New Catholic parish in Bridegport celebrates with Friday evening Mass
Father David Ousley celebrates Mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Bridgeport.
By Gary Puleo, The Times Herald November 18, 2016
BRIDGEPORT. The former home of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Bridgeport will once again come alive with the passion of spirituality and the welcoming vibe of community as a Roman Catholic parish.
The faithful have been worshipping at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church since last December, but the church will officially get its start at 502 Ford St. on Friday as the newest parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a diocese for Roman Catholics in the U.S. and Canada who were once Anglican, but are now Catholic.
Bishop Steven J. Lopes, the Ordinariate’s first bishop, will establish the parish and appoint Father David Ousley as its pastor at a 7 p.m. Mass on Friday.
Many will recall that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia had closed Our Lady of Mount Carmel and merged the parish with Sacred Heart Church in Swedesburg in the summer of 2014.
“We are not Our Lady of Mount Carmel resurrected,” Ousley said. “We were able to save (the building) as a Catholic church. If we had not come here it would have gone on the market at some point, probably to a developer.”
Ousley understands that the situation allowing the establishment of a new parish is a bit puzzling to a lot of people.
“It’s always confusing to everybody as to who we are. ‘How can you be Catholic and not be in the archdiocese?’ ” he said. “Pope Benedict set up a structure which is like a diocese for former Anglicans (Episcopalians) to come into the Catholic church as groups, not just individuals. So I and my congregations (St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Community of Philadelphia) came into the Catholic church in 2012 together and were ordained in the Catholic church.”
All are welcome to Friday’s liturgy, which will be followed by a reception at the parish.
According to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, parishes celebrate Mass according to Divine Worship: The Missal, a book of liturgical texts for the Ordinariate approved and promulgated by the Vatican in November 2015. The Ordinariate Form of the Mass is fully Catholic — conforming to Catholic sacramental and liturgical standards – while featuring Prayer Book English and other elements of Anglican heritage.
“One of the ways I explain it to people: Mount Carmel was the Italian parish in Bridgeport; there was also St. Augustine, which was a geographical parish, and also Sacred Heart, which was Polish, and Sts. Peter and Paul, which was Ukrainian. They’re all Catholic, but they have their particular mission. In a way they were like an ethnic diocese. Our focus is Episcopalians who want to be Catholic and Protestants who want to come into the Catholic Church, because we can make that transition easier for them, having been there ourselves. The Ordinariate is like the Archdiocese but it’s not geographical … that’s why it’s called personal. The archdiocese covers five counties, the Ordinariate is all over the us and Canada. Several groups of Anglicans around the world had petitioned to come in corporately, not just as individuals. This makes it easy for Anglicans who want to become Catholic to do so.”
Although fully and unequivocally Catholic, the Personal Ordinariate will always be smaller than Diocesan parishes “for a variety of reasons,” Ousley said.
“The Ordinariate is less than five years old, but it is very much a growth enterprise. We’ve one from 32 congregations to 43,” he noted.
Several men are currently in various stages of working their way into the priesthood at St. John, which, for now, will operate solely with Ousley at the helm, he added.
“It’s a new thing, it’s growing and it’s exciting.”
Lopes had decided to form the Bridgeport parish after evaluating its size, financial stability, relationship with its territorial diocese, and other factors.
It was then that two previous Ordinariate parishes, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Community of Philadelphia and Blessed John Henry Newman Catholic Community of Strafford were merged into St. John the Baptist.
Bridgeport turned out to be the ideal location for the burgeoning parish, Ousley allowed.
“While most Ordinariate communities grow one family at a time, we’ve had the advantage of bringing two small communities together to make one larger one,” Ousley said. “This ‘worked’ because of the generosity and good will of all our parishioners. The fruit of this work is not only in our new identity, which is already well established, but in the attractiveness of St. John’s to others. Each Sunday seems to bring some new faces, and many come back to become familiar faces.”
While the Blessed John Henry Newman Catholic Community was primarily centered in the Main Line area, many members of St. John were traveling from as far as Atlantic City, said Ousley, who had been on board at St. Michael’s since 1983 and will now reside at the St. John rectory with his wife.
“We were looking for a location that would work for both the Main Line folks and also be near the (Schuylkill) expressway for the St. Michael’s people, who come from all over the place. So Bridgeport was a good location.”
The new parish name was chosen by way of a fundamental philosophy of Catholic teachings, Ousley noted.
“St. John the Baptist always pointed to Jesus, so we thought he was a good patron for the current age in which we live,” Ousley said. “We always want to point to Jesus and we want to be courageous about doing so.”
Having reached out to the community with a cookout last August and a Blessing of the Animals event in October, Ousley said he has gradually been making inroads in connecting with Bridgeport folks.
“It’s a great community, very welcoming, and we’re glad to be a part of it,” he said. “We look forward to becoming more a part of it and seeing what we can do to serve the community.”