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Sunday, January 1, 2012

Pope Benedict Establishes US Ordinariate for Former Anglicans

In response to numerous requests, Pope Benedict XVI has established an ordinariate for Anglican groups and clergy across the United States who wish to become Catholic. This is only the second structure like this in the world. The Pope also has named a Houston professor and former Episcopal bishop, Reverend Jeffrey N. Steenson, to lead the ordinariate. 

The Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter will be based in Houston, Texas. The only other ordinariate is Our Lady of Walsingham, established in January 2011 to serve England and Wales.

Similar to a diocese, though national in scope, the ordinariate will include parishes, groups and individuals of the Anglican heritage across the United States. Parishes will be fully Catholic, while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage, particularly in the liturgy. 

Over 100 former Anglican priests already have applied to become Catholic priests for the ordinariate, and nearly 1,400 individuals from 22 communities are seeking to enter. Two of the communities already entered the Catholic Church in fall 2011 after a period of preparation.

Father Steenson, who will be the Ordinary, became Catholic in 2007 and a Catholic priest in 2009. He is married and the father of three adult children. As Ordinary, he will be a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, since he is married, he may not be ordained a bishop.

Why an ordinariate

The ordinariates are the result of persistent and repeated requests from Anglican groups to become Catholic in a “corporate” manner (as groups). In November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus (pronounced Anglicanorum chay-tee-bus), which authorized the ordinariates. In September 2010, the Vatican appointed Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, as its delegate for its implementation in the United States. He, Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth and Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester were assisted by Reverend Scott Hurd, a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington (and a former Anglican priest). Fr. Hurd will serve a three-year term as vicar general of the ordinariate.

Over the next year, clergy, groups and individuals nationwide expressed interest, leading to the establishment of the new ordinariate.

About Father Steenson

Fr. Steenson teaches patristics (the study of the early church fathers) at the University of St. Thomas and St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, TX. He and his wife Debra were received into the Catholic Church in 2007, after 28 years of ministry in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church. Fr. Steenson was ordained for the Catholic priesthood in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2009, and was instrumental in establishing the formation program for Anglican priests applying for the Catholic priesthood as part of the ordinariate. 

He grew up on a family farm in North Dakota and received his theological training at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Ill., Harvard Divinity School and the University of Oxford, from where he received his doctorate in patristic studies in 1983.

Ordained an Anglican priest in 1980, he served Episcopal parishes in suburban Philadelphia, Pa., and Fort Worth, Texas, before becoming canon to the ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande (New Mexico and far west Texas). In 2004, he was elected bishop of that diocese. 

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