They're Home!

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 ( 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.

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.

30 thoughts on “They're Home!”

  1. May God bless them all on this brave step. Welcome home! I pray especially for Mr Lewis who joins many of us in ordination limbo!

  2. St Luke's,

    A thousand "welcome's" to all of you !! So very, very happy for you, and for us !

    Please do keep those others who are 'ordinariate bound' in your prayers. Yours will be particularly precious. Some of us who are Catholic are traveling alongside our Anglican brothers and sisters on this road to the Ordinariate and unity, and wish to be encouraging in every possible way.

    1. Greg, you’ve said it so well. Welcome to the parishioners of St. Luke’s. All Catholics should be celebrating your witness and return home. Thanks be to God.

      My continued prayers for those heading toward the incredible bridge.

  3. This sounds like a truly inspiring event!

    Is this an option for the rest of us groups of Anglicans? If so, I think it would be very useful for there to be a set of guidelines for us to follow. Would Cardinal Wuerl's office then coordinate this process with our local dioceses?

    1. I imagine it is all highly dependent on the bishop of the local diocese, and whether he's inclined to be reasonable. I suppose you won't know unless you ask…

      It is very cheerful and inspiring news on an otherwise drab Monday, though.

  4. God be praised! Welcome home St Luke's Parish! If there are already parishes joining as a whole in addition to existing Anglican-Use Parishes, what is holding up the American Ordinariate?

    1. Bureaucracy. The English Ordinariate was erected in record time, because the Vatican machine was still in a state of shock. It has recovered now, so it's business as usual.

      1. This is unfair and untrue. The English ordinariate was rapidly erected because the provincial episcopal visitors had prepared the ground for the mass conversion months before the actual erection, and because all the people that are now member of the ordinariate there were faithfuls of the same denomination (I consider Forward in Faith as a denomination). In the US, there are various denominations involved, the country is big, and there is nobody to prepare the ground like Bps. Newton and Burnham did. Furthermore, the CDF had to deal with the SSPX preamble, and it seems that its little staff worked hard to produce it in time, and then worked for the erection of the US ordinariate.

  5. As a clergy convert myself and one who, additionally, celebrated Mass at St. Luke's years ago, I too have a special joy a hearing this news. No doubt their forthcoming patronal feast will be celebrated with unprecedented solemnity this year.

  6. Welcome home! I think what is holding the Ordinariate up, is the shadow of the Hepworth scandal in Australia. The sooner the Ordinariate bound TAC and the ACCC dump him the better. There is no place in any future Ordinariate for Hepworth. He is a twice married divorced apostate Catholic priest and Rome will not touch him with a barge pole.

    I must say I am also pleased to see a longer ordination process for converted clergy. After all Scripture tells us, "do not lay hands on anyone hastily."

    1. You are making a couple of faulty assumptions in this comment. First of all, there is nothing "holding the Ordinariate up." The formation program for the clergy will begin when the dossiers have all been processed. They are being sent back from Rome, nulla osta letters are sent to the clergy, who then need to arrange for their psychological assessments and background checks. All those things take time, but all those things are happening even as I write this. For you to explain this "delay" by bringing in the situation with Archbishop Hepworth ignores the fact that there are many others besides the ACA clergy who are in this process. As unfortunate as the archbishop's situation is right now, we continue to pray for him, but he would certainly not be delaying any process which involves a wide variety of Anglicans.

  7. This most excellent news! I trust that they will not unnecessarily drag out his ordination process as I do not see why they would question his formation more than those of the COE clergy who came in. As the off spring off of a convert and a revert-my current refuge is with the Russian Catholics-some of my mothers relatives went that direction instead-any chance of anything in Central Pa? The local continuing church has been having Deacon`s Masses-communion services without a priest much of the time now. TEC is not an option, and if you saw the local RC churches you`d ask no questions there. Some of her relatives are in Rite II parishes (up the mountain none have priestesses). That is a bit of a hike, especially for that, and no guarantee that will last as priestess free. I`ll give odds that it does not. One place further down has a deaconess and there are priestesses in the valley. Any one with any thoughts? Father?

    1. There are 4 groups in eastern Pennsylvania. I have heard that ACNA parishes in Pa are discerning the ordinariate, but I do not know much more. I guess they are parishes of the Anglican diocese of Pittsburgh.

      1. Though I have no personal knowledge of the situation in the ACNA here in Pittsburgh, the battle with TEC was so nasty that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that local Anglicans may be too battle weary, at least for awhile, to seriously consider the impending American ordinariate. It’s quite incredible that the ACNA and TEC dioceses manage to share Trinity Cathedral.

  8. This is great news and I look forward to many more of these events across the country, especially all the way across the country in Los Angeles!

    Thanks, Fr.Phillips, for the encouraging words about forthcoming nulla ostas. I guess it would be out of order to get in costume and go to the Vatican bag in hand asking for an early treat.

  9. For a really nice Christmas present or even a nice little package from the Befana on Epiphany. Hey, I'd settle for the Easter Bunny getting the show on the road. (I'd offer a deal to the Tooth Fairy for my proverbial eye teeth if I thought he had an in with the CDF.)

    Again, thanks for keeping us informed

  10. I hope they release more photos and maybe a video or two of the process. Many Blessings and Many Years to Saint Luke's!

    1. I'm pretty sure one would properly say "nulla ostas" just as one would say "non sequiturs," as putting a plural, noun ending on a verb (osta) doesn't make much sense here. When a Latin verbial phrase becomes used merely as a noun and preceded by 'the' or 'a' (i.e., a nihil obstat or the nulla osta) I think the phrase has been sufficiently transformed so that we can just tack an 's' on the end. Of course, if Fr. Hunwicke or Dr. Tighe wish to correct me, all the better!

  11. May God continue to bless the faith and courage of these folks, and especially that of Mark Lewis, a true servant of Christ.

  12. So, if there are other stable groups of Anglicans, whether they be in ACA or formerly in TEC, who wish to be received en masse and with their priest, can they also call ++Wuerl's office and arrange for reception before the Ordinariate is erected? Can a local priest then be charged with acting as their chaplain and saying the Anglican Use Mass and Office with them? If not, may I ask why this interim step has been offered to some groups, but not others?

    1. It's a path only available in the USA, and that was instituted in 1980 under JPII. It's called the "Anglican Use." The intent now is to eventually fold these parishes into a US ordinariate, so it currently provides a convenient holding pattern for incoming parishes anxious to move now. The main hitch is that establishment of Anglican Use parishes within a diocese still requires the consent of the local bishop (though more now appear open to the idea than when it was first launched).

      If your parish is interested in following this path, then approach the local Cahtolic bishop. These newer Anglican Use parishes have been in the works for some months now, however. Given that the launch of the ordinariate in the US appears to be only a few weeks away, it might just be simpler to wait.

  13. Welcome home St. Luke Community. I pray for all of you daily and especially for all the clergy who are in preparation for ordination in the Catholic Church! God bless you!

  14. Boy, can't you fellas take a little joke? Please, feel free to go back and reread my comment. Unfortunately, it's not a strong enough funny to stand much scrutiny, but the buffoonery of the ensuing editorials is making me smile!

    It's a very perplexing thing when a joke goes sour. I laugh to this day when I recall once upon a time, a lawyer being highly, highly offended at the lawyer joke I was telling which I had just prior learned from another lawyer.

  15. As a convert of many years from the highest of high church parishes in the Anglican Communion in Philadelphia, I was honored and personally delighted to have attended the reception of St Lukes this past weekend in DC.
    I look forward to the Ordinariate adding liturgical richness and beauty to the Catholic Church.

    Welcome!…and thank you, St. Luke's.

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