Former Anglican celebrates his first Christmas as a Catholic priest

From the Catholic Review in Baltimore:

This Christmas was particularly joyous for Father Albert Scharbach, who celebrated its liturgies just a few weeks after his ordination as a Catholic priest for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Photo: Tom McCarthy/Catholic Review

“I feel like myself again, but much more,” Father Scharbach said of his Nov. 15 ordination. “I am humbled and grateful to be part of the gracious exception (the ordinariate) in the life of the church.”

Initially ordained an Anglican priest in 2005, Father Scharbach was ordained a Catholic priest through the ordinariate, established in 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI to make it easier to welcome former Anglicans into the Catholic Church.

Equivalent to a diocese but national in scope, the ordinariate allows former Anglicans to join the Catholic Church while maintaining aspects of their liturgical traditions. It accommodates Anglican priests who are already married, such as Father Scharbach.

Abby, his wife since 1996, and their seven children were among the worshipers Christmas Eve at St. Mark in Catonsville when Father Scharbach celebrated an 8 p.m. Mass in the chapel for the congregation of St. Timothy’s, a former Episcopal Church in Catonsville that was received into the Catholic Church in 2013 as part of the ordinariate.

Father Scharbach had presided at his final Christmas liturgies as an Anglican priest in 2008.

“I decided that unless I am clearly moving toward full communion with Rome, then I would no longer be living in the obedience of faith,” were the words he used to tell his congregation at a parish in Rosemont, Pa., outside Philadelphia, that he would leave the Anglican Church and join the Catholic Church. “In other words, without a change, I would have no claim to the fiat lifestyle exhibited by Mary.”

Taken from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel when she was asked to become the mother of Jesus, “fiat” is Latin for “let it be done.”

“I felt like a fish out of water,” Father Scharbach said of leaving the Anglican priesthood and faith tradition he practiced for years. “It was always a hope to serve at the altar again.”

Accepting the Catholic faith became a matter of conscience for Father Scharbach.

“I could live without being Roman Catholic,” he said, “but could I die without being Roman Catholic?

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