.- Updated Oct. 18, 2011 at 12:31 MDT. Changes title of Mark Lewis to reflect that he is not currently a Catholic priest and corrects references to St. Luke's as a Catholic parish.
Mark W. Lewis, rector of a small, formerly Episcopal parish in Bladensburg, Maryland, says the Holy Spirit guided the community’s decision “to accept the Holy Father’s offer” to enter the Catholic Church.
St. Luke’s congregation was received into the Catholic Church on Oct. 9 and plans to enter the Anglican ordinariate when in it is established in the United States.
“When Pope Benedict issued the apostolic constitution, Anglicanourm coetibus in 2009, it opened up a door for us that had previously been closed,” Lewis told CNA on Oct. 12.
“There had been a great deal of conversation within St. Luke’s parish about how the traditional beliefs we held were incongruent with the Episcopal Church,” he said.
“As we studied the Catholic faith and compared it to Anglicanism, we were drawn to the Church of Rome.”
After months of preparation and a unanimous vote by the vestry of St. Luke’s to enter the Catholic Church, a Mass and Rite of Reception for the community were held on Oct. 9 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
In his 2009 apostolic constitution, “Anglicanorum coetibus,” Pope Benedict XVI authorized the creation of ordinariates for Anglican communities seeking to enter the Catholic Church.
The ordinariates, which are similar to dioceses but generally national in scope, will allow parishes to retain elements of their Anglican heritage and liturgical practices, while entering into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Vatican approved the first Anglican ordinariate in England and Wales in Jan. 2011.
Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington has been appointed as the representative of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the implementation of an ordinariate in the United States.
During a recent trip to Scotland, Cardinal Wuerl told the Scottish Catholic Observer that he is hopeful about a U.S. ordinariate being established “in this calendar year.”
St. Luke’s intends to enter the ordinariate when it is established. Until that time, the parish will fall under the Archdiocese of Washington.
Cardinal Wuerl celebrated last Sunday’s Mass and Rite of Reception for St. Luke’ community and confirmed 71 members of the group. Those who were unable to attend the Mass will be received into the Catholic Church at a later date.
Lewis explained the formation that the community has undergone in recent months to prepare for their reception into the Catholic Church.
“The community at St. Luke’s began catechism classes soon after announcing our intention to enter the Roman Catholic Church last June,” he said.
He explained that the Archdiocese of Washington designed a catechetical program for the study, based on “The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.”
“RCIA classes are now being planned for late fall and all new-comers or those who are still discerning will be expected to attend and complete these classes,” he said.
Lewis emphasized that although the parish council worked closely with the parishioners in making the decision to enter the Catholic Church, each member of the community had to make that choice as an individual as well.
He explained that each individual confirmed on Oct. 9 accepted Church teaching and “willingly chose to become a Roman Catholic.”
Although the majority of members at St. Luke’s have decided to leave the Episcopal Church, Lewis said that some “felt they were not quite ready yet to become Catholic, and others have a lifelong affinity to being Anglican.”
“I suspect there will be a small handful who will seek out a traditional orthodox Anglican parish,” he said.
However, he noted, even those members who have not chosen to enter the Catholic Church “have still been supportive of their fellow parishioners.”
“All are welcome to continue attending Mass at St. Luke’s, and those who remain Anglican understand that they are not permitted to receive communion,” he said.
Lewis hopes to begin an expedited process toward ordination as a Catholic priest. During the transition period, Fr. Scott Hurd, a former Episcopalian priest who was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Washington, will be the chaplain for the St. Luke’s community.
Lewis expressed his gratitude to Cardinal Wuerl for his “hard work, leadership and pastoral care” in making the reception into the Church possible.
“As St. Luke’s moves into the eventual ordinariate, I hope to continue a close relationship with the Archdiocese of Washington,” he said.
“I feel at home in the Catholic Church, and with the people of the Archdiocese of Washington.”