On of my frequent visits to Rome during the time I was a Consultor to the Pontifical Commission for People on the Move (migrants, immigrants, refugees and seafarers) I stayed at the Casa Internationale del Clero about a block from the Pantheon. The Casa was a hotel and residence (owned by the Vatican) for bishops and others who had business to conduct with the Vatican.
On one such visit I found myself seated at the dining room table with a group of Anglican bishops. Naturally I was curious about their being there and so I discretely inquired, “What are you’ll doing here?”
They informed me that they were meeting with Pope John Paul II and the CDF about the possibility of working out an accord which would provide for the reception into the Catholic Church of Anglicans/Episcopalians including their priests with the further possibility of the creation of personal parishes where the Anglican Liturgy could be celebrated with the necessary revisions.
I was excited by the news. Ever since as a teenager I had discovered the riches of English literature, especially all the works of Willam Shakespeare, I have become an Anglophile. I told the bishops how happy I was with the news and I promised them that I would be among the first bishops of the United States to implement the Accord if it ever became a reality.
I did become a reality and I did accept the application of several Episcopalian priests to become members of the presbyterate of the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. It was not to be however because in May of 1983 Pope John Paul II transferred me to the Diocese of Corpus Christi.
Shortly after I was installed in Corpus Christi I received requests from two Episcopalian priests to join the Corpus Christi presbyterate. I accepted them and eventually conditionally ordained them Catholic Priests. They were wonderful priests and soon an Anglican Use personal parish was started. My successors did not have the same love of the Anglican Accord as I did and the ‘parish’ remains very small
It was a different story in San Antonio.
There Archbishop Patrick Flores welcomed Father Christopher Phillips who started a tiny parish with converts from Anglicanisn/Episcopalianism. The parish was started by a small group of former Episcopalians seeking entrance into full Catholic communion under the terms of the Pastoral Provision which was established by Pope St. John Paul II. The parish was canonically erected on August 15, 1983 by Archbishop Patrick Flores and was comprised of just eighteen people (including children).
The first small church building was completed in 1987, with several subsequent additions to the church and school. The parish school, The Atonement Academy, was established in 1994, starting with sixty-six students.
Father Phillips was/is a remarkable priest. Married with several children he had the energy and the time to devote himself to his ministry with such zeal that the parish now has approximately six hundred families and about 450 students in the school.
In the opinion of many Latin Roman Catholics The Church of the Atonement was such a place of very spiritual liturgies that they soon threatened to crowd out the former Anglicans in the church on Sundays.
The drone photo above shows just half of the Parish plant. What a fabulous success story, really it is a ‘miracle.’
As is now well known, the Holy See a few years ago created the personal Ordinariate, like a diocese, to which former Anglicans/Episcopalians have a right to belong. While it was understandable that the Archbishop of San Antonio would not be happy to see one of the ‘best’ parishes of the Archdiocese leave his jurisdiction and become part of the new Ordinariate, no one anticipated the extreme extent of his opposition.
The people of the Church of the Atonement appealed to Rome and Rome overruled the Archbishops decision to prevent the transfer and now the Church of the Atonement is part of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham based in Houston.
The last sad chapter in the drama of the Archbishop’s relation to the Parish was when three Carmelite nuns who have been working in the Parish and Academy for ten years approached the Archbishop and requested permission to build a convent and he not only refused permission but ordered them to leave the Archdiocese.
I wish the faithful of Our Lady of the Atonement Parish every blessing that they may continue to grow in holiness and become an ever greater witness to the Faith in San Antonio.