In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued an unprecedented invitation for Anglicans to join the Catholic Church in groups or as parishes. Before, converts were accepted on a case by case basis. Now, the Reverend Jeffrey Neil Steenson was named by the pontiff to head the Personal Ordinariate here in Houston.
"For perhaps the first time, since the Reformation in the 16th century, a corporate structure has been given to assist those who, in conscience, seek to return to the fold of St. Peter and his successors."
Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of the Galveston-Houston diocese, says the creation of the ordinariate in Houston, the first in the United States, begins a new chapter in the life of the Catholic Church. It welcomes Anglican groups and clergy who wish to become Catholic.
"The Ordinariate will be based here in Houston, Texas, but will include parishes, groups and individuals of the Anglican heritage from across the country. These parishes and clergy will be fully Roman Catholic, will be able to retain their Anglican traditions, and be part of an ordinariate with other similar parishes."
As an exception to the Vatican's rule on celibacy, married Anglican priests who convert can stay married and become priests in the Roman Catholic Church. Bishop Kevin Vann of Fort Worth served on the committee to implement the Apostolic Constitution that allows Anglicans to integrate into Catholism. He calls the marriage issue a non-issue.
"I can speak from personal experience in Fort Worth, where we have three pastoral vision priests in a personal parish. Married priests that we have work well together with all the rest of the priests. We now have the highest number of seminarians ever, in the history of the diocese of Forth Worth. And so, we all work together to build up the kingdom of God, and it'something we just know, we work together with, and it's not an issue."
Margaret Pichon is on staff with the Ordinariate. She was raised Episcopalian but married to a Catholic. She converted when they became members of Our Lady of Walsingam Catholic Church in West Houston.
"We were out of sync for a long time, and then it's like God put this parish right in our footsteps. And we came here, and it was like everythig fell into place, and it allowed me to open up my heart, and take that leap of faith. There's been no turning back. It's been the most important decision of my life, and it's certainly one that I am thankful for every single day."
Anglicans split from the Catholic Church in 1534 when King Henry VIII was refused a marriage annulment.