Priest who left ministry to marry replaced by married priest

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Disaffected Anglican Fr Stephen Day joins Catholic Church with wife and children

A Catholic parish priest who has left the ministry to marry will this week be replaced in his English parish by a married priest with three children.

Last June, Fr Philip Gay celebrated 25 years as a priest at Coventry’s St Thomas More parish in the Catholic archdiocese of Birmingham. In October his parishioners were told he had decided to stand down from ministry “after careful consideration and for personal reasons”, so he could consider his future.

Earlier this month it was announced by the archdiocese that Fr Gay was leaving the priesthood. In a statement, it said it was “with regret that we must now let you know of [Fr Gay’s] decision to leave the priesthood”. It has since emerged that Fr Gay is to marry a female parishioner of St Thomas More.

The archdiocese also announced that Fr Gay’s replacement will be Fr Stephen Day, a 53-year-old former Anglican priest who is to arrive at the St Thomas More parish this week with his wife and three children, aged 10, 13 and 16.

He had been serving in the parish of St Anne’s, Nuneaton in Warwickshire, also in the Birmingham archdoicese.

In October 2009 the Vatican announced new ecclesiastical structures to absorb Anglicans disaffected by liberalising moves in their Communion such as the ordination of women, the ordination of openly gay clergy and bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions.

In November 2009 Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, stating: “In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately. The Apostolic See has responded favourably to such petitions.”

It meant dissident Anglicans could join the Catholic Church while at the same time maintaining their own distinct religious identity.

On January 1st, 2011 three Church of England bishops, two of their wives and three former sisters of the Society of St Margaret in Walsingham were received into the full communion with the Catholic Church at Westminster Cathedral in London.

They were ordained to the priesthood by the former Archbishop of Birmingham and now president of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales Cardinal Vincent Nichols on January 15th, 2011. That same day the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham was formally set up by decree of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

On Ash Wednesday 2011 about 900 laity and clergy of the Church of England ceased public ministry in the Anglican Communion and began a 40-day period of preparation to be received into the full communion with the Catholic Church. During Holy Week 2011 almost 1,000 men, women and young people were received into the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

More than 80 former Anglican priests clergymen have joined the personal ordinariate since then, with most being subsequently ordained Catholic deacons and priests.

Patsy McGarry; Irish Times; 22 December 2014