On December 18, 2011, the Anglican congregation of St. John the Evangelist in Calgary became the first Roman Catholic “Anglican use” parish in Canada.
This means that while congregation members have joined the Roman Catholic church, they can keep their Anglican liturgical, musical, spiritual and pastoral traditions as a part of worship.
It’s a move made possible when, in November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued Anglicanorum Coetibus-an invitation for Anglicans who wanted to join the Roman Catholic church but keep their Anglican traditions. This invitation was a “precipitating incident” for the people of St. John’s, says Archdeacon Barry Foster, executive officer for the Anglican diocese of Calgary. For the past 30 years, the liturgy at St. John’s “has had an Anglo-Catholic emphasis,” he told the Anglican Journal, although steps to formalize this would never have been taken without the Pope’s invitation.
Announced in a joint press release from the Anglican Bishop Derek Hoskin and Catholic Bishop Fred Henry in the dioceses of Calgary, they acknowledged that this event, which would have been “difficult to even imagine” 100 years ago, was being celebrated.
The Anglican and Roman Catholic dioceses have a good relationship and worked together on various projects, said Archdeacon Foster. “The diocese of Calgary took the position early on that we wanted to help these folk make the transition from the Anglican world to the Catholic world.”
How was an amicable agreement reached for the congregation to continue to use the church and its property, avoiding the protracted legal battles over church property that have happened when Anglican congregations voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada to become part of the Anglican Network in Canada?
Archdeacon Foster explained that the situation was different in several ways. While some St. John’s parishioners might have issues with what is sometimes called “the liberal drift” of the Anglican Church of Canada, theological issues such as the blessing of same-sex unions were not among concerns discussed over a nine-month period. Instead, said Archdeacon Foster, “their frame of reference was really in relation to their spiritual journey. They felt a strong pull toward Roman Catholicism.”
Those who didn’t want to join the Roman Catholic church “did what lots of Anglicans do and went someplace else,” noted Archdeacon Foster, adding that “they had lots of choices” in Calgary.
Neither did members make claims on church property. “Bishop Henry had said…that he would be willing to receive [the congregation] if they were able to work out an agreement with the Anglican diocese of Calgary about the use of the facility,” said Archdeacon Foster. “And it was important to those people to continue to worship in the place that had been their home for, in some cases, decades.” In addition, pointed out the archdeacon, “there was considerable good will on both sides of that conversation.”
A lease arrangement was made so that the Anglican use Roman Catholic parish could continue to worship at St. John’s and make use of the property. The priest of the parish still lives in the rectory.
The Rev. Lee Kenyon has relinquished his orders as an Anglican priest, as did the honorary assistant John Wright, with the intent to become ordained as Roman Catholic priests, said Archdeacon Foster.