Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anglicanorum "Unfolds Before Us": In Fort Worth, a US First

Two years since Anglicanorum coetibus, they say the day is coming soon -- the release of the CDF decree establishing a Stateside jurisdiction for groups of Anglicans entering full communion with Rome, bringing with them distinctive elements of their lifelong patrimony of faith.

Yet even without the formal starting-gun, the groundbreaking B16 venture has already begun taking root on these shores, reaching a new level of its ramp-up last weekend.

At a Sunday Mass in Fort Worth, some 30 former Episcopalians became the first US group to enter the Catholic fold in preparation for the American Ordinariate's launch. Fourteen months since beginning their catechesis, the group's Professions of Faith, Confirmations and First Eucharists in St Patrick's Cathedral took place four years after four priests of North Texas' Episcopal diocese met privately with Bishop Kevin Vann to investigate the possibility of swimming the Tiber.

Two of those clerics were among the group received by Vann, including the former canon, or top deputy, to the area's Episcopal bishop. Both have received the nulla osta, the Vatican clearance to proceed to priestly formation in the Catholic church.

While the bulk of the community -- named St Peter the Rock -- made its full entrance into the fold at the weekend, a handful who are on a later track took part in the preliminary Rite of Welcome; they'll be fully initiated once their catechesis concludes.

For the record, the liturgy was the standard post-Conciliar Latin-rite, except for the propers of the day, which were taken from the Anglican Use Book of Divine Worship, which is likely to form the template for a Missal and Office for the global Ordinariates currently in the works in Rome.

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Long the nation's de facto seat of Anglo-Catholicism, it's fitting that the final turn toward the new national jurisdiction began in Lone Star Country: Stateside Catholicism's three oldest Anglican Use parishes are in San Antonio, Houston and the Fort Worth church, all American clergy making the journey will have their formation at Houston's St Mary's Seminary and many expect one or another locale in Texas to serve as the US Ordinariate's operational base.

All told, as many as 2,000 Anglicans (including a hundred or so priests) are expected to undertake the Canterbury-Rome trip in the domestic Ordinariate's first wave. Yet much like in England -- where its Ordinariate's launch birthed the UK's largest RCIA class in years last Easter -- an even larger second wave is expected once the structure is up and running. Along those lines, a second community in the Fort Worth church is soon to be established.

By provision of the Holy See, the US' Catholic Catechism for Adults is the foundational text of the American groups' formation for entry.

Having met weekly for Morning Prayer and catechesis at Fort Worth's chancery since their path began in July 2010, the St Peter's group has likewise integrated into their local Catholic parishes for Mass until their clerics are ordained. According to their leader, the once and future Fr Timothy Perkins, none of the fellowship's 50 members have a commute shorter than 40 minutes across the sprawling North Texas Metroplex to attend their gatherings.

Even for its sacrifices, a joyful Perkins called the experience "surreal" in a chat the other day between calls with his people.

With their entrance into the fold, "we have come to the fullness of faith."

Now serving as one of three USCCB members overseeing Anglicanorum's launch on these shores, alongside Bishop Robert McManus of Worcester and the venture's American chief, Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl (whose customary attention to detail has assured the Ordinariate's smoothest possible start), here below is the fulltext of Vann's homily at the Reception Mass:

Having briefed the bench at length over the summer (text/video) on the project's domestic progress, the DC cardinal will preside at the reception of the next entering community -- the former Episcopal parish of St Luke's, located just outside the capital in Bladensburg, MD -- on 9 October.

Even though the group is one of a handful able to keep worshiping in its heretofore-Episcopal space, the St Luke's rite will be held in the Crypt of Washington's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A week later, the 100-member community will welcome the English Ordinary -- the former Anglican bishop, now Msgr Keith Newton -- for a celebratory Mass.

Speaking of Tiber-swimming Anglicans, the St Luke's reception coincides with the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman, this year's marking the 166th anniversary of the future cardinal's reception into the Romish fold.

PHOTOS: Diocese of Fort Worth