Former Episcopalians form community in anticipation of ordinariate, welcomed into Catholic Church

By Tony Gutiérrez

Associate Editor

September 29, 2011

Timothy Perkins, a former Episcopalian priest and one of the spiritual leaders of the St. Peter the Rock community, addresses the congregation shortly after being received into the Catholic Church Sept. 24. Perkins thanked God, those who joined him on his faith journey, and all who supported the community. (Photo by Juan Guajardo / North Texas Catholic)

When Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution allowing members of the Anglican Communion to come into the Catholic Church and maintain many of their traditions in the form of personal ordinariates, was announced by Pope Benedict XVI in November of 2009, many local Episcopalians saw it as a calling to come into full communion with Rome.

Timothy Perkins, a former Episcopalian priest who was serving in a parish in Arlington at the time, and some members of his community, had already been studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and shortly after the announcement, petitioned to be received into the Catholic Church as a part of the new ordinariate. Soon, other small pockets of Episcopalians from throughout the diocese developed an interest in becoming Catholic, and by July 2010, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth began providing catechesis for these individuals.

In January of this year, while the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was being formed across the globe by former Anglicans in England, locally Perkins found himself the spiritual leader of the community of St. Peter the Rock, made up of former Episcopalians from Arlington, Cleburne, and Hurst, where they would worship together in the diocesan Catholic Center’s chapel on Sunday mornings followed by catechetical lessons in the center’s conference rooms.

“When I initially resolved to become Catholic, I believed I would be received very quickly,” Perkins recalled. “Bishop Vann knows my wife Jody and I and is aware of our faith development. When people in need of a pastor became known, it was necessary that there be a time of waiting for that fulfillment.”

By this summer, Perkins was joined by several other former Episcopalian priests, including Charles Hough III and Louis Tobola, and their community was growing.

Perkins said members of the community had to travel approximately 30 minutes to the Catholic Center, which was centrally located.

“It built a sense of community that was already there in many cases,” Perkins said, noting the inconvenience felt by some members of the community, who had been accustomed to attending church in their own neighborhoods. “Many have told me what a blessing it has been to carpool. While they had known each other for many years, they knew each other more intimately. That growing in faith has strengthened our community and the faith we share with one another and our faith in God.”

The community is currently divided into cell groups based on location: St. Peter the Rock in Arlington, St. John Vianney in Cleburne, and Blessed Cardinal Newman in Hurst. With the seeming rapid development of an ordinariate in England, Perkins and his community were hoping for a similar development in the United States, but as time progressed, they realized that the formation of the ordinariate would be a process.

“At times, there’s been a temptation to impatience. One of the things we’ve learned is the holiness of waiting. Even the waiting had an effect on the opening of our hearts to what’s in store,” Perkins said. “We have newcomers just beginning the catechetical process; they too will be learning patience through waiting.”

On Sept. 25 of this year, 26 members of the community, including Perkins and Hough, were received into the Catholic Church at a Mass of Reception at St. Patrick Cathedral. Some of the members, including Hough’s wife Marilyn, were raised Catholic and were welcomed back into the Church.

“It was like I’m ready to go back home,” said Marilyn Hough after the Mass. “Before I was raised Roman Catholic, it was just a religion; I didn’t appreciate it. But now that I’ve come back, I cherish it. It’s much more meaningful to me.”

In his homily, Bishop Kevin Vann compared the journey of those being received to pieces of a puzzle that all fit together and hold each other in place.

“I would offer that image to all of you here today, because … your profession of faith and this step you are taking today, are many aspects that ultimately fit together to form the portrait of this journey of faith that you are on,” Bishop Vann said. “It is a portrait put together one piece at a time, each piece being part of the work of God, each piece supporting the other, just as you have supported each other and will continue to do so in the days and weeks ahead.”

Bishop Vann concluded his homily by noting that there were still more pieces yet to come to complete this “divine portrait,” such as the anticipated personal ordinariate for the United States.

“The next rendering may have a similar theme, but it will be more complete, more beautiful, and we will be more in awe, just as we must be today as we are part of the unfolding of the sacred history of the Body of Christ,” he said.

Since coming into the Church, the community of St. Peter the Rock is still meeting at the Catholic Center, but those who have been received are also attending Mass at local Catholic parishes. The members of the St. Peter the Rock cell group are attending St. Maria Goretti Parish in Arlington; members of the St. John Vianney cell group are attending St. Ann Parish in Burleson; and the members of the Blessed Cardinal Newman cell group are attending St. Michael Parish in Bedford.

Other members of the community are still in formation. Perkins said that Tobola is waiting for those who had been under his pastoral care to complete their formation process so that he can join the Church with them.

“The real growth in this movement is in the next generation,” said Perkins, referring to the American Oxford Movement. “I think we’re the planters that sowed the plantation: we heard the Holy Father’s offer, and responded appropriately. But we’re not in this for ourselves. In the next generation is when we’ll see growth in the ordinariate.”

Perkins compared his own personal journey to the Triduum, when the day before his confirmation, he was in the darkness, then on the next day, he experienced the resurrected Christ in the Eucharist, and now he is called forth to put his faith into action.

“It’s one great Paschal Mystery lived over these three days,” Perkins said, following his confirmation. “This was a fulfillment of God’s plan for the process.”

When Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution allowing members of the Anglican Communion to come into the Catholic Church and maintain many of their traditions in the form of personal ordinariates, was announced by Pope Benedict XVI in November of 2009, many local Episcopalians saw it as a calling to come into full communion with Rome.

Published (until 9/29/2111)
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