This congregation began with members of the Parish of All Saints, Ashmont, in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. All Saints has been a parish of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America for over one hundred years. In January, 1996, several dozen members of All Saints, together with their rector, elected to withdraw from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in order to seek admission corporately into the Roman Catholic Church under the special terms of the “Pastoral Provision”.
After a period of preparation, the transition was completed with great rejoicing when, on September 28, 1997, twenty-nine members of the congregation were received into full communion at the direction of his Eminence Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston. The Cardinal then formally erected the Congregation of Saint Athanasius as an Anglican Use chaplaincy in the archdiocese.
Why this step?
The decision to leave the Episcopal Church was painful, for Anglicanism had provided most of us a spiritual home for many years, sometimes from birth. There were four main considerations.
First, we were convinced that Our Lord’s will for His Church is that it should be one (John 13:34-35, 17:11, 22-23). Historically, the Anglo-Catholic tradition within Anglicanism has always sought to bear witness to that truth; from that tradition we have come. The history of the Anglo-Catholic movement is marked by a steady stream of conversions to the Church of Rome, as the life of Blessed John Henry Newman witnesses.
Second, the distance (especially in the past twenty or thirty years) between official Anglicanism and what might be termed historical faith and order has grown rapidly. Increasingly unorthodox belief and practice has crept in, so that both Catholic and Evangelical ways of understanding the Gospel have become incongruent with it.
Third, the present disarray of Anglicanism is, in itself, clear evidence of the need for a defined focus of authority in the life of the Church on earth, and that such a magisterium is to be found in the person of Peter and his successors in the Holy See.
Fourth, we thank God for the good and beauty we have taken from the Anglican tradition, and we long to bring all that is best in it to the life of the Universal Church. As Anglicanism decays around us, we have come to feel it can best and most safely be preserved within the household of the Roman Catholic Church.
What is an Anglican Use Chaplaincy?
Unlike a normal geographical parish, which exists for those who live in a particular location, “Anglican Use” exits for particular kind of persons who live throughout an area: former Anglicans and other non-Catholic Christians, and those who come new to the Catholic Church through this congregation. Of course all Roman Catholics are welcome to share the life of the congregation.
Saint Athanasius has been designated a “chaplaincy” recognizing its newness, its size, and the non-geographic nature of its membership. In time, and as God gives the increase, the congregation may become a personal parish of the Archdiocese of Boston.
The Reverend Richard S. Bradford is chaplain of the congregation, having been officially appointed to this position following his ordination to the priesthood on May 30, 1998.