NEW SHEPHERD. Bishop Steven Lopes is the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Facebook/Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter
HOUSTON — In a majestic Mass at Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Feb. 2, history was made for the Anglican ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI: Their first bishop was ordained.
“In a nutshell, it means we’re here to stay,” summarized Msgr. Harry Entwistle, the ordinary of Australia’s ordinariate, which is under the patroness of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.
The new bishop, Steven Joseph Lopes, 40, a native of California, was in fact instrumental in the creation of the ordinariate that he now leads — the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
The ordinariates were established as the Vatican’s pastoral response to repeated and persistent inquiries made by Anglican individuals and groups who desired full communion with the Catholic Church, in a history that goes back to at least Pope Pius XII.
In November 2009, in response to these inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. This document authorized the creation of “ordinariates” — communities that would be fully Catholic yet retain elements of Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.
So far, there are three ordinariates globally: The first was established in the United Kingdom (the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham) in 2011. The following year, an ordinariate was established here in the United States, with jurisdiction also including Canada, and another in Australia.
Bishop Lopes was working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as this process unfolded, having been named an official of that congregation in 2005. For seven of his 10-plus years at the Vatican, he served as secretary to the cardinal prefect, and he was in effect the coordinator for the three ordinariates. Hence, he knows well his flock and their unique home in the Church.
He explained at the end of his ordination Mass that his episcopal motto — Magna Opera Domini (“Great are the works of the Lord”) — flows from this intimate knowledge of the ordinariate.
Addressing the priests gathered for his ordination — just for the U.S.-Canada ordinariate, there are 62 of them, along with six deacons, four candidates for the priesthood or diaconate and one seminarian, in service to 42 parishes and communities — he noted, “I have met each one of you.”
Reminiscing about a clergy assembly held several years ago in Florida, he explained that the event was one of the first occasions that he had to put faces to the names and autobiographies that he had read and studied at the CDF.
“Yours were stories of faith and of courage, and of a passion and zeal for the truth and the search of the truth in sacred Scripture,” Bishop Lopes told the priests.
“And they were also often enough stories of sacrifice, suffering and the anguish of leaving what was familiar and comfortable in order to embark on an unknown and sometimes lonely path toward the fullness of Catholic communion.”
Seeing the faces of these priests and knowing their stories, he said as he named by name some of them, “in that moment, beholding, if you will, before me, the great work of communion manifest in that chapel, my heart was moved to only one thought: We did not do this. God did this. This is the work of the Lord, and great are the works of the Lord!”
For his priests as well, Bishop Lopes’ long involvement with the ordinariates is a source of consolation and hope.
“We all know him very well. He knows each one of us priests very well,” explained Father John Vidal, pastor of St. Anselm Catholic Community in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“It’s like a brother priest is being ordained. He’s not coming from the Anglican Communion, but he knows it just as much as we do, if not better, which is really exciting.”
Father Vidal remarked that Bishop Lopes is, in fact, “kind of the one who defined who we were.”
“I’m just thrilled,” he said. “For him, but even more for us.”
The ordinariates are still in their infant stage (what’s five years in the history of the Church?), so much of the work before Bishop Lopes is furthering their establishment.
And many Catholics are still unaware that the ordinariates even exist.
Msgr. Keith Newton, the ordinary of the U.K. ordinariate, in a presentation prior to the ordination Mass, joked that he still gets Catholics asking him, “Why don’t you become a proper Catholic?”
But the ordination of a bishop will undoubtedly help to further awareness of the ordinariates and their mission.
With their own bishop, said Msgr. Entwistle, “We have become a particular Church. This is a statement of confidence from the Holy Father.”
The Australian ordinary added that the ordinariates’ mission is for the entire Church: “We have a spirituality and a distinctiveness that will enrich the whole of the Catholic Church,” he said. “So we are not a ship passing in the night. … The influence of that English spiritual, theological and pastoral tradition will in fact hopefully enrich [the whole Church].”
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and thus the host for the ordination celebrations, echoed those thoughts, noting the distinctiveness of the ordinariate now having a bishop.
He said the ordination underlined “a sense of the unity of the Church” and “a true sense of unity with Peter, too.
Said Cardinal DiNardo, “I think it’s great.”
Kathleen Naab writes from Houston, where she covers news
of the Church as a coordinator for Zenit News Service.