Hattip to Jan Mickiewicz for the link to Fr. Ernie Davis’ blog. Fr. Ernie writes:
After seven years at St. Therese, Bishop Finn allowed me to return to hospital chaplaincy. So now I am full-time Catholic priest-chaplain at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Blue Springs. Sometime I might write a little bit about why I decided it was time to leave St. Therese. For now I will just say I was burned out, and St. Therese needed a chance to find another way ahead.
Sometime soon I may also write a bit about hospital chaplaincy. For now I will just say that much of my day is like sales – I make a lot of calls. Most of the time response seems to range from mildly pleased to mildly displeased. But on occasion there are people in situations in which I fulfill my vocation and make a difference.
The challenge in life right now is pastoring a new Catholic Church in Kansas City – Our Lady of Hope, a mission of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. We were part of St. Therese Little Flower for over five years (as a Pastoral Provision community – Ed). We didn’t join the Ordinariate immediately because we didn’t know how we could have one foot in a diocesan parish, and one foot in the Ordinariate. Finally, after some study and prayer, it seemed clear that our future had to be in the Ordinariate. Last January Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson received us as members. When I left St. Therese, it seemed time to finally decide where we ought to be located if we are to have a mission to include people from through out the metro area. So we are launching out on our own.
Beginning November 2, we will be located at Our Lady of Sorrows, 2552 Gillham Road, Kansas City, Missouri, for Sunday Mass at 9:15. (Our Lady of Sorrows is about 6 miles closer to the city center than St Therese – Ed). I will write about that, too!
Just a couple of years ago it appeared that Kansas City might actually get two or three new Catholic Churches. There was some excitement that Kansas City’s two Traditional Anglican Communion parishes might enter the Catholic Church along with the whole TAC. The bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion had asked for a way that they and their churches could enter the full communion of the Catholic Church while retaining some of their Anglican traditions and retain some responsibility for their own governance. “United, not absorbed” was the goal of Anglican reunion with Catholicism as the early 20th Century Malines Conversations had described it. Pope Benedict offered Anglicanorum Coetibus. Based on that Apostolic Constitution, Ordinariates were established in Great Britain, the United States and Canada, and Australia. There was a lot of excitement prior to the Coming Home conference sponsored by the Anglican Use Community at St. Therese Little Flower and a number of Anglican priests participated. The former Anglicans at St. Therese believed that they could help facilitate the project of healing church divisions by sharing their experience in becoming Catholic. They were open to the possibility that they could cease to exist as a separate community and that they themselves could be absorbed into one of the existing Anglican soon-to-be-Catholic parishes when they entered the Catholic Church. But by then, the original excitement of the TAC was fading. Rome had made a very generous offer. But most of the Anglican parishioners in the pew didn’t want to be Catholic, and the TAC bishops apparently weren’t terribly enthusiastic about actually entering the Catholic Church. Several of the Anglican bishops and many of the Anglican priests did not meet the required educational standards for ordination in the Catholic Church, and several had marriage issues. A few TAC Anglican parishes around the country entered the new Ordinariate, but none of the local ones did. That meant the former Anglicans at St. Therese Little Flower had to mull over their own reason for being. What did it mean for them to be “United, not Absorbed”? What was their reason for being? Did they have a permanent future at St. Therese? How could they enter the Ordinariate when the parish they had joined would always be part of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph?
Four or five years ago it seemed that having an “Anglican Use” community as part of St. Therese Little Flower Parish could be a long-term mutually beneficial solution. I was thinking that I could remain at St. Therese until retirement. The Anglican Use community added resources to the struggling inner-city parish, and the parish provided space to worship, a link to the wider Catholic community, and assistance with pastoral programming. We began some projects that assumed we would have a long-term home at St. Therese.
When I was thinking that I could remain at St. Therese long-term, what I didn’t realize was that St. Therese Parish and the Anglican Use community had a deep and basic conflict. St. Therese Parish depends on attracting people who feel like they don’t fit in a regular parish. St. Therese Parish can be very warm and welcoming and some neighborhood parishes can be very cold. But some of our key parishioners had a deep animosity toward the church hierarchy and Catholic dogma and discipline. On the other hand, I and the other former Anglican converts who joined me at St. Therese had made an adult choice to enter the Catholic faith. And to enter the full communion of the Church we had affirmed that we believe what the Catholic Church believes. This was a rift that simply could not be bridged, and it continued to feed the suspicions of some parishioners that our presence and my pastoral leadership could not be trusted. It became clear to me that I would not be able to remain at St. Therese long-term, and it also became clear that one person could not be pastor of both communities.
The Anglican Use community at St. Therese never discussed this. Instead our discussion focused on our future. Our study of Anglicanorum Coetibus and the mission of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter convinced us that we needed to take charge of our own future and find a way to enter the Ordinariate.
Now that we are Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church we can embrace our Catholic identity in a way that would never have been possible at St. Therese Little Flower. Converts make joyful Catholics, and that should make us good evangelists. I am convinced that this is our fundamental mission, more important than anything else, that we put Christ first. We are taking steps to put our money and our program where our mission is, and to keep from getting diverted into things that will take lots of energy but aren’t directly related to our mission.
More to come!