October 16, 2015

Leader of Anglican ordinariate for U.S. and Canada visits Indianapolis

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson smiles while speaking on Sept. 6 with Christine Janiec at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. As the leader of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Msgr. Steenson leads Anglicans and Episcopalians across the U.S. and Canada who have been received into the full communion of the Church, and seek to retain their spiritual and liturgical traditions. Members of the ordinariate in Indiana worship at Holy Rosary, where a Mass is celebrated weekly according to its Vatican-approved texts. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson smiles while speaking on Sept. 6 with Christine Janiec at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis. As the leader of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, Msgr. Steenson leads Anglicans and Episcopalians across the U.S. and Canada who have been received into the full communion of the Church, and seek to retain their spiritual and liturgical traditions. Members of the ordinariate in Indiana worship at Holy Rosary, where a Mass is celebrated weekly according to its Vatican-approved texts. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

When Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson led the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande, his flock was spread across all of New Mexico and part of western Texas—a large area by the standards of Catholic dioceses in the United States.

Now, as the leader of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, he serves Anglicans and Episcopalians across the entire United States and Canada who have been received into the full communion of the Church.

“I’ve gotten really good at packing,” said Msgr. Steenson. “I’ve got a small suitcase that I can get anywhere with now.”

Msgr. Steenson reflected on his life and ministry in leading the ordinariate during a Sept. 6 visit to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, where members of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Use Society celebrates the Eucharist according to texts drawn from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer tradition that have been approved by the Vatican.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI established the possibility of groups of Christians in communities tied to the Anglican communion to be received into the full communion of the Church, and maintain its own spiritual and liturgical traditions.

Msgr. Steenson had been received into the full communion of the Church in 2007. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M. months before Pope Benedict issued “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which allowed for the reception of groups of Anglicans into the Church.

The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was established on Jan. 1, 2012, with Msgr. Steenson appointed by Pope Benedict to be its first leader—a role known as an ordinary.

Previous members of Anglican or Episcopal communities are the primary people eligible to be members of the ordinariate. The ordinariate can also receive people who were baptized in the Latin Rite of the Church, but have not received all the sacraments of initiation.

Latin-rite Catholics can, however, attend Anglican Use liturgies to meet their Sunday Mass obligation. They can also become associate members of the ordinariate, and give it support through this participation.

As leader of the ordinariate, Msgr. Steenson, although not a bishop, can use items bishops commonly use, such as a pectoral cross, miter, crosier and zucchetto.

“I thought I would be an ordinary parish priest … until all this happened,” Msgr. Steenson said. “It was wonderful and terrible all at the same time. It’s very demanding.”

Later in the same year that the ordinariate was established, three families with an Anglican background were received into the full communion of the Church at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

They formed the core of the St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Use Society, with Luke Reese as its leader.

They were soon welcomed at Holy Rosary where the Eucharist according to Anglican Use texts began to be celebrated by the pastor of the parish. The society, whose members are spread across the state, numbers approximately 60 members at present.

Reese was glad to welcome Msgr. Steenson to Holy Rosary for the first time.

“This is, as it were, our apostolic touch,” Reese said. “We’re connected here with our ordinary, and then connected with Rome.”

For his part, Msgr. Steenson was impressed by the members of the ordinariate at Holy Rosary.

“I did not realize how well-formed this community is,” he said. “This is a real group of people. It’s a tremendous core that can be built upon to grow a parish.”

He believes that its growth will quicken when Reese is ordained a transitional deacon and later a priest of the ordinariate, making him the first married priest ministering in the territory of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

In the ordinariate, married men may be ordained to the priesthood, a practice that St. John Paul II approved in 1980 for ministers from liturgical faith communities, such as the Episcopal Church, who were received into the full communion of the Church.

“Once Luke is ordained, the community will be further stabilized,” Msgr. Steenson said. “I would then think that you’d see more interest.”

Reese has been traveling regularly over the past three years to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad to receive priestly formation. He has also participated in supervised ministry with the assistance of Father Todd Riebe, pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis.

Accepted as a candidate for the sacrament of holy orders last year, Reese is expected to be ordained a transitional deacon by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin this winter, and a priest late next spring or early next summer.

With the permission of a local Latin Rite bishop, a member of the clergy of the ordinariate may minister in a Latin-rite diocese like the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Msgr. Steenson appreciates the way the leadership of the archdiocese has helped the Anglican Use society here for the past three years, and helped Reese in his priestly formation.

“They took it to heart,” he said. “They get all the credit for this. I have to say that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has done everything to make this possible. I don’t think there is any other Catholic entity in the country that has been more involved at this ground level to get the community off of the ground than the Archdiocese of Indianapolis has.”

Reese agreed.

“The biggest experience that we have had is one of welcome. We are a contributing part of the parish,” said Reese, who also serves as music director at Holy Rosary. “Our members really feel that and the connection with everybody. Holy Rosary is a wonderful place.”

Currently, Father C. Ryan McCarthy, Holy Rosary’s pastor, attends to the sacramental needs of the ordinariate members and appreciates their presence in his parish.

“When people are here, I think they get a real feel that the Church is universal, that it’s not tied to one particular ritual or one particular vocation,” said Father McCarthy. “The Church is throughout the whole world. We might have different ways that we might worship. But, as long as they are in accordance with God’s holy Church, they all bring us closer to Christ and one another.”

Holy Rosary offers the regular celebration of the ordinary form of the Mass in English, the extraordinary form of the Mass in Latin, and the Anglican Use Mass.

Caren LeMark and her family were members of an ordinariate community in Mobile, Ala., before moving to Indianapolis in the fall of 2012. They appreciate the welcome they received into the ordinariate community at Holy Rosary.

“I love the richness and diversity at Holy Rosary,” LeMark said. “No matter what Mass we come to, it’s reverent and beautiful. It’s all Christ-centered and I love it.”

Msgr. Steenson sees the good relationship between the members of the ordinariate and Holy Rosary Parish as fulfilling the wish of the former Anglicans and Episcopalians.

“We didn’t become Catholic to become a little boutique operation out on the edge,” he said. “We wanted to live right in the center of it all. This is a tremendous inspiration for me to see this.”
 

(For more information on the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, visit http://ordinariate.net.)

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