The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter







This past weekend, Fr. Al Baca and I attended a symposium at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston, Texas, to mark the first anniversary of the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The occasion was highlighted by the first visit of the new Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Muller, to the United States, and the presence of Donald Cardinal Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Archbishop Muller delivered a reflection on the importance of the Ordinariate and the concept and reality of ecclesial communion. Cardinal Wuerl was honored for his leadership on the commission for the establishment of the Ordinariate in this country. Archbishop Muller was also the principal celebrant and homilist at the 10:30 AM Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. It was a weekend of celebration, prayer, reflection and thanksgiving. It was also a time of reunion with many friends from the Ordinariate who are in Fort Worth, and whom I knew from my years there. Thanks to God for the grace and blessing of this weekend of celebration of the Ordinariate, which is truly the result of years of prayer, study, and desire for full communion with the See of Peter.

COURTESY OF: FR. AL BACA, Pastor, St Cecilia’s in Tustin & Episcopal Vicar of Ecumenism and Inter-Religion for the Diocese of Orange

bacaThe Symposium on the Occasion of the First Anniversary of the Ordinariate in the US

July of last year, something historic happened in the beautiful Basilica of San Juan Capistrano. Almost sixty former Episcopalians from San Diego and Orange and an Episcopal priest were welcomed into the fullness of Catholic faith by Bishop Brown and the head of the Ordinariate in the United States, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson.

It had been a long journey that I was blessed to be a part of serving as their chaplain. The process of reception was one of years of preparation and prayer. Fr Hugh Barbour himself the son of an Episcopal priest, had guided the group through the reception of Catholic faith, studying the full teaching of the Catholic Church allowing for questions and reflection. Monsignor Doug Cook addressed the issues of marriage, divorce and remarriage. Communication continued between myself and now Father Andrew Bartus for many months, with occasional visits from me, participation in Liturgy and meetings with Bishop Brown. And then came the day when they were all received! Since that day, the Ordinariate has found a home at St Joseph’s in Santa Ana and continues to grow under the loving care of Fr Bartus.

Bishop Vann, knowing that I had been involved in the beginnings of the Ordinariate in Orange County invited me to attend a symposium in celebration of the first anniversary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter of the United States. Held in Texas from February 2-3, we were the guests of Cardinal Dinardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston. The symposium was held at the beautiful St Mary’s Seminary in the midst of a thriving seminary community of ninety men.

Presentations were made from His Excellency, the Most Reverend Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Donald Wuerl of Washington DC, Monsignor Steven Lopes, STD, assistant to the Prefect in the CDF and Secretary to the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission, and responses from His Excellency Bishop Kevin Vann and Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

These are some of the highlights from the presentations, at the conclusion I will list where the full texts can be found.

Archbishop Müller’s presentation was of particular interest since this was the first time he was speaking as Prefect in the United States. He began by speaking words of appreciation and noting that many of those who had joined the Ordinariate had done so with much personal sacrifice. Many had experienced the loss of friendships and the strain within family due to their decision to become Catholic. The Archbishop noted that along with the sacrifice and pain had come blessing and grace. With their entrance into the Church they brought with them the rich patrimony of Anglican life and worship. It was he said, “A work of the Holy Spirit.”

The Archbishop reminded us that God is source of all communion; at the center of everything is the Godhead. The Trinity is the model and reality that draws us into relationship with Him. Communion in the Church flows from the lived communion of the Trinity. The Incarnation is the self-giving of the Trinity to human creatures and through the Liturgy of the Eucharist we offer ourselves back to the Father. There is a perfect unity among the Three Persons and yet there is “communion in difference.”

“True communion is rooted in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a communion in which the diversity of the Persons is constituted and sustained by their essential relations. The Father is not the Son and the Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, and yet each divine Person is who he is in relation to and in perfect communion with the other. This communion in difference is the key insight as we consider our participation as Church in the Trinitarian mystery…Our distinctiveness and interdependence is a blessing for the Church and a source of its vitality.”

The Ordinariate seeks to pattern itself after the life of the Blessed Trinity. “The unity of the one and the many is a key insight of Anglicanorum Coetibus. The unity of the Church is an image of the eternal unity of God, and according to that heavenly pattern, unity is not achieved by an elimination of distinctiveness. The unity of faith, therefore, permits a diversity of expression of that one faith. That is what is meant in the Apostolic Constitution when it says that groups of Anglicans can enter into communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony. The diversity in liturgical expressions, in some governance structures and in parochial culture does not threaten ecclesial communion.”

The Archbishop challenged the Ordinariate community to maintain strong relations with the larger Catholic Church. He spoke of the structure of the Ordinariate and why it was chosen. He ended his presentation saying, “Be courageous pioneers of communion.”

Cardinal Wuerl spoke on the Ordinariate as fruit of the New Evangelization. He encouraged us to share the gift of faith with the People of God, with everyone. He warned that there would be significant obstacles: secularism, materialism and individualism. Alongside this there would be what he called “foundation blocks’ that would help. These were: 1) Anthropological or the inner drive to be social beings. We are made for community. 2) Christological or the witness of Christ and the re-proposing of Christ to the larger community. “Who do you say that I am?” 3) Ecclesiological or the essential place of the Church. We are a people in communion. Only the Church can take in the totality of witness to the person of Jesus Christ. 4) Soteriological or the living of our faith in fullness and joy which prepares the coming of the Kingdom. The Ordinariate shows that this happens through communion with the Church. The Ordinariate is a witness to the history and the healing of division in the Christian family.

Finally, His Eminence stressed four qualities of the New Evangelization: 1) Courage, boldness and confidence, 2) connectedness with the Church, 3) a sense of urgency. No time to waste, and 4) Joy. If we are proclaiming the truth of Christ we should be joyful.

Fr Steve Lopes spoke to questions regarding the foundations of the Ordinariate Liturgy. He urged us to re-read Sacrosanctum Concilium, which describes the source of the Liturgy as the work of God the Father through the Son. The heart of the Liturgy is the Paschal Mystery. He cautioned that “full, conscious and active participation” was not a list of functions but rather a demand arising out of the nature of the liturgy itself. “Theologically speaking, the demand of conscious, active participation is not so that we might ‘get something’ out of the liturgy, but so that we might give ourselves all the more in union with the sacrifice of Christ.”

Father lopes then spoke of the interplay between the patrimony of Anglican liturgy and life and the Primacy. For those who are interested in the development of those rites presently used in the Ordinariate Liturgy, Father Lopes presentation is a must read.

Monsignor Steenson recalled the history of the Ordinariate and the years of conversation between various individuals who had separated from the Anglican Communion and Rome. Was there a place for them in the Catholic Church? He spoke of the responsibilities that they still shouldered, “Amongst ourselves in the Ordinariates we must forge fraternal relationships that we did not always have as Anglicans. We must win the trust of our fellow Catholics and not be drawn into divisive situations. And we must not forget our brothers and sisters who remain Anglicans…This is as it should be: our destination is Love itself, and we must strive for all that builds up the Body of Christ. What a great privilege it is to share in our Holy Father’s vision for the building up of the Body of Christ!”

Finally he noted two particular priorities of the Ordinariate: 1) Embrace the ecclesiology of communion which lies at the heart of the Catholic faith, bearing in mind that this is intended to be a work of Christian unity and 2) bring forward distinctive elements of the Anglican patrimony as a gift to be shared within the Catholic Church.”

His Excellency, Bishop Vann, Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, spoke of his own personal experience and journey with members of the Ordinariate. He related how he came to be involved with the Pastoral Provision set up by Blessed John Paul II and active in Texas. He noted that the Pastoral Provision should not be assumed into the Ordinariate. He outlined five links: 1) the Pastoral Provision is distinct from the Ordinariate. They are bound together and yet they speak to different realities: individual communion and corporate communion. 2) Both need to be in communication with each other so as to assist each other. 3) Both the Ordinariate and the Pastoral Provision should be about mutual enrichment. 4) Both speak to the reality of ecclesial communion and 5) both are a witness to the providence of God.”

The experience of being with so many people of faith who had found a new home with us in the Catholic Church was exhilarating and their witness a true testimony of sacrifice and love.

For the full text of the presentations given by: The Most Reverend Gerhard Müller, Msgr. Steven Lopes and Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, please go to: