Growing an Ordinariate Community

St. George Catholic Church in 2015
Meeting at Immaculate Conception Church in Springfield Missouri

In June of 2016 we planted a new Ordinariate community in Republic, Missouri. I had been working on this community for six years, meeting for evening prayer in a Springfield diocesan parish at least once a month. During that time our community size would grow and shrink. Sometimes as large as 15 people, and sometimes as low as 2, based on monthly turnout. It was a humble start, but it really wasn't meant to be much more than that. My sole intention was just just keep it going, in prayer, asking for our Lord to intervene with some Ordinariate help as soon as possible.

That help came in the fall of 2015, when the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter sent us a military chaplain to say mass for us once a quarter. This was very much an answer to five years of prayer. Our community immediately grew to about 16 members and stabilised there. Then in June of 2016 we were sent our permanent priest to begin weekly celebration of mass, confession and evening prayer. Our community was named after our patron St. George.

The Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau has always been extremely helpful and accommodating to us. This began under the direction of Bishop James V. Johnston Jr., who is now the Bishop of Kansas City. It continues under Bishop Edward Rice who is doing everything within his power to help facilitate the means we need for the success of St. George Catholic Church.

The Little Portion Franciscan Retreat Centre
That Now Serves as St. George Catholic Church
Before he left the Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau, Bishop Johnston placed us on some diocesan-owned property in the City of Republic, which is just outside of Springfield, Missouri. At that time, Republic had no Catholic Church. This is fairly common in the Ozarks, since this is missionary territory for Catholicism. The land is nearly 40 acres in size, with three small structures that were originally used as a Franciscan retreat centre. Today, it now serves as the home of St. George Catholic Church. I cannot cease to praise the Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau, for her unwavering commitment to the ecumenical vision of Vatican II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. This is a diocese that understands what Pope Benedict XVI called "authentic ecumenism" which results in real unity between Christians. The diocese serves as a shining example of how the Catholic Church should respond to other Christians seeking ecumenical unity with Rome in non-conventional ways. Because of this, a strong sense of "family" has developed between the Ordinariate and the Diocese, which grows stronger each year. This year, a large portion of St. George attended "Catholic Night" at the Cardinals baseball game in Springfield. We could not help but feel the warmth from our fellow Catholics there in that stadium.

Dedication of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham
Houston, Texas
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter is a "diocesan-like" juridic structure that applies to particular persons and parishes, hence the name "personal." It's sort of like the Military Ordinariate which applies strictly to members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Think of it like a religious order, and think of every Ordinariate parish/community as a monastery within that order. That's sort of what it's like. Pope Benedict XVI set up this arrangement in an Apostolic Constitution entitled Anglicanorum Coetibus (pronounced ANG-lik-an-OR-oom CHAY-te-boos) which means "Groups of Anglicans." This resulted from many groups of Anglicans, around the world, requesting a way to be received into the Catholic Church as full members, without having to give up the very Anglican liturgy, heritage and patrimony that originally moved them to seek full-communion with Rome in the first place. Pope Benedict XVI realised that there was something within this Anglican Patrimony that moved these Anglicans to seek reconciliation with the Catholic Church, and therefore sought ways to preserve it within Catholic orthodoxy. A commission was set up in Rome to determine what portions of the Anglican Patrimony had an authentically Catholic character, and could therefore be embraced by Rome. What was found was a rich patrimony steeped in the old Sarum Use, which was a special form of Catholic liturgy used in England prior to the 16th-century Reformation. It was decided that this part of the Anglican Patrimony should be embraced, preserved and revived as much as possible. This could not happen in a traditional Roman diocesan structure. The introduction of Anglican Patrimony already proved to be a delicate balance in most American dioceses that were hosting the "Anglican Use Pastoral Provision," which was a preliminary experiment set up by Pope St. John Paul II back in 1980. This served as a precursor model for what would need to be created. However, asking the world's bishops to host the Anglican Use model on a worldwide scale was neither practical nor fair to them. What these groups of Anglicans needed was an ordinariate-like structure (a jurisdiction with "flying bishops") wherein the Patrimony could flourish under a separate episcopal structure specifically geared for this purpose. Thus Anglicanorum Coetibus was drafted. The Apostolic Constitution contains special features that allow for its purpose to be fulfilled. For example; the episcopal heads of each Ordinariate need not be bishops. They can be married priests, who will be vested with all the episcopal powers of a mitred abbot -- minus of course actual episcopal consecration. So he can pretty much do everything a bishop can do, even wear a mitre and carry a crosier, minus the authority to confirm and ordain. These two sacraments can be coordinated with local Catholic bishops instead. Unless of course the Ordinary happens to also be a bishop, as is the case with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, which oversees Ordinariate Catholics in North America. In that case, the Ordinary bishop can do everything himself. Within Ordinariate parishes/communities, a special liturgy is used called Divine Worship, which is based primarily on some elements from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and some from the old Sarum Use of pre-Reformation England. Thus, in a very real sense, there are elements of Divine Worship that actually predate the Traditional Latin (Tridentine) Mass. The liturgy itself is composed in Sacred English, which is customary for people of a high-church Anglican background.

Divine Worship Mass with Bishop Lopes

I suppose some Catholics might have a hard time understanding this. The questions I'm often asked are: "Why not just go through R.C.I.A. like everyone else?" and "What's wrong with regular diocesan parishes?" To answer the last one first, there is nothing wrong with diocesan parishes, and indeed, a whole lot of Anglicans choose to go that way when they reconcile with the Catholic Church. However, other Anglicans were drawn to Catholicism specifically because of those Sarum elements within Anglican worship. Some of these elements are not found in standard Roman liturgy. They don't want to give up the very thing that drew them to Catholicism in the first place. So they choose the Ordinariate route, which preserves these elements (and more), within a totally Catholic framework. While this may seem foreign to many North American Catholics, it's actually a fairly common type of arrangement worldwide. You see, the Catholic Church is a unity, not a uniformity. There is a difference. Unity is when different people, with different ways of doing things, are brought together as one. While as uniformity is when all people are forced to do everything the same way and be exactly alike. The Catholic Church is a unity, not a uniformity. This is most clearly seen in the Eastern (Uniate) churches of Oriental rites. Even within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, two distinct Forms can be seen (Ordinary and Extraordinary) demonstrating that there are even two differing ways of being a Roman-Rite Catholic. Now Rome has determined that in order to bring about the ecumenical vision of Vatican II, there would need to be some kind of similar juridic and liturgical arrangements made for some Protestant communities seeking reconciliation with the Catholic Church. This is particularly the case for Anglicans and Methodists, and there is speculative talk of a similar arrangement for Lutherans, and perhaps some other Protestant denominations, should they desire it. Like the Anglicans, however, they would have to request it on their own. Rome doesn't go out and initiate these things. Rather, she responds to the needs of those who ask. This is the ecumenical vision of Vatican II become reality. We're seeing it play out right now in the Ordinariates for former Anglicans. This is the model for the future of Catholic ecumenism in the West. Of course there will always be Protestants who reconcile with the Catholic Church using the conventional means of R.C.I.A. in a conventional diocesan parish. However, now there is also another way some Protestants can come into the Catholic Church, and that is through the Ordinariates. Just to dispel all confusion, Ordinariate Catholics are required to make a profession of Catholic faith before being received into the Church, just like all other converts do. So they are fully Catholic in every way.

In the course of one year, St. George has over doubled in size. As of the date of this writing (September of 2017), we are now pushing 40 members, and more are being added to our numbers regularly. Some are former Anglicans who are already Catholic, some are current Anglicans becoming Catholic, some are cradle Catholics, and some are Baptists and Pentecostals seeking to become Catholic. Part of this is because of our unique location, in an area where no other Catholic churches are nearby. Part of this is because of our assertive evangelistic outreach to local non-Catholics. Part of this is because some Catholics (particularly those with an Anglican background) are seeking a more traditionally-minded liturgy. The Anglican Patrimony of Divine Worship seems to fit the bill for them. We are by no means growing at breakneck speed. We couldn't handle growth that fast anyway, but we are growing steadily and consistently, and that's a good thing. I've heard that some other Ordinariate communities are struggling to grow, and so I thought I might share with them our own experience at St. George. Because of this I composed a Facebook post with 10 tips that should help Ordinariate communities grow much faster. They are as follows...
  1. Get away from established Catholic parishes. You can't build your own house in somebody else's backyard. Embrace the missionary spirit. Move away from your host parish and set up shop in a populated area where no Catholic parishes are nearby. Even if you have to meet in somebody's home, or in a storefront, it's better than trying to build your own house in somebody else's backyard.
  2. Get a good website and reliable contact info. Work your Google business listing for the highest visibility. Make sure people can easily find you.
  3. Behave like a parish. Make sure you're offering mass and reconciliation regularly.
  4. Make sure you have a parish name -- patron saint -- don't go by "Ordinariate Community of..." Nobody understands what that means.
  5. Accept everybody, even cradle Catholics looking for a new home. Remember, people don't have to be Ordinariate eligible to become members of an Ordinariate parish/community. Also, think outside the box when it comes to evangelism. If you're only reaching out to Anglicans, you're doing something wrong. You need to reach out to all non-Catholics. Remember, any non-Catholic (regardless of religious background) who is received into the Catholic Church through an Ordinariate parish/community is automatically eligible for Ordinariate membership as well.
  6. Offer highly traditional liturgy. Youth are more attracted to tradition these days. Don't fall for the hippy happy-clappy trap. Nothing is more dated than contemporary worship. If you want young people to join your community, you need to offer old traditional liturgy. The more "high-church" the better. So use that Divine Worship Missal regularly and vigorously.
  7. Offer challenging homilies. People today are sick and tired of watered-down, non-offensive homilies that don't challenge them to live the faith. Don't get me wrong. We need to show the love of God in all of our teaching, but at the same time we need to clearly define sin and challenge our people to overcome it.
  8. Don't over-explain yourself. There is a tendency to want to explain the whole thing when it comes to the Ordinariate, Anglican Patrimony, our history, etc. Don't do that. Just answer visitors' questions as they ask them, and only give them the information they ask for. Don't over explain it. That confuses average visitors and makes them think something is "fishy." Just tell people what they need to know, only when they ask. Then carry on as if what you're doing is the most natural thing in the world.
  9. Teach the faith. Give your people good catechises and theology. Help them understand the Bible and the Catechism. Recognise that everyone has different levels of academic rigour, and that discipline is a learned Catholic characteristic. So be patient with people. Some will learn quickly. Others more slowly. This is all just part of the process.
  10. Try to arrange fellowship meals and snacks. Never underestimate the power of simple socialising. Food always helps in this area. Most importantly, go out of your way to make people feel like they're appreciated and they belong.
The list was well received and a shorter version of it even landed on the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society blog. A few other Ordinariate communities, who are following a similar pattern, confirmed the success of this model. I wanted to share it here, not only to help other Ordinariate communities grow, but also to help any other juridic structures within the Catholic Church looking for methods of improved growth. It should work for them as well.


Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of '' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.

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