What about the families of former Anglican priests?

A few months back, I posted an item about one Anglican clergyman’s leap of faith, and questions surrounding how he would support his family once he became a Catholic priest.

This morning, National Catholic Register has more about him, and others like him:

When Father Ian Hellyer, a Catholic priest in England, figures his personal budget, he faces concerns that are unusual for a Catholic priest: He must consider the needs of his wife, Margaret, and their nine children.

A former Anglican clergyman, Father Hellyer was ordained in June into a Church that by and large has not had to provide for men with families. He is a priest of the personal ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, a newly erected diocese for former Anglicans. It was created under the provisions of Pope Benedict XVI’s Anglicanorum Coetibus, which made it possible for former Anglicans to come into the Catholic Church in groups.

A similar ordinariate is expected to be up and running soon in the United States, perhaps by the end of the year.

Some men who seek ordination as Catholic priests are coming from affluent parishes.

“Episcopal clergy are expected to be paid at a professional level,” said Father Ernie Davis, a former Episcopal priest and father of three.

Father Davis cautioned: “If you’re looking at the bottom line when you make this decision [about whether to seek ordination as a Catholic priest], then this isn’t the place for you.”

Episcopal clergymen in the United States often get in touch with Father Christopher Phillips, another former Anglican priest who is pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement, an Anglican-use parish in San Antonio, Texas, to inquire about becoming Catholic priests.

“I put a fatherly arm around them and say, ‘Don’t think you are going to be able to live like you have been living,’” Father Phillips said. Like Father Davis, Father Phillips came into the Church under Pope John Paul II’s 1980 pastoral provision, a precursor to Anglicanorum Coetibus.

Clergy from the “continuing Church” movement — breakaway Episcopal churches, which tend to be less lavishly endowed — may face less financial shock, Father Phillips said, because “they are more used to putting cardboard in their shoes.”

“When I finally discerned that God was calling me to full communion with the successor of St. Peter,” said Father Hellyer, “we had no idea of what our future income might be or where it would come from.

“We knew we could survive on our savings for a while if we cut out luxuries and non-essentials,” Father Hellyer said of the transitional period before he was ordained a Catholic priest. “Then, too, the Catholic members of our extended family rallied around, deciding they had to support us in our step of faith. Also, lots of different people sent us gifts, which we never expected.

“We also had the assurance of the words that the Holy Father had said to Msgr. Keith Newton [ordinary of Our Lady of Walsingham]. Father Keith asked the Holy Father how he was to make provision for the priests and their dependents. The Holy Father replied, ‘The Lord will provide.’ So it was an act of faith to believe that, if we were doing God’s will, he would provide for us.”

Fortunately, it was a sentiment shared by Father Hellyer’s wife.

“My wife, Margaret, has been a tower of strength,” he said. “Over and over she has said resolutely that if this is God’s will, he will provide. Even the monsignors of the ordinariate have been amazed by her strength, not least because of the size of our family.”

There’s much more. Check it out.

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12 responses to “What about the families of former Anglican priests?”

  1. The Church in England, even before it was the “English Church,” had governmental support by way of the “tithe.” Everyone was taxed– a “head-tax” — annually in support of the local parish church where they lived. Because of the widely divergent sizes and economic wealth of the local churches, the annual income to the clergy assigned there varied greatly. Then along came the plague of the mid-1300’s and the law of “Supply and Demand” took over. There was a large demand for clergy services (mostly burying the dead) but fewer and fewer clergy to supply the manpower. Thus we found a lot of clergy agreeing to be pastors of two or more churches (and the income of all of them went into his pockets) and the same with bishops — there are several cases of bishops being co-ordinaries of neighboring dioceses. There were also documented cases of rural clergy simply packing up and leaving for a distant city after being recruited by a wealthy congregation desperate for a clergy in attendance. The bishops rarely cared because they, themselves, were swamped with demands — that is, if they were still alive.

    Roman Catholicism, after the Council of Trent,” (two hundred years after the Great Plague) moved toward a standardized system of clergy remuneration — usually the same system within each diocese — that did not depend upon the wealth of the parish that clergy was assigned.

    What that means is that today the base pay of a priest/pastor is the same whether they serve as a pastor of a huge suburban parish with lots of wealth or a small — almost abandoned — one in the inner city. There may be automatic step increases (a greying Monsignor would make a bit more than a rookies priest right out of the seminary), but generally all the priests in that diocese regardless of assignment are on the same pay scale.

    Then there is the issue — covered in this posting by Deacon Greg — that the base-pay of a Roman Catholic priest is not at all “family-friendly.”

  2. Just a note…my Catholic single, celibate pastor supports his family in Africa…he pays for the schooling of all his nieces and nephews, supports his sisters who are vowed religious, supports his mother in Africa…all on a pastor’s salary of around $1500 a month. He uses every single stipend he gets for Baptisms, Weddings, Funerals or Mass to send money home. He rarely buys anything for himself except a ticket home to Africa every two years.

  3. Many converting priests are given academic positions , in High schools and colleges so that they can paid more than the celibate diocesan priests.

  4. Re: friscoeddie

    Which leads me to my next question. How many married men do you actually know who are Roman Catholic priests? I have to confess I have only come across three: One who was a chancellor of the Diocese of Charleston SC; another who was an assistant pastor of a parish in the diocese of Columbus Ohio; and the third was that Lutheran pastor ordained by Bishop Dendinger of Grand Island Nebraska some five years ago.

    Is what you are saying that the Archdiocese of San Francisco — assuming you are from there — has a good number of them?

    How many?

  5. Re: Deacon Norb

    Is the chancellor of the Diocese of Charleston SC that you
    speak of by any chance Fr. Jim Parker? I ask because my father is Fr. Larry Lossing, a former Anglican, now Catholic priest. We all became Catholics the summer of 1982 in Orlando, then moved to St. Louis, where the church employed my father at The Pope John Center as a graphic artist and staff theologian. We had the joy of being present when Fr. Parker was ordained, and my father was ordained in St. Louis in 1984.

  6. My husband was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1985. He was one of the first men to apply and had no idea what to expect. We were actually told that he probably would not receive a stipend and that I would need to support the family. Our children were in college at the time. We did indeed step out in faith.

    As it turned out, we did not find that we had financial hardships in the Catholic Church. You need to remember that a $1300 or $1500 stipend is not the full extent of the priest’s income. He also receives allowances for housing, including utilities, automobile, food, continuing education and medical. Priests in large parishes often have housekeepers and cooks which is not needed when the priest has a wife. In our diocese, the married priests do receive a slightly larger stipend than the celibate priests, adjusted a bit higher if they have children at home.

    My husband was a high church Episcopalian and we served mostly mission congregations. We were not accustomed to the higher stipends paid today to Episcopal priests in large parishes. Consequently, the generosity of the Catholic Church in our diocese was truly a surprise and a great blessing.

    My husand fell asleep in the Lord four years ago. We enjoyed a wonderful and exciting life serving Jesus. While a priest’s wife is not ordained, she is certainly blessed by the many graces of his priesthood. I miss him terribly.

  7. Re: Catholic Priest’s Wife

    First, let me say I am so sorry for your loss. My father is the finest man and priest I know. I am blessed to still have him and my mother, God be praised. The challenges a priest’s wife faces are unique, to say the least! We were high Episcopalians as well, in a small parish in Central Florida. I have to say, I never experienced anything but loving acceptance from Catholics in St. Louis and in Florida upon our return. The generosity and goodwill did then, and still does, astonish me! Bless you and your family.

  8. Laura, I met your father in Boston with Cardinal Law years ago. Those first men and women in the Pastoral Provision were hardy souls! I agree with you, Catholics have been nothing but wonderful and generous, both in the Diocese of Tulsa and in Western Washington where we retired.

  9. I am, as always, humbled/awed by how many people my father has met, and how he manages to leave such an impression on all. Such a quiet, loving and profoundly intelligent man.
    And yes, the early Pastoral Provision folks were durable (wives and children included).
    Glad to know I’m not the only one who ended up on the ‘left coast’!

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