KELLER -- Under a huge dome with images of winged angels, six former Fort Worth-area Episcopal clergymen -- including a father and son -- lay facedown at a marble altar Saturday and were ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church.In what officials called a historic moment, Fort Worth Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann and other white-robed priests in the diocese laid hands on the priests at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller to welcome them.It was the first ordination class under Pope Benedict XVI's new Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created Jan. 1 to allow Episcopal priests to be ordained as Catholic clergy and for Episcopal congregations to join the Roman Catholic Church.The priests' wives carried in vestments that the priests later donned, assisted by other clergy. Then, standing before Vann, the priests each said, "I will" in answer to his questions about whether they will faithfully carry out their responsibilities.More than 1,000 in the church stood and applauded.The ordinariate is headed by a former Fort Worth Episcopal priest, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, who earlier converted to Catholicism."This is very moving for me today personally," Steenson said. "These men were all part of my generation, and we all served in Fort Worth."The pope created the ordinariate to help Episcopal churches and clergy who want to become Catholic but keep part of their Anglican roots.It's an enlargement of a system begun by Pope John Paul II in 1981 that first allowed married Episcopal priests to become Catholic clergy."We are Catholics now with an Anglican heritage," said one of the ordained priests, the Rev. Charles Hough III, a former high-ranking official in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. In what officials said was a rare happening, son Charles Hough IV was ordained with his father."My feeling is that I'm just overjoyed by the whole thing," the elder Hough said. "I'm blessed to say my son's a part of it, too. That's an added bonus. I am so proud of my son. He's such a fine young priest."The younger Hough was recently named pastor of Our Lady of Walsingham Ordinariate Parish in Houston, which will be the principal church of the ordinariate under which the former Episcopal priests will serve."It's a great honor," the younger Hough said. "And I'm absolutely delighted and honored to be ordained with my dad."The six are among 35 Episcopal priests to be ordained this summer, Steenson said.Sixty former Episcopal priests are expected to be ordained by year's end, he said. "This is by far the largest class."The new ordinariate has a decidedly Fort Worth flavor.Steenson, a former rector of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Fort Worth and former bishop of the Diocese of the Rio Grande, based in Albuquerque, heads the Houston-based ordinariate. The ordinariate is much like a diocese with a broader scope.Steenson said his ordinariate "stretches from Newfoundland to Hawaii and from the Rio Grande to the Arctic Circle."Since Steenson is married, he's not eligible to be a Catholic bishop. His role as ordinary is similar to a bishop's. He will have voting rights with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.Vann serves as a member of the governing council of the ordinariate. In October, he was appointed ecclesiastical delegate for pastoral provision, a position created by the Vatican to assist Anglican priests in becoming ordained as Catholic clergy.Steenson and the six men ordained opposed many of the changes in the Episcopal Church, including the ordination of gay priests and bishops.All emphasized, however, that those issues were not central in their decisions to convert."Hopefully we understand that this is not just about being opposed to something," Steenson said."If you were just opposed to something, you don't want to join the Catholic Church. It's a lot more than that."The Rev. Mark Cannaday said his ordination ends a long journey."My decision had nothing to do with current issues," he said, adding that he has been drawn to elements of Catholicism for many years.The younger Hough said: "For me, it's not running away from something or saying the Episcopal Church is falling apart. My decision was going toward truth. To me, the current issues in the Episcopal Church are symptoms of a greater problem, and that was authority. There was no authority to say this was or was not part of Christian practice."One of those ordained, the Rev. Christopher Stainbrook, was the longtime rector of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Fort Worth and led most of his members into converting to Catholicism. Now his Catholic group meets at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Fort Worth."As you might remember, St. Timothy has always been very, very Catholic in practice," Stainbrook said."This is just a natural progression."The Rev. Timothy Perkins said he and others who left the Episcopal Church looked forward to what promised to be greater Anglican-Catholic unity."We saw the gap become wider because of various doctrinal decisions," Perkins said. "The appointment of gay priests and bishops was really late. It began much earlier with other decisions, including the ending of the tradition of an all-male priesthood."The Rev. Joshua Whitfield was ordained on his 34th birthday. He said controversies in the Episcopal Church had a minor role in his decision."I didn't like the turmoil," he said. "I didn't like the left and I didn't like the right."
New Catholic priests<>Mark Cannaday, 63, of Boerne was an Episcopal priest for 36 years, holding positions in the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and the Diocese of Fort Worth, most recently as rector of St. Paul's Anglican Church in Gainesville. He has been married for 43 years. He and his wife, Doris, have two adult children and three young grandchildren.
Charles Hough III, 57, of Granbury was an Episcopal priest for 31 years, including 18 as canon to the ordinary of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, before he stepped down in September to become Catholic. He leads the St. John Vianney Catholic Ordinariate Group, which meets at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church in Granbury. Married for 32 years, he and his wife, Marilyn Ann, have two children and two grandchildren.
Charles Hough IV, 30, of Keller was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2007 and was rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church until entering the Catholic Church in June 2011. He is on the adult religious education staff at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller and, beginning today, he will be pastor of Our Lady of Walsingham Ordinariate Parish in Houston. He has been married for eight years, and he and his wife, Lindsay, have two young sons.
Timothy Perkins, 57, of Arlington was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1989 and received into the Catholic Church in September. He served as a vicar, associate rector and rector in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth for more than 21 years. In 2010, he founded St. Peter the Rock in Arlington, now a Catholic ordinariate community. Perkins has been married for 37 years, and he and his wife, Jody, have three children.
Christopher Stainbrook, 52, of Fort Worth was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1991 and for 18 years led St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Fort Worth. The St. Timothy's community was received into the Catholic Church in May.
Joshua Whitfield, 34, of Mansfield was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2003. In 2009, he published a book, Pilgrim Holiness. He has served as a curate and rector in the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth. He and his wife of nine years, Allison, have two young children.
Source: Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth