The people of the parish of St. Mary of the Angels in Hollywood, under the leadership of their rector Fr. Jack Barker, were among the first “Groups of Anglicans” to petition for return to full communion. Three decades ago, in the summer of 1981, they found themselves, as their successor congregants do again today, on the cusp of reunion with Rome. They, along with a second Anglican congregation in Los Angeles, had requested and were anticipating their imminent reception into the Archdiocese of Los Angles as personal parishes of the Pastoral Provision.
Had this occurred as expected, then today we might acknowledge the parish of St. Mary of the Angels, rather than the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement (San Antonio, 1983) as the first Anglican Use congregation.
As Fr. Barker relates in a copyright tract which should be required reading for all who are interested in these matters, the reception of the two Los Angeles groups was unexpectedly denied, owing to the influence of “ecumenical” forces within the Roman Catholic Church. The Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Manning, ruled that these two parishes would not be received into the Church, and that no personal parish of the Pastoral Provision would be allowed in the Archdiocese. Individuals were free to seek reception individually.
Fr. Barker was received, and serves to this day as a priest in a neighboring diocese. Many faithful of the parish were received individually into mainstream Novus Ordo parishes, while others found other church homes including Orthodoxy. Perhaps a few remain members of St. Mary to this day; I don’t know.
I have no acquaintance, even slight, with anyone associated with the parish. I have never set foot in the parish church and, until very recently, never expected that I would. And yet I feel a close personal bond to this church of Our Lady, because it was a means by which I, a cradle Catholic married to an Anglican convert, ended up at Our Lady of the Atonement.
Seven or eight years ago, and having absolutely no knowledge of the Pastoral Provision, I was doing some unrelated internet reading and came across a reference to the ill-fated reconciliation of St. Mary of the Angels. Surprised to learn that such a thing as corporate reunion was even possible, I read on, and it was a short leap to a fuller appreciation of the Pastoral Provision and, eventually, to my family’s move to San Antonio.
Today, through the extraordinary generosity of the Holy Father in Anglicanorum Coetibus, a second opportunity is presented for the accession of this parish to the fullness of the Church. There is to this day not a single parish of the Pastoral Provision in the City of the Angels, and yet we may soon see a parish of the Ordinariate in Los Angeles; a city, by the way, whose archbishop-designate is a demonstrated friend of the Anglican Use.
What are we to make of these concidences? Probably nothing. Coincidences happen — or are perceived — all the time, and often without any supernatural implications. I am ordinarily the last person to attribute earthly events to Divine intervention in the mundane.
On the other hand, is this parish of St. Mary of the Angels merely a mundane thing? Or is it an institution of Christ’s Church that, owing to the faithful prayers of generations of its clergy and people, is urgently desired in reunion by its patroness?
Be sure to follow our Moderator at Eccentric Bliss, his personal blog!