Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Next Tuesday, 24 September, the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, is an opportune moment to be invited to write to you about the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, established two and a half years ago. I am grateful to your bishop for giving me this opportunity to tell you about the contribution the Ordinariate makes to the life and mission of the Catholic Church in our country.
Pope Benedict XVI established this new structure in 2011. He wanted to help groups of Anglicans, who wished to bring with them some of the traditions and beauty of the Anglican heritage in which they were nurtu-red, the ability to enter into full communion of the Catholic Church.
Since then more than 80 former Anglican clergy have been ordained as Catholic priests of the Ordinariate in England and Wales. They lead about 40 groups of former Anglican lay people, as well as serving the wider Catholic Church as chaplains in hospitals, prisons or schools or as diocesan priests. In London two churches have been entrusted to us. Elsewhere, our groups celebrate Ordinariate Masses in diocesan Catholic churches. We now have our own Ordinariate rite, which draws on those elements of the Anglican tradition which are consistent with Catholic teaching. As it is gradually introduced, it will add to the distinctive character of our worship. Already, one of the jewels of the Anglican tradition, choral Evensong, is beingregularly celebrated by the Ordinariate in some Catholic churches.
The Ordinariate adds to the rich diversity of the Catholic Church. Any Catholic is free to take part in the life and liturgy of the Ordinariate and receive the Sacraments from its clergy. Our priests are just like any other Catholic priests. By attending an Ordinariate Mass, you are fulfilling your obligation, just as you would by going to any Catholic church in the world. Members of the Ordinariate are likewise free to attend Mass in any Catholic church, being truly and fully members of the Catholic Church.
People coming to our Masses have spoken positively about the conviction of our preaching, our strong musical tradition and hymn singing, our pastoral outreach and the welcoming nature of our gatherings afterwards. This puts us in a strong position to play a full part, with the whole Church, in the urgent task of the New Evangelisation.
Like many members of the Church of England, in which I was ordained for over 35 years, I longed and prayed for union with the Catholic Church and the Ordinariate was a personal fulfilment of those prayers. It has been an incredible and uplifting journey for us all, full of grace, joy and blessings. Of course, we have experienced hardship and sacrifice as well. For many, especially those of our priests who are married with families, there has been great financial uncertainty; for us all it has meant leaving friends and familiar places of worship in the Church of England. We ask for your encouragement, your support and your prayers.
You may ask why we did not become Catholics in the usual way. It is a reasonable question but misses the most important point about the Ordinariate, that it is 'a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics' and 'It helps us to set our sights on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all' (Benedict XVI, Address to the Bishops, Oscott College, September 2010).
The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has begun in a small way but it is a concrete expression of the Church's desire to fulfil our Lord's command that 'they may all be one'. It is a small step towards healing one of the most damaging wounds of our history: the dividing of Christ's Body, the Church in this land.
With the assurance of my prayers for the whole Church as we all seek to be faithful to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Monsignor Keith Newton, Ordinary
from The Tablet, September 20, 2013
hat tip to Mary Ann Mueller