Report from Torres Strait: "Yes!"

This report comes from The Messenger Journal, a publication of the Traditional Anglican Communion.

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ORDINARIATE CONFERENCE – Church of Torres Strait, TAC, Australia

Report by the Very Reverend Gordon Barnier, Vicar General

At the end of a Conference and Synod of the Church of Torres Strait held in Tamwoy Hall from June 3rd-5th, 2011, it was decided to respond “Yes” to Pope Benedict XVI in his offer to gather together Anglicans and former Anglicans into Ordinariates of the Catholic Church.

Fr. Getano Lui in his opening remarks as chairman recalled that the Conference was beginning on Mabo Day, 2011, and this important day for the Torres Strait may also be remembered for another important event on this day: the beginning of the Ordinariate for the Torres Strait.

Bishop Tolowa Nona, SSC, presided over the Conference, leading and guiding everyone to the decision made at the end of proceedings on Saturday afternoon. In his opening remarks the Bishop said again that the establishment of an Ordinariate would be the most significant event in the Christian history of the Torres Strait since the Coming of the Light (1871).

Our Chancellor Mr. A.J. Bell from the Gold Coast was in attendance to assist with legal aspects of forming an Ordinariate and to discuss the changes and benefits that we would see. Along with Mr. Bell we had the good fortune to also welcome prominent Sydney Q.C. Mr. John McCarthy. Mr McCarthy as well as his work in the law has also been involved for many years with the Catholic Lawyers Association, the Catholic charity the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (“Vinnies”) and in many other avenues of service and interests. He was made a Papal Knight for his work with Catholic Lawyers. Mr. McCarthy’s wife, Elizabeth, is the author of many Christian books for children, and others on the Eucharist and Prayer. Mrs McCarthy sent some of these books for us and we are most grateful for those gifts.

Mr McCarthy has an excellent knowledge of Christian teaching and of the Church generally. He greatly assisted us in understanding the principles of the Ordinariate, the motivation of the Pope and the Church in making it available and a clear idea of the possibilities for us in an Ordinariate.

Vicar General Fr. Gordon Barnier led the Conference in a brief survey of the history of the Church to help everyone understand events leading to the establishment of the Ordinariates and to see how the Catholic Church is the same as the one begun by the Lord and still existing today. At the same time the Church recognizes that other Christian communities also have the faith in varying degrees and wants to reach out to embrace them.

A highlight of discussion was relationships with other communities of Christians and this will continue and expand. Combined services are often held and are helpful to many and we are mindful of the support that many other pastors give us. All pray and long for the day when we will be able to receive the one bread and the one cup in the Eucharist (Holy Communion, Lord’s Supper, Breaking of Bread).

“Culture” was also an important consideration and must be brought with us into the Ordinariate and the Catholic Church. This includes our Anglican culture (or patrimony) and our Torres Strait culture which is so important to our life and conduct. TI Parish Priest Fr Tom Stephen remarked that “religion” (not of course genuine religion) can unfortunately often divide people and even, as we hear on the news, kill people of other beliefs. Torres Strait culture is a guide for right actions towards others.

The conference was conducted in an atmosphere of prayer with the beautiful singing of the Angelus at Midday and Evening Prayer to conclude each day.

The conference concluded on Sunday morning with a packed Solemn Eucharist in PK Hall. The work ahead of us now is to find out who wishes to join the Ordinariate and then request the authorities in Rome to erect our Ordinariate.

Should our request be granted, there will be a confirmation of each person’s decision and an ordination of the present Priests and Deacons as Catholic Priests and Deacons. We have set a target date of Advent Sunday this year.

There are other exciting plans which will be detailed later.

Author: Fr. Christopher Phillips

Fr. Christopher G. Phillips is the pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he has served for the past twenty-eight years. He is the founding pastor of the first Anglican Use parish, erected in 1983 under the terms of the Pastoral Provision. Fr. Phillips was ordained as an Anglican for the Diocese of Bristol, England, in 1975. After serving as Curate for three years at St. Stephen Southmead, he returned to the United States and served in two Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Rhode Island. In 1981 he left the Episcopal Church and moved with his family to Texas, where he was subsequently ordained as a Catholic priest in 1983. Fr. Phillips and his wife, JoAnn, have been married for forty years. They have five children, all grown and married, and three grandchildren.

9 thoughts on “Report from Torres Strait: "Yes!"”

  1. This is GREAT news! My prayers for them now as the evil one will not be happy and he attacks against them will increase.

    This is good to see, for on other Anglican blogs it was alluded to and I do believe said Torres Strait was having second thoughts due to AB Hepworth's activities. (again another attack on AB Hepworth).

    Praise God for the increase!


    1. Mark Brown
      No we did not have second thoughts. No one to do with us attacked Abp Hepworth. As Primate the Archbishop is supporting us in every way.

      1. Congratulations Father! We rejoice in having you and all your faithfuls "at home". Morevoer, I admire the wiseness of your people: as it is indeed very wise to take the necessary time to reflect deeply over such a decision, and also to have all the legal counsel necessary in doing so.
        My prayers are with you all.
        + PAX et BONUM

  2. Now who can doubt the power of the Holy Spirit.
    Prayer, Faith and Trust in God, is all powerful.
    My sincere thanks to the people of the Torres Strait for showing us the strength their faith.

  3. I made friends with some people from the Torres Strait Islands over a couple of holidays in Australia: they are among the most spiritual and open people I have met. Their faith seemed to colour every reaction and every decision they made, no matter how routine or apparently trivial. This is lovely news; the phrase that went through my mind when I read the post was "To the ends of the earth".

  4. This is superb news and it should remind eveyone that, under Article 1 of A.C., there may be more than one ordinariate in the territory of any given episcopal territory, each one comprising that territory. The reason for having a separate one for the Torres Strait TAC group is cultural and focues on the working language and cultural practices of an identifiable community.

    There is no reason why a TAC group (for example) having a specific liturgical identity could not also submit such an application. For example, it may be that the T.T.A.C. and like-minded 'Missal' Anglicans in England might do the same thing, as none of them has entered the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham yet.

    As we have also discovered, groups lying outside the territory of an Ordinariate may also be admitted to it, keeping in mind the different powers of a personal ordinary in relation to local bishops outside his territory. Hence the TAC group in Japan will likely apply to become part of an ordinariate for Australia and, as we have already seen, a Scottish group has become part of the personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. TAC and other former Anglican groups in such places as Puerto Rico and Central America might one day become part of an ordinariate for the U.S.A.

    Of course, the mere fact that the Torres Strait group is making a separate application does not mean that this will be granted. We shall have to wait and see.

    In the case of the T.T.A.C. (TAC) in England, it might be deemed unnecessary to apply for a separate ordinariate, especially should Rome simply approve for use more than one text (in this case) for a distinctive Anglican Use Mass. At any rate, it is good to see that such the Pope's provisions have enough flexibility to envision more than one possible juridical solution in each case.

    I will certainly continue to pray for the Torres Strait Melanesian people of the TAC, that their application will be received with success. It is good to see how this is moving forward in an organised way.


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