There’s a wonderful line in Anglicanorum coetibus which makes it clear that we’re supposed to “…maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.” (Ang. coet. III)
It’s fairly obvious that to do this, we need parishes. Lots of them. We need parishes in every major city, and we need them in towns and villages. Until and unless people have the opportunity to become part of a community which is actually carrying out the mandate to “maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions,” then the sharing of the treasure will be sporadic at best. It’s in the parish setting that the liturgy lives on a daily basis, and it’s in the context of the parish that the priestly and diaconal ministries are most frequently exercised. Parishes will be the key component in the implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus.
I want to make another suggestion, however, which I believe will be fundamental to maintaining and nourishing the Anglican patrimony, and which will be a major means of its growth. Schools. I’m absolutely convinced that if the Ordinariates establish schools as part of their parishes, our patrimony will flourish.
When the bishops in the United States met at the First Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1852, it was for the purpose of organizing and standardizing the life and discipline of the Church. They issued twenty-five decrees, and one of them stated, “Bishops are exhorted to have a Catholic school in every parish and the teachers should be paid from the parochial funds.” In fact, the bishops felt so strongly about Catholic education, by the time the Third Plenary Council was held in 1884 they spoke of the “obligation” of the pastors to establish schools, and said that “parents must send their children to such schools,” unless the bishop judged there was sufficient reason for sending them elsewhere. So it’s pretty obvious that Catholic schools were deemed to be mighty important then, and I'm convinced they still are.
In 1993, I made the decision to establish a parish school. Although the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement had been established ten years before, it was still fairly small – fewer than 75 or 80 families. I won’t go through the litany of difficulties and obstacles we encountered (all from outside the parish), but suffice it to say that we opened for the school year in 1994. It was a modest beginning, with sixty-six students in Kindergarten through Third Grade. Today it’s a school which starts with Pre-Kindergarten and goes through High School. We have nearly five hundred students, with the probability of a larger number next year.
Every one of these students is immersed in our Anglican patrimony, every single day. The whole student body attends daily Mass, using the approved Anglican Use liturgy. Every student learns to sing Anglican Chant, hymns, and the great music of the Church, including plainchant. For them, the celebration of the Mass ad orientem, with traditional ceremonial, is completely normal. They take part in Solemn Evensong on several feast days throughout the year. They know and love our Anglican prayers, our way of doing things, our spirituality.
Because the education they receive is of the highest quality, recognized nationally, many parents seek to enroll their children – parents who perhaps aren’t practicing their faith, but who want something excellent for their children. Over the years, those students have been instrumental in bringing their families to the parish. I’ve lost count of how many baptisms I have administered, marriages I have convalidated, and confessions I have heard, because a student in the school has influenced the whole family.
And when these families begin attending – many of whom had not practiced any faith for years – they are immersed in our Anglican expression of the Catholic faith. It’s not long before they, too, come to count our patrimony as their own. In fact, it’s become almost meaningless to try and differentiate between those who used to be Anglicans and those who weren’t. Our Anglican patrimony has become the common way of expressing our Catholic faith, no matter what a person’s religious background is.
When the Ordinariates come into existence, I hope the importance of establishing schools will be high on the list of priorities. Parishes don’t have to be large, nor do they have to have great financial resources. Our own experience is evidence of that. But if we want to “…maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church,” schools can have an essential role in accomplishing it.
(For a glimpse of a school which reflects our Anglican patrimony in the Catholic Church, go here.)
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