All Catholics in Canada ought to know there exists a community of former Anglicans who were recently received into full communion with the universal or Catholic Church. 

This formal unity took form under the terms of Pope Benedict’s historic 2009 Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus.

By this gesture an outstanding ecumenical achievement was made that will forever define the pontificate of Benedict XVI, a triumph that has earned him the title, “the Pope of Christian unity.”   

The Apostolic Constitution was a pastoral response from the Apostolic See to repeated and persistent petitions made by Anglicans over the years asking to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.

These Anglicans had come to identify the Catholic Church as their true spiritual home while discerning they were fully Catholic in belief and practice.

Pope Benedict, seeking to guarantee and safeguard the universal communion of all Christians, responded in earnest by forging this new path for groups of Anglicans to return to their Catholic roots while preserving elements of their liturgical traditions and spiritual heritage. 

Those Anglicans and others who have returned to full communion with the Catholic Church under the provisions of the Apostolic Constitution are today fully Catholic.

In Canada and the United States these Catholics belong to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, created Jan. 1, 2012. Two other Personal Ordinariates exist for Catholics – in England and Wales, and Australia.

The Ordinariates are the canonical equivalent to a diocese (or eparchy in the Eastern Churches). The Ordinariate for North America has over 40 parish communities and some 60 priests.

The Ordinariates are a shining example of true ecumenism, an ecumenical venture that helps foster and preserve the wealth of liturgical art and cultural patrimony of the Anglican Communion.  

Anglican Catholics trace their roots to the Catholic Church in England, a once Catholic nation which from Roman times boasted a strong Catholic presence.

Church of England communities can be found across the English-speaking world and have been traditionally influenced by the majesty and splendour of English Catholic history and traditions, centred at Canterbury Cathedral, the sedes and Primatial See of All England.

Catholics who have been nurtured by the High Church Anglican tradition are known for their good taste in sacred music and liturgical arts, traditional choral music and ritual practices.  

Under the reign of Pope Gregory the Great, the Catholic Church was formally and canonically established in England by a large group of missionary monks who arrived in Canterbury from Rome in 595.

The missionaries found the English people already acquainted with the Catholic religion which  had been prepared by evangelizing monks who had arrived earlier from Ireland.

Eventually the Anglo-Saxons were converted to the Catholic faith and England came to be known as the “Island of Saints,” dedicated by her forefathers under the glorious title, “The Dowry of Mary.” 

The Code of Canon Law, which binds the entire Latin Church, includes the Ordinariates and all their parishes, missions and established juridical communities. 

In 2012 the Canadian communities within the Ordinariate formed their own Deanery of St. John the Baptist (

This new specifically Canadian Deanery was set up to serve the first dozen communities of the Ordinariate in Canada. Today the Ordinariate has 10 parishes in major cities across Canada.

The first Ordinariate parish to be established in Canada was St. John the Evangelist in Calgary, the flagship of the Ordinariate in Canada, with a beautiful church built in 1911 with its own rood screen, a rare architectural element in North America. 

Others include the Church of the Annunciation in Ottawa and the Church of St. John the Baptist in Victoria, B.C., all received in 2012. 

Communities are made up of mostly former Anglo-Catholic members of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada. 

In 2018 the community in Calgary made history when it established its own integrated educational program for home-school families, something unique in much of the world.

The program is known as the Holy House of Our Lady andSt. John, a home-school enrichment program for students Grades 1-12 (

This educational model looks to the natural order of the Christian home, the “domestic Church,” while emphasizing and nurturing the intellectual, historical, artistic and spiritual gifts of the Faith. 

All Catholics are encouraged to visit an Anglican Ordinariate church for a taste of their beautiful liturgy and to hear the splendour of the English language at its best in formal prayer and song. 

Membership in the Ordinariates is open to former Anglicans and their families who desire to be received into full membership in the Catholic Church. 

When such persons join as adults they receive a short period of instruction followed by the sacrament of confirmation. 

Others who already grew up Catholic may also be interested in participating in the life and ministry of the Ordinariate.  These persons can be involved and register as parishioners in Ordinariate communities, however from a canonical perspective, such cradle Catholics remain members of their local diocese.

Nevertheless, parishioner registration at an Ordinariate parish does not require formal canonical membership in the Ordinariate and such Catholics are still welcome to register as parishioners. 

The cathedral of the North American Ordinariate is Our Lady of Walsingham, located in Houston, Texas, along with the chancery and bishop’s residence. In 2016 Bishop Steven Lopes became the first bishop of the Ordinariate. 

As of 2015 the distinctive Ordinariate form of the Mass became known as Divine Worship, standing alongside the other officially promulgated Western forms of the Mass, including the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite.

The liturgical books proper to the Anglican tradition, approved by the competent authorities, are now part of the universal heritage of the Catholic Church, to be maintained within the Church and shared with others.  

Alongside the Missal, Ordinariate Catholics have received their own distinctive forms for other rites, including the celebration of all sacraments. These rites are fully approved Catholic rites and employ a beautiful style of eloquent language bequeathed by the Anglican Communion. 

Many prayers are drawn from the Anglican Prayer Book tradition, such as the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer, with its own distinct Morning Prayer (Matins) and Evening Prayer (Evensong).   

In 1895 Pope Leo XIII in a touching Apostolic Letter to the English people entitled Amantissima Voluntatis, praised the “illustrious” English people, citing their “great deeds” in olden times.

He then went on to speak of the “great work” of obtaining the reunion of Christendom and of the “anxiety” he felt for peace and salvation through “unity of faith.” 

His letter was an invitation for all Anglicans who “glory in the Christian name” to collaborate in the same work of unity and his desire to “recall” them to their lost unity. 

This loss of unity proved one of the greatest disasters in the history of Christendom – the break of England with the universal Church.

This occurred in gradual stages during the English Reformation, an immensely complicated religious tempest that flared up during the reign of King Henry VIII of England.

It all began with the king’s repeated requests for the Pope to grant him a divorce from his lawful wife.

According to English historian Hilarie Belloc, the king took something that until then had been a religious dispute and made it a political one, with a permanent rupture that is still a fresh wound today.

In 1531 the king after a fashion replaced one Pope with another, naming himself “Supreme Head” of the Church of England, thus breaking the ties of unity with the undivided Apostolic See in Rome. 

The Roman Pontiff, ever the wise and patient parent, did all he could as a father to stop the division.  It is interesting to note that Pope Paul III was willing to lose an entire kingdom in order to stand up for the indissolubility of the sacrament of marriage.

Finally, the Pope excommunicated Henry as a medicinal remedy in 1533 and promulgated the excommunication on Dec. 17, 1538, in the hopes that Henry would come to his senses.  The Church of England has remained to this day in a state of formal schism.

To quote Pope Benedict in the Apostolic Constitution, the Catholics of the Anglican Ordinariate play a crucial role in the universal Church, sharing “the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared.”

On March 26, Pope Francis named Father Carl Reid, a Canadian priest, as the new ordinary for Catholics of Anglican tradition in Australia’s Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross (OLSC).  Father Reid has been dean of the Canadian Deanery of St. John the Baptist of the OCSP and leads the ordinariate community of Blessed John Henry Newman in Victoria, B.C., as pastor.

 J.P. Sonnen is a tour operator, travel writer, and history docent with Orbis Catholic Travel LLC. With a file from Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News.