Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, formerly Episcopal (Anglican) Bishop of the Diocese of Rio Grande (New Mexico and NW Texas), has been appointed as of January 1, 2012 Ordinary or chief pastor for the Anglican Ordinariate of The Chair of St. Peter. The Ordinariate is a body in full communion with the Holy See and so in communion with more than one billion Roman and Eastern Catholic Christians around the world, the largest unified religious body on earth. This is indeed an answer to the prayers of many for whom the unity of the Church is essential.
The Ordinariate is erected in the United States but will have oversight for Canadian groups as well so is effectively a continent-wide diocese for Catholic Anglicans in the United States and Canada allowing them to bring their Anglican heritage or patrimony into the full communion of the worldwide Catholic Church under the guidance of their own ordinary or chief pastor, Msgr. Steenson.
Like the Ordinary for the United Kingdom, Monsignor Keith Newton, who has authority for reconciled Anglicans in England, Scotland and Wales since last year, Msgr. Steenson is a married Catholic priest and former Anglican bishop who will act in every jurisdictional way as a bishop save only for ordaining. Msgr. Steenson will preside at the liturgy in episcopal mitre and vestments by the respectful provision of Pope Benedict XVI thus recognizing his previous ministry as an Anglican bishop.
Msgr. Steenson’s ordinary jurisdiction or authority is now for Anglicans, Lutherans, and others reconciled with the Holy See through the Anglican Ordinariate in North America. Initially, he will be actively involved in the formation of about 70 Anglican priests who will be preparing for Catholic ordination during the Season of Pentecost (May 2012).
Working from the seminary at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Msgr. Steenson will also co-ordinate the reception of parishes – some quite large and growing – which have been part of the Pastoral Provision for the Anglican Use dating from 1983. Including the potential candidates for priesthood and those who, like Msgr. Steenson, have already been ordained in the full communion of the Catholic Church, projections are that there may soon be over 100 priests in the North American Ordinariate, dozens of small and some large parishes made up of several thousand Catholic Anglicans.
For Canadians, this means that the first Anglican parish received into full communion this past December, St. John the Evangelist in Calgary, will look to Msgr. Steenson, for episcopal pastoral oversight and will be constituted as a parish in the Ordinariate. Other Canadian parishes and groups may seek the same oversight while co-operating with their local Latin Rite and Eastern Catholic bishops to make a concerted Catholic witness in communion with one another.
This means that, from now on, any Catholic (Latin/Roman, Ukrainian, Greek, Byzantine, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite, Syriac, Chaldean or other Catholic) may receive Holy Communion at an Anglican Ordinariate Mass and fulfill their Sunday and other obligations as Catholic Christians.
Many Anglicans, Lutherans, and other Christians who profess orthodox Christian faith will, over time, seek full communion with the universal Church through this new Anglican Ordinariate. Small at first, the attraction of beautiful English liturgy based upon The Book of Common Prayer and expressed in Anglican liturgical settings (eastward celebration and ceremonial), along with the Anglican musical, pastoral, and aesthetic traditions will attract many as regular Sunday and holy day celebrations of Mass in the Anglican Use are established in cities across Canada.
As in the UK, the Ordinary will have jurisdiction across borders. In this case, Canada will come under the US ordinary until such time as there are sufficient parishes that a Canadian Ordinary is required.
This work of the Holy Spirit is, as so often is the case, faced with many obstacles but, now established under an Apostolic Constitution, the Anglican Ordinariate in North America has been erected by the Holy See under the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). The Ordinariate is now a permanent structure of the Catholic Church in England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, and the USA and will soon be established in Australia.
The potential for Christian unity that this dramatic development will have over time is its intent and though misunderstanding, opposition, and prejudice is often an initial feature of such dramatic moves for the healing of the Body of Christ, we know that as St. Paul puts it: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8)