Cardinal Roger Mahony ordained the first married priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles May 6. About 700 people attended the ordination of Fr. William Lowe at Blessed Junipero Serra Church in Camarillo, including his wife of 44 years, Linda.
Fr. Lowe was an Episcopalian minister in Massachusetts for almost 30 years before retiring and moving to Southern California. His ordination was made possible by a pastoral provision by Pope John Paul II that allows married Episcopalian priests to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood.
The 68-year-old priest grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist home but says he “somehow knew” at age 15 that he was called to become a priest. In early 2001, after retiring from the 100-family Episcopal Parish of the Messiah in Newton, Mass., he and his wife, began visiting various Catholic churches and were inspired by the life they found there.
At around Easter of that year, Linda, now 66, told her husband they needed to make the switch official. The couple has three grown children and five grandchildren.
Fr. Lowe’s preparation for the Catholic priesthood included reading 50 books in seven theological areas -- including ethics, church history and dogmatic theology -- a daylong psychological exam and an all-day oral exam.
“This is not a precedent that implies any diminishing of the value of celibacy in priestly ministry, but an instance in which the Church acts in an exceptional way to strengthen and ennoble the gifts brought by its newest members,” said Cardinal Mahony in a prepared statement released to the press.
“This practice is not so much an example of relaxing the discipline of priestly celibacy as it is an instance of an extraordinary act of compassion on the part of the Church in regard to someone whose whole life had been spent in both preparation for, and the exercise of, pastoral ministry,” said the cardinal’s statement.