Here’s a great article by my EWTN colleague Kathleen Naab for the National Catholic Register about Tuesday’s ordination of Bishop Steven Lopes as Bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter. I say “colleague” as we are both in the EWTN family but I never did meet her in Houston!

The photos and explanations are mine.


National Catholic Register – Kathleen Naab

HOUSTON — In a majestic Mass at Houston’s Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Tuesday evening, history was made for the Anglican ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI: Their first bishop was ordained.


“In a nutshell, it means we’re here to stay,” summarized Msgr. Harry Entwistle, the ordinary of Australia’s ordinariate, which is under the patroness of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.


The new bishop, Stephen Joseph Lopes, 40, a native of California, was in fact instrumental in the creation of the ordinariate that he now leads — the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.


The ordinariates were established as the Vatican’s pastoral response to repeated and persistent inquiries made by Anglican individuals and groups who desired full communion with the Catholic Church, in a history that goes back to at least Pope Pius XII.

Three of the six cardinals at the ordination Mass: Donald Wuerl, Gerhard Mueller and William Levada. Also present but not in this photo were Cardinals Daniel DiNardo, Roger Mahony and Edwin O’Brien.


In November 2009, in response to these inquiries from Anglican groups worldwide, Pope Benedict XVI issued an apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus. This document authorized the creation of “ordinariates” — communities that would be fully Catholic yet retain elements of Anglican heritage and liturgical practice.


So far, there are three ordinariates globally: The first was established in the United Kingdom (the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham) in 2011. The following year, an ordinariate was established here in the United States, with jurisdiction also including Canada, and another in Australia.

(This man in black with a small staff or baton-like item is a verger. A verger (or virger, so-called after the staff of the office) is a person, usually a layperson, who assists in the ordering of religious services, particularly in Anglican churches. This is part of the Anglican tradition that was allowed when the personal ordinariate was created)


Bishop Lopes was working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) as this process unfolded, having been named an official of that congregation in 2005. For seven of his 10-plus years at the Vatican, he served as secretary to the cardinal prefect, and he was in effect the coordinator for the three ordinariates. Hence, he knows well his flock and their unique home in the Church.

Cardinal William Levada, former prefect of the CDF, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave a beautiful homily.


Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the CDF, ordained Bishop Lopes:


An act of humility by the bishop-to-be before the laying on of hands and anointing as the faithful chant the litany of the Saints.


Placing the Gospel over the bishop’s head:


Anointing the new bishop:


Blessing the staff or crozier:







‘Stories of Faith and Courage’

Bishop Lopes explained at the end of his ordination Mass that his episcopal motto — Magna Opera Domini (“Great are the works of the Lord”) — flows from this intimate knowledge of the ordinariate.


Addressing the priests gathered for his ordination — just for the U.S.-Canada ordinariate, there are 62 of them, along with six deacons, four candidates for the priesthood or diaconate and one seminarian, in service to 42 parishes and communities — he noted, “I have met each one of you.”

Reminiscing about a clergy assembly held several years ago in Florida, he explained that the event was one of the first occasions that he had to put faces to the names and autobiographies that he had read and studied at the CDF.

“Yours were stories of faith and of courage, and of a passion and zeal for the truth and the search of the truth in sacred Scripture,” Bishop Lopes told the priests. “And they were also often enough stories of sacrifice, suffering and the anguish of leaving what was familiar and comfortable in order to embark on an unknown and sometimes lonely path toward the fullness of Catholic communion.”

Seeing the faces of these priests and knowing their stories, he said as he named some of them by name, “in that moment, beholding, if you will, before me, the great work of communion manifest in that chapel, my heart was moved to only one thought: We did not do this. God did this. This is the work of the Lord, and great are the works of the Lord!”

For his priests as well, Bishop Lopes’ long involvement with the ordinariates is a source of consolation and hope.

“We all know him very well. He knows each one of us priests very well,” explained Father John Vidal, pastor of St. Anselm Catholic Community in Corpus Christi, Texas. “It’s like a brother priest is being ordained. He’s not coming from the Anglican Communion, but he knows it just as much as we do, if not better, which is really exciting.”

Father Vidal remarked that Bishop Lopes is, in fact, “kind of the one who defined who we were.”

“I’m just thrilled,” he said. “For him, but even more for us.”

Proper Catholics

The ordinariates are still in their infant stage (what’s five years in the history of the Church?), so much of the work before Bishop Lopes is furthering their establishment.

And many Catholics are still unaware that the ordinariates even exist. Msgr. Keith Newton, the ordinary of the U.K. ordinariate, in a presentation prior to the ordination Mass, joked that he still gets Catholics asking him, “Why don’t you become a proper Catholic?”

But the ordination of a bishop will undoubtedly help to further awareness of the ordinariates and their mission.

With our own bishop, said Msgr. Entwistle, “we have become a particular Church. This is a statement of confidence from the Holy Father.”

The Australian ordinary added that the ordinariates’ mission is for the entire Church: “We have a spirituality and a distinctiveness that will enrich the whole of the Catholic Church,” he said. “So we are not a ship passing in the night. … The influence of that English spiritual, theological and pastoral tradition will in fact hopefully enrich [the whole Church].”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the archbishop of Galveston-Houston and thus the host for Tuesday’s celebrations, echoed those thoughts, noting the distinctiveness of the ordinariate now having a bishop. He said the ordination underlined “a sense of the unity of the Church” and “a true sense of unity with Peter, too.

Said Cardinal DiNardo, “I think it’s great.”

(For further information, the website of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter is here:



February 2 – As I write I am in the co-cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas, awaiting the episcopal ordination of Steven Lopes as the first Bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter.  I got here very early to get a good seat and, in fact, I have a terrific seat with the family and close friends of the ordinand! The cathedral is just magnificent as you will see later in some photos. I am surrounded by beautiful people, many friends and family members of the bishop-elect whom I have met in the past 48 hours. This is a moment of history for both Steven and the Church and I feel so happy and privileged to be a part of it all.

I arrived in Houston Sunday afternoon after spending the night in Chicago, having arrived about 8 pm from Rome after what I wish I could say was an uneventful trip. Details some other time!

The Ordinariate arranged for out-of-town guests to stay at the Hilton Americas, which was a wonderful idea as it brought together so many friends under one roof. I have seen so many priests, bishops and cardinals I know, many friends from NAC, the North American College, and from around the US or from Rome. Present were 6 Cardinals:  William Levada (CDF emeritus prefect), Donald Wuerl of Washington, Edwin O’Brien (Grand Master of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre), Gerhard Mueller (prefect of the CDF, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – he will ordain Steven), Roger Mahony, emeritus of Los Angeles, and Daniel DiNardo (of Houston-Galveston).

Also present: Archbishops Joseph Kurtz (president of the USCCB) Salvatore Cordileone (San Francisco) and Augustine DiNoia (secretary, CDF), and George Niederauer, (emeritus San Francisco) to name a few.

Msgr. Keith Newton, ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in the UK, and a very good friend, is also here for the ceremonies, as was Msgr. Harry Entwistle, ordinary of Our Lady of the Southern Cross in Australia.

The ordination is a two-day event. The highlight for all of us yesterday was the 5 pm vespers ceremony, called evensong in the Anglican tradition. This is one of the remarkable and very beautiful elements of the Ordinariate. The Personal Ordinariate was created in 2009 as a structure in the Catholic Church to welcome Anglicans who wanted to enter in full communion with Rome. One of the important provisions in the creation of this structure was that which allowed the Ordinariate to retain many of its liturgical traditions, music, hymns, etc.

Evensong last night was a supreme example of the indescribable beauty of the Anglican tradition. As we listened to the choir of the church of Our Lady of Walsingham, or as we sang along, only one word came to my mind to describe the music – sublime! That same word could have described the entire ceremony. The choir was spectacular but even more so was the singing by the faithful. It was as if this was the last time everyone would sing….or as if we were all trying out for top prize in a best congregation contest. The feeling, the robustness of the participation, people’s voices just exploding in harmony and vigor and joy. Most amazing was the fact that it was as if we had rehearsed for days….the timing was perfection it was the same when we chanted the Creed!

The liturgy was the talk of the evening as we all headed from this very beautiful church to the adjacent chancery hall for a reception, which was followed by a magnificent dinner for family and close friends. The adjacent St. Jude Hall was transformed into a very classy room for the evening.

To return to the Ordinariate liturgy for a moment.

There was such beauty last night in the music and hymns and chants. The language of the readings and of song was old English, Shakespearian almost, the language many of us grew up with in the Mass and liturgy before the changes from Vatican Council II. It is a language that is imbued with beauty and the sacred, creating space in your heart and mind for prayerful recollection. God is so real. His Son is so real. We yearn, in our hearts and with our voices, to praise God’s majesty, to praise His Son. And I felt that Monday. This is what I came away with from the magnificent evensong.

This was the beauty I remember from my pre-Vatican Council II childhood. Changes were made to the liturgy to help us “understand” things better. But, as the movie title says, I feel something was lost in translation – beauty and the sacred. That was a feeling shared by many last night in our conversations.

Words to one hymn were written by Rabanus Maurus – 780-856! Composers dated from the 15th and 16th to the 19th century.

I will admit to something: I am happily a lector at church because if you heard me sing, you’d ask me to be a reader! Well, I sang my heart out Monday – and it was a joyful experience!

The highlight of the evening was Bishop-elect Lopes’ reading the formula of the Profession of Faith, followed by his recitation of the Oath of Fidelity to be Sworn by Bishops. After that, he signed all necessary documents on the altar, co-witnessed by Archbishop DiNoia, the papal representative at the ceremony, and Ms. Laurel Miller, Chancellor of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Peter. Abp. DiNoia then blessed the Episcopal insignia.

(More to come as soon as I return to Rome! I leave tomorrow morning, returning Friday a.m. in Rome. The photos you see now are from the Monday vespers)



This sign was in front of Our Lady of Walsingham on Monday when we had vespers – evensong.


This sign was there today!


As of Sunday, the church will have the title of cathedral (the see of a bishop) when Bishop Lopes take possession of the church. The diocese of Galveston-Houston will then have the honor of having three cathedrals: The cathedral of Galveston (the oldest) the co-cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston and, as of Sunday, the Ordinariate cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham.


The Sistine Chapel is today’s big story as the new lighting, heating and ventilation systems installed by Carrier and the German firm Osram were introduced to the media last evening. Only a doctor‘s order could keep a good woman down and that is the reason I missed last night’s presentation. However, I have had other similar beautiful experiences and share those with you (see the first story below which I also put on my Facebook page.)

The Sistine Chapel was also the subject of one of the stories in a column I wrote on November 2, 2012 about the previous evening when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated vespers to mark the 500th anniversary of the completion of the chapel’s famed ceiling by Michelangelo in October 1512. (Enjoy the up-close-and-personal of the chapel with photos I took on an earlier visit.).

The last decades have seen the restoration of the Sistine Chapel’s main frescoes: work began on Michelangelo’s ceiling on November 7, 1984, after which the Last Judgment was restored and completed, and the chapel was re-opened to the public on April 8, 1994. The north and south walls with the Lives of Jesus and Moses were unveiled in December 1999.

On April 8, 1994 Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel on the occasion of the restoration of the Last Judgment. In his homily he said, “The frescoes that we are contemplating here introduce us into the world of the contents of the Revelation. The truths of our faith speak to us here from all sides. From them human genius took its inspiration undertaking to clothe them in forms of incomparable beauty.”

He also wrote about the Sistine Chapel in his 2003 book of poetry, “Roman Triptych: Meditations” in Part Two “On the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel.” He reflects on man, as well as the image of God in the scenes from Creation to the Last Judgment.

In the event you will be visiting the Sistine in the near or distant future, you might want to print the following information about the side panels on the north and south walls that depict the lives of Jesus and Moses.

NORTH WALL – LIFE OF CHRIST: Baptism of Jesus (Perugino)– The Temptation of Jesus (Botticelli) – the Calling of the First Disciples (Ghirlandaio) – Sermon on the Mount (Rosselli) – Jesus giving the Keys to Peter (Perugino) – The Last Supper (Rosselli)

SOUTH WALL – LIFE OF MOSES: Moses’ Journey through Egypt (Perugino) – Different scenes (Botticelli) – Crossing the Red Sea (Rosselli and d’Antonio) – Moses with the Ten Commandments (Rosselli) – the Punishment of Korah, Datham and Abiram (Botticelli) – Moses’ last acts and death (attributed to Luca Signorelli)

By the way, you can take a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel through the Vatican website:

Here are links to two good articles about last night’s unveiling:–finance.html


I was so sorry not to have been able to attend last night’s event in the Sistine Chapel with the new lighting, heating and ventilation system installed by Carrier, I have had many beautiful experiences in this stunning chapel, including attendance at a number of liturgies – the original and real purpose of a chapel. I was there for a special Mass for the Swiss Guards in January 2006 as they celebrated the 500th anniversary of the establishing of the Guards by Pope Julius II. There were only about 120 of us, all told, including celebrants, Swiss Guards and the choir. What a privilege!

And I well remember being in the chapel with fellow journalists in December 1999 when the restored panels depicting the lives of Jesus and Moses were unveiled. Experts from the Vatican museums restoration team were there to answer our questions and it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime evening, much as last night was. I am sure.(I did speak to some friends a few days ago who were privileged to see the chapel even before last night’s unveiling and they said it was spectacular)

Of the December 1999 visit with fellow journalists, one thing stands out in particular. Towards the end of the evening as people began to trickle out of the chapel, I had been talking with Father Raymond de Souza and at a certain point we both realized – at the same instant – that we were the last two visitors in the chapel! There was a gendarme or two and a Swiss guard or two but no one made a move to ask us to leave so we enjoyed the solitude and immense beauty for about five more minutes, alone with our thoughts and meditations even prayers.

Father Raymond and I exited the chapel descending the imposing Scala Regia and exiting at the Bronze Door to a silent, majestic St. Peter’s Square where the cobblestones glistened in the darkness of a cool December evening after a brief rainfall.

An evening that was unforgettable, spiritual and, yes, magical!


The Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was established in 2011 to welcome Anglicans coming into full communion with Rome. It was the first such ordinariate to be established under the November 2009 Vatican document instituting this structure. The Ordinary, Msgr Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop, recently sent greetings to both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict to, as the latest Ordinariate newsletter notes, “express the love, loyalty and gratitude of the clergy and people in the run-up to the anniversary of the publication in November 2009 of the Apostolic Constitution, “Anglicanorum Cœtibus,” that instituted the ordinariates.

In his letter to Pope Francis, Msgr. Newton expressed the sentiments of “hundreds of lay members of the Ordinariate with their priests from the length and breadth of Great Britain for a weekend of addresses, conversations and celebrations, centred around the celebration of Mass in Westminster Cathedral.” He said, “it is with deep gratitude that through the provisions of that Apostolic Constitution we are now united with you in the full communion of the Catholic Church. I ask you, Holy Father, to remember the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham in your prayers, as we remember you, and to grant us your Apostolic Blessing.

Msgr. Newton’s letter to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of the same gathering at Mass in Westminster Cathedral on the vigil of the fifth anniversary of the publication of “Anglicanorum Coetibus”: “We will never forget that it was your wisdom and vision that brought about that Apostolic Constitution and so we thank you for bringing us, joyfully, into the full communion of the Catholic Church. I ask you to continue to remember in your prayers the members and the mission of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, as you will always occupy a special place in the hearts and prayers of all of us.


Pope Emeritus Benedict XVl has written to the Ordinariate by way of response to a letter he had received from Nicolas Ollivant, chairman of the Friends of the Ordinariate, a charity set up to support the Ordinariate’s work. In his own letter to the Pope emeritus, Ollivant enclosed a brief history of the church in Warwick Street. (Both photos are from the Ordinariate newsletter)


Benedict XVI – born in Bavaria – answered with the following letter – published on the Ordinariate website and in their newsletter and translated from the original German:

“Since I know that you read the German language without difficulty, I may answer your friendly letter of 1 September in my mother tongue, since my English would not quite suffice to do so.

“Your thanks for the establishment of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham has greatly moved me, and I ask you to convey my thanks to all its members. Naturally, I am particularly glad that the former Bavarian Chapel has now become your Ordinariate’s church, and serves such an important role in the whole Church of God. It has been a long time since I have heard news of this holy place, and it was therefore with all the more interest and gratitude that I read the description with which you accompanied your letter.

“Once more, many thanks, and may God bless you all.

“Yours in the Lord,

“Benedict XVI”