From Catholic Online:
"Our celebration today is a realization that we are God's family, God's people, the beginning of his kingdom, his Church. And we rejoice in the outpouring of the Spirit in the sacraments of initiation. At the same time, we commit ourselves to live out that blessing in the full communion of the Church." Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, on receiving the people of St. Luke's, Bladensburg, into full Catholic communion
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – On Sunday morning, October 9, almost 80 parishioners of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Bladensburg, Maryland were received into full communion with the Catholic Church by Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
St. Luke's parish is a small, tight-knit congregation with a majority of their members from Africa and the Caribbean. While enjoying a rich cultural diversity, the church has been unified in it's one dream – becoming a part of the new Anglican Ordinariate as Catholics in full-communion with the Church.
Cardinal Wuerl was visibly joyful throughout the confirmation Mass and expressed his personal delight, during his homily, in receiving these faithful pilgrims. [His prepared remarks are available in a separate article.]
The cardinal spoke of the increasing momentum toward unity in the Church since Vatican II, with the Anglican Ordinariate the most recent response to those who desire to enter in.
"In recent years," he stated, "there have been communities in the Anglican Communion who said, 'we're ready!'
"Pope Benedict XVI, hearing that call, said 'Why do we not prepare a vehicle to allow this corporate reunion to take place?'
The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus became that vehicle, as a way for the Church to receive individuals and parishes that desire to enter into full-communion. They have also been invited to bring their rich Anglican heritage with them.
The Cardinal stated that the St. Luke Community eagerly anticipated the announcement of the Ordinariate in America and their establishment as a Catholic Parish with the ordination of their pastor. He also said they approached him about moving forward.
"They asked, 'Rather than wait; why can't we just start now?' In God's good time the Holy See will announce the Ordinariate."
Today's Rite of Reception was the culmination of their preparation.
Members of what is now the Saint Luke Ordinariate Catholic Community then went forward individually to receive the Sacred Chrism from the Cardinal during the time of confirmation, returning to their pews with smiles and tear of joy.
After the Mass I was able to speak with their former pastor, Mark Lewis, who said that what he was experiencing could only be described as "more than pure joy."
"I had high expectations about coming into the Church and all my expectations were exceeded. I thank God for what He is doing in our lives. There is a real sense of coming home."
His joy was especially directed toward his parishioners who joined him in confirmation or, for former Catholics, renewing their commitment. After the Mass, many of them immediately walked over to their shepherd, exchanging hugs and words of congratulations. It was a sight that would be repeated often during the reception that followed.
Lewis' wife, Vickey, echoed her husband's joy and delight in celebrating the work God is doing among them. She chatted with me between hugs and words of encouragement from those who had known her for so many years as their pastor's wife.
For clergy, a day like today is especially poignant. One surrenders his faculties for ministry and entrusts his people to the care of others, even if it is just for a time. For many in Mark Lewis' parish, seeing their rector in a coat and tie, without clerics, took a bit of adjustment.
Their support for Mark Lewis' future ministry among them, however, was obvious in word and conversation. While his new priestly ministry is yet to be formed by Holy Mother Church, he is still their shepherd.
Father Scott Hurd was the group's confirmation sponsor. He serves in the Archdiocese of Washington as the Executive Director for the Office of the Permanent Diaconate and serves as Cardinal Wuerl's liaison with the USCCB for the implementation of the Anglican Ordinariate in America.
Father Hurd has been working closely with the parish since their declaration of desire to entire into full communion.
Following the Mass, he said, "This was a great day; I know they are so excited to be taking this step. I'm looking forward to getting to know each of them better."
He will now serve as Chaplain for the newly formed St. Luke Community while day to day community life will be lead by their former pastor, Mark Lewis, as lay administrator.
Once the Ordinariate is announced a new parish will be formed from the community and Lewis will be ordained as a priest, serving once again as their pastor.
St. Luke's has long been known as a strong Anglo-Catholic parish in the mid-Atlantic area. Growing out of momentum of 17th Century Anglicanism in the region, the parish was officially established in 1856.
While the parish struggled over the years and even closed a few times, they became a major Anglo-Catholic presence through the leadership of their pastor, Father Arnold, in the 50's and 60's. In 2006, Father Mark Lewis accepted the call as Rector. Under his leadership the spiritual life continued to flourish while many improvements to the facilities were also initiated.
The parish made headlines earlier this year when, on June 6, 2011 in a Joint Public Statement with the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, St. Luke's announced its intention to enter the Personal Ordinariate established by Pope Benedict XVI in the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.
Just two weeks ago another parish, the first of the Community of St. Peter the Rock were also received as members of the future Anglican Ordinariate. The Rite of Reception and Confirmation took place at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Fort Worth by Bishop Kevin Vann on September 25.
This article was written by Randy Sly, who is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.