Thursday, 4 February 2016

"Great are the works of the Lord”: The Episcopal Ordination of Steven Joseph Lopes, First Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of The Chair of St. Peter (POCSP)

They gathered from all over North America, priests, deacons, clergy wives, and laity rubbing shoulders with bishops and cardinals at the reception following Evensong on the Vigil of the Feast of the Presentation. 
Bishop-elect Lopes
The Chancery Great Hall at Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas was filled to overflowing as wine glasses clinked in greetings to friends not seen for some time. Sisters of the Presentation of Mary from Iowa chatted with Franciscans and Dominicans from California (Bishop Lopes’ home state).    

Sitting quietly with a Houston parish hostess was Cardinal William Levada. He is the retired archbishop of San Francisco – Bishop Lopes’ home diocese – as well as Lopes’ former boss at the CDF in Rome: a mentor indeed. Cardinal Levada’s dry humour was on display later at a dinner for family, friends, former parishioners, and colleagues in St. John’s Hall part of the the soon-to-be cathedral complex of Our Lady of Walsingham (OLW).

Cardinal Levada chats with Msgr Steenson as Msgr Lopes looks on - 2015
Monday evening, before the episcopal ordination, a couple of hundred priests, deacons, clergy wives, religious, and lay people, were treated to Texas hospitality at a private dinner to honour the bishop-elect.  Canadians from British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick re-connected with those from all over the USA as well as greeting Monsignor Harry Entwistle from Australia and honoured visitors from Rome.

The Rosary Garden OLW 
The day of the ordination, February 2nd, The Feast of Candlemas, dawned in a cloud-covered Houston with a warm gulf coast breeze blowing. Mass was the first order of the day as the shuttle buses brought many visitors from the downtown Hilton Americas Hotel back to OLW. 

A light brunch, courtesy of the OLW parishioners, was followed by an outdoor Festival of Children’s Activities, dancing, and music under a bright, sunny, blue sky which had not been in the forecast! At 2:00 p.m. the Texas Barbeque was underway – dress casual.  

Bishop-elect Lopes was on hand to greet hundreds from the local community as well as those from around the globe gathered in this southern American centre of Catholic life under the pastoral care of the effervescent Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the first-ever cardinal appointed to the “Deep South” in recognition of the massive and growing Catholic population in Texas and neighbouring states.

Cardinal DiNardo has been a great and continuing friend to the Ordinariate. He convinced the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston to gift the POCSP with the OLW church property. OLW had begun life in the 1980s under the leadership of Fr. James Ramsey and Fr. James Moore as a Pastoral Provision (Anglican Use) parish under the jurisdiction of the local archbishop.

In collaboration with his great friend and fellow Patristics scholar, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, Cardinal DiNardo was able to transfer the church, now cathedral, as well as the adjoining land, which since 2015 includes the beautiful new chancery of the POCSP. We are told that a future larger cathedral is now in the preliminary planning stages.

The Ordination, broadcast worldwide on EWTN from the Co-cathedral of the Sacred Heart (the original cathedral is in the old port city of Galveston), began with the procession of scores of diocesan and visiting priests and deacons, followed by dozens of Ordinariate priests from around North America. 
After the pageantry of the prelude and procession organ accompanied by tympani, including Parry’s “I was Glad,” all sang the opening hymn “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation” followed by the Kyrie and Gloria by Canadian composer Healey Willan.

Six cardinals, along with the many bishops and archbishops settled in the apse of the magnificent cathedral sanctuary along with the three Ordinaries, Monsignors Steenson, Newton, and Entwistle of, respectively, North America, the United Kingdom, and Australia.


In his opening remarks, the host, Cardinal DiNardo, thanked the beloved retiring Ordinary, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, for his remarkably grace-filled leadership through the initial days, which laid the foundations of the POCSP.  


He remarked upon the roles played by Cardinals Levada and Müller of the CDF who had worked with the young Fr. Steven Lopes to establish the Ordinariates following the lead of our revered Pope Benedict XVI.

Msgr Wilkinson
Monsignor Peter Wilkinson from Canada read the formal presentation of Bishop-elect Lopes. The packed cathedral reverberated to thunderous “Amens” as Cardinal Müller prayed for the first-ever Ordinariate bishop, and the ceremony of ordination continued with the laying on of hands by the dozens of bishops.

Following his first blessing of the congregation, Bishop Lopes thanked all present, noting in particular the meaning of the motto he had chosen as bishop, Magna Opera Domini which translates: “Great are the works of the Lord.” 


The newly anointed bishop exhorted members of the Ordinariates to be zealous in the proclamation of the Gospel and evangelization.  His clear mandate, taken from Pope Francis’s encouragement to him at their recent meeting ~ “Avante!” ~ Forward, reaching out to all people in order that they may be included in the unity of Christ for which the Lord established the Catholic Church on the rock of Peter.

In the presence of ecumenical guests Bishop Lopes urged everyone to take seriously the call to unity with the Chair of Peter. The Holy Spirit was palpable in the great and glorious liturgy which has inaugurated a new chapter in the short history of this new instrument of God’s love.

At the reception following, an elderly figure sat at the entrance humbly attired in alb and stole.  Fr. Bruce Noble was one of the first priests to serve the mission of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston which had grown, as he said in his Australian brogue, “from a small acorn” into a cathedral.  Who could have dreamt this? 
Fr. Bruce Noble (left) with his late twin brother Fr. David Noble - Both entered into
the full communion of the Catholic Church in the 1980s.
Like a true patriarch he sat as children came to embrace him and men and women recognized him with warmth and joy.  Offering to celebrate Mass the following Monday for the Sisters of Charity who were guests at Bishop Lopes’ ordination, this frail priestly figure epitomizes the miracle that God had wrought – “great are the works of the Lord!”

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