Three new missionary initiatives in Australia

In the last nine months we have received news from Australia about three new initiatives which have the objective of extending the impact of the Ordinariate beyond the 10 or so communities which have been set up since the establishment of the Ordinariate in 2012.

1. The first of these initiatives can perhaps be referred to as “the dual-purpose appointment of Ordinariate priests to diocesan parishes”, whereby it is the dual-purpose concept which is innovative.

Already several of the Ordinariate pastors have been made priest-in-charge or assistant priest either in the parish where their group is hosted or in a separate parish in the vicinity. This new scheme, on the other hand, which was begun in September of last year, involves priests who are currently serving in groups with more than one priest.

Under a cooperation agreement with the local bishop, a parish is identified within the diocese in question or a neighbouring diocese in which the potential of finding people who might be interested in the Ordinariate is the greatest (e.g. where there is a concentration of Anglo-Catholic parishes in the area or an appreciable number of ex-Anglicans). An Ordinariate priest is then appointed to this parish (either as priest-in-charge or assistant priest) with the specific additional task of regularly celebrating the Ordinariate Use liturgy in the parish and attempting to gather a new Ordinariate community.

This cooperation represents an important expression of generosity and good-will on the part of the local bishop, as he is in practice releasing some of his parishioners to form the nucleus of an Ordinariate community, which will in time probably detach itself from the local diocesan parish. In return he obtains the services of an extra priest in the short or medium term.

The first appointment of this kind took place in the parish of St. John, Mullumbimby, in the Diocese of Lismore, where Father Lyall Cowell was appointed priest-in-charge last September. More recently Father Stephen Hill has been made assistant priest at St. Columba’s, Mayfield, in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

2. The second initiative, the Supporters’ Network, provides a way of attaching individual persons more closely to the Ordinariate, especially if they live in the diaspora, far from an existing Ordinariate community, or if, for some reason, they do not feel able to commit totally to the local Ordinariate group (maybe because of their involvement in their local diocesan parish).

These Supporters, whether or not they are actual Ordinariate members, could be former or current Anglicans or members of other denominations, they could be cradle Catholics (priests, religious or lay people).

To tell the truth, this reminds me very much of our Ordinariate Expats and friends group, which consists of Ordinariate and Pastoral Provision members, diocesan Catholics and former Protestants. Many of these group members are priests, religious and seminarians. We live sprinkled geographically across Europe and so are unable to meet regularly for worship, fellowship or outreach. Each of us is engaged in his or her local diocesan or religious community but the mission and developmenmt of the Ordinariate are a matter of great importance to all of us.

Important features of the Australian Supporters’ Network are:

  • spreading the word of the Ordinariate as far as possible – being an “Ordinariate ambassador”
  • praying for the Ordinariate
  • where possible, participating in national and regional events and taking part in Ordinariate worship as often as practicable
  • communication among and information of the Supporters at a national level, and also locally through the nearest Ordinariate community

and although there is no membership fee a generous donation from time to time would, I imagine, not go amiss.

Since all former Anglicans can become members of the Ordinariate, wherever they live, and friends of the Ordinariate are to be found everywhere, not only in the relatively few Ordinariate centres, it is important to have a mechanism to welcoma and activate these Supporters. Since a lot can be done withelectronic media, Msgr. Steenson once coined the term “virtual members” for such persons, but in fact it would be wonderful if they could become as real and active members as possible.

Our Ordinariate Expats group has already adopted a number of tools, such as:

  • a news and imformation website/blog
  • a quarterly group newsletter
  • letters at Christmas, Easter and in the summer, which are also sent as a greeting to all Ordinariate groups worldwide
  • occasional written invitations to take part in Ordinariate events or to donate to a specific cause
  • personal visits to individual members/affiliated priests/groups of members
  • telephone conversations
  • the furthering of a prayer community with a monthly cycle of prayer and other prayer materials

Other possibilities which we have envisaged but not yet realised are

  • a facebook or What’s App group
  • skype conferences
  • a weekend retreat/conference at some central location
  • celebration of the Ordinariate liturgy at various sites
  • a transnational project involving as many members as possible (e.g. collating information for a data bank on the celebration of the Eucharist in English throughout Europe)

We should naturally be interested to see how the Australian Supporters’ Network progresses and what specific methods they develop.

3. The third initiative is related to a fascinating concept which grew up around the Pastoral Provision/Anglican Use movement in the USA, namely that of the “devotional fraternity”. In Australia this is called the “Sodality of Our Lady of the Southern Cross”.

At present there is only one such Sodality, in Melbourne, but it is conceived as the seed of a devotional movement, not dissimilar to a Secular Third Order, like the Franciscans or the Carmelites have.

The Sodality is set up as an Organisation within a diocesan parish. Former Anglicans are specifically targeted as members bur also cradle Catholics who support the mission of the Ordinariate. Interested persons can be identified with the aid of the parish priest or also through a school.

The concept is based on the experience of the early days of the Australian Nation, where unpastored groups of Anglican lay people gathered in rural towns and villages to conduct Services – perhaps with a visit from a priest three or four times a year.

The first Sodality of Our Lady of the Southern Cross was set up in the Southern Melbourne suburbs on Shrove Tuesday 2015. Sodality Meetings are based  on the format of the “Holy Hour”, with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction if a priest is available. Gymns are sung, prayers are spoken. The Meeting can conclude with an Ordinariate Use Evensong. Fellowship with refreshments and a chance to have a chat then generally follows the Sodality Meeting, as is typical in our Anglican patrimony.

Whether at some stage it will be possible to develop fully-fledged Ordinjariate communities out of these Sodality Groups remains to be seen. At the moment this is illusory, depending as it does above all on the availability of priests.

This is indeed one reason why the promotion of Ordinariate vocations is particularly pressing in Australia and why the practice of ordaining “viri probati”, especially foreseen in Anglicanorum coetibus, as well as of permanent deacons, might well be pursued with increased vigour.

It might also be a good idea to explore the possibility of training and appointing “Lay Readers” within the Ordinariates. Borrowing this idea from Anglicanism would represent an expansion of the Office of Lector, which exists in the Catholic Church but is currently conferred as a preliminary to diaconal Ordination. Personally I believe this would be a significant development of the role of the laity which could well be a gift that the Ordinariate might give to the rest of the Catholic Church, especially in this period of few vocations to the priesthood.

Conclusion: These three Australian initiatives are particularly inspiring because they emphasise the importance of cooperation between the Ordinariate and the territoral dioceses and parishes, which forms a central feature of Anglicanorum coetibus. It is particularly interesting to see that the willingness to cooperate in these ways actually exists on the part of the diocesan bishops and priests.

I believe we have a lot to learn from these three projects and am impatient to see how they progress. In any case I personally wish all of those concerned in Australia good luck and abundant blessings.

David Murphy

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