By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Deacon Jonathan Erdman distributed communion during an April 30 Mass — much like deacons in Catholic churches across the Archdiocese of Louisville may have done — except he did so as communicants knelt at the communion rail in St. Martin of Tours Church.
The Mass was celebrated by Father Paul Beach, pastor of St. Martin, within the newly formed Our Lady and St. John Catholic community, composed of individuals who came to the Catholic Church from the Anglican faith tradition.
Deacon Erdman, who leads the community of 22 people, was a priest in the Episcopal church — a part of the Anglican tradition. He is now in formation for the Catholic priesthood and was ordained to the transitional diaconate on April 25 at St. Martin, which is serving as the community’s home for now.
The community of Our Lady and St. John belongs to the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter — a special diocese-like entity created in 2012 by the Vatican for former Anglican individuals, communities and clergy joining the Catholic Church, said Deacon Erdman.
The ordinariate has 43 parishes and communities in the United States and Canada. They are Catholic, yet they retain some of their Anglican heritage and traditions — such as distributing Communion at the rail, he noted. There are other distinctive actions that set an ordinariate Mass apart from a typical Catholic Mass, said Deacon Erdman.
The deacon or priest reads the Gospel from the church’s center aisle and the congregation kneels to pray the Penitential Rite following the prayers of the faithful.
The most distinctive feature of an ordinariate Mass, however, is that it’s celebrated using a special missal published by the Vatican in 2015 — “Divine Worship: The Missal.” It uses “Prayer Book English,” language derived from the classic books of the Anglican liturgical tradition, according to the ordinariate.
“The intent is to add beauty to the liturgy with the English language,” said Deacon Erdman.
Members of ordinariate communities go through a formation process, similar to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), in order to become Catholic.
Under the leadership of Father Beach, Deacon Erdman and members of the community of Our Lady and St. John went through an eight-month formation process, which culminated with the sacraments of confirmation and holy Communion last September.
Father Beach said members of the community entered the process “with rich faith and backgrounds.” The “centerpiece” of that process, was the “Cathechism of the Catholic Church,” he said. The group also studied other church documents and laws.
The process helped them to come “to a deeper understanding of what they already knew,” he said. “They are very committed to their faith.”
Masses for the community are celebrated on Sundays at 4 p.m. by Father Beach and Father John Johnson, associate pastor of St. Albert the Great Church and a former Episcopal priest.
Deacon Erdman will be ordained to the priesthood for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter on June 29 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham, the ordinariate’s principal church, located in Houston, Texas.
Following Deacon Erdman’s ordination to the priesthood, he will continue to serve the community of Our Lady and St. John at St. Martin of Tours Church with the hope of growing into a “separate parish community,” he said.
As a Catholic priest, he said he hopes “to nourish the people of God in the sacraments of the church and to help them hear the voice of Christ in the Scripture and the traditions of the faith.”
Jean Smith came to the community of Our Lady and St. John from Calvary Episcopal Church on Fourth Street in downtown Louisville.
She was drawn to the Catholic faith because of “the experience of the Eucharist and the true presence of Christ in the church,” she said. “The ordinariate wonderfully welcomed us and allowed us to bring our traditions of prayer and music with us into the church.”
Ryan Gabbard — who along with his wife, Dianna, are members of the community — joined the Catholic Church five years ago and had been waiting for the ordinariate to be created.
“We were ready,” he said. He believes the ordinariate is “an important model for the church to show that Christian unity can be done without damaging the integrity of either faith.”
Gabbard said he grew up in the Baptist Church and discovered the Anglican faith while he was a college student. He said the Catholic faith was taught to him by other Anglicans and, for that, he’s grateful.
Catholics who are not members of Our Lady and St. John may attend Mass with the community and have it fulfill the requirement to attend Mass on Sundays. Attending Mass with the community on a holy day of obligation fulfills that requirement as well.
To learn more about the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, visit www.ordinariate.net.