On Saturday, two top-tier American prelates each ordained a former Episcopal priest to the transitional diaconate, bringing the Chair of St Peter's officially on-deck group of priests-in-waiting to three. The once-and-future Fathers Jason Catania and David Ousley respectively lead the freshly received communities in Baltimore and Philadelphia, the latter of which completed its journey during Holy Week.
Another onetime Anglican priest, now Deacon Jon David Chalmers became the Ordinariate's first cleric during the Easter Octave in South Carolina, and will be ordained a Catholic priest on June 3rd. Last Tuesday, meanwhile, the circumscription that covers all entering Anglican groups in North America likewise incardinated its first priest -- Fr Eric Bergman, a married father of seven ordained for the diocese of Scranton in 2007 -- as well as completing the purchase of a church for his community, which had been sharing space with a local parish.
Beyond the trickle of founding clerics, some 60 candidates for orders have been cleared for the pipeline over the last several months, half of them said to be preparing for imminent ordination to diaconate and priesthood. Among them, late this month brings what'll likely be the largest single ordination rite as -- in the region long known as the cradle of American Anglo-Catholicism -- Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth makes Catholic deacons of six former Anglican clerics.
Including the unprecedented priesting of a father and son together, the sextet will be ordained on June 30th, and one of the men has already been named the next pastor of the Ordinariate's "principal church" (effectively its cathedral), Houston's Our Lady of Walsingham parish, effective July 1.
Upon their approval for orders by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, all the candidates have taken part in a rapid-formation course, mostly conducted online from Houston's St Mary's Seminary and University of St Thomas.
Reflecting the rise of the Southern church and Texas' longtime status as the dominant venue of the Anglican communities which have journeyed to Rome on these shores, the Ordinariate is American Catholicism's first national entity to be based outside the traditional centers of ecclesial influence in the Northeast and upper Midwest.
Late last week, it was announced that a third Ordinariate will be launched on 15 June, this time for Australia, under the name of "Our Lady of the Southern Cross."
No numbers on those seeking to enter Down Under were immediately available. At least for the foreseeable future, the Aussie branch is likely to be the sole remaining Ordinariate to take its start.
In Britain, meanwhile, the first of the jurisdictions -- named for England's own Madonna of Walsingham -- has received two significant boosts from Rome within the last month, one directly from the pontiff.
Days after the English bishops were publicly prodded by their Nuncio, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, to "continue to be generous in your support" of the Anglican venture, word emerged earlier this month that Benedict himself would lead by example in making a personal donation of $250,000 to the UK Ordinariate.
Sixteen months since its founding, the English Ordinariate has yet to secure a principal church of its own, and has been fraught with enough other difficulties for the effort's head -- the former Anglican "flying bishop," Msgr Keith Newton -- to remind his members in a recent article "to not think that the journey will be easy or necessarily straightforward nor will practical matters always work out in the way one might expect." (Though the Ordinariates are equivalent to dioceses in canon law -- and their heads enjoy de iure membership and voting rights in their respective conferences of bishops -- Newton and his American counterpart, Msgr Jeffrey Steenson, are precluded from becoming bishops due to their marriages.)
By contrast, however, the launch of the Stateside entity -- an undertaking far more sprawling in scope and complex in its dynamics than its UK sibling -- has been perceived as such a success that persistent reports have floated the project's Rome-picked overseer, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, as a potentially strong contender to succeed California's own Cardinal William Levada as prefect of the CDF. (Wuerl is shown below presenting Steenson with his bull of appointment at the latter's February installation in Houston's Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.)
Oversight of the global Anglicanorum project has lately become a top-tier task at the former "Holy Office," conspicuously alongside several other matters with intense relevance to the Stateside church, among them the ultimate handling of clergy sex-abuse cases and, now, the just-launched reform of the LCWR -- the umbrella group representing the leadership of most of the nation's women religious.
(On a related side-note, the most prominent evidence of the DC cardinal's still-rising stock in Rome came last October, when the Pope tapped Wuerl -- a theologian by training -- for the key role of Relator-General, or lead spokesman, at this fall's Synod of Bishops on what's become Benedict's signature pastoral priority, the New Evangelization. Of the three cardinals previously given the podium post by B16 at his four Synods since becoming Pope, two subsequently became heads of Vatican dicasteries, and the third -- Angelo Scola -- was transferred from Venice to the archbishopric of Milan, Europe's largest diocese.)
Soon to turn 76 -- a year past the retirement age -- Benedict made Levada, then the archbishop of San Francisco, his pontificate's first major personnel-pick as his successor at CDF seven years ago this week. In a late April homily at the 50th anniversary of the ordination of his closest friend and San Fran successor, Archbishop George Niederauer, the usually guarded cardinal-prefect pointedly noted that both he and the jubilarian "are soon to finish the official ministries in which we are now."
On the bright side for the English Ordinariate, the UK group will ordain over 20 priests this year, 18 of whom are set to become deacons at a Pentecost Eve Mass in London's Westminster Cathedral. The men will be ordained by Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary of the capital who had been a Church of England priest.
Numbering some 40 groups across Britain, the Walsingham community ordained 60 clerics in its first year of existence.
Back to the States, meanwhile, an extensive briefing on the concept behind the Ordinariate project and the first steps of its American branch was given by Steenson last weekend at a Massachusetts church....
Currently spending a good chunk of time on the road to visit his communities atop finals duties as a professor at St Thomas, River City readers might be interested to know that Steenson will be in town Sunday to celebrate the 9am Anglican Use Mass for the local Ordinariate group, which is temporarily based at Holy Cross, Mount Airy.
Sure, it's already a busy day 'round these parts with the traditional slate of First Masses starting at 3 o'clock. If the Pope's emphases have suddenly become less than paramount among this crowd, though, well, the place just wouldn't be Philadelphia anymore.
PHOTOS: Principal Church of Our Lady of Walsingham(1); Donna Ryckaert /North Texas Catholic(2)