Anglican communities in California find 'new home' in Catholic Church
by Denis Grasska, Catholic News Service
July 9, 2012
Father Andrew Bartus, a former Anglican priest and administrator of the Blessed John Henry Newman community, gives Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange, Calif., his blessing after his ordination Mass at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano July 2.
Elisabeth Deffner, Orange County Catholic
Members of the St. Augustine of Canterbury and Blessed John Henry Newman communities, based in Oceanside/Carlsbad and Santa Ana respectively, were received into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter during a July 3 liturgy at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.
Established by Pope Benedict XVI, the ordinariate is essentially a diocese for former Anglicans throughout the United States who wish to be fully Catholic while retaining their rich Anglican traditions and liturgical practices.
Bishop Tod D. Brown of Orange was the presiding celebrant at the liturgy. His concelebrants included San Diego Coadjutor Bishop Cirilo B. Flores, his former auxiliary bishop; Msgr. Jeffrey N. Steenson, a former Episcopal bishop who heads the ordinariate; and Father Andrew Bartus, a former Anglican priest and administrator of the Blessed John Henry Newman community, who was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in the same liturgy.
In addition to ordaining Father Bartus, Bishop Brown also received and confirmed members of the Blessed John Henry Newman community, including Father Bartus' wife, Laura. Bishop Flores similarly received and confirmed members of the St. Augustine of Canterbury community.
In his homily, Msgr. Steenson reflected on the ongoing challenge "to be people -- men and women -- of communion." While noting the significance of their reception into full communion, he reminded the former Anglicans that their pursuit of unity must continue. He explained that all Christians must spend their lives working toward an ever-deeper sense of communion with God and one another.
"At so many points in our common life, we encounter forces and attitudes which have the effect of dividing God's people," Msgr. Steenson said. "Because of sin, it is all too easy to fall into these habits and behaviors, which are completely antithetical to the blessed, priceless gift of communion that we celebrate this morning.
"It is by grace that we have come to this moment," he said. "Our hearts are full of joy and thanksgiving. But let us be careful of each step that we take from this time forward, so that our lives will bear witness to this gift of unity. And always remember the Church, this household of faith. Do your part to build her up and to guard her unity. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ welcome to your new home."
George Ortiz-Guzman, a former Anglican priest who had served as pastor of the St. Augustine of Canterbury community, hopes to be ordained soon as a Catholic priest.
He told The Southern Cross, the San Diego diocesan newspaper, that he was among a group of about 60 men who have completed a pre-ordination course, about 30 of whom have already been ordained. He said the next group will be ordained by Dec. 30.
"Lord willing, I'll be in that batch," said Ortiz-Guzman, who added that his former associate pastor, Dennie Eisele, is also seeking ordination.
Ortiz-Guzman said the liturgy at Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano was a joyous occasion for the St. Augustine of Canterbury community. The community currently has about 50 members; 38 were received into full communion during the liturgy, Ortiz-Guzman said, and the others are currently discerning whether to enter the Catholic Church.
"Right after the Mass ended," Ortiz-Guzman said, "I made sure I hugged every one of the parishioners and said, 'We're home.' ... Being home, now our ministry has begun."
Though his community is part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, not the Diocese of San Diego, Ortiz-Guzman said it still "means the whole world" that Bishop Flores was part of their special day.
"The intent of the Holy Father is that the ordinariate not be a ghetto or a section away but to be involved totally in the ministry within the local diocese," he said. "We are to be partners in ministry, and it was a blessing to have him here."
In an interview with the Orange County Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, Father Bartus talked about the journey that led to his ordination as a Catholic priest.
He formed the Blessed John Henry Newman Society while an assistant at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Los Angeles -- an Anglican church whose membership voted overwhelmingly to join the ordinariate -- after a friend asked him to help establish an Orange County "ordinariate awareness group."
Made up of a mix of Anglicans hoping to become Catholic, and Catholics who had once been Anglican, the society is now a parish that will gather for Sunday Mass -- celebrated by their pastor, Father Bartus -- at their new host parish, St. Joseph in Santa Ana.
"I resolved in my mind that something I was really passionate about doing was leading a group of Anglicans into the Catholic Church," Father Bartus said. "I knew that there would be a way for corporate unity to occur."
In addition to leading the new parish and celebrating Sunday Mass, Father Bartus will be teaching history at St. Michael's Preparatory School, run by the Norbertine Fathers in Silverado Canyon.
(Contributing to this story was Elisabeth Deffner of Orange County Catholic.)