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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Married Priests

Recently the Kansas City Star ran as story about married Catholic priests, perhaps not remembering they ran a similar story about six years ago.

The nice thing about this year’s version of the story is that they avoided repeating the erroneous claim that ordaining married men would prevent child abuse.  I tried to steer the editor in a more worthwhile direction, but had no success.  Here is what I suggested would actually be newsworthy as well as the full answers to questions that were submitted to me.

“I would like to suggest that the really interesting story that has not been written would be about the number of protestant clergy who are converting to the Catholic Church.  Many times it means great sacrifice, the loss of income, shunning by former colleagues and family members, a loss of status.  For many if not most, especially those who do not come from an Episcopal background who receive special consideration, the Catholic Church does not have procedures that are able to evaluate their talents and experience and then deploy them for ministry, whether as lay ministers or ordained deacons or priests.  Even if convert clergy are willing to return to seminary and even though the Vatican is often willing to give permission for them to be ordained, most do not get the chance because there is not a local seminary and dioceses/seminaries are not equipped to provide education for married seminaries especially if they have families.  Yet there are many protestant clergy converting to the Catholic Church every year. Check out information from the Coming Home Network www.chnetwork.orgI received many advantages through the Pastoral Provision for former Episcopal Clergy established by Pope John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger.  It is said that as Pope John Paul II gave instructions to Cardinal Ratzinger on how to set up the Pastoral Provision, he said, “Don’t make it too hard on them.”


In answer to your questions:

1)  Preliminaries: I understand that you were an Episcopal priest. For how long? When did you convert? I was an Episcopal Priest for a little over 15 years.  I was “Canon Missioner” at St. Michael’s in Independence until I converted in 1998.  Bishop Raymond Boland was very helpful.  I met with him for about a year before I converted.  He knew that I would convert whether or not he was willing to consider me for ordination as a Catholic.  He was very gracious, but also very careful to make sure that the other priests of the diocese would not be offended or opposed

2)  How long was the process from Episcopal priest to Catholic priest? The process from conversion to ordination was about four years.  The Pastoral Provision process evaluated my seminary education and accepted most of my previous preparation.  I had to prepare for examinations for competency in all the areas that a Catholic seminarian is required to be competent, even areas that I had not studied.  Diocesan priests and faculty members at Conception Seminary assisted me.

3)  How accepted are you, not only in your parish, but from other Catholics?  Since there are 53 married clergy in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, even though I am the only priest, there has been very little problem in being accepted.  Sometimes people have questions, and sometimes I am a lightning rod for people who think that priests who took a vow of celibacy ought to be able to get married and remain active in priestly ministry.  Others need assurance that I am not dishonoring the gifted ministry of priests and seminarians who are true to the celibate way of life.  But those conversations occur only very occasionally.  I am a priest, and only very rarely does being married ever come up in conversation.  In most situations and most of the time it is a non-issue.  I am almost universally accepted.  If I am not, people are too polite to say so.

4)  Any special advantages to being a married priest, and is there a downside?  I think being a married priest is like being a married entrepreneur, restaurant or business owner, or medical doctor.  This is not a 40 hour a week job.  Without some balance it could kill a marriage.  I was married before I was ordained in the Episcopal Church.  Valerie went to seminary with me and has been part of this ministry directly or indirectly since the beginning.  My family keeps me balanced and rooted.  Sometimes they are my biggest challengers.  I love being a husband and father.  I do not know what is like to be a priest and be celibate.  I can certainly see some advantages for the celibate priest, especially when I am telling Valerie that I am headed out for the fourth evening meeting in week.

  5)  Why is your title "pastoral administrator" and not "pastor"?  I am in parish work as Pastoral Administrator because Bishop Finn recognized that St. Therese needed a priest and thought that I had the ability.  It is a true honor and privilege to be assigned to parish work and I am grateful to him for the opportunity to serve St. Therese Parish this way. When Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger set up the process in the early 1980s the church had very little experience with married priests and even though they were courageous in granting permission for married convert clergy to be ordained, they were unsure of how we would be received and wanted to make sure that we did not cause a scandal.  So they originally envisioned that we would be assigned as teachers and in other support jobs and not as pastors.  Being Pastoral Administrator can be considered as one of those support jobs.  Having the title Pastoral Administrator has the additional advantage of salary and benefits that are appropriate for someone with a family.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Holy Ground Prayer Service

Read about the Holy Ground Prayer Service in this coverage from The Catholic Key.  It was powerful!

Bruce Prince-Joseph new Music Director/Artist in Residence

I can finally say officially that Bruce Prince-Joseph has accepted the position of Music Director and Artist in Residence for our 11:15 Anglican Use Mass!  He has an amazingly creative spirit.  He has already brought our Kilgen pipe organ out of the shadows and back into use, has been rehearsing cantors, and is helping shape our liturgy based on his many years of experience with Catholic and Anglo-Catholic liturgy.  He has been inspired by our parish's dedication to serving out neighbors and is already planning to establish a new Kansas City Boys Choir with neighborhood kids and students from parochial, private, public and home schools who want to learn to sing classical music.  Do you know any third-grade nerds who aren't intimidated by Bach?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Catholic priests at Episcopal Cathedral

"How did it feel to be back at Grace and Holy Trinity?" one priest asked.  Another asked, "Did you and (Fr. John) Jay (Hughes) feel uncomfortable when Dean White asked Jay to autograph his book (Absolutely Null and Utterly Void)?"  "Was it hard to make these arrangements?" another asked.  "These are the best arrangements we have ever had.  Can you set this up so that we can be back here next year?"  Several senior priests shared memories of the close ecumenical, personal and theological relationships they used to have with Episcopalians.

Yesterday the Catholic priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph met for our annual Chrism Day of Reflection at Founders Hall at Grace and Holy Trinity (Episcopal) Cathedral.  Fr. John Jay Hughes, a Catholic priest, son and grandson of Episcopal priests and former Episcopal priest himself, author of Absolutely Null and Utter Void and his recent autobiography No Ordinary Fool, gave three talks.  The Cathedral was open as a space for quiet reflection, and the view north from Founders Hall gave us a clear view of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where we celebrated the Chrism Mass later yesterday evening.  Dean Terry White and his staff including Maryann Mansfield whom I have known since my days in the Episcopal Diocese were very hospitable.  Culinary Cornerstones, the catering arm of the Kansas City Community Kitchen supported largely by Episcopal Social Services provided an excellent meal.

Fr. Hughes reflected at one time, "Becoming Catholic was the best decision I ever made."  I couldn't say it better.  

I am glad that former parishioners and seminary classmates have rarely expressed animosity over my similar decision to seek the fullness of Catholicity in the only Church where it may be found.  I was glad to receive the occasional invitation by former Dean Cavanaugh to represent a Catholic presence at Episcopalian weddings at Grace and Holy Trinity.  I look forward to sharing social events, social services, and prayer services with Catholics.  I enjoy sharing with Catholics some of the beauty and hospitality that Episcopalians enjoy.  I am glad that we can share some seeming humor at having a Catholic priest sign his study of Apostolicae Curae for an Episcopalian.

Catholics and Episcopalians at one time shared a hope for true unity, that in the not too distant future we would not only share dinner tables but also the Altar and the Sacred Ministry.  In those days Catholics and Episcopalians shared a common conviction that innocent human life is sacred and inviolable, that the human family is founded on a relationship between husband and wife that is established by God, and that a common foundation in Apostolicity would build future unity.  Sadly, those days are gone and those illusions are shattered.  What we shared yesterday is more realistic.  And it is much easier to live in reality.



Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Holy Ground Prayer Service April 8 at 7:00

The pastors of churches in the 64130 zip code have just finished planning our Holy Ground Prayer Service next Wednesday at St. Therese.  Some of the church staff commented on all the laughter coming from the Rectory living room.  I have to say that I am very impressed with my colleagues' lively faith, their commitment to their neighbors as well as their parishes, and their hopes that we can continue to work together.  Some have commented that this zip code can't be Holy Ground because of our troubles.  Our troubles are certainly out in plain view for all to see.  Troubles are also hidden behind manicured lawns and electric garage doors, too.  But if the quality of these pastors is any indication of the liveliness of their congregations, there are plenty of places where Christ is present with those who gather in his name, just as He is present with all who walk the Way of the Cross in any city, suburb, small town or countryside.  I'm happy to have these men and women walking the Way of the Cross with me.