Fr. Jeffrey Steenson Leads Anglican Converts
Vatican names Houston as hub for first U.S. ordinariate for former Anglicans
University of St. Thomas School of Theology faculty member and former Episcopal Bishop Jeffrey Steenson was named by Pope Benedict to lead a national ordinariate for Anglicans who wish to become Catholic. The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, similar to a diocese but national in scope, will be based in Houston, where Steenson has served as a professor and priest since 2009.
Married and the father of three children, Father Steenson was an Episcopal bishop before becoming Catholic in 2007. He was ordained a Catholic priest two years later and came to Houston to teach patristics (the study of the Church fathers) at St. Mary’s Seminary and the University of St. Thomas, where he is the Carl and Lois Davis Professor of Patristic Studies. Father Steenson is also an assisting priest at Houston’s St. Cyril of Alexandria parish.
“What propels a person to leave his or her ecclesial home and make this journey into the Catholic Church is a desire to be in full communion with everything that the Catholic Church teaches is true,” Father Steenson said at a press conference in Houston, Jan. 2.
Father Steenson will be installed as the ordinary on Feb. 19 in Houston.
“He is a wise and prudent administrator who will bring a vibrant intellect and humility to his role as head of the ordinariate,” Daniel Cardinal DiNardo said at the press conference at Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church, which will be the principal church for the new ordinariate.
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is the first structure of its kind in the United States and the second in the world. The other ordinariate is Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established in 2011 to serve England and Wales.
The ordinariates are the result of repeated appeals from Anglican groups to become Catholic as groups. In November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus,” which authorized the ordinariates.
The U.S. ordinariate will include parishes, groups and individuals of Anglican heritage. Parishes will be fully Roman Catholic, while retaining elements of the Anglican tradition in terms of music, liturgy, structure and prayers.
Cardinal DiNardo and Father Steenson said Houston was selected as the hub for the Ordinariate in part because of St. Mary’s Seminary. Father Steenson was a key player in the establishment of a formation program for Anglican priests applying for the Catholic priesthood at the seminary. St. Mary’s has developed a Vatican-approved nine-month program of priestly formation for Anglican clergy who wish to become Catholic priests.
About Father Steenson
Ordained an Anglican priest in 1980, Father Steenson served Episcopal parishes in suburban Philadelphia and Fort Worth before becoming the chief pastoral assistant for the ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande (which serves New Mexico and far west Texas). In 2004, he was elected bishop of that diocese, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
He grew up on a family farm in North Dakota and received his theological training at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago, Harvard Divinity School and the University of Oxford, where he received his doctorate in patristic studies in 1983.
As Ordinary, Father Steenson will be a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Because he is married, he may not be ordained a bishop.
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Courtesy of Jenny Faber and Jonah Dycus, Texas Catholic Herald