The Father Who’s a Father: Meet the Priest Behind This Iconic Picture

The snapshot here went viral shortly after it was published, showing the diaconate ordination of former Anglican priest Patrick Allen, accompanied by his young son.

Now Patrick Allen is a Catholic Father — in every sense — and here’s the rest of the story:

It was barely a week into Father Patrick Allen’s new ministry when, in the course of taking his two children to activities in his nonreligious clothes, at least five people asked:

So, what do you do for a living?

Allen smiles graciously, sometimes bringing his hand to his chest in a humble gesture, one that coincidentally shows his wedding band.

“This might begin a long conversation,” the James Island father says.

“I’m a Catholic priest.”

When his daughter, Lucy, goes to Charleston Catholic School next year, she will be the only student whose father comes not only for parent conferences and class parties, but also to celebrate Mass.

Ordained a Catholic priest July 7, Allen joins a small but growing group of former Episcopalians embarking on a new journey, one they hope marks a critical step down the long path to Christian unity.

They have embraced a new option in Catholicism that allows Anglicans to become fully Roman Catholic yet retain elements of their liturgical and theological traditions.

Allen is the second Episcopal priest in South Carolina to join the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, often dubbed the “Anglican ordinariate.”

Pope Benedict XVI created the ordinariate, a non-geographic diocese within the Catholic Church, for groups of American Anglicans who wanted to enter full communion with the Vatican.

The result: Two weeks ago, Allen lay prostrate before the Most Rev. Robert Guglielmone, bishop of Charleston.

Those on hand for his ordination included his closest Anglican mentor and friend, the priest who heads the ordinariate and the once-Episcopalian families joining him to create a new Catholic community.

None asked, What do you do?

What he does today, fresh into his Catholic ministry, completes a circular life’s path.

Allen was raised Catholic in a Florida parish until he was 11. Then, his parents began attending an evangelical Presbyterian church.

Ever fascinated by history, he went to college unsure but with an eye toward teaching history.

He attended a Presbyterian seminary college working on his master’s in divinity, though not seriously considering the ministry, much less the Anglican priesthood. Meanwhile, a friend in Charleston invited him to work at Camp St. Christopher.

Allen served as head counselor and then assistant director of the summer camp for nine years, time that proved pivotal to virtually every front of his life.

He confirmed his desire to teach and mentor.

He fell in love with a young woman named Ashley Duckett, who also worked on the camp’s summer staff.

And he met future mentors such as the Rev. M. Dow Sanderson, a deeply intellectual priest who adhered to an Anglo-Catholic tradition that appealed to Allen.

Allen also discovered the Book of Common Prayer.

“I fell in love with it,” he recalls.

He felt drawn to the sacramental nature of Anglicanism and studied people including John Henry Newman, Anglican priest-turned-Catholic cardinal. Newman famously once said, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

Read the rest. It’s a great journey.



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