Four years ago today the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter (for the United States and additionally for Canada – at least in the interim until an Ordinariate is able to be established north of the border) was erected with a midday announcement from Rome and Houston.
Father Jeffrey Steenson was appointed Ordinary by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and was soon raised to the honour of Protonotary Apostolic. The appointment of Monsignor Steenson will no doubt have been at the Holy Father’s express personal wish, as Cardinal Ratzinger had met the Revd. Steenson in the Vatican many years previously (before he became a bishop in The Episcopal Church). As secretary of a delegation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, led by their bishop Clarence Pope, Jeffrey Steenson had himself presented a petition to the then Prefect of the CDF requesting reception of whole communities of Anglicans into the Catholic Church, within a jurisdictional entity along the lines of a Military Ordinariate and while maintaining their Anglican heritage.
Although nothing came of this initiative at the time, it is significant that it was Jeffrey Steenson, now a Catholic priest, who was entrusted with the office of Ordinary when the Personal Ordinariate became a reality.
Monsignor Steenson has led the Ordinariate for its four fledgling years and has consolidated it into an impressive and successful quasi-diocese. He has now decided that the time has come for him to withdraw and for the Holy Father to appoint a new Ordinary for the next phase of the Ordinariate’s history.
Pope Francis has accepted Msgr. Steenson’s resignation and – not least at his instigation – has appointed a celibate priest, Monsignor Steven Lopes, as Ordinary, who will also be ordained bishop on February 2nd.
So this fourth anniversary is a momentous occasion: a time to give thanks for the successes of the first four years and especially for the leadership of Monsignor Steenson, but also a time to set out afresh with a new Bishop Ordinary and a new Missal, to try to fulfil the true potential of the Personal Ordinariate.
Congratulations, and Godspeed for the future.
Saint Peter, pray for the Ordinariate, Bishop-elect Lopes and the Ordinary emeritus.
Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for them.