Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Bishop Peter Wilkinson and his congregation will be welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church this Easter. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Anglican Catholics welcomed into the flock

  • April 6, 2012

OTTAWA - On the Octave Sunday of Easter, two bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC) — Bishop Peter Wilkinson in Victoria and Bishop Carl Reid in Ottawa — will lead their clergy and people into the Catholic Church.

Other congregations and fellowships across the country, part of the ACCC’s temporary Pro-Diocese of Our Lady of Walsingham, will follow on April 22 or dates soon to be announced. They will become Ordinariate parishes-in-waiting in their respective Roman Catholic dioceses, including groups in Edmonton, Oshawa, Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Montreal and possibly Vancouver.

Victoria Bishop Richard Gagnon and Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast will receive the groups at special Masses. Afterwards, the bishops will provide spiritual oversight and priests to celebrate the Anglican Use liturgy for the new Catholics until their own priests are ordained and the parishes can join the American Ordinariate. 

These parishes will join two previously received into the Catholic Church to eventually form the Canadian Deanery of St. John the Baptist of the American Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. It was established on Jan. 1, 2012 with Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Episcopalian bishop and married Catholic priest, as Ordinary.

Prendergast described the move as “among the first fruits” of the response to Anglicanorum coetibus, Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Constitution that offered a way for Anglicans to become Catholic while retaining some aspects of their tradition, including their liturgy. 

“While the Apostolic Constitution left open the possibility of an Ordinariate in Canada, this linking of Anglicans in Canada to the United States Ordinariate as a Deanery attached to it is a good step for now,” said Prendergast.

The decision to enter the Catholic Church now began as a meeting between Gagnon, Wilkinson and some Catholic and ACCC clergy late last year.

“We’ve been met with nothing but kindness,” said Wilkinson. “Catholic bishops have stepped up to the plate across the country and cared for us.”  

Never licensed as an Anglican priest in Canada because he was too “catholic,” Wilkinson founded the ACCC in 1977 and Reid assisted as a lay person in building the new church.

In the past two years, the worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion and the ACCC both experienced pressures that disintegrated them. In Canada, many parishes have split, sometimes more than once, or abandoned the ACCC altogether. This is a sad result for Wilkinson who believes the TAC played a key role in the Holy Father’s response in the Apostolic Constitution.

“I still believe that it was the TAC’s letter that we took to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that began the process because we had taken doctrine off the table and made the Catechism of the Catholic Church our statement of faith,” he said.  

Gagnon will receive Wilkinson, five priests, two religious sisters of the Servants of the Sacred Cross, a nun and several dozen lay people at the 5 p.m. service in his cathedral that “will contain music that is generally no longer heard at our Masses in Canada but is common to their tradition — and still possible within ours,” according to the diocesan bulletin.  

In Ottawa, Prendergast will receive the Ottawa group as the first Roman Catholic archbishop anywhere to celebrate the Anglican Use liturgy approved for use in the Catholic Church.

“It is quite a reverent liturgy, more formal than even our newly retranslated Roman Missal, but quite accessible,” he said. It has “affinities with the Extraordinary Form of the Mass that I knew and served as a boy and more recently have celebrated on several occasions for the parish entrusted to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter here in Ottawa.

“How this gift will be shared with the wider Church remains to be seen. Clearly, just as members of the Anglican Communion who are now being received individually and as groups will be free to attend Mass and receive Communion at other Roman Catholic parish churches in their neighbourhoods, so their Roman Catholic friends will, from time to time, attend this liturgical usage and communicate.”

He has also kept the Anglican Bishop of Ottawa John Chapman informed of the developments.

Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, the episcopal delegate for the Apostolic Constitution in Canada, has been involved in every step. Prendergast realized that in addition to consulting with Collins and Gagnon, he should also consult Steenson, who is based in Houston, Texas.

“I found him a delightful person, a real leader with clear ideas and principles who knows Canada a good bit already,” Prendergast said. “He is looking forward to a visit to Ottawa when time permits.”

In March, Steenson visited with Wilkinson and Gagnon in Victoria and stopped in Calgary to visit the parish-in-waiting of St. John the Evangelist, the only Ordinariate-bound parish from the Anglican Church of Canada. This parish was received into the Calgary diocese last Dec. 18.

On Jan. 1, Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby received members of an ACCC group based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.

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