Boundaries stretch from the Mexican border to the Arctic Ocean and from sea to shining sea
A VOL EXCLUSIVE
By Mary Ann Mueller in Houston
March 26, 2012
The Rt. Rev. Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson has an incredibly difficult task ahead of him. On December 31, 2011, he was simply a Roman Catholic priest quietly teaching Patristics - his academic forte - at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. The Anglican Ordinariate was a gleam in Pope Benedict XVI's eye. On January 1, 2012, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was born, at least on paper, with Fr. Steenson, the former Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, was tapped as its leader.
As New Year's Day dawned, within the space of hours, the Pope, through the hands of William Cardinal Levada, challenged the new Ordinary, to do something that had never been done before. He was to create a nationwide diocese on the North American continent using the words of the Apostolic Constitution -- Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Complementary Norms for Anglicanorum Coetibus, and the Decree from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith establishing the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, coupled with the current Canons of the Catholic Church and the Catechism of the Catholic Church to guide him as the scuffling framework needed to complete his job and fully enflesh the Pope's prophetic vision.
"I'm basically starting a new diocese from nothing ... from scratch," the world's newest Anglican Ordinariate Ordinary explained. "The basic administrative work isn't finished yet. We wouldn't create an Ordinariate with people until we have a good corporate basis in which to do it."
On Jan. 1, there were no paid employees of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. Msgr. Steenson and the Ordinariate's other officers: Fr. Scott Hurd, Canon to the Ordinary - or the Vicar General in Catholic parlance; Margaret Chalmer, Chancellor; Margaret Pichon, Assistant to the Ordinary; and Susan Gibbs in Media Relations are all highly qualified unpaid "volunteers". Only Barbara Jonte, the Ordinariate's new Executive Assistant, is a paid staff member. However, she did not join the team until after the Ordinariate was erected on Jan. 1. The other four "volunteers" had worked many long hours leading up to New Year's Day so when the Ordinariate was formally announced from the Vatican, there was a functioning rudimentary skeleton in place to implement immediate Ordinariate needs such as unveiling the design of the Ordinariate's crest, activating the Ordinariate's website, organizing the Jan. 2 Houston news conference, the planning of the Feb. 12 investiture of Fr. Steenson as the founding Ordinary, and preparing for his elevation as a protonotary apostolic monsignor.
This rank gives Msgr. Steenson a seat in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) - the Catholic version of the House of Bishops - and entitles him to clutch a crozier, don the mitre, have a heavy-chained pectoral cross draped across his chest, and a wear bishop's fuchsia-colored cassock with oversized red cuffs. His new Catholic coat of arms boasts a fuchsia galero - the large, broad-brimmed tasseled hat associated with upper ranking clergy - and twin triple layers of red tassels in keeping with his new ecclesial hierarchical rank.
"There's no policy manuals ... we don't have the particular norms that, like what we used to call in The Episcopal Church, the Diocesan Constitution ... we don't have that," he said referencing his previous experience as an Episcopal bishop.
The closest equivalent he has to a diocesan constitution would be the Complementary Norms for Anglicanorum Coetibus that is still not detailed and is very sketchy. He has to figure things out as issues present themselves and needs are identified.
As the VIII Bishop of the Rio Grande, Msgr. Steenson inherited an established Episcopal diocese, albeit small. His Episcopal diocese encompassed the entire state of New Mexico, save the Four Corners region of the Navajoland, and spilled into Texas as far as the Pecos River.
As the Ordinariate's founding "bishop", Msgr. Steenson's new "diocese" temporarily encompasses the entire United States and all of Canada - until a separate Canadian Ordinariate can eventually be established. The Monsignor's new jurisdiction slices through 197 American Catholic dioceses and 71 dioceses north of the 49th Parallel. His spiritual authority stretches from the Arctic Archipelago in Canada to Ka Lae, South Point, Hawaii and Key West, Florida in the United States and from the Alaskan Aleutian Islands in the West to Newfoundland in the East and all points in between. His people pray for Queen Elizabeth II in Canada and Barack Obama in America. To the North, they look with joy to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrating her 60 years on the throne, while farther South all eyes turn to the battle for the White House...
Read the rest of this report on Virtue Online.
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