The faculty, staff, and students at the John Paul II Institute were more than teachers and colleagues, they were among my first friends in the Catholic Church. I began my course of study as my family and I were on our journey from the Episcopal Church into the fullness of the Catholic Faith. As an Episcopal priest at the time, I was compelled by the beauty of the Catholic anthropology exhibited in the life and writing of Saint John Paul II. Viewed from the person of Jesus Christ, the dignity and destiny of the human person made for love, permeating his thought and teaching, impelled my own quest for the truth and formed an invitation to a deeper conversion in my own life. The John Paul II Institute seemed a natural place to form my intellect with the mind of the Church.
As a convert, I was as one who came late to the conversation and yet, in what can only be described as an act of Christian charity, I was welcomed with generous hospitality. The faculty patiently urged me on in my study, gently corrected errors, prayerfully challenged me to go further than I thought I could and equipped me with a lexicon to “read the signs of the times” and develop my pursuit of theological inquiry guided by the light of Divine revelation. Motivated by faith and Christian discipleship, the faculty rigorously cultivated the intellectual life. Their purpose is to prepare students with the underpinnings of truth to go to the heart of the world and build a culture of marriage and family, a civilization of love.
Studying at the Institute prepared me to serve, for a time, as the Director of Family Life for the Archdiocese of Washington. The nature and purpose of marriage and family life brought to light at the Institute provided the lens through which to evaluate catechetical materials and develop initiatives, retreats, and training programs that speak to all topics relating to marriage and family life.
To great surprise during my time at the Institute, Pope Benedict XVI promulgated Anglicanorum coetibus, the Apostolic Constitution that established the Ordinariate for former Anglicans. I was ordained as a Catholic priest for the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter and currently serve as the Moderator of the Curia and Director of Vocations in our Chancery in Houston, TX. The Ordinariate, the vision of Pope Benedict XVI at the service of Christian unity, is the fruit of a long ecumenical dialogue with Anglicans beginning with Pope Paul VI and continuing with John Paul II. The beautiful vision of God’s plan for life and love continues to compel others, as it compelled me and my family to full communion with the Catholic Church and to study at the John Paul II Institute. The preparation I received at the Institute has been a great gift for my current task as I offer an apologia for other pilgrims travelling this path of conversion and welcome them home.
My heart is filled with gratitude for the John Paul II Institute, for to study there is, like Cardinal Newman’s motto: “Heart speaking unto heart.”