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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fr. Steenson: Pastoral Letter, 31 January 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Greetings in the Name of the Lord! The Ordinariate is finally off and running, after much anticipation, work, and prayer. We have many exciting things that are happening, and we want you to be aware of them as we launch this new endeavor. We are going to try to use our website and our Facebook page as our vehicles to keep you informed of current news until our communities and our communication are better organized.

Candidate Formation Weekend

We have just completed a wonderful Formation Weekend in Houston for the priest candidates and their wives for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. With deeply moving contributions from His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, the formation faculty of St. Mary’s Seminary, Marcus Grodi of the Coming Home Network, Fr. Paul Lockey (Pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Houston), Fr. Scott Hurd (Vicar General) and Dr. Margaret Chalmers (Chancellor), we have begun to take the first steps in preparing a group of very dedicated men for ordination.

As the Ordinariate was only established this month, this was our first opportunity to come together in mutual discernment and encouragement. There were many questions asked, and we certainly don’t have all the answers, but we know where to look. The goal of coming into full communion with the Catholic Church orients us in the right direction, and we are joyfully confident of our future. I am deeply moved by the courage and the faith of these men and their wives, who are going to be used by God to contribute to the building up of the Body of Christ.

We dealt particularly with the theological foundations for the Ordinariate, very much in line with Pope Benedict’s moving words about the nature of the Ordinariate in his address to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Jan. 27. He spoke of the importance of distinguishing the Tradition with a capital T from particular traditions by pointing to the groups of faithful coming from Anglicanism, “who wish to join the full communion of the Church, in the unity of the common and essentially divine Tradition, preserving their own distinctive traditions, spiritual, liturgical and pastoral, that are in keeping with the Catholic faith.” It is indeed a journey to full communion that we are on, but our identity is embraced by the Catholic Church. “There is, in fact, a spiritual wealth in the various Christian confessions that is the expression of the one faith, a gift to be shared and to be discerned within the Tradition of the Church.”

Installation of the Ordinary

On Feb. 12, Cardinal Wuerl and Cardinal DiNardo will help to inaugurate the Ordinariate at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. At this mass at 3 p.m., I will be invested liturgically with the responsibility of leading the Ordinariate. Your prayers and your presence are very welcome! I have been overwhelmed with the prayers and good wishes of so many in the Catholic Church who have opened their arms and their hearts to us. And very touching too have been the words of encouragement from other Christians as well who rejoice to see God’s people listening to and following their consciences.

We are now working diligently to lay proper foundations for the Ordinariate, both canonical and civil, and once this has been completed, we expect to be able to receive groups and congregations in the near future. We know that communities have lots of questions regarding the entry into the Ordinariate. There is an information form on the website ( for those who may wish to explore this further – particularly in the “Resources” section of the site.

We are expecting that the Ordinariate will include three categories of corporate membership – parishes, quasi-parishes more commonly known as missions, and smaller groups of people that could be designated public associations of the faithful. All former Anglicans who are now in full communion with the Catholic Church or who are preparing to be received are eligible to belong to the Ordinariate. We will work carefully with the local Catholic bishop to facilitate this process of discernment for those communities who approach us.

How To Join the Ordinariate

There have been many questions regarding how one joins the Ordinariate. Our founding document, Anglicanorum Coetibus gives us direction regarding membership in the Ordinariate.

AC IX. Both the lay faithful as well as members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, originally part of the Anglican Communion, who wish to enter the Personal Ordinariate, must manifest this desire in writing.

As the document indicates, no one is automatically a member of the Ordinariate. Rather, it is required that anyone who wants to belong to the Ordinariate needs to submit a petition in writing for membership. All membership request letters need to be sent via the US mail so that the Ordinariate has a hard copy record with both names and signatures. We also request that any other documents or lists sent to us electronically need to be in PDF format and sent as attachments. A sample membership letter can be found on our website, as well as the community profile questionnaire and a clergy information form.

Please be patient with us in responding to these requests. We have very limited personnel, and it may take some time before you hear back. But do not worry! The Ordinariate will soon be served by a very competent administrator to help manage this very complex process of incardinating clergy and incorporating groups. This will help us in our ability to respond to questions and requests in as timely a manner as possible...

Read the rest of Fr. Steenson's Pastoral Letter at the web site of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

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