New group joins Catholic Church
At 84, Helen Scott of Brighton had been waiting many years to be received into and confirmed in the Catholic Church.
Formerly a member of Episcopal and Anglican churches, Scott was among six people whose wait ended Oct. 21 with a Mass and a reception into the church. They are now part of a new community of Anglicans and former Anglicans known as the Fellowship of St. Alban, which has been meeting at Church of the Good Shepherd in Henrietta.
"Hopefully we will all get along beautifully," Scott said. "I wouldn’t have missed this for anything."
The impetus Scott and others needed to begin the process of joining the Catholic Church was provided by Pope Benedict XVI's 2009 establishment of personal ordinariates that welcome Anglicans into the church while allowing them to maintain some Anglican liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions.
An ordinariate is a structure comparable to a diocese but covering an entire nation. The U.S. ordinariate is known as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and is led by Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop.
In Anglicanorum Coetibus ("Groups of Anglicans"), a 2009 document issued motu proprio, or "on his own initiative," the pope called the Anglican traditions "a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared."
Both individuals and groups may ask to join the ordinariate. Members of the personal ordinariate who have been confirmed and received are considered to be in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, noted Father Daniel Condon, chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester.
"Folks in communion are free to go to the Latin (rite) parishes where they live," he noted.
The Fellowship of St. Alban, the first in New York state to celebrate Anglican-use liturgies, will gain its own priest on Jan. 26, 2013, when Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone is scheduled to ordain to the Catholic priesthood former Episcopal priest John Cornelius. Cornelius will be ordained a transitional deacon Nov. 17 by Auxiliary Bishop Edward M. Grosz of the Diocese of Buffalo.
Cornelius is married and works as a pastoral associate with the Allegany County Vicariate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. Although married, he has received special Vatican permission to be ordained under an exception to the rule of clerical celibacy for former Anglican clerics. The church continues to restrict eligibility for the office of bishop to unmarried men.
Cornelius said the Diocese of Rochester and Marianne Cope Parish in Henrietta have been very welcoming to the Fellowship of St. Alban.
Until his priestly ordination, the community will gather at 3 p.m. on Sundays at Good Shepherd Church to celebrate evensong, an Anglican liturgy that is comparable to evening prayer in the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. After Jan. 26, the fellowship will gather weekly for Mass in Good Shepherd’s historic chapel at the front of the church campus.
Andrew Jordan, a member of the Fellowship of St. Alban received into the Catholic Church along with Scott on Oct. 21, said a group of about 20 Anglicans, former Anglicans and people of other Protestant backgrounds informally came together locally in 2009 after Pope Benedict announced the establishment of the personal ordinariates for Anglicans. The community had been meeting on and off, as its members learned more about the Catholic Church, he said.
He noted that theological issues had motivated him and others to consider becoming Catholic.
"(Joining the Catholic Church) is something we have been feeling that we have been called by God to do," Jordan said. "Since the beginning of the year we have been meeting to review the Catholic faith."
Yet Jordan said Anglicans have a strong musical and choral tradition that they wanted to maintain in the Anglican-use liturgies. He said the group was worried that they might not get the Oct. 21 liturgy right, considering that it was the first time they had come together to celebrate Mass. Yet the celebration went off without a hitch.
"It still managed to be reverent and have beautiful music," Jordan said. "Everything came together."
Several of the new Catholics noted they had longed for the Eucharist since leaving their Anglican communities.
"It has been a long time since we have been able to receive the fullness of the sacrifice of Mass in the Eucharist," said Christopher Bayer of Mendon, another of those received into the Catholic Church.
The Oct. 21 Mass and sacrament of confirmation were celebrated by Father Scott Hurd, vicar general for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
Father Hurd spoke about St. Alban, the fellowship’s patron, who was the first martyr of Britain. Tradition holds that one of St. Alban’s executioners was so moved by the saint’s faith that he was converted on the spot, and was executed immediately after St. Alban, making him Britain’s second martyr.
Father Hurd explained that the word martyr means witness. "By their deaths, martyrs witness to their faith before others," he said.
He noted that many people filled a bridge to witness St. Alban’s martyrdom. Likewise, the new community may attract observers, he said.
"There are those today who will wish to witness your witness," he said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Details about the Fellowship of St. Alban are at www.stalbanfellowship.org.