For the first time in history, Pope Francis has named a bishop for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
The Rev. Monsignor Steven J. Lopes, 40, is the first bishop of the Ordinariate, a structure which is equivalent to a diocese, for Roman Catholics who were nurtured in the Anglican tradition.
Father William Holiday, pastor of Incarnation Catholic Church in Orlando, attended the ordination of Bishop Lopes, which took place in February in Houston, Texas where the Ordinariate is based.
“It lends a sense of permanence that we now have a bishop,” said Father Holiday who explained that their bishop has the power to ordain priests. “From a spiritual standpoint, the people have a bishop, which has the fullness of priesthood.”
Members of the Ordinariate are Roman Catholics, who retain elements of the Anglican heritage in their celebration of liturgy and in the hospitality and ministries of their Catholic communities. The Vatican created the Ordinariate on Jan. 1, 2012 in response to Anglican individuals and groups wishing to enter the Catholic Church. Bishop Lopes thanked Pope Benedict and Pope Francis during his ordination for bringing this unity of faith and vision into concrete expression.
“This is one of the first times when the faithful of the Ordinariate have gathered together from across the United States and Canada in faith,” he said. “The Spirit of God is indeed stirring hearts and forging bonds of communion in a world that is all too fractured and divided.”
The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter has 43 parishes and communities across the United States and Canada. Father Holiday said from a practical standpoint, Bishop Lopes may only be able to visit parishes once a year unlike Bishop Noonan who can attend Masses and special events on a regular basis. It is Bishop Lopes’ immediate goal, however, to visit as many of the parishes and communities across the United States and Canada as possible.
Bishop Lopes was born in Fremont, California in 1975 and was the only child of Barbara Jane Lopes and the late Dr. Jose de Oliveira Lopes, who were two lifelong educators and Roman Catholics.
He attended Catholic school from kindergarten through high school before attending the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. He earned a baccalaureate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where he also completed his licentiate degree in theology and a doctorate in sacred theology.
Since 2005, he served as an official of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for promoting and preserving Catholic teaching. In this role he was actively involved in the development of the Ordinariate and the evaluation of clergy applying for entrance.
When Bishop Lopes asked Pope Francis what message he wanted him to share, he responded simply and strongly “Avanti!” meaning go forward.
“That is our mandate. Go forward. Show the world that Christian discipleship is indeed joyful and that the communion of the church in indeed worth committing our lives to,” Lopes said. “We have a lot of work ahead of us building this Ordinariate and bringing the gifts given to full flower. We are not afraid, not daunted. We go forward. For it is the Lord that accompanies all measure of good in us and great is the works of the Lord.”