Bishop-elect ready to lead ‘vibrant’ ordinariate
Our Sunday Visitor, Newsweekly, Jan. 6, 2016
On Feb. 2, Msgr. Steven J. Lopes will be ordained as the first bishop for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, a canonical structure similar to a diocese for Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition.
Pope Francis in November chose Bishop-elect Lopes, 40, to lead the ordinariate, which Pope Benedict XVI established on Jan. 1, 2012, to serve Catholics across the United States and Canada. Pope Benedict provided for the creation of personal ordinariates for Anglicans entering into full communion with the Catholic Church in the 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. The pontiff also established the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom.
Bishop-elect Lopes, who was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2001, was involved in setting up the ordinariates and in approving a new missal, Divine Worship: The Missal, for them as a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Our Sunday Visitor: What did you think when Pope Francis appointed you to be the ordinariate’s first bishop?
Msgr. Steven J. Lopes: The ordinariates and I have a very deep history, having been part of the process that eventually lead to Anglicanorum Coetibus and kind of being the coordinator for the three ordinariates in Rome at the Congregation of the Doctrine for the Faith. It’s a reality I know very well and love very much. I have a real sense of joy and privilege to bind my life with the men and women of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
OSV: Why was the ordinariate created?
Msgr. Lopes: The process really begins at the CDF. There is a certain history to this whole question of people wanting to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. For those of an Anglican heritage, it really begins with Pope Pius XII. There is this whole process that unfolds over the years. Pope St. John Paul II was instrumental in articulating a path for Anglican clergy who would want to be brought into full communion and be ordained Catholic priests. That was called the Pastoral Provision in 1982.
You fast-forward to 2007, and the question changes a little bit: “Is there a way for us to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, not as individuals, but as clergy and faithful coming over together in such a way that we’re able to preserve some of our own identity as a parish and a community, with some of our own distinctiveness liturgically, spiritually, theologically, pastorally, and in terms of governance, is there a way to do that?”
OSV: What are the ordinariates’ value for Catholic Church?
Msgr. Lopes: These are communities which are very vibrant, very committed to their faith. The faith and the communion of the Church is a very deep reality to them because it’s cost them. They’ve had to make decisions that affected not only their parishes, but their families and their friends. They came to believe, ‘We need to move. We need to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.” There is a certain dying and rising in that experience. It makes the ordinariate faithful that I have met and the clergy tremendous evangelizers. They are able to articulate a joy of being Catholic and the adventure of fidelity.
OSV: What are your immediate plans upon being officially installed as the ordinariate’s first bishop?
Msgr. Lopes: After Feb. 2, I’m looking at my calendar, and it’s an awful lot of time on an airplane. The 43 communities of the ordinariate are spread around 20-something states and five Canadian provinces. To go out and be with the people and meet the pastors, experiencing the life of the ordinariate means going to them, so I will be very often on the road moving to the different communities and back in Houston during the week where our offices and chancery are located.
OSV: Do you anticipate that more parishes in the coming years will join the ordinariate?
Msgr. Lopes: We had a new community in Texas that just had its first Mass on the Third Sunday of Advent. Thirty-five people participated in that celebration, so the new community of St. Margaret of Scotland is off and running. There is continual interest in other places. I do have a certain sense that the ordinariate is a growing reality. We could build six churches tomorrow if we had the money for it.
OSV: How does a community from the Anglican tradition join the ordinariate?
Msgr. Lopes: There is a discernment the priests generally do with their people that grows over years. It comes as the result of study. Many of the communities will begin a group study of something like the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They grow in that recognition together that this is a fullness they’re being called into. They would then make contact with the ordinariate or the local Catholic diocese. We would usually then send someone to them, to accompany that community in its discernment, not only in terms of answering any questions but sending a priest or a catechist to assist them in their reflection and their growth. And then it would be possible to begin looking at the situation of their pastor and see what might be needed for him to be ordained a Catholic priest. It kind of progresses from there.
OSV: What was the work like that went into developing Divine Worship: The Missal?
Msgr. Lopes: The Divine Worship project is the Holy See’s response to Article 3 of Anglicanorum Coetibus that talked about the liturgical patrimony of the Anglican heritage being preserved in the Catholic Church. It steps back and asks the question, “In these 500 years that we’ve experienced division, how has the Faith been articulated? How has it been prayed? And does that add to the articulation and eloquence of the Faith?” There was a realization that, “Yes, it does.” The way that the Faith has been expressed in the English tradition and in that particular heritage is a great treasure. So it was about recovering that and sharing it with the broader Catholic world. It’s historical in many ways because this is the first time a liturgical expression from a community born of the Reformation has been reunited with its Catholic roots.
OSV: What else about the Anglican tradition strikes you?
Msgr. Lopes: All of our communities, I’ve noticed, are very committed to beauty in worship, beauty in terms of the music, beauty in terms of the participation in the prayers. Also, beauty in terms of reverence and in terms of the style of architecture.
One bishop told me, having experienced Mass in one of the ordinariate communities, “Your people linger over worship.” You’ll note that nobody looks at their watch during Mass in our communities.
OSV: Why did you choose “Magna Opera Domini” as your episcopal motto?
Msgr. Lopes: It’s a testimony to the fact that this great work of the communion of the Church is not ours. It definitely is in the hands of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, when you talk about the development of this project that we call the ordinariates, God is the ultimate architect of it.
OSV: What else do you think the future may hold for the ordinariate?
Msgr. Lopes: Right now, a lot of our communities are focused on setting down their roots. Many of them are starting fresh. They have to look to at all those normal things that go with growing a parish; finding lands, deciding where the church building is going to be. Our communities are raising money, gathering for worship, strengthening the identity of the parish so they can put down roots so that when they do build their parish church, there is a great community inside that church on Sunday.
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