Houston to be home base of national church

January 2, 2012 5:03:36 PM PST
Chosen by the Pope himself, Houston will become the home base of a national church for Anglicans and Episcopalians who want to join the Roman Catholic Church. This new ordinariate is the first of its kind in the US, and only the second in the world.

For 30 years, Our Lady of Walsingham has been a place for area Anglicans and Episcopalians seeking their Catholics roots. Margaret Pichon was Episcopalian, her husband, Arnaud, Catholic. This church fit them both.

"It allowed Margaret to convert to Catholicism because they were all former Episcopalians like she was,' said Arnaud.

The church has been part of the Catholic diocese, but now it is more than that. The official Parish of a New Ordinariate was created by the Pope. It's only the second in the world outside Britain.

"He has established an ordinariate to welcome Anglican groups and clergy to become Catholic," said CardinalDaniel Denardo of the Galveston-Houston diocese.

The head of the new ordinariate, Father Jeffrey Steenson, is a former Episcopal bishop who became a Catholic priest two years ago.

"For perhaps the first time since the Reformation in the 16th century, a corporate structure will be given to those who choose to return to St. Peter and his successors," he said.

Father Steenson is also married and a father of three adult children. The Episcopal church allows priests to marry. The Catholic church does not, and that will not change.

"It's not an issue at all," said Bishop Kevin Vann of Ft. Worth. "Married priests we have work well with the priests we have and we have the highest number of seminarians in the history of the seminary in Fort Worth," he said.

St. Mary's seminary in west Houston will offer a nine-month training program for Anglican clergy who want to join the Catholic priesthood. What this offers is the ability for Anglicans and Episcopals to retain the same liturgy, the same hymns, the familiar traditions, but as Roman-Catholics, something Arnaud and Margaret Pichon appreciate.

"Because I think we're being called to reach out to those people contemplating the journey and here, we now have the structure to help them do that," said Margaret.

According go the diocese, about 100 Anglican and Episcopalian priests are asking to go through the seminary program there.