OMAHA, NE: Roman Catholic Church receives former Anglican parish
August 16, 2013
Father Robert Scheiblhofer, parochial administrator of St. Barnabas Church in Omaha, said he felt joy as he watched church members being confirmed during a historic July 10 ceremony welcoming the former Episcopalian church into the Catholic faith.
At that time, Father Scheiblhofer had resigned his Anglican orders to become Catholic. He was ordained a priest Aug. 10 by Archbishop George J. Lucas at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha.
Prayer and faith sustained the church of about 50 people during its long journey, which dates back to St. Barnabas' founding in 1869 as part of a movement reestablishing Anglicanism's Catholic roots, said Father Scheiblhofer, 62.
"We've been working and praying for this for many years," he said. "It's literally the answer to that prayer."
Becoming part of the Catholic community was the highlight of the ceremony for Vicki Bohn, 69, a member of St. Barnabas for 12 years with her husband, Mel, 70.
St. Barnabas left the Episcopal Church in 2007 due to what Father Scheiblhofer called the church's deviations from Holy Scripture and members' desire for a true voice of authority.
And after temporary membership in the Anglican Church in America, St. Barnabas went nearly four years without a solid religious home as the church worked toward joining the Catholic Church.
"It just felt so good to be connected again," Bohn said. "Before we were kind of like a group of our own floating out there with nobody to connect with."
Promoting Christian unity and responding to interest among Anglican groups, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 provided the framework for Anglicans to become part of the Catholic Church while retaining elements of their heritage and liturgical practices.
Three ordinariates worldwide oversee the faith communities coming into the church. St. Barnabas is part of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, led by Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson.
Ordinariate communities and clergy are encouraged to have close relationships with dioceses in which they are located, and priests may apply to assist in diocesan parishes.
"They are fellow Catholics and certainly help to strengthen the Catholic presence here in the city," said Father Joseph Taphorn, moderator of the curia, judicial vicar and vicar for clergy for the archdiocese. "We want to have a warm relationship with them."
Soon after Pope Benedict's announcement St. Barnabas voted to join the church, but the final leg of the journey was just beginning.
Members had to complete catechetical training, and Father Scheiblhofer, the rector at St. Barnabas for 19 years, had to complete a four-month formation process last year. He was ordained a transitional deacon July 26 by Archbishop Emeritus Elden Curtiss at the cathedral before being ordained a priest two weeks later.
St. Barnabas also had to resolve a dispute with the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska regarding ownership of the church building and property, Father Scheiblhofer said. An out-of-court settlement in late June included a cash payment to the diocese, which in exchange dropped its claims to ownership, he said.
Msgr. Steenson said he was grateful for the help the archdiocese provided leading up to Father Scheiblhofer's ordination, particularly Father Taphorn, who coordinated the ordination, helped secure permission from Rome and oversaw some of the formation process.
Calling it an historic day for St. Barnabas, Archbishop Lucas, in his homily at the ordination, said he sensed the presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose pastoral decision made it possible for the congregation to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
"The history that is unfolding is the history of God's saving work among his people," Archbishop Lucas said. "So this is most importantly a day of grace."
The end of the transition period brought relief, joy and peace to St. Barnabas, said Sean Reed, church council president and a member with his wife, Kenra, since 2006.
"We're very pleased to be part of what we've sought for a very long time," Reed said, "part of the universal church, part of the greater Catholic community and in union with Peter's successor.
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