A former Episcopal priest, Matthew Venuti of Mobile, Alabama, will make history when he becomes the first priest ordained for the Catholic Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The U.S.-based ordinariate was created by Pope Benedict XVI to welcome Anglican groups and clergy seeking to become Catholic while retaining elements of their Anglican heritage. It is equivalent to a diocese, but national in scope.
Mobile Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi will ordain Venuti a priest on Saturday, June 2, 10 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 2 South Claiborne Street, Mobile, AL 36602, along with four priests for the Archdiocese of Mobile.
Venuti’s ordination will be followed by 29 more ordinations of former Anglican priests across the United States this summer. They include hospital executive Jon Chalmers on June 3 in Greenville, South Carolina, followed by a father and son in Fort Worth, Texas; an editor of a major Catholic website in Virginia; military chaplains; and former Anglican priests in Arizona, California, Iowa, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states.
The ordinariate is led by former Episcopal bishop, Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson of Houston, Texas. Only one other exists, in England, and a third will be established in Australia on June 15. Dozens of communities are in the process of joining the U.S. Ordinariate and 60 Anglican priests are in formation, including the 30 to be ordained this summer.
Archbishop Rodi noted, “Matthew’s ordination is both a joy and a sign of hope that the unity Jesus prayed for at the Last Supper may one day be fully realized. We welcome him to serve the people both of the Archdiocese of Mobile and the Ordinariate.”
In speaking about the ordinations nationally, Msgr. Steenson said, “These ordinations mark a significant moment in the history of Catholic unity. Our expedited formation program, approved by the Holy See, has been a wonderful testimony to the deep respect that the Catholic Church has for the former Anglican ministries of these men.”
“They will continue to engage in ongoing formation and it is my hope that our brother priests throughout the Catholic Church will come along side us as mentors and friends. Together we will strive to lay a good foundation for this apostolate of unity that Pope Benedict has made possible,” he added.
“Coming home to the Catholic Church has been an amazing experience. I am ever grateful to the Holy Father for calling Anglicans back home and extending such pastoral generosity,” said Venuti.
Matthew Venuti, 31, received an undergraduate degree from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY in 2002. He worked in the music industry, in the jazz and pop music fields, before entering Virginia Theological Seminary. After receiving a master of divinity degree in 2010, he was ordained an Episcopal priest.
He served as curate for the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Dothan, Alabama until entering the Catholic Church in September 2011. He currently serves as the coordinator of faith formation for St. Mary Catholic parish in Mobile. He also leads the Society of St. Gregory the Great, an Anglican use group that is based at St. Mary’s and is online at www.stgregorymobile.org. He and his wife, Minerva, have been married for five years and have a young son. Special permission has been given for those former Anglican priests who are married to be ordained Catholic priests.
Prior to ordination, the men must go through an extensive process that includes submitting detailed background information to, and receiving approval to move forward from, the Vatican; undergoing a criminal background check and psychological assessment; receiving an endorsement from the local Catholic bishop; participating in an intensive formation program; passing an examination; and receiving a rescript from the Vatican permitting ordination. Ordinations are being scheduled as rescripts are received.
· Society of St. Gregory the Great: www.stgregorymobile.org
· Anglicanorum coetibus, the Vatican document authorizing ordinariates:http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_ben-xvi_apc_20091104_anglicanorum-coetibus_en.html