypeople are reportedly seeking to become part of the U.S. ordinariate. Two formerly Episcopal communities came into the Catholic Church last fall.

Asked about former Episcopalians who came into the Church before 2009, Father Hurd said that Anglicanorum Coetibus (Concerning Groups of Anglicans), the document that authorized the ordinariates, is vague about their status. However, he added that clarifying the status of these former Episcopalians is “on top of our inbox.”

They will be able to worship with the ordinariate, as will other Catholics, but Father Hurd said it’s not yet clear whether they can become “card-carrying members” of the Chair of St. Peter Ordinariate.

Father Hurd said that former Episcopal priests who ask to become Catholic priests must discern whether they have a vocation to be priests of the ordinariate or seek to be incardinated in a traditional Catholic diocese.

Father Steenson, former bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of Rio Grande, will be a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and entitled to wear a miter, but he will not be ordained a bishop. That is something only open to an unmarried man. Father Steenson is married and the father of three adult children and one grandchild. His wife, Debra, also came into the Catholic Church.

Since he will not be a bishop, Father Steenson will have to depend on Catholic bishops to ordain priests for the ordinariate.

Cardinal DiNardo said that his archdiocese will pay Father Steenson’s salary and offer help with some of the administrative burden. But the ordinariate “has been launched in a spirit of apostolic poverty,” Father Steenson noted on the ordinariate’s website, It will need to raise money to defray the costs of its operation.

Cardinal DiNardo hailed Father Steenson, an Oxford University and Harvard-educated expert on the early Church Fathers who teaches theology on the faculty of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, as a “wise and prudent administrator who will bring a vibrant intellect and humility to his role as head of the ordinariate.”

Steep Learning Curve

Father Steenson asked for prayers for himself and for those who will become Catholics through the ordinariate. “There is so much to learn, and it is a steep learning curve. Be patient with us as we embark on this journey,” he said.

“Pray that we may strive to learn the faith, laws and culture of the Catholic Church with humility and good cheer. But pray, too, that we do not forget who we are and where we have come from, for we have been formed in the beautiful and noble Anglican tradition,” said Father Steenson.

He recalled that Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine of Canterbury to evangelize the English in the sixth century and that St. Augustine had become the first archbishop of Canterbury.
Letters from Gregory the Great to Augustine, encouraging him to always be “a gracious and patient pastor” to those in faraway England, have been preserved in the Venerable Bede’s great Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.

Father Steenson noted that Anglicans “love to read the letters” because they are “a great witness to how the Church gathers her people from many different cultures and lands.”

The new ordinary observed that Pope Benedict’s decree established the ordinariate by saying that “the supreme law of the Church is the salvation of souls” and that, “as such, throughout its history, the Church has always found the pastoral and juridical means to care for the good of the people.”

“In what Pope Benedict has given us today, I hear the voice of Pope Gregory the Great: ‘For things are not to be loved for the sake of places, but places for the sake of good things.’ What a beautiful testimony to all that Catholic Christianity is,” Father Steenson said.

In a characteristically Anglican note, the new ordinary stressed the need for cordiality. “Here is one thing I earnestly desire to share with you from the outset,” Father Steenson said. “Anglican spirituality has always emphasized the need to be gentlemanly in all of our relationships. May you see in us always the virtue of courtesy.”

Washington Post: Fr Scott Hurd draws on his own faith to help Anglicans converting to Catholicism

6 01 2012

Fr Scott Hurd is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. He has recently been named as Vicar General for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter and is a former Anglican priest, having trained at St Stephen’s House, Oxford. He writes here in the Washington Post:

At a beautiful little church in a small Texas town in 1996, I celebrated my final Eucharist as an Anglican priest of the Episcopal Church. After the closing blessing, the choir and I processed out to the classic hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers.” A week later, I found myself in Washington, D.C., a layman sitting in a pew, anticipating my first Sunday Mass as a Catholic, and wondering what to expect. But when the opening hymn began, I knew that I was in the right place. The hymn? “Faith of Our Fathers.”

It was as if God was reassuring me that my entrance into the Catholic Church was simply a continuation of the spiritual journey I had begun as an Episcopalian. I still cherish the memory of that day. Not only did it confirm for me that my future rested in the Catholic Church, it also made me grateful for my Episcopal past. I am a “cradle” Episcopalian. It was within the Episcopal Church that I met the Lord, grew in faith, and heard a call to ordained ministry. An Episcopal high school is my alma mater, and it was at an Episcopal altar that my wife Stephanie and I exchanged our vows. As an Episcopal priest, I ministered in God’s name, preached His Word, and served His people.

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