The Sydney sun offered a marked contrast to the weather that Bishop Steven Lopes had left behind him in Houston on August 25, the night that Hurricane Harvey dealt its initial fury to unoffending populations in Texas and Louisiana.
The leader of the US Ordinariate made the decision to drive throughout the night to Dallas, three and a half hours away, just to make sure that he’d be able to keep his Australian commitment.
Last Sunday, Bishop Lopes celebrated Mass with Sydney’s fledgling Ordinariate community of St Bede in Lewisham, together with the leaders of the UK and Australian Ordinariates, Mgr Keith Newton and Mgr Harry Entwistle, respectively.
Around 80 people attended the Lewisham Mass, held at its regular time of 12pm in the parish of St Thomas Becket.
In the week prior, the three leaders had attended the Australian Ordinariate’s annual residential in Brisbane along with 25 other priests, celebrating five years since the foundation of the Australian Ordinariate on June 15, 2012.
Raised in a Roman Catholic home, Bishop Lopes had had no personal connection with Anglicanism before becoming ensconced in Pope Benedict XVI’s Ordinariate initiative while working as an official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome. (Current CDF official Fr Tad Oxley was also a part of the visit to Australia.)
The Ordinariate was the fruit of the then-Pope’s provision of a pathway for groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining much of their English patrimony.
Three geographically separate, diocese-like structures eventuated – in the UK, the US and Australia – each with its own leader, its own priests, a shared ‘Divine Worship’ liturgy, and a common heritage of pre and post-Reformation English Christianity.
While its liturgy has garnered the lion’s share of attention to date, attracting curious cradle Catholics to Ordinariate parishes, it’s far from the only part of their 1400+ year patrimony that they are happy to be sharing with the wider Catholic Church.
Speaking to The Catholic Weekly after the Mass, Bishop Lopes said he was very happy with the way that the Ordinariate had leapt into action in the wake of the hurricane.
Winds of around 210kph and extensive flooding had wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands of homes, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 66 lives and the displacement of around 30,000 others.
“It’s the third major flooding event since I’ve been in Houston (February 2016), but nothing prepared us for the amount of rain there was,” Bishop Lopes said.
Ordinariate families subsequently welcomed displaced people into their own homes; there is even a family holed up in the bishop’s residence in his absence.
“There’s a huge tradition of social outreach and ministry in Anglo-Catholic parishes, even in the United States,” Bishop Lopes told The Catholic Weekly.
“Mt Calvary in Baltimore, for example, is in a very, very poor part of town. But that church has been there for 150 years and is now a parish of the Ordinariate. So that deep connectedness to the neighbourhood (is there).
“Most of the residents of the neighbourhood would not be Catholic – they’d be Baptist or some other form of evangelical – but that parish has been ministering to their needs for years.”
The Ordinariates have their own particular way of ‘doing parish.’ Their generally smaller communities pride themselves on being more intimate, more collegial and intensely interested in the local provision of ongoing formation and social outreach.
“It arises out of an experience of English Catholicism and English Anglicanism. But taken up in the United States, it would be a common thread among a number of Protestant denominations.
“That kind of intentionality in discipleship and participation in Church life, (that’s something) that we have to bring to the larger Catholic Church.”
Mgr Newton, the leader of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK, said that in spite of the challenges that the Ordinariates had faced in their first five years of existence, they still represented an enormous opportunity for the Church.
“I’ve always thought that it is a marathon more than a sprint, but I do think the Ordinariate has a significance beyond its size,” Mgr Newton said.
“If the Catholic Church can’t make this work, then I don’t think that any other ecumenical discussions are worth having. Because the whole point of ecumenism is not (so much) to make people like the Catholic Church as it is but to bring others into it, and (to) bring the things which are consistent with Catholic teaching into the Church …
“The Ordinariates have a chance of showing to the other churches that it can be done. And it’s only the Catholic Church that can do it. Nobody else can do it … and the Catholic Church has already done it (via) the Eastern Churches.”
The UK Ordinariate has small communities scattered throughout the country and 91 priests, with 10 more in training. The US Ordinariate, formally known as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, has 43 communities.
The Australian Ordinariate (the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross) has 11 communities and 20 priests, including two ex-Anglican communities in Japan. (Their priest was warmly welcomed as a confrere at the residential in Brisbane).
Australian Ordinariate leader Mgr Entwistle said the residential and the coinciding annual meeting of the three Ordinariate leaders had left him optimistic about the future.
“The work and the vision of the Ordinariate was revisited – where we want to go (and) where we want to get to – and the clergy were very united. The hearing from the other places was also an encouragement and a realisation that Australia is much smaller. We have the distance problem.
“But we have exciting things going on. The reception of parishioners in the Torres Strait on the Island of Dauan into the Ordinariate has been a great joy in the last few months, and they are now a daughter church of the Ordinariate parish in Cairns.
“The mood there is really exciting for everyone. And there is a determination to support that and to support the two Japanese communities.”
Bishop Lopes praised the Mass in Lewisham as a good example of the liturgical beauty for which the Ordinariate is known, particularly in the music provided by the choir, led by St Bede’s Director of Music, Stephen Smith.
It also proved an excellent opportunity for Mgr Entwistle to institute Ordinariate seminarian Nigel McBain as an acolyte.
The Rector of the archdiocesan seminary, the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Fr Danny Meagher, was on hand to present Nigel as a candidate.
More information about the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross is available at www.ordinariate.org.au