The Future Ordinary for the American Ordinariate

I am sure that most of you have heard the rumor by now; I could have said nothing about it, but it has been leaked, so it is best to deal with it. I am neither going to affirm or deny its truthfulness, but would like only to acknowledge that the rumor exists and then comment on where that puts us. The rumor (of course) is that Fr. Jeffrey Steenson is going to be appointed on January 1st as the first Ordinary for the Ordinariate in America.

Let me begin here by reminding everyone that Scripture tells us that we are supposed to hold our tongues about private matters, but often unexpected things happen and information gets disseminated before it was supposed to. Digging for information that is not yours to have is not a healthy practice, and each of us has been guilty of it at one time or another. Yet the temptation to gossip is widespread today and rumors cause this temptation (and many others) to surface. A rumor is just that: a rumor. If you hear a rumor, be careful that you are not speaking about it like a proven fact. That means that you should consider how you respond to rumors. Regardless of whether we are guilty of spreading a rumor, we are still accountable to react in a godly manner whether we like the rumor or not.

Personally, I always dislike rumors. If they are true, then it usually means that someone spread information that was not supposed to become public yet. If they are false, then it only serves to cause people to shift gears unexpectedly and that is often not helpful to our spiritual walk. The Catechism of the Catholic Church warns us to have "respect for the reputation of persons" and that means that we should neither quickly spread a rumor to others, nor give it too much credence. If we like the rumor we will often rush to let everyone know about it because we want them to share our joy, and if we dislike the rumor, we will do the same thing because we want them to share our grief. God calls us to treat a rumor as just that: an unsubstantiated fact. The only benefit to a rumor is that it allows us to consider our response to it if it is true; it gives us time to prepare our hearts to give the most godly example we can, and that is what each of us can be doing now.

If this rumor is false, then we have not hurt anything by following through with some spiritual exercises. If the rumor is true (and we should not try to know before the proper date of January 1st), then we each can be ready to receive it with joy. If Fr. Steenson is going to be our Ordinary then I look forward to working under his authority (whether as a layman or a clergyman). We can all look forward to getting to know him better as he comes and visits our parishes. We can pray that Jesus will use him mightily to help facilitate and make our entrance into the Ordinariate a quick and smooth process. We can pray that God will use him to help to further the cause of the Catholic Church through the special ministry of the Ordinariate. All of these are things that we should have already been doing, but now as the days grow closer the responsibility for this is even more urgent.

Whenever there is a change in jurisdiction or in leadership, there is always the potential for people to be upset. During that initial time when people in a new relationship (like an Ordinary to his people) get to know each other, mistakes can be made and people can misunderstand each other. As I have said before, entering the Catholic Church will definitely be a blessing, yet, that does not mean there will not be hurdles to overcome. Getting to know a new Ordinary will be one of those hurdles. No matter how personable or winsome a man may be, the newness of the situation will always provide the potential for sticky situations. Even if you already know the man, you can still have awkward situations when the boundaries of authority change (especially when you are tempted to say "I thought we were friends!"). This means that it is good for each of us to hear some admonishment about where our hearts should be when the Ordinary (whoever he may be) is announced. Scripture encourages us along these very lines when it speaks to us with these words:

“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

In another place we are reminded of our duty toward those that are appointed to serve us with their leadership:

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

I do not personally know Fr. Steenson, but I have heard from many that he is a gifted priest who can "watch for our souls". Some have commented at times about their interest in Fr. Christopher Phillips becoming the Ordinary. Those of us who know him well, know of his capabilities in this regard, and we are thankful for the work that he has done to help support the move toward the Ordinariate. If he is not chosen as the Ordinary, then that will be because God has other plans for him to continue to serve in a wonderful capacity as a priest and guide in God's Church (and also that being appointed as the Ordinary would somehow prevent him from doing precisely what God wants him to do). There is no doubt that with all that he has done for the Anglican Patrimony in the Catholic Church that he will continue to be used in an amazing way.

Again, if the rumor is true, then we can give a voice of thanksgiving that God has granted us the man He has chosen for us at this time. We can rally around God's servant and give him our support, and prayers. At the same time we can continue to grow spiritually as we make new friendships and deepen old ones. If the rumor is false then we can thank God that He will still take care of us and provide the best leader for us. Whoever that is going to be, we are to put our trust and confidence in how God works through His Church, giving thanks in all things through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

14 thoughts on “The Future Ordinary for the American Ordinariate”

  1. Thank you Fr Seraiah for expressing in a much more reverent , respectful and cogent manner, some of the thoughts that ran across my little mind when I heard the information about the chosen Ordinary kind of presented as fact more than rumor. My thought was, what ever happened to Holy Silence? Why could we not wait for our Holy Father to make the announcement? Whomever the choice is, will be in Gods hands. Anyway, thank you for your learned voice, humility and love for Our Lord and His Church.

  2. Thanks, Father, for a very cogent and helpful post. I have been disturbed by all this, and have not been sure how best to respond. You have said it better than I could.

    People forget that an essential part of the Christian (and thus Catholic) life is being obedient. Releasing this rumor and by spreading it is not being obedient, nor Catholic. On the other hand treating the Holy Father's wishes and decisions with respect, and assuming that the person he chooses for us, whoever it will be, will be best for us, that is being obedient.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Are we not fortunate that the long awaited announcement will come during Christmastide? This is the time of year when we are to be on the tiptoe of expectation preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ. this year, we have the added joy of knowing we will soon know who will lead the ordinariate. My experience as a child leads me to believe that we will always have those who will shake the presents to try to guess what is inside. Hopefully, we can prayerfully wait another week to see who the Holy Father has discerned should lead us.

    A blessed Christmas to all

  4. God bless you Father, you are absolutely correct in your sage advice. I will not announce anything in our parish in Denison, Texas until it is officially announced on January 1, 2012. We will then rejoice in whomsoever is chosen. May God bless him whoever he may be. Merry Christmas to you, to Archbishop Falk and the parishioners at St. Aiden's. Fr. Clayton T. Holland, Retired Pastor at Christ our Saviour, Anglican Church, Denison, Texas. By the way, our pastor, Fr. Randall Fogle has received his nulla osta. May God be praised.

  5. We'll be excited for whoever is chosen. Fr. Steenson would be an excellent choice; he's a gifted scholar, with deep knowledge of patristics (always a good thing for someone involved in an Ecumenical enterprise), and pastoral experience in both the Anglican and Roman communions. As a former Anglican Communion bishop, his appointment would stress the Anglican bona fides of the Ordinariate. As an Episcopal priest, he pastored several flagship Anglo-Catholic parishes. As someone who's been a Roman Catholic priest for several years already, who spent time studying in Rome, he's been prepared to deal with all the administrative matters on the Roman side. And he's been intimately involved in the Ordinariate process for some time.

    If the rumour turns out to be false, and it isn't Fr. Steenson, he's someone I hope will stay involved in some other capacity.

    1. I am familiar with all the places he has been, and everywhere people have liked him and found him kind, principled, and pastoral. Actually, and not to detract from Fr. Steenson's record, he has pastored only one parish that would call itself "Anglo-Catholic". He was the rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Rosemont, Pa. St. Andrew's Fort Worth is a 1928 BCP, Morning Prayer parish, at the main service Holy Communion is once a month. (He never preferred Morning Prayer as the main Sunday service, in case that worries you.) He was not and is not a 'party' man — certainly not in the bad sense of the word. The advantage of his experience is that he is familiar with, and, I think, sympathetic to, the breadth of Anglicanism and Anglicans, including practically all those types who might be considering the ordinariate in this country. Of course I do not assume he will be the ordinary in this comment. I am just clarifying the previous comment.

  6. I guess some folks have seen a bit of logistical commotion down there in Houston and have come to the conclusion mentioned by Fr. Seraiah. I remember Fr. Steenson as the rector of St. Paul's, downtown Ft. Worth, THE undisputed largest parish in the diocese. If it's to be him, well and good.

    Whoever the man is to lead us forward in the American Ordinariate, we associated with St. James Mission here in St. Augustine, FL are holding forth in intercession during this Christmas Octave. BTW, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and our Ordinariate kick-off being a Sunday, how would the announcement be likely made (might it be a midnight press release – seems doubtful)?

    Anyway, if anyone knows where to be looking online for the breaking announcement (besides possibly this blog, of course) please advise for all of us. Thanks!

    1. I will be checking this blog and also Rocco over at Whispers in the Loggia. Presumably if the announcement is really to be made on 1 January it will be released under embargo earlier, maybe on Saturday, so the media types will have it for Sunday.

      1. Thanks for the tip Woody.

        And yes, right, I stand corrected – it wasn't St. Paul's (?? hello, I stand befuddled) it was St. Andrews downtown Ft. Worth on Lamar St.

        Anyway, it was a BIG church . . . and yes, "low church", but thoroughly Anglican in every respect. Let's say Fr. Jeffrey caught the "Vision Glorious" while serving near Albuquerque at 5,000 feet elevation. Having briefly lived there once myself, I can say the venue does have the power to change one's perspective on things!

  7. Fr. Steenson would seem an excellent choice. Hopefully he will work hard to bring into the Ordinariate with him all that are interested in the preservation of the Anglican Patrimony, whether they still happen to be in the Episcopal Church or left it years ago. Many of Cardinal Wuerl's announcements have seemed to focus on those that are just now leaving the Episcopal Church while ignoring those that had left much earlier for the Catholic Church or the ACA.

  8. Fr. Jeffrey very inconspicuously attended (in clergy suit) our Vigil of Christmas Mass at Our Lady of Walsingham last Saturday, with his wife. Coming in a little before the start of the Mass, they sat in the Holy House (the Lady Chapel, for those unfamiliar with the layout), with various others, thus assisting at the Mass in one of the "arms" of the nave. So far as I could tell, his presence went substantially unnoticed, as, I presume, he intended. I could not help casting a glance his way as I filed past after receiving Our Lord and was very edified to see him kneeling devoutly on the hard slate floor, for quite some time. We must pray for him and for his lovely wife.

  9. Those who know (probably) aren't saying. Those who speculate are just speculating. There are a number of prospective candidates. One thing I suspect is that the ordinary will be old enough to serve no more than 15 years, thus allowing Rome to make a new choice sooner than later (i.e., older than 60). I see that Fr. Steenson will turn 60 in April, 9 days before Fr. Keith Newton.

  10. I am sure the Ordinary will be the right man ordained by God to carry out this ministry ……what I really want to know is will the formal announcement of the Ordinariate and naming of the Ordinary be televised? Where? When?

    Its only three days away!

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