The Anglican Use of the Roman Catholic Church was established by St. John Paul II in 1980. This Pastoral Provision allowed Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, while preserving some of our unique liturgical traditions.
This certainly was a welcome development for Anglo-Catholics. Anglicanism's drift from Christian orthodoxy accelerated substantially throughout the 20th century, and the 1976 General Convention allowing for the ordination of women was the last straw for many Anglo-Catholics. Among those who perceived that Anglicanism was lost at sea were the founders of Our Lady of Walsingham parish. In the end, the 1976 convention and the 1980 Pastoral Provision finally showed many of them that communion with St. Peter was their only safe harbor.
In 1982, two of them in particular, Fr. James Moore and Fr. James Ramsey, began discussions with the Bishop of Galveston-Houston, John Louis Morkovsky, about entering the Church under the Pastoral Provision. By that time, both of them had resigned their positions in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. This was a real act of faith, because the Catholic Church had not yet formally received them, but Fr. Moore, Fr. Ramsey, and the dozen or so other pilgrims met together in Fr. Moore's home and made that leap of faith during Lent of 1982.
The small community met weekly, mainly in each others' homes, waiting patiently for the local ordinary to graft them into the Church. At some point during this period, these refugees committed themselves to the loving protection of the Mother of God, under the title of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was a suggestion by Fr. Ramsey, who had rescued a stained glass image of Our Lady of Walsingham from a burnt-out church in Malawi years ago while he had been serving as Bishop's Chaplain in the Anglican Diocese of Lake Malawi, and by Wayne Flagg, who had a deep devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham. Fr. Ramsey had treasured that found image ever since; and as he had rescued her, now the newly-formed community begged her to, in turn, protect them in their most important journey.
Bishop Morkovsky graciously allowed the parish of Our Lady of Walsingham to meet on Saturday afternoons at 6:00 pm at Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, even though it was not yet part of the Catholic Church. After Mass they would meet without fail in the parish hall of Good Shepherd for a covered dish supper they shared.
After one year, they began meeting at St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Sunday afternoons at 4:00 pm, again for about the duration of one year. On April 7, 1984, Fr. Ramsey and Fr. Moore were ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Church, with St. Cecilia Catholic Church as the setting. Now, for the first time, the community could offer the Holy Sacrifice in with Christ's holy Church. This was the day that Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church was erected as a parish of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, and Fr. Moore and Fr. Ramsey were appointed as co-pastors by Bishop Morkovsky. On this occasion, the Fathers Moore and Ramsey were presented by their parishioners with the small image of Our Lady of Walsingham which now rests mounted on the front of the pulpit in the new church.
The parish made another move and began meeting in a small chapel of Duchesne Academy, just one mile south of the current church. By 1985, Fr. Ramsey had been asked by the diocese to become pastor of St. Nicholas Catholic Church in downtown Houston, so Fr. Moore remained as pastor of the congregation, which by this time, had grown to a couple of dozen families. In May of 1987, the first Deacon in the Anglican Use and the first Deacon of OLW was ordained, Deacon James Barnett. In the next year, the first priestly vocation, Fr. Wayne Flagg, was also ordained on the Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, September 24, 1988. So the path of OLW was not just been grafted onto the Catholic Church of Galveston-Houston, it has also been very fruitful for the Church. (In addition, Jonathan More', is now following his priestly vocation in Rome. He was the one seminarian picked by Cardinal DiNardo to study at the North American College and will be ordained in June 2017. Deacon John Denson was a long time parishioner who was ordained a deacon attached to our parish and of service to the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. He served faithfully as our second deacon until his passing. Mark Baker, parishioner, completed ordinariate formation program, and was ordained a permanent deacon in July 2014.)
The chapel of Duchesne was torn down to widen Chimney Rock Road about four-and-a-half years after Our Lady of Walsingham began meeting there, so the parish moved to a warehouse just to the west, off of Bingle Road, down by the Katy Freeway for another four-and-a half years. This was to be home until May 1992, when the Blessed Mother performed a great miracle--the community was able to step out in faith and purchase land and build a permanent church, which today is St. Jude Hall. It was a small church that could seat about 80 people. For the next eleven years, the entire parish and all of its activities fit into this little building.
Mass was once a week, at 10:00 am on Sundays, the only exceptions being the occasional important feast or holy day. After a few years, there were two Masses on Sunday, then also a Vigil Mass on Saturday, then daily Masses were added. Parishioners set up programs for home-schoolers, others worked in prison ministry and AIDS ministry, and others looked out for the sick and needy of the parish. Vistors were amazed that such a small congregation loved so much, shared so much, and prayed so much. In 1992, Fr. Moore took a sabbatical, and Fr. Bruce Noble served as priest-in-charge. Fr. Moore returned as pastor in 1996. In 1998, Mrs. Kay Laro approached Deacon Barnett after Mass and asked, simply, "How much do you owe on this church?" The parish had been paying its debts and bills with donations, penny-pinching, and bingo, but here was someone stepping forward to make a major gift towards paying off the old church. One year later, in December 1999, this same lady telephoned Fr. Moore to say that she was giving one million dollars to the parish, which made it possible for serious building plans to begin. Many more gifts would follow, large and small, by many other generous donors, who made the beautiful new building possible.
Fr. Moore retired as pastor in November of 2006, at which time Fr. Bruce Noble returned again to shepherd the fold. When Fr. Noble was needed by the Archdiocese to return to the Catholic Chaplains Corps at the Texas Medical Center, Fr. James Ramsey answered the call and returned as our pastor once again. These three priests each served as Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church on two separate occasions. With our growing needs for space, plans were devised for new offices, renovation of St. Jude Hall, a new classroom building, and a new outdoor Shrine. These beautiful structures were dedicated by Cardinal DiNardo in May of 2011.
In November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI most generously gave us the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus, his response to Episcopalians and Anglicans seeking corporate reunion with the Holy See, while allowing them to bring with them their Anglican patrimony, thus providing a permanent place for our liturgy and traditions.
On January 1, 2012, on the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, the structure defined by Anglicanorum coetibus became a reality in the United States. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter was erected with The Rev. Msgr. Jeffrey Neil Steenson as our ordinary, and our church as the principal church of the ordinariate. The formation program for the first class of seminarians and future priests of the Ordinariate began at St. Mary's Seminary in Houston via long distance technology, and in July 2012 Fr. Charles Hough IV was ordained as Catholic priest and assigned as rector of Our Lady of Walsingham.
With the February 2, 2016, ordination of our first bishop, Steven J. Lopes, the parish church of Our Lady of Walsingham became The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham. For his motto, Bishop Lopes selected the Latin phrase, “Magna Opera Domini,” or in English, “Great are the works of the Lord.” By these words, the new bishop expresses his awe of God’s grace in drawing His people to the fullness of Eucharistic communion.
No one ever could have foreseen, on that April day of 1984, that Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church would be such a monument of divine providence, and Our Lady's faithful protection. But the true thanks we give to God is not in bricks or stone. We thank Him first as Catholics always have, ever since that first Mass in the upper room: by the loving and faithful offering of His Son each day upon the altar. And this parish, still small by current standards, has carried forth the grace from that altar in so many ways -- in our love for one another, in good works for the sick, widowed and orphaned, by burying the dead, feeding the hungry, counseling the afflicted, and every other corporal and spiritual good work.
Let us pray fervently to the Mother of God, Our Lady of Walsingham: may she continue to guard us, her children, teaching us to do every deed that is pleasing to her Son, and bring us together from this earthly liturgy to the heavenly one, forever praising the Trinity, who has saved us.