Monday, June 6, 2011

Episcopal parish to join US Catholic Church under new Vatican conversion plan

NEW YORK, N.Y. — An Episcopal parish in the eastern state of Maryland will be the first in the United States to join the Roman Catholic Church under a new streamlined conversion process created by Pope Benedict XVI, leaders of both church groups said Monday.

St. Luke's Episcopal parish in Bladensburg will come under the care of Washington Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who is forming a U.S. ordinariate — effectively a national diocese — for Episcopalians converting under the pope's plan.

Washington Episcopal Bishop John Chane, a leading liberal in his denomination, said Monday that he approved St. Luke's decision and will allow the congregation to continue worshipping in their church under a lease with a purchase to buy the building...

St. Luke's, which has about 100 members, is expected to complete its conversion by the end of this year. The parish rector, the Rev. Mark Lewis, is married with two grown children and is expected to be ordained as a Catholic priest. Vatican officials have said that easing the way for married Anglican priests does not mean the Catholic Church is loosening the celibacy mandate for its clergy.

Episcopal church in Bladensburg to convert to Roman Catholicism

(JUANA ARIAS/ FOR THE WASHINGTON POST ) - Ginny McKnew, center left, gives a hug to Vickey Lewis. Rev. Lewis’s wife. McKnew come to show his support to Rev. Mark Lewis at St. Luke's Episcopal parish in Bladensburg, Md.
(The Washington Post) An Episcopal church in Bladensburg has decided to become the first in the country to convert to Roman Catholicism under new Vatican rules, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington announced Monday.

St. Luke’s, a small, tightknit congregation founded in 1895, had been thinking about becoming Roman Catholic since 2009. Last year, in the wake of a remarkable bid by the Vatican to reach out to disaffected Anglicans, it made an overture to the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington...

On Monday, parishioners said that St. Luke’s had long worshiped in the extremely traditional “Anglo-Catholic” style. Leaders of the congregation said they have long struggled with the lack of clear authority in Anglicanism and welcomed the pope’s leadership.

“In the Episcopal Church, bishops in one place say one thing and in another say another,” said Patrick Delaney, a lay leader from Mitchellville. “That’s the crux of it. Each bishop has its own kingdom.”

He was jubilant about the St. Luke’s conversion. “It feels fantastic,” he said. “It’s like correcting 500 years of history.”

The transition is being made with the support of Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Catholic archbishop of Washington...

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