By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — Chris Young, a married, former Episcopalian priest, will become a pioneer in the Diocese of Davenport this summer when he is ordained to the Catholic priesthood by Bishop Martin Amos.
Pope Francis granted permission for Bishop Amos to ordain Young, 53, to the Catholic priesthood, based on a 1980 pastoral provision granting admission to Catholic ministry of former Episcopal priests. Under the provision, more than 100 men have been ordained to the Catholic priesthood in U.S. dioceses since 1983 (www.pastoralprovision.org).
For Young, it’s been a long, arduous process prolonged by the historic resignation of one pope and election of another.
So when Young received a phone call Feb. 3 from the diocesan vocations director while teaching his fifth-period religion class at Assumption High School in Davenport, he took the liberty of answering.
Hearing the good news from Father Thom Hennen, Young uttered: “Thanks be to God!” and crossed himself. His attentive students
couldn’t wait to hear the details and wanted to send the news through the online social network Twitter. Young advised them to wait.
When he called his wife, Jody, “she was ecstatic … she’s so grateful to Pope Francis and to Bishop Amos that I have this opportunity.” As part of the pastoral provision, her agreement to Chris’ ordination to the Catholic priesthood was required.
“It’s like I’m giving him away to my Church, which gives me joy,” said Jody Young, a cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation nurse. “It’s a sacrifice; there’s a lot of sacrifice in this role (as a priest’s wife). But it’s a beautiful sacrifice.”
She and the couple’s three children — Colin, 23; Erin, 20; and Sarah, 19 —converted to Catholicism in August 2005 and Chris joined the Church that December, having finished his commitments with his Episcopal parish in the Quad-Cities, where he had served as rector. (Read more about Young and his family here.)
“We had our kids in Catholic schools … we were drawn to the Catholic Church,” added Jody, who has been married to Chris since December 1984.
Bishop Amos anticipates ordaining Young to the transitional diaconate before Easter, most likely at Assumption High School, and to the priesthood June 7, along with Deacons Kevin Anstey and Bob Cloos.
Young “certainly strikes me as a very spiritual man with a deep love for Christ and the Church,” Bishop Amos said. “Because of having been a priest in the Anglican community he certainly has pastoral experience. None of this is going to be new to him.”
Father Doug Grandon, a married, former Episcopalian priest ordained to the Catholic priesthood in the Peoria, Ill., Diocese, had encouraged Bishop Amos to consider sponsoring Chris Young for the pastoral provision.
“I remember when Chris and I first met for lunch to discuss his interest in the Catholic Church — and to compare our common experience at Christ Episcopal Church in Moline, (Ill.) where Chris was then serving. Long before that meeting, Chris had discerned a call to priesthood in the Episcopal Church (or as we understood it: catholic priesthood within the Episcopal Church). It was only natural for us to assume that, once we entered into full communion with the Catholic Church, God’s earlier call would be reaffirmed and sacramentalized within the Catholic Church by a bishop in apostolic succession,” Fr. Grandon said.
“Chris and Jody have, for several years now, experienced the immense joy and occasional frustration of life within the Catholic Church. They understand quite well that the diocese’s first married, convert priest will serve as a pioneer — one who patiently assists the bishop to establish new benchmarks related to just compensation and appropriate ministry opportunities. Perhaps I could pass on to Chris the advice I received from Father James Parker, the very first Pastoral Provision priest: Participate fully in the life of the presbyterate and make yourself ‘one of the boys,’” added Fr. Grandon, now a priest in the Archdiocese of Denver.
Young’s pastoral experience at Episcopal parishes in California, Wisconsin and Illinois meant that he required a different sort of mentoring than seminarians, Fr. Hennen observed. The vocations director had to frequently remind himself “that this is a man who has already been through a program of formation and has received a theological education and was ordained in another church and served a number of years in the capacity of a pastor.”
It was a case of supplementing what Young already had in terms of theological formation and education and being comfortable moving forward with him to ordination in the Catholic Church. “There’s a whole lot of back story, not just the two-and-a-half years it has taken to get through this process,” Fr. Hennen added.
Part of that supplementation included studying subjects that he might not be as familiar with, such as canon law and Mariology. Young said he completed approximately 21,000 pages of reading to prepare for his theological exams for the Catholic priesthood.
The surprise resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of his successor, Pope Francis, lengthened Young’s discernment process, but Young and his wife believe they are now better prepared for Chris’ new role in the Catholic Church. As they waited to hear from Rome, Chris held down two jobs — one at Assumption and one working in supervision for John Deere Works in Davenport.
“Having been a father of small children, having been a supervisor of working people, I know I have a bigger heart for what all of God’s children go through than when I started in ordained ministry,” he said.
“I worked so hard to figure out what God wanted me to do to serve him. I loved being a priest (in the Episcopal Church), but I needed the fullness of the historic, apostolic Catholic Church — intellectually and spiritually, in the sacraments.”
Chris Young’s dossier for pastoral provision
The Pastoral Provision granting permission to ordain a married man to the Roman Catholic priesthood extends only to men who had formerly been ordained Episcopalian/Anglican priests and never before had been Roman Catholic, said Chris Young. Here is a list of other requirements the Davenport man had to provide or fulfill in order to be granted permission:
• Cover letter from Bishop Martin Amos, the sponsoring bishop
• Young’s letter to Bishop Amos — a formal request for ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church
• Baptismal and marriage records
• Evidence of the stability and health of the marriage satisfactory to Bishop Amos as sponsoring bishop
• Signed statement by Young’s wife, Jody, advising her agreement to and support of her husband’s petition for priesthood in the Catholic Church.
• Statement of Young’s provision for the Catholic religious education of any minor children
• Copy of Young’s signed Profession of Faith
• Seminary transcripts
• Evidence of ordination in the Episcopal Church
• Detailed resume of ministerial service in the Episcopal Church and non-ministerial employment history
• Psychiatric evaluation report
• Biographical sketch
• Other documents
In addition, Young took exams in canon law, Church history, dogmatic theology, liturgy and sacraments, moral theology, sacred Scripture and spirituality.