Calgary congregation votes to join Catholic Church

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St. Peter's Basilica, Rome Photo: Colleen Cahill
St. Peter's Basilica, Rome Photo: Colleen Cahill

The congregation of St. John’s the Evangelist in Calgary voted in late November to enter into serious discussions with the Roman Catholic Church about becoming a part of its Anglican Ordinariate in Canada. It is the first parish of the Anglican Church of Canada to move toward becoming a part of the Catholic Church since Pope Benedict XVI announced the creation of the ordinariate just over a year ago.

The news was announced in a letter from Anglican Bishop Derek Hoskin of the diocese of Calgary to clergy in the diocese: “This is a step in a spiritual journey which St. John’s has been on for a number of years and is in response to the announcement on Nov. 4, 2009 of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus by Pope Benedict XVI.”

Bishop Hoskin said that he and the St. John’s clergy have agreed not to comment further before the ordinariate is in place, those wishing to join have received an invitation, and parishioners and clergy have individually decided what they will do.

Until that time, his letter said that worship and ministry at St. John the Evangelist will continue in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Parishioners will continue to be a part of the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Rev. Fr. Lee Kenyon will continue his ministry as priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. Bishop Hoskin added that the diocesan leadership and the parish leaders are all willing to talk and work together.

The opening of a door through which Anglicans could join the Catholic church– at a time when unity has been challenged by divisions over issues such as human sexuality–surprised many when it was announced last year. But the Vatican said that the ordinariate was a response to groups of Anglicans who petitioned repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. Other Anglican denominations, not part of the Anglican Church of Canada, such as the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, have already expressed interest in being part of the ordinariate.

The Anglicanorum Coetibus introduced a canonical structure that would establish “personal ordinariates,” similar to dioceses within existing Catholic dioceses. These jurisdictions would be in full communion with the Catholic Church but could observe some Anglican services, liturgies and traditions. The Catechism of the Catholic Church would, however, be the “authoritative expression” professed by those in the ordinariates.

According to the document, former Anglican bishops, including those who are married, could be ordained as priests within the Catholic Church and are eligible to be appointed as ordinary (bishop) and exercise pastoral and sacramental ministry within the ordinariate with full jurisdictional authority. But all exceptions to the Catholic Church’s rule that priests should be celibate would be decided on a case-by-case basis. Former Anglican bishops could also be asked to assist ordinaries. They may be invited to participate in meetings of the Bishop’s Conference in that territory with status equivalent to a retired bishop.

Anglican clergy could be accepted by the ordinary as candidates for ordination as Catholic priests. Married priests would also be eligible on a case-by-case basis, but unmarried priests would be required to remain celibate. The constitution also stated that Anglican clergy who are in “irregular marriage situations” would not be accepted for ordination.

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Leigh Anne Williams
Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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