Here are the two interviews, first with Monsignor Steenson:
Msgr. Steenson reflects on first years of ordinariate
The first ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter oversees the U.S. and Canada
by Brian Fraga OSV Newsweekly, Nov. 9, 2014
As a former bishop in the Episcopal Church, Jeffrey N. Steenson was responsible for leading a diocese that encompassed Southwest Texas and all of New Mexico. Today, Msgr. Steenson, who entered the Catholic Church in 2007, administers an ecclesial entity that comprises the United States and Canada.
“The administrative part has been quite challenging for us. It’s just a lot to do, and we don’t have the resources to do it very efficiently right now,” said Msgr. Steenson, the first ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which is composed of parishes, groups, religious communities and individuals from the Anglican heritage that have entered into communion with the Catholic Church.
The ordinariate was established on Jan. 1, 2012, after Pope Benedict XVI paved the way in the fall of 2009 by establishing a structure for Anglicans to unite with Rome. In a recent interview with Our Sunday Visitor, Msgr. Steenson reflected on the first three years of the ordinariate and shared his hopes for the future of Anglican-Catholic relations.
Our Sunday Visitor: How would you describe the ordinariate’s first three years of existence?
Msgr. Steenson: It’s been a very, very busy time. It’s been challenging starting an ordinariate covering all of North America. It means a lot of traveling. There’s a learning curve that I think is very steep in creating a new ecclesial entity and relating to the bishop conferences in Canada and the United States. In every case, we have to partner with the local bishop and the local diocese in terms of ordinations and establishing communities. The networking has been very intensive, but it’s also been a wonderful experience.
OSV: What are some important lessons you’ve learned in the first three years?
Msgr. Steenson: What we’ve discerned is that this requires a very intentional catechetical approach. We have to get into the business of proclaiming the Gospel, proclaiming the New Evangelization, helping people to understand why the Catholic Church is important and compelling, and the need that if you’re going to be Catholic, you have to be in communion with Rome. We’re now helping clergy and lay leaders in the ordinariate understand what evangelization is all about.
OSV: What have been some of the challenges and difficulties thus far?
Msgr. Steenson: I spent 28 years in the Anglican ministry, but it’s hard to get your mind wrapped around what is required of administering an ecclesial group within the Catholic Church. We basically had to create a quasi-diocese. I’ve found that to be very challenging. We had to create a body of laws and particular norms to govern it. We had to set up not only the church structures but also the civil structures. Most us (clergy) in the ordinariate are also not full-time. I spend half of my time teaching in a seminary in Houston. A few are full-time pastors in their communities, but most of us are doing something else, whether we’re working as hospital chaplains, teaching in Catholic schools, helping out as parochial vicars in Catholic parishes and serving as military chaplains. It gets pretty involved and challenging for us. We’ve also had to bring together groups of Anglicans who were never together in the past. Some were part of the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada. Others left the church for various reasons, and now we’re bringing them all together. Where in the past we weren’t in community with each other, we’re now learning to be in communion with each other as Catholics.
OSV: What are some reasons why individuals and communities from an Anglican tradition join the ordinariate?
Msgr. Steenson: I think the main reason is their desire to really connect with the apostolic faith, and their experience within the Anglican tradition is that it’s becoming harder and harder to do that. But the reason why you enter the Catholic Church should be because you think it’s true, and that you agree when the Second Vatican Council says that it’s Christ’s will that the Church be constituted around Peter and his successors. The thing we want to avoid above all else is the ordinariate becoming a safe harbor of refuge for people who are disgruntled with their previous church experience. That’s what we absolutely don’t want.
OSV: Do some ordinariate communities own their own church buildings? Where do they celebrate their liturgies?
Msgr. Steenson: There are different models. St. Barnabas in Omaha (Nebraska) bought their building from the Episcopal diocese. They dug deep … to come up with the resources to purchase their own building. At St. Luke’s in Washington, D.C., they’ve partnered with Immaculate Conception Parish in downtown Washington and they share the church. Some of the independent Anglican groups already owned their buildings and didn’t have problems transferring. For most of these groups we’re dealing with, they have partnered with a local Catholic parish in order to start their congregation.
OSV: What do you hope to see in the ordinariate moving forward?
Msgr. Steenson: One thing we’d like to do is create a catechetical program for those coming out of the Anglican tradition who want to learn how to make this journey together with their group and be catechized and received into the Catholic Church. Obviously in terms of the stability of the ordinariate, we need to strengthen our congregations. Hopefully we get to the point where many of the clergy will not have to work another job in order to make ends meet, that the congregations will have their own buildings and are able to support the clergy full time.
OSV: How do ordinariate communities interact with the Latin Rite dioceses where they are located?
Msgr. Steenson: We’ve had great success cooperating between our communities and the dioceses. Many of the bishops routinely invite ordinariate clergy to participate in clergy conferences, retreats and prayer services. Particularly in the area of witnessing to the sanctity of human life, ordinariate groups are very involved in pro-life activities and have wonderful connections with their Latin brothers and sisters.
OSV: How is the ordinariate meant to be an instrument of Christian unity?
Msgr. Steenson: The Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, which has been meeting since the 1960s, has always had as its goal full communion, corporate reunion, between Anglicans and Catholics. The Catholic Church has always been very clear as to what that would look like. Anglicans would keep their liturgical traditions, their patrimony, but also acknowledge the primacy of the See of Rome. That is the way the Catholic Church envisaged groups coming into full communion with the Catholic Church; the ordinariate was created from that ecumenical perspective. In the ordinariate, one of the things that from the beginning we wanted to do was not get involved in litigation over church property. We will not permit a group to come into the ordinariate that is pursing litigation against their old church; that is a firm principle for us. We want to be ministers of reconciliation, and you can’t do that if you’re suing your fellow Christians. We tell them, “You gotta work this out.” You have to resolve these problems first and reach the highest degree of reconciliation you can with your old ecclesial home before coming into the Catholic Church.
OSV: How has entering into full communion with the Catholic Church affected your relationships with your former Anglican co-religionists?
Msgr. Steenson: When I left the Episcopal Church, I left on the best possible terms. I worked very carefully with my presiding bishop to make the journey. I had good relationships then, and I hope to keep those going. What makes it challenging is that there were all these theological issues going on when many people left the Episcopal Church, things like the ordination of women, the blessing of same-sex unions. Because of all the political tension there, I suppose for some people, it was a painful parting. But I hope that we’ve gotten rid of our anger. We just want to reach out because these are our brothers and sisters in Christ who are separated from us. We don’t ever want to lose sight that they are baptized Christian people, and the goal is Christian unity, as always taught by the Catholic Church, gathered around the See of Peter.
and then with Bishop-elect Lopes:
Bishop-elect ready to lead ‘vibrant’ ordinariate
Msgr. Steven Lopes will be the first bishop to oversee the Anglican Ordinariate in the U.S., Canada
by Brian Fraga OSV Newsweekly, Jan. 6, 2016
On Feb. 2, Msgr. Steven J. Lopes will be ordained as the first bishop for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a canonical structure similar to a diocese for Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition.
Pope Francis in November chose Bishop-elect Lopes, 40, to lead the ordinariate, which Pope Benedict XVI established on Jan. 1, 2012, to serve Catholics across the United States and Canada. Pope Benedict provided for the creation of personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church in the 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. The pontiff also established the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom.
Bishop-elect Lopes, who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2001, was involved in setting up the ordinariates and in approving a new missal, Divine Worship: The Missal, for them as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Our Sunday Visitor: What did you think when Pope Francis appointed you to be the ordinariate’s first bishop?
Msgr. Steven J. Lopes: The ordinariates and I have a very deep history, having been part of the process that eventually lead to Anglicanorum Coetibus and kind of being the coordinator for the three ordinariates in Rome at the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith. It’s a reality I know very well and love very much. I have a real sense of joy and privilege to bind my life with the men and women of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
OSV: Why was the ordinariate created?
Msgr. Lopes: The process really begins at the CDF. There is a certain history to this whole question of people wanting to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. For those of an Anglican heritage, it really begins with Pope Pius XII. There is this whole process that unfolds over the years. Pope St. John Paul II was instrumental in articulating a path for Anglican clergy who would want to be brought into full communion and be ordained Catholic priests. That was called the Pastoral Provision in 1982.
You fast-forward to 2007, and the question changes a little bit: “Is there a way for us to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, not as individuals, but as clergy and faithful coming over together in such a way that we’re able to preserve some of our own identity as a parish and a community, with some of our own distinctiveness liturgically, spiritually, theologically, pastorally, and in terms of governance, is there a way to do that?”
OSV: What are the ordinariates’ value for Catholic Church?
Msgr. Lopes: These are communities which are very vibrant, very committed to their faith. The faith and the communion of the Church is a very deep reality to them because it’s cost them. They’ve had to make decisions that affected not only their parishes, but their families and their friends. They came to believe, ‘We need to move. We need to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.” There is a certain dying and rising in that experience. It makes the ordinariate faithful that I have met and the clergy tremendous evangelizers. They are able to articulate a joy of being Catholic and the adventure of fidelity.
OSV: What are your immediate plans upon being officially installed as the ordinariate’s first bishop?
Msgr. Lopes: After Feb. 2, I’m looking at my calendar, and it’s an awful lot of time on an airplane. The 43 communities of the ordinariate are spread around 20-something states and five Canadian provinces. To go out and be with the people and meet the pastors, experiencing the life of the ordinariate means going to them, so I will be very often on the road moving to the different communities and back in Houston during the week where our offices and chancery are located.
OSV: Do you anticipate that more parishes in the coming years will join the ordinariate?
Msgr. Lopes: We had a new community in Texas that just had its first Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent. Thirty-five people participated in that celebration, so the new community of St. Margaret of Scotland is off and running. There is continual interest in other places. I do have a certain sense that the ordinariate is a growing reality. We could build six churches tomorrow if we had the money for it.
OSV: How does a community from the Anglican tradition join the ordinariate?
Msgr. Lopes: There is a discernment the priests generally do with their people that grows over years. It comes as the result of study. Many of the communities will begin a group study of something like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They grow in that recognition together that this is a fullness they’re being called into. They would then make contact with the ordinariate or the local Catholic diocese. We would usually then send someone to them, to accompany that community in its discernment, not only in terms of answering any questions but sending a priest or a catechist to assist them in their reflection and their growth. And then it would be possible to begin looking at the situation of their pastor and see what might be needed for him to be ordained a Catholic priest. It kind of progresses from there.
OSV: What was the work like that went into developing Divine Worship: The Missal?
Msgr. Lopes: The Divine Worship project is the Holy See’s response to Article 3 of Anglicanorum Coetibus that talked about the liturgical patrimony of the Anglican heritage being preserved in the Catholic Church. It steps back and asks the question, “In these 500 years that we’ve experienced division, how has the Faith been articulated? How has it been prayed? And does that add to the articulation and eloquence of the Faith?” There was a realization that, “Yes, it does.” The way that the Faith has been expressed in the English tradition and in that particular heritage is a great treasure. So it was about recovering that and sharing it with the broader Catholic world. It’s historical in many ways because this is the first time a liturgical expression from a community born of the Reformation has been reunited with its Catholic roots.
OSV: What else about the Anglican tradition strikes you?
Msgr. Lopes: All of our communities, I’ve noticed, are very committed to beauty in worship, beauty in terms of the music, beauty in terms of the participation in the prayers. Also, beauty in terms of reverence and in terms of the style of architecture.
One bishop told me, having experienced Mass in one of the ordinariate communities, “Your people linger over worship.” You’ll note that nobody looks at their watch during Mass in our communities.
OSV: Why did you choose “Magna Opera Domini” as your episcopal motto?
Msgr. Lopes: It’s a testimony to the fact that this great work of the communion of the Church is not ours. It definitely is in the hands of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, when you talk about the development of this project that we call the ordinariates, God is the ultimate architect of it.
OSV: What else do you think the future may hold for the ordinariate?
Msgr. Lopes: Right now, a lot of our communities are focused on setting down their roots. Many of them are starting fresh. They have to look to at all those normal things that go with growing a parish; finding lands, deciding where the church building is going to be. Our communities are raising money, gathering for worship, strengthening the identity of the parish so they can put down roots so that when they do build their parish church, there is a great community inside that church on Sunday.