The Mirror, the newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, has published this article on Father Chori Seraiah:
Meet Fr. Chori Seraiah & family
by: Linda Leicht, Springfield, MO
From Protestant pastor, to Anglican priest, to Catholic priest
People in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau may be surprised to learn of a priest with a wife and five children. His name is Fr. Chori Jonathin Seraiah. As with most priests, he has a strong devotion to the Eucharist and Our Lady.
Fr. Seraiah is a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was the Vatican’s pastoral response to repeated and persistent inquiries made by Anglican individuals and groups in the US and Canada who, over time, have come to identify the Catholic Church as their home. Those joining the Ordinariate have discerned they are truly Catholic in what they believe and desire full membership in the Catholic Church.
In November 2009, in response to these repeated and persistent inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide, Pope Benedict XVI issued the apostolic constitution “Anglicanorum coetibus.” This document authorized the creation of “Ordinariates.” These communities are in full communion with the Catholic Church yet they retain elements of Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.
In May, Fr. Seraiah was assigned to St. George Catholic Church in Republic, MO, one of 42 parishes and communities in the Ordinariate. St. George Catholic Church worships in the former Little Portion Retreat Center in Republic.
Fr. Seraiah was assigned to St. George Catholic Church by his bishop, The Most Rev. Steven Lopes, and he is also available to serve the diocese and received a pastoral assignment from Bp. Edward M. Rice. Fr. Seraiah will serve as Associate Pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Springfield, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Nixa; and St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Ozark, in addition to his current pastoral responsibilities for the Ordinariate.
Fr. Seraiah was ordained a Catholic priest in 2012, shortly after the Ordinariate was established. His own spiritual journey started in the Baptist Church, where he served as a pastor. He was encouraged to read the Church Fathers, which drew him to the historic church. His journey first took him to the Presbyterian Church, then the Anglican Church, and finally “home,” to the Roman Catholic Church.
When Pope Benedict XVI established the Ordinariate, former Anglican priests were welcome, even if they were married, to request permission from the Vatican to pursue holy orders. Fr. Seraiah, who had already studied the Catechism, and whose family had been living and worshipping as Catholics since 2005, petitioned the Church to become a Catholic priest. He was accepted by Rome.
His wife, Catherine, said she and their children have all been on the same journey with him the entire time.
“Every step that we took, Fr. Chori was bringing us along right with him,” Catherine said.
Their oldest daughter, Ajha, 20, said the conversion to Catholicism seemed less like change and more like normal spiritual growth.
“We finally got to where we were supposed to be,” Ajha said.
Already knowing what to do after years in the Anglican church, her role as a priest’s wife is comfortable for Catherine. It is, however, according to her, “one of the most difficult things for Catholic parishes to get used to,” acknowledging that many Catholics are not used to a priest having a wife and family. But her main job has always been caring for and home-schooling the Seraiah children: Ajha, Ransom, Blaise, Rook, and Wyntre.
Married priests are actually not new in the United States—there are currently about 120 married priests in the US Church—although some serve in diocesan posts or in seminaries rather than in parish-based ministry. Fr. Seraiah was one of those allowed to work in parish ministry and was appointed to serve two parishes in the Diocese of Des Moines for the past three and a half years: SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, in Atlantic, IA, and St. Mary Catholic Church, in Anita, IA, from January of 2013, until May of 2016.
His appointment in the Diocese of Des Moines was initially only supposed to be for six months, in order to determine if the parishioners would be comfortable with a married priest.
“Within a few months, the people were asking that we stay longer,” Fr. Seraiah said. “We got along wonderfully and were truly blessed during our time there.”
Leaving Iowa was “bittersweet,” but, Fr Seraiah said, “I love local parish work, and I am happy to be able to work in the Ordinariate and also help out the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in any way that I am able.”
Although the parishioners have been meeting together for years now, St. George Catholic Church was officially established in 2015 and now has five families in its membership. The community holds a unique place in the area. It is not a diocesan mission, but the Church in Southern Missouri has embraced its ecumenical opportunity and is reaching out to former Anglicans and other Protestants who seek to identify the Catholic Church as their home.
“We are evangelistic,” said Fr. Seraiah, “that is our main focus.”
The members of St. George Catholic Church have been able to attend Mass as a congregation only every few months when Fr. Ken Bolin, a priest in the Ordinariate who was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, was able to celebrate with the community in the chapel at Immaculate Conception Church in Springfield. After settling in, Fr. Seraiah expects to celebrate Mass with St. George Catholic Church on a more regular schedule.