Following Morning Prayer and the greeting from Archbishop Myers, the conference reconvened in morning session in the auditorium of the Archdiocesan chancery office.
The first speaker, Sister Elaine, ASSP, reflected on the experience of her religious community, All Saints Sisters of the Poor. A long-established order in the Church of England, the sisters first came to Baltimore in 1872, have been in Baltimore continuously ever since, and were received into full communion last September by Archbishop O’Brien of Baltimore.
As Sister Elaine explained, much of the sisters’ daily life remains unchanged, as Archbishop O’Brien had instructed them “keep doing what you’re doing.” For example, the form of their daily office remains unchanged, with the Sisters offering the liturgy of the hours six times daily as a community. Sister Elaine’s presentation was filled with joy, and was frequently punctuated with laughter, as when she explained that not every one understands the monastic life, as demonstrated by the advice she received to “get a job,” perhaps teaching in a Catholic school.
Sister Elaine describes her community’s journey into full communion matter-of-factly as “becoming Roman Catholic.” Sister emphasized the importance of promoting vocations to the religious life and said that she was counting on the parishes represented in the room to send her at least one postulant.
Next up on the program was Dr. William Oddie’s presentation on the important role of influential and literarily sophisticated Anglican converts in Catholic apologetics. Dr. Oddie is a well respected and widely published Church of England clergyman who was received into full communion in 1991.
What could have been a disappointing experience was transformed into a particularly edifying and entertaining experience when, on learning that for health reasons he would be unable to travel to Newark, Dr. Oddie asked Father Allan Hawkins to deliver the paper for him. Today, Fr. Hawkins is best known to us as the pastor of St. Mary the Virgin, the Pastoral Provision parish in Arlington, Texas. Earlier, Fathers Oddie and Hawkins had served together in England, and clearly know each other well. Fr. Hawkins’ annotated reading of the paper brought to life Dr. Oddie’s animated reflections on Chesterton, and the synergy of Chesterton, Oddie and Hawkins greatly exceeded the sum of the parts.
Following a thorough and thoroughly entertaining discussion of Newman and Chesterton, Oddie’s paper went to on to discuss more recent developments. Dr. Oddie made clear his view that last fall, Pope Benedict suddenly accelerated the timetable for the publication of Anglicanorum Coetibus, before its intent could be frustrated by those who oppose the new Apostolic Constitution.
Lunch was an occasion for informal discussions, with clergy and lay people from ACA, other Continuing and Episcopalian parishes dining in small groups with Pastoral Provision folks.
The afternoon conference session was the annual tradition of the Anglican Use Pastors Panel. This is always a crowd favorite, as the audience has the opportunity to define the agenda. This year’s panelists were Fr. James Ramsey of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Fr. Richard Bradford of St. Athanasius in Boston, Fr. Allan Hawkins of St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, Fr. Jean Hart, SOLT, of St Anselm of Canterbury in Corpus Christi, Fr. Eric Bergman of St. Thomas More in Scranton, Fr. Ernest Davis of St. Therese Little Flower in Kansas City, and Deacon Oliver Vietor of St. Paul’s in Phoenix. In keeping with the issues of the day, questions and comments from the audience leaned heavily toward issues of priestly ordination and the future of the ordinariates.
Going into the pastors’ panel, most conference attendees probably had the sense that the mood of the room was a watchful and somewhat impatient eagerness for the Church “to get on with” the ordinariates. After hearing the tone and content of the questions, this mood was unmistakable.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, a distinguished canon lawyer who serves as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, and who is the keynote speaker for the conference, was present for the Pastors' Panel and followed the discussion with animated interest.
Your humble scribe is a cradle Catholic who has worshiped in a Pastoral Provision parish for six years, and, like most Anglican Use parishioners, is eager for the U.S. ordinariate to be established. After talking with these conference attendees, I can see that the need is even greater among our Anglican brethren who are waiting. In a particularly challenging situation are the clergy of the ACA, other Continuing groups, and Episcopal Church groups who are working hard to serve the pastoral needs of the people, while at the same time holding their flocks together under extreme uncertainty about the timing. Let us hope that Rome is reading the blogs.
Further reports will be posted as time allows.