(Photo: Nathan Davis)
Three Maryland clergymen who were originally ordained in The Episcopal Church have accepted ordination into the Roman Catholic Church.
Fr. Jason Catania, Fr. Anthony Vidal, and Fr. David Reamsnyder, all from Mount Cavalry Church in Baltimore, were ordained as priests in a ceremony performed on Saturday at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
The three former Episcopal clergymen ordained as priests will become part of the Catholic Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The Ordinariate is a recently created church territory similar to a diocese yet national in scope. It was created specifically for Anglican clergy and congregations who sought to become part of the Roman Catholic Church while retaining their Anglican heritage.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori oversaw the ceremony, which included a total of seven men, the three former Episcopal clergy plus four others.
"The ordination of these men is a sign of hope for Christian unity. We welcome them as priests of the Ordinariate serving here in Baltimore," said Archbishop Lori in a statement.
Mount Cavalry Church – the congregation that Catania, Vidal, and Reamsnyder belong to – is itself one of the oldest Anglo-Catholic congregations in the United States.
Described as "high church" for its more traditional ritual worship and structure, many Anglo-Catholic congregations have sought to return to the Catholic Church their ancestors left in the 16th century during the reign of King Henry VIII.
Mount Cavalry was not the first Maryland church to seek membership in the Catholic Ordinariate. St. Luke's Parish of Bladensburg made headlines a year ago when it opted to become Catholic. Both churches presently are part of the U.S. Ordinariate.
"As an Anglo-Catholic parish we accepted, with few exceptions, all the Catholic Church taught," said Father Mark Lewis of St. Luke's in an earlier interview with The Christian Post.
"[We] ceased using the Anglican Service Book for our worship and began using the Book of Divine Worship … The Book of Divine Worship is the Vatican approved liturgical book used by Anglican Use Parishes in the United States."
The cause of this exodus by Anglo-Catholic congregations from The Episcopal Church has been due to the mainline Protestant denomination's increasingly liberal theology, including its acceptance of homosexuality.
In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Fr. Catania explained that he and his congregation preferred the Catholic Church because they believed it is more biblically accurate than The Episcopal Church.
"It really boils down to understanding of Scripture," said Catania, adding that "[we] believe that the Catholic Church is following the early church teachings more consistently."
According to a press release from Mount Cavalry, 30 men across the country were ordained this summer to be priests in the Ordinariate and another 30 are preparing for ordination in 2013.
"Our expedited formation program, approved by the Holy See, has been a wonderful testimony to the deep respect that the Catholic Church has for the former Anglican ministries of these men," said Monsignor Jeffery Steenson, the head or "Ordinary" for the U.S. Ordinariate, in a statement.
"They will continue to engage in ongoing formation and it is my hope that our brother priests throughout the Catholic Church will come along side us as mentors and friends. Together we will strive to lay a good foundation for this apostolate of unity that Pope Benedict has made possible."