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U.S./ Upon This "Rock," An Ordinariate Is Born

January Mon 02, 2012

Interior of Our Lady of Walsingham church, Houston Interior of Our Lady of Walsingham church, Houston

Twenty-six months since Anglicanorum coetibus laid the groundwork for groups of Anglicans to cross the Tiber whilst maintaining elements of their liturgical, spiritual, theological and canonical patrimony, the top-shelf papal project has taken a sizable leap this New Year's morning, with as the establishment of the venture's Stateside jurisdiction by the Holy See.

In an unprecedented Sunday announcement -- a significant sign of Rome's degree of seriousness about the effort -- the Vatican's press bulletin gave official word of the erection of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, encompassing the territory of the United States. The national quasi-diocese for the entering groups is the second of its kind, following England's Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was launched a year ago this month.

Fr Jeffrey Steenson, 59, the former Episcopal bishop of Rio Grande ordained a priest of the archdiocese of Santa Fe in 2009, has been named the founding Ordinary. A married father of three and Oxford-trained patristics scholar who's been serving until now as a professor at Houston's St Mary's Seminary and University of St Thomas, Steenson's appointment is effective immediately.

Last June, it emerged that Steenson had been tasked with preparing and overseeing the rapid formation program for American Anglican clergy entering the Ordinariate, to be based at St Mary's. From 2005-07, the married father of three served as head of the Episcopal church's most sprawling diocese, covering New Mexico and Southwest Texas.

Dated today (January 1), the CDF decree establishing the structure has already been released. A press conference to mark the launch will be held tomorrow (2 January) at Houston's Our Lady of Walsingham church , which will be the "principal church" -- essentially the cathedral -- of the new entity. The nation's second-oldest Anglican Use community, the Norman-style church was dedicated in 2003, built by its members a decade after their reception into the Catholic fold. Begun with a dozen pilgrims, the parish now numbers more than 300 families.

The designation of a principal church for the US Anglicanorum branch already places the project ahead of its English counterpart. Despite having a year's start, the UK Ordinariate is still awaiting the release of a church to serve as its hub. Alongside its sacramental seat, the Stateside Ordinariate's offices are also to be in Houston, at least initially on the Walsingham parish campus.

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