Msgr. Steenson Marks First Year of Ordinariate
Still catching his breath from the rush of 2012’s historic Church events in which he played a part, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson won’t have much time to relax before he’s back in full swing – traveling the nation again for ordinations of former Anglican clergy, participating in speaking events and hosting high ranking Vatican officials in Houston.
The first ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, who also teaches patristics fulltime at St. Mary’s Seminary at the University of St. Thomas, says it can be a bit overwhelming. But his dual vocation as a priest scholar and national church administrator are mutually sustaining and enormously enriching.
“It has always provided me with a lot of practical examples I can bring to my teaching in seminary classes,” Msgr. Steenson said. “I can tell them, ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’m experiencing this.’”
Ordinariate Hosts Symposium on Mission
Msgr. Steenson has several big engagements in the coming months, on top of his teaching and administrative schedule. On Feb. 2, the ordinariate will host a symposium, “The Mission of the Ordinariate,” at St. Mary’s Seminary to commemorate the ordinariate’s first anniversary.
A speaker making his first official visit to the United States is the Most Rev. Gerhard Muller, the archbishop appointed last summer by Pope Benedict as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – the last position the Holy Father held before being elected Supreme Pontiff.
Other clergy who will present include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Msgr. Steve Lopes, a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Secretary to the Anglicanae Traditiones Commission; and the Most Rev. Kevin Vann, bishop of Orange, Texas. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston will deliver opening remarks.
“We’re very excited about this. It’s going to be tremendous,” said Msgr. Steenson. He expects considerable interest in the event, given Archbishop Muller’s recent appointment. The event will be streamed live to the public from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Church Brings Anglicans into the Fold
As for building a new ecclesial structure for recent new Catholics, Msgr. Steenson said he draws from the lessons of the Church Fathers who had to wrestle with many practical questions about the founding of Catholic Christianity.
“They are the witnesses to tradition, and since we are about the business of promoting tradition, they are just a wonderful source of inspiration and insight,” Msgr. Steenson said.
A Catholic priest since 2009, Msgr. Steenson was appointed last January by Pope Benedict XVI to lead the new ordinariate to help bring entire communities of former Anglicans into full communion with Rome. The ordinariate, erected Jan. 1, 2012, is similar to a diocese but geographically covers all of North America.
In the first year, the assignment was humbling and huge, bringing a host of complex challenges, from making a home for former Anglican communities to heading off liturgical controversies, Msgr. Steenson said. And the work has only just begun.
He also got a new boss – the Pope.
As ordinary, Msgr. Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop who became Catholic in 2007, serves under the direct authority of Benedict XVI, working alongside the nation’s bishops.
In November, he received an enthusiastic welcome from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, where he delivered a detailed report on the state of the ordinariate. His membership in the august body is unique – he is its only married member and only one who is not a bishop. However, Msgr. Steenson has similar administrative and pastoral responsibilities, though he cannot ordain priests.
Nevertheless, he has crisscrossed the nation to participate in the priestly ordinations of 28 former Anglicans clergyman and has shepherded 36 communities into the true fold of Christ. The ordinariate now has 1,600 members.
Unlike his experiences in the Episcopal House of Bishops, Msgr. Steenson said the marked difference at the conference was the unity of faith.
“It sets such a different tone,” he said. “In the Episcopal House of Bishops, people generally liked each other. It was a friendly place. But we were so different. Sometimes our theologies were radically, radically different from each other.”
Msgr. Steenson Presents Lenten Lecture
Steenson, who earned his doctorate from Oxford, will also participate in the University of St. Thomas’ 24th Annual Lenten Lecture Series speaking on the topic “Has Pope Benedict Reinterpreted the Ecumenical Vision of Vatican II?” at 7:30 p.m. on March 13 in Anderson Hall 103. The lecture is free.
For more information about the Mission of the Ordinariate symposium on Feb. 2 at St. Mary’s Seminary, contact Barbara Jonte at 713-609-9292. Registration is $25 and includes lunch.
Monica Hatcher ’98 is a student in the Master of Arts in Faith and Culture program. She is also a journalist and a Catholic Worker serving Casa Juan Diego in Houston.
Pictured (left to right):
Top Photo: Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson
Bottom Photo: Fr. Charles Hough IV, Fr. Mark Cannaday, Fr. Christopher Stainbrook, Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, Fr. Joshua Whitfield, Fr. Charles Hough III and Fr. Timothy Perkins