By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Like children waiting for Christmas, the establishment of a “personal diocese” in the United States under provisions of a 2009 Vatican constitution can’t come soon enough for Anglicans seeking full communion with Rome while retaining their Anglican traditions, prayers and liturgies.
But the waiting is also a time for the Holy Spirit to work on hearts, according to the keynote speakers at the “Becoming One” Conference Feb. 25-26, held at St. Therese Little Flower Parish, where an Anglican Use Mass is celebrated weekly.
Some 80 people, nearly half of them rectors of Anglican worship communities, attended the conference to discuss what the “ordinariate” — or special governing structure for Anglican Use Catholics in communion with Rome — might be when, not if, it is established under the 2009 Vatican document, Anglicanorum Coetibus.
And they came from Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri.
At the conclusion of the conference, Kansas City-Bishop Robert W. Finn promised to pray “always for that great unity.”
“We know that a vital part of the mission of Pope Benedict XVI is to work and pray for the unity of all believers,” Bishop Finn said.
“Since it is the Holy Father’s mission, it is our mission as well,” he said. “We want to be united with you. We want to do all we can to make this invitation of the Holy Father be extended here. Now we pray to the Holy Spirit that the full unfolding of God’s plan may take place.”
The conference explored what the Anglican Use ordinariate might be as it gathers diverse communities of Anglicans together, in communion with Rome.
“It will be what you bring in,” said Father Christopher Phillips, pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Parish in San Antonio, Texas, in his Feb. 26 keynote.
“There is going to be a much deeper understanding of our Anglican patrimony (traditions) because it will be experienced in the fullness of communion with the Holy See,” Father Phillips said. “You are not leaving anything of importance behind. You are bringing everything of importance with you.”
Traditional Anglican Bishop David Moyer of Rosemont, Pa., who is working with an ad hoc committee headed by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., to establish the Anglican Use ordinariate in the United States, said that now is the time “to put our hands to the plow and follow where the Holy Spirit is leading.”
Bishop Moyer was among the Traditional Anglican Communion bishops who petitioned Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 for full, corporate reception into the Roman Catholic Church, while retaining their Anglican worship and traditions.
That request was answered in November 2009 with the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, which not only invited the Anglicans to bring their traditions with them, but encouraged them for the enrichment of the entire church.
Bishop Moyer recalled reading his copy with his wife, Rita, as soon as it arrived, both of them pausing to weep.
“It was more than an answer to the petition and to the countless prayers that had been uttered,” he said.
“To this day, I remain in a state of awe, wonder and thanksgiving for this incredibly creative, caring and visionary gift from the Holy Father,” Bishop Moyer said.
“He didn’t have to do this, and he didn’t have to establish and Apostolic Constitution for such an ecclesial provision, and he didn’t have to be so generous in its provision, giving affirmation and honor to the Anglican patrimony,” he said.
“We move forward holding, not clutching, onto our Anglican patrimony which the pope stated would be enriching to the Catholic Church. We asked if we could bring it with us, and he said, ‘By all means.’
“For me,” Bishop Moyer said, “as someone who has the Anglican patrimony deep within my very bones, I rejoice that it can now be safeguarded and nurtured for my children and my children’s children.
“Without our accession to the role of Peter’s leadership and primacy, there is no assurance for the survival and growth of what we hold dear,” he said.
“I truly believe that outside the arms of the Catholic Church, the Anglican patrimony will simply be a chapter in books of church history,” Bishop Moyer said.
“It is the placing of ourselves within the Catholic Church where Christian teaching, faith and order have a firm foundation, where through the magisterium clear guidance is found for moral and ethical issues that confuse and confound the world, without which people wander into darkness and are slain by it.”
Father Phillips said his parish, Our Lady of the Atonement, stands as example of how an Anglican Use parish can enrich the Catholic Church.
Soon after the Vatican granted a 1980 special provision allowing for the ordination of Anglican priests as Roman Catholic priests, and for the Anglican Use liturgies in parishes for former Anglicans in full communion with Rome, Father Phillips, in his Feb. 26 address to the conference, told of how he was granted permission as a former Anglican priest by then-Archbishop Patrick Flores to establish Our Lady of the Atonement.
He started with 18 members, including his wife and three children. The parish is now some 500 families strong and includes a Catholic school.
The story of Our Lady of the Atonement is unusual, Father Phillips said.
“There were a few (Roman Catholic) bishops who allowed the erection of (Anglican Use) parishes, but most bishops were confused by the whole thing,” he said.
An ordinariate for Anglican Use parishes will smooth the path for scores of Anglican communities who have already discerned their desire for full communion with Rome, not only in the United States, but throughout the world, Father Phillips said.
“This is earth-shaking,” he said. “It is just something unheard of.”
But as anxious as such communities are for full communion right now, the establishment of the ordinariate in the United States can only be done after care and deliberation, he said.
“We must remember that there is a certain grace in waiting,” he said. “There is never a wasted moment in God’s time, and the ordinariate will be erected in God’s time.”
Father Phillips said that Scripture is filled with examples of waiting.
“Over and over again, God asks for a time of patient waiting, and there is always a reason, even if it isn’t evident at the time,” he said.
“We need to remind ourselves that God took 33 years from the incarnation to the salvation on the cross, and it took another three days for the resurrection,” Father Phillips said.
“Our waiting is with a purpose,” he said. “It is a time for us to prepare spiritually. It is not wasted time. It is given to us by God. It is up to us to use it productively and wisely.”
In his homily at the conference’s concluding Anglican Use Mass, Father Phillips said the waiting is also a time to grow in Christian love.
“With all our excitement, with all our worrying of how it is going to work, what we are really doing is laying the foundation, and that foundation is love,” Father Phillips said.
“In order to ‘Become One’, we need to deepen our love for the Lord Jesus Christ so we can deepen our love for one another,” he said. “Our Lord gives us his love not to keep to ourselves, but to give to one another. How careful we must be not to let our own egos and prejudices and pride interfere with our love.”