Parishioners would be unlikely to have realised that Fr Stephen’s journey to ordination in the Catholic priesthood was more complicated than many. Raised as a Lutheran, and experiencing, as a young man, both deep Christian faith and the need to engage in a search for meaning, he describes some years spent “wandering in the wilderness”. He was working as an electronic engineer but something was missing. Stephen felt drawn to the English tradition – the Anglican Church of Australia – and after much discernment and prayer, he was ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 2008.
While Stephen found ministering to the faithful in Brisbane satisfying, the Anglican Church wasn’t quite ‘home’. He was most comfortable in communities with a strong Catholic leaning and this only grew as time passed. For him, the ideal was a community that upheld and respected the English tradition to which he had been drawn but encompassed all the richness of Catholic theology.
Enter the somewhat cumbersomely named Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI published an Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus (the gathering of Anglicans), which allowed groups of Anglican laity and their priests to enter the Catholic Church, while retaining those elements of their Anglican heritage which are in keeping with the Catholic faith. To enable this to happen, ordinariates have been established.
In 2012, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross was established in Australia and this offered a path to Fr Stephen. Explaining his choice, he says, “It’s about the faithful having the right to things that are good and true and can help to uplift our culture, within and outside the church, and I think that is really why the Holy See has created the ordinariates.
“It’s about my coming in as an ordinariate priest and bringing our charism to this part of the Catholic Church where I find myself ministering. It’s about my being able to give something to this group of people I’ve been asked to serve.”
Perhaps the quality of Catholicism that Fr Stephen is most strongly drawn to is “the integration of head and heart; the way we live a faith that is reasonable. This was something new to me, but when I looked at the teaching of the church, I did indeed see that there was no conflict between faith and reason. We’re not asked to blindly accept things, but neither are we to overintellectualise; we maintain this union of head and heart in balance.”
Fr Stephen realises that many in the local community would be unfamiliar with the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, so, with Bishop Bill’s encouragement, he’s offering an opportunity for interested people to learn more.
All are invited to St Columban’s Church, Church Street, Mayfield, on Sunday 6 September. Fr Stephen will preside at Mass according to the particular Ordinariate Form at 8am, followed by morning tea and a presentation on the ordinariate. To enquire, please P Fr Stephen 4968 2428 or E firstname.lastname@example.org.