Payson’s Church of the Holy Nativity will have a place in history this weekend as it becomes the first Anglican church in Arizona and the third in the Southwest to return to the Catholic Church through the changes authorized by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2009.
The congregation will be received and confirmed into the Catholic church and Holy Nativity’s pastor, Father Lowell Andrews will be ordained into the Roman Catholic priesthood under the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in services at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 16. Andrews is also the first Anglican Catholic pastor in Arizona to be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.
Essentially, Holy Nativity now will operate as a sister Roman Catholic church to St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, Andrews explained.
Pope Benedict authorized the creation of “Ordinariates” — geographic regions similar to dioceses, but typically national in scope. Although Catholic, parishes like Holy Nativity retain elements of the Anglican practices as “Anglican Use Catholics.” The parish will operate as a member of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter under the Ordinary (similar to a bishop) of the Rev. Monsignor Jeffrey N. Steenson in Houston, Texas.
Holy Nativity will hold its first services as a member of the Ordinariate on Sunday, Dec. 16. “The Mass will be celebrated in English,” Andrews said and all Masses will be celebrated facing the symbolic east.
Andrews celebrated the last Anglican Catholic Mass at Holy Nativity on Nov. 25 and was ordained to the diaconate Nov. 27, taking the first step toward the priesthood.
“One of the most exciting things about this is that after 500 years, parts of the Anglican church are coming back to the Mother Church and bringing the rich and traditional liturgy and patrimony of the Anglicans,” Andrews said. He added that it is also exciting that the pastors of the Anglican churches can bring their wives and children.
Andrews said it is also exciting that Holy Nativity and he are the first to be formally received in Arizona.
Founded in 1974, Payson’s Church of the Holy Nativity split off from the Episcopal Church and dedicated its sanctuary at 1414 N. Easy St. in 1983, with the late Robert Donovan serving as the founding pastor. Andrews is the parish’s fifth rector.
The church will hold three services to formalize Holy Nativity’s return to the Catholic church: members of the congregation who are baptized, confirmed and have celebrated First Communion will be received and confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church; Andrews’ ordination follows; and a Mass by Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas concludes the events.