Bishop Steven Lopes installed as first bishop of Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter

by John Henry

Correspondent

North Texas Catholic

February 3, 2016

Bishop Steven J. Lopes raises the chalice during his Feb. 2 ordination and installation Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Galveston-Houston. Bishop Lopes is the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which serves former Anglicans living in full communion with the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/Tom McCarthy Jr.)

Editor's Note: This story was updated Feb. 5. Changes include quotes from Bishop Michael Olson, Bishop Steven Lopes, and Father Christopher Stainbrook, pastor of St. Timothy's in Fort Worth. 

HOUSTON -- Envoys of the Holy See along with dozens of American Roman Catholic prelates gathered on Tuesday with congregants at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the history-making Mass of Ordination and Installation of Bishop Steven J. Lopes, the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Bishop Lopes assumed his new charge declaring the motto, “Magna Opera Domini — Great are the works of the Lord.”

Appointed by Pope Francis in November, Bishop Lopes took the reins from Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, who announced his retirement last year.

“We thank God for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and his Spirit-prompted vision of unity and faith in a diversity of expression which informs the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus,” Bishop Lopes said.

“We thank God for our Holy Father Pope Francis for putting his vision into concrete expression,” he continued.

Among bishops on hand to commemorate the event were Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth and Bishop Kevin Vann, Olson’s predecessor and Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision, a position he has held since 2011.

Bishop Vann, now bishop of the Diocese of Orange in California, will work closely with Lopes in fostering priestly vocations.

Bishop Steven J. Lopes receives applause from Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington (left) and others as he holds his crosier seated in the "cathedra," or bishop's chair, during his Feb. 2 episcopal ordination Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston. (CNS photo/Tom McCarthy Jr.)

Lopes, 40, who was ordained a priest by Cardinal William Levada then the ordinary of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in 2001, assumed his new duties on Candlemas Day after serving as an official for the Vatican Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 2005. That office is responsible for promoting and preserving Catholic teaching.

Lopes, who holds licentiate and doctoral degrees in sacred theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, was named a monsignor in 2010.

“We hold you suitable, beloved son, to carry out this office as you stand out by firm faith, good character, piety, wisdom, zeal for souls, charity, and other virtues,” said Pope Francis’ apostolic mandate announcing Lopes’ appointment, which was read aloud to the assembly during Tuesday’s ordination liturgy.

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., were co-consecrators. (Wuerl in 2010 was appointed delegate for implementation of Anglicanorum coetibus in the U.S.)

Cardinal Levada delivered the homily.

“Today is Candlemas day, the feast of the presentation of the Lord,” Cardinal Levada said. “Today, is the blessed day when Jesus was presented in the temple by Mary and Joseph. Outwardly He was fulfilling the law, but in reality He was coming to meet his believing people. Among the believing people He met in the Jerusalem temple, the names of Simeon and Anna have sounded down the ages. But the liturgy is not simply about a past event.

“On Candlemas Day in this year of grace 2016, Jesus has come again to meet his believing people in word and sacrament. The people of faith Jesus has come to meet today is us, you and me, the Church. And the name that will go forward from this day in this encounter with Christ is that of Steven Joseph Lopes.”

Bishop Lopes’ appointment marked the continuation and a fuller maturity of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 Anglicanorum coetibus, the apostolic constitution that created a pathway for Anglican parishes to join the Catholic Church through ordinariates, structures akin to dioceses.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston embraces Bishop Steven J. Lopes during his Feb. 2 ordination Mass. Bishop Lopes is the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which serves former Anglicans living in full communion with the Catholic Church. (CNS photo/Tom McCarthy Jr.) 

It represented the most significant move toward reunification in 450 years. Pope Francis’ mandate to appoint Lopes, “affirms and amplifies Pope Benedict’s vision for Christian unity, in which diverse expressions of one faith are joined together in the Church,” a Nov. 24 ordinariate press release stated.

“By naming Bishop-elect Lopes, the Pope has confirmed that the Ordinariate is a permanent, enduring part of the Catholic Church, like any other diocese — one that is now given a bishop so that it may deepen its contribution to the life of the Church and the world.”

The connectedness and direct link to the apostles is something that can only be achieved through a bishop, Father Christopher Stainbrook, pastor of St. Timothy Catholic Church in Fort Worth told the North Texas Catholic in an interview.

Pope Benedict’s action expanded John Paul II’s 1980 Pastoral Provision, which provided the framework for Episcopal priests to become Catholic.

Churches in the Ordinariate are in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, yet have been allowed to keep some of their Anglican liturgical traditions.

Any Catholic may attend Ordinariate liturgies and functions, just as members of the Ordinariate can attend liturgies and functions at any traditional Catholic parish.

The Chair of St. Peter, based in Houston’s Our Lady of Walsingham Church, is one of three ordinariates worldwide. Its jurisdiction is the United States and Canada. According to data provided by officials, the ordinariate includes 62 priests and more than 20,000 parishioners in 43 parishes, including St. John Vianney in Cleburne, St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, and St. Timothy.

Bishop Olson, in comments made to the North Texas Catholic, explained the close ties the Diocese of Fort Worth shares with the ordinariate.

“In many ways, the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter was born in Fort Worth because of the hard work and vision of many, especially Bishop Kevin Vann, the former Bishop of Fort Worth as well as Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson the first Ordinary,” Bishop Olson told the NTC. “ I am very eager to collaborate with Bishop Lopes in his pastoral care for Ordinariate Catholics belonging to its parishes of St. Mary the Virgin, St. Timothy, and St. John Vianney, residing in the Diocese of Fort Worth.”

Other Personal Ordinariates are Our Lady of Walsingham in the United Kingdom and Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

Monsignors Keith Newton and Harry Entwistle, ordinaries of Walsingham and Southern Cross, were also in attendance at the ordination Mass.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, lays his hands on the head of Bishop Steven J. Lopes during his ordination Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. (CNS photo/Tom McCarthy Jr.) 

Lopes expressed warm approval for the faithful of the Ordinariate, the descendants of “the noble patrimony of English Christianity” who “prompted us to seek the fullness of Catholic communion under the successor of St. Peter the Apostle.”

“Men and women of faith, from St. Augustine of Canterbury down to our own day, who have helped us respond to the voice of the Lord Jesus,” Lopes said. “Who have enriched the Church with the noble patrimony of English Christianity and who have formed in us a passion for truth and who have blessed us with that same passion.”

Lopes also shared his inspiration for the maxim “Magna Opera Domini,” recalling a retreat of Ordinariate priests and seminarians in Florida.

Lopes had already personally read all the dossiers of each of the priests. Many there shared their stories of journey to Catholic reunification and their search for the truth in sacred Scripture, along the way sacrificing and confronting suffering. They had left behind what was familiar and comfortable for what at times has been a lonely path.

At that moment it was clear, Lopes said, that this was the work of the Lord, “and great are the works of the Lord.”

“When he said that, a tear welled up in my eye,” said Fr. Stainbrook, who was among the first priests ordained in the Ordinariate in 2012. “It has been a long, long time since I felt emotion like that during liturgy. The sense of the Holy Spirit was palpable.”

Msgr. Steenson was installed as ordinary in 2012. Though a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, he was not eligible to be a bishop in name because he was married.

“He was the pioneer who led us where we needed to be led,” said Fr. Stainbrook, who used the image of Moses to compare the work of Steenson.

Only a bishop, of course, could offer the connectivity to the apostles, something Steenson recognized.

Steenson had asked the Vatican to consider appointing a bishop a year earlier.

At the time of Lopes’ appointment in November, Steenson said: “I welcome this news with all my heart, for the Ordinariate has now progressed to the point where a bishop is much needed for our life and mission. A bishop will help to give the Ordinariate the stability and permanence necessary to fulfill its mission to be a work of Catholic unity.

“That the Ordinariate would ultimately be headed by a bishop has been the intention of Anglicanorum coetibus,” he said. “It is indeed an encouraging sign that we have reached that goal.”

Lopes’ installation coincides with the Ordinariate’s new missal Divine Worship, the definitive book of liturgical texts for Mass in the Personal Ordinariates.

The new bishop closed his remarks with a message from Pope Francis, whom Lopes met with after his appointment. Lopes described Francis as “very well informed” of the Ordinariate, knowing “where we had come and what we had sacrificed to get here. He was excited for the Church and for us.”

“‘Avanti!’” Bishop Lopes recalled the Holy Father saying in Italian. “Go forward! There is our mandate. Go forward and preach the Gospel. Show the world that the Christian disciple is indeed joyful and that the communion of the Church is worth committing our lives to.”

HOUSTON -- Envoys of the Holy See along with dozens of American Roman Catholic prelates gathered on Tuesday with congregants at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart for the history-making Mass of Ordination and Installation of Bishop Steven J. Lopes, the first bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Published (until 12/25/2037)