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Friday, December 23, 2011

Former Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson to Head American Anglican Ordinariate

Rome will formally announce appointment on New Year's Day

By By Mary Ann Mueller

Former Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande, Jeffrey Steenson, is to be named the Ordinary when the Anglican Ordinariate is erected on January 1, 2012, sources tell VOL.

Word seeped out from the Vatican late last week that Steenson -- who left The Episcopal Church in 2007 over TEC's polity - has been tapped for the new post as the Ordinariate gets its first foothold in the United States.

The former Episcopal House of Bishops' member has been deeply concerned with the continued fracturing of Anglicanism. The Episcopal Church's insistence on autonomy has further distanced itself from other Anglican provinces and resulted in a shredding of the fabric of Anglicanism.

This reporter came into possession of a private communiqué late Wednesday revealing that Steenson is being tapped for the Ordinariate's top post. A second confidential source has confirmed the communiqué.

When asked if the former Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande has received the nod to be the first Ordinary the source replied: "Yes, Jeffrey Steenson will be the new Ordinary."

On Tuesday, a third source, The Bovina Bloviator Blog theorized that Steenson would get the miter.

"It is being noised Jeffrey Steenson, the former Bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande in the Episcopal Church, who was received into the Catholic Church in 2007 and is now a priest, will be named Ordinary of the American Anglican Ordinariate on January 1, 2012," the Bovina Bloviator posted under an Ordinariate Buzz header.

Steenson's Anglo-Catholic pedigree comes from being an Episcopal priest for 24 years including stints as the curate and rector at two Pennsylvania parishes -- All Saints' Church in Wynnewood, and Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, before going on to St. Andrew's in Fort Worth, Texas. From there he was elected, in 2004, to be bishop coadjutor for the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande under Bishop Terence Kelshaw. The former Rio Grande bishop has the distinction of being the 1000th Episcopal Church bishop consecrated with his "lappets" stretching all the way back to the first Bishop of Connecticut, Samuel Seabury who was consecrated in 1784. Steenson's consecrators included then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, his predecessor Bishop Terence Kelshaw, Anglo-Catholic Bishop Clarence Pope, indigenous Bishop Mark McDonald, and ecumenical Bishop Anthony Burton from the Anglican Church of Canada. Steenson became the eighth diocesan bishop in 2005. He was an Episcopal bishop for two short years before swimming the Tiber.

The Anglo-Catholic Bishop of the Rio Grande shed the purple in December 2007 and was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. This was done in Rome, Italy, at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major during a private ceremony officiated by Bernard Cardinal Law, the former Catholic Cardinal of Boston and then archpriest at a Roman basilica.

The former Episcopal bishop embraced the Pastoral Provision that allows for former Anglican clergy to become Roman Catholics and eventually recoup their priesthood. The Pastoral Provision is the precursor to the unfolding Anglican Ordinariate and will operate along side of it for those converting priests who do not wish to become a part of the Ordinariate yet want to become Roman Catholic.

One year after becoming a Roman Catholic, Cardinal Law ordained Steenson as a Catholic deacon. Fourteen months late, he was priested by Archbishop Michael Sheehan in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, located within the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which overlaps the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.

Since becoming Catholic, Steenson has kept a high profile in his new Catholic circle. He has been active at various levels and has been seen at several Anglican Use events including attending Anglican Use Conferences where he has been the keynote speaker or the preacher at the solemn high Mass. In addition, he has been actively working hand-in-glove with American Catholic bishops as they hammered out the details of how the Anglicanorum Coetibus would be implemented in the United States.

In November, Steenson was introduced to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by Donald Cardinal Wuerl. The Cardinal was then tasked with the implementation of the Anglicanorum Coetibus in the United States. Steenson was on hand when the Cardinal announced the January 1 date for the formal erection of the American Ordinariate.

The soon-to-be-named Ordinariate leader was educated at Harvard Divinity School and holds a doctoral degree from Oxford.

Steenson is now in Houston, Texas, where has been on the faculty of St. Thomas University and St. Mary's Seminary. He has also been instrumental in helping to set up the theological training that his brother bishops and priests will undergo in order to become fully formed Catholic clerics. He has worked at helping to develop the specific elements needed in the formation and retraining program. The former Episcopal bishop has worked closely with both Cardinal Wuerl and Daniel Cardinal DiNardo to get the unique seminary preparation program setup and running in time for the establishment of the Ordinariate on New Year's Day.

Once the Ordinariate is established, Steenson will be in charge of a non-geographic-type diocese, which encompasses the entire United States from Alaska to Florida and New York to Hawaii.

Since Steenson is married with grown children, according to Anglicanorum Coetibus norms, he can never be elevated to the rank of bishop. However, he will receive the honor due a bishop and will be in the temporal and limited sacramental charge of an as-of-yet-to-be-named Ordinariate; although, he will be prevented from celebrating episcopal sacraments such as ordination.

Once the Ordinariate is established, the initial membership is expected to eclipse the Rio Grande's numbers. Waiting in the wings are at least 67 priests, as well as a bishop or two, and several established Anglican Use parishes that may or may not be incorporated in the new Ordinariate as it unfolds including the thriving Texas parishes: Our Lady of the Atonement, San Antonio; Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston; and St. Mary the Virgin, Fort Worth. Other established Anglican Use congregations include: St. Thérèse Little Flower in Kansas City, Mo; St. Thomas More, Scranton, Penn; and St. Anselem's, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Recently, several Episcopal parishes converted to the Roman Catholic Church in anticipation of the Ordinariate. They include: St. Timothy's, Fort Worth, Texas; St. Luke's in Bladensburg, Md.; and All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Catonsville, Md.

There are also several Traditional Anglican Communion (Anglican Church in America) congregations scattered around the country poised and ready to convert en masse to Roman Catholicism and be brought into the Ordinariate.

Steenson was unavailable for comment.

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