Pastoral Letter to those preparing for reception

22 02 2012


Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We begin today the great season of Lent in which the Church is, each year, called to penance and conversion in a mystical journey that take her through the passion and death of the Lord, to the Promised Land of the resurrection.

Ash Wednesday also marks the formal start of a journey for those of you who seek to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Your pilgrimage through the desert of Lent will, this year, be especially poignant.

In the First Reading at Mass today we hear this sentiment rehearsed once more: “Come back to me with all your heart […] turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion”.

That call to continuing conversion – the recognition of our sin and a true spirit of contrition and repentance – is a universal call to sanctity which, in a special way, you bravely take up this Lent.

Take courage that the reward of faithful commitment to Christ is a deepening  of our personal relationship with him, in and through his Catholic Church.

As you study the faith and prepare spiritually for your reception during Holy Week, allow your heart to be fully converted toward Christ, and fully open to him, so that his love and his grace finds there fertile ground to take root, and to flourish. Only then can we completely allow his heart to speak to our hearts, and know truly the depth of his love.

May God bless you as you set out on this journey, and may Our Lady, Star of the Sea, be your guide to the safe harbour which awaits you.

The Right Reverend Monsignor Keith Newton
Ordinary of  the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Rome Reports: Ordinariate for former Anglicans visits Pope and Rome

22 02 2012

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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The Tablet: ‘Australian Ordinariate Named’

10 02 2012

From The Tablet:

The Australian “home” for former Anglicans coming into full communion with Rome is to be known as the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

Bishop Peter Elliott, a former Anglican charged with overseeing the establishment of the Australian ordinariate, also said that the structure should be autonomous more quickly than has been the case with its British counterpart.

He made his comments in an article for the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion’s online journal The Messenger after his visit to England last month for first anniversary celebrations of the British ordinariate.

He added: “At this stage the [British] ordinariate is … a ‘nursling in arms’. It needs much support, care and encouragement as it gradually finds its place in the wider Church.”