That Latinate wonder, Fr John Hunwicke (whom God preserve) has posted a cautionary ‘Tale from the Ordinariate’ about the experience of an Priest who presumed to replace a “eucharistic service ” (curious name, since the Eucharistic Prayer is missing from it) with a real Mass. He was met with considerable annoyance by the lay people ousted from their ministry. I have not experienced that; indeed when I have offered to say Mass on a day usually served by the laity, the extraordinary ministers here in Lymington have seemed very happy to have the Mass rather than simply Communion from the Tabernacle. What’s more, if I turn up unannounced on a Sunday and concelebrate with the parish priest, there is a little shuffling about at the back of church while the lay ministers decide who will stand down; but someone always does, to allow me to administer Communion instead of one of the lay assistants on the rota.
We are very fortunate in this part of the vineyard in having a few retired priests around. This morning Mgr Peter Ryan said the Mass of St Mark and I concelebrated with him. He is retired, from the diocese of Liverpool, and has a very busy retirement ministry, On Wednesday I shall be able to give our Ordinariate priest in Bournemouth a little time out – which I expect he will fill with hospital visits since he is Chaplain to the Royal Bournemouth as well as Parish Priest of St Thomas More AND pastor of our Ordinariate Mission. On Thursday I regularly say Mass for Fr Marcin, the Polish parish priest in New Milton – and this week I shall also substitute for him on Friday. On Saturday I am usually in Lymington, enabling our Parish Priest to get to one of the other churches in his care. That evening I am also celebrating the vigil Mass of Sunday for him – and on Sunday morning both the Parish Mass and the Ordinariate Mass at St Thomas More, Iford. Never a dull moment – and I know this is very much how things are for my fellow ‘retired’ Ordinariate priests.
I think some of the Bishops of England and Wales recognise this; but apparently there are some who are a little reluctant to admit that the Ordinariate is a gift to the whole Church. They are content for us to fill gaps; yet I understand they are reluctant to make room for further newcomers from Anglican Ministry. Their argument seems to be that Anglicanorum Coetibus was set up to bring entire congregations into the Catholic Church and they see no need for admitting individual clergy. I believe this is very short-sighted. We have a few seminarians in training, but not enough to fill the ranks of priests who will retire in the next few years. There are some very good Anglican clergy ready to join us; but not if there is no bishop ready to ordain them as Catholic Priests at the request of our Ordinary. I know, for instance, of some Anglican School Chaplains who are contemplating the move. They cannot come with a group of laypeople. There must be an opportunity for such men to be made welcome in the Catholic Church. Perhaps we should all remember what dear Papa Benedict said about the need for generosity towards former Anglicans. Maybe remember too that the aforementioned polymath Fr Hunwicke had been for most of his ministry a School Chaplain. There are also parish clergy who look forward to a move into the Ordinariate.
If there is to be continuity and if the Ordinariate is to fulfil its vocation (spelled out most helpfully by David Murphy in his recent “Reflections” – you can read them on the Ordinariate Expats’ blog, ‘Ordinariate News’) then we must have a continuing stream of priests coming from the Anglican tradition, bringing with them their pastoral skills and particular Anglican charisms. I do hope the hierarchy will be supportive of our Ordinary in ensuring a succession of priests for the Ordinariate.