The first principle of the Ordinariate is then about Christian unity. St. Basil the Great, the Church’s greatest ecumenist, literally expended his life on the work of building bridges between orthodox brethren who shared a common faith, but who had become separated from one another in a Church badly fragmented by heresy and controversy. He taught that the work of Christian unity requires deliberate and ceaseless effort...St. Basil often talked with yearning about the archaia agape, the ancient love of the apostolic community, so rarely seen in the Church of his day. This love, he taught, is a visible sign that the Holy Spirit is indeed present and active, and it is absolutely essential for the health of the Church.

- Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Homily on the Occasion of his Formal Institution as Ordinary

Friday, January 27, 2012

New questions, challenges confront Episcopal-turned-Catholic leader

By Nancy Frazier O'Brien
Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- Father Jeffrey N. Steenson is finding that there are a lot of new roads to travel and new questions to resolve since his Jan. 1 appointment as head of the Houston-based Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for former Anglicans who want to become Catholics.

The former Episcopal bishop of the Rio Grande, who was ordained a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M., in February 2009, was to be installed in his new post Feb. 12. Also in February, a class of about 40 former Episcopal priests will begin an intensive, Internet-based course of studies to become Catholic priests within the ordinariate.

Father Steenson and his wife, Debra, have three grown children and a grandson. Because he is married, he will not be ordained a bishop, but he will become a full voting member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

He spoke to Catholic News Service during a busy day Jan. 22 at Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore, where he celebrated Mass, received a group of parishioners into the Catholic Church, performed a baptism and led an evensong service.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the ordinariate and yourself in the next months or years?

A: We have to create a set of norms to govern it -- I'm not a canon lawyer, but the canon lawyers call it particular law. None of that exists yet so that's what we've been working overtime on for the last month, just to try and create that. So there's the practical question of getting the legal and business structure set up, and I've noticed that there are so many questions about the ordinariate -- about what it is, what its mission is -- that it's easy for people to misunderstand or draw wrong conclusions. Like, the Episcopalians shouldn't think we're sheep stealing because we could never contact an Episcopalian directly. The Catholic Church wonders, "Will you fit in or will you just be a separate entity?" So we have to show that we're going to keep our patrimony, our identity intact but we're a fully functioning part of the Catholic Church and we have deep respect for the ecumenical protocols whenever there are these awkward situations coming up. So I would say this is very, very difficult. (Laughs) God is really going to have to watch over us in all this.

Q: Are there special challenges to governing a church jurisdiction that covers so large a geographical area?

A: I'm sure there are going to be many, and it's primarily going to be for the clergy to be able to build relationships with each other. We're going to be virtual in so many respects. We're going to really depend on technology to keep communication open. Our formation program for the clergy is going to be run via a really high-tech Internet system that will allow real-time, two-way communications, which I'm told has never been attempted before in any kind of a theological exercise. So that will be hard, and I'm concerned that a small group -- I mean, this church (Mount Calvary) is not going to have any problems -- but a small group that is out in the middle of nowhere doesn't feel isolated and forgotten. So we will have to work really hard on that...

Read the rest of the interview at Catholic News Service.

Hat tip to Mary Ann Mueller.

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