Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 23, 2003
Restless heart leads priest home to Rome
Former Anglican priest says he had to learn to trust in God
By BYRON PRICE
"As I entered Bishop Henry's office, the bishop and Father Bastigal smiled warmly."
- Fr. Stephen Smith
Smith recalls that he and Bastigal talked about what he was going to do as he was no longer an Anglican priest. Smith asked Bastigal if it was possible to be a priest in the Catholic Church. Bastigal went to Bishop Fred Henry for advice on this request.
Henry advised Bastigal that Smith would require some study in Catholic theology, liturgy and Scriptures. Smith had a lot of this material already as an Anglican priest.
Smith says Bastigal told how the bishop had asked him to mentor Smith through this process and that he was also to meet with other priests in the diocese to help with his readiness to become a Catholic priest.
After the mentoring process Bastigal wrote a report and then he and Henry sent letters and the documentation to Rome to ask permission for Smith to become a Catholic priest.
Smith remembers: "The day I received a phone call from Bishop Henry asking me to meet at his office with him with Bastigal, a lot went through my mind. Would I need more study or would the decision just be 'no?'"
"As I entered Bishop Henry's office, the bishop and Father Bastigal smiled warmly and Bishop Henry said, There is a letter here for you from Rome. I think you may want to read it. I can remember the feeling as I read the letter - I felt truly welcomed home."
Bastigal describes his role in Smith's journey: "I think my part in all this is what the Catholic Church has done throughout the ages. I responded to what Stephen considered to be an invitation from God to follow Jesus. In this case it was to be an ordained Catholic priest.
"As a parish we had to do a little rethink on our expectations that only celibates could be ordained Catholic priests. It was a smooth transition. In fact many of the parishioners felt it was time the Catholic Church did something like this. Stephen brings the dimension of being a married man, husband and father to the role of Catholic priest. I believe these attributes will enable Stephen to reach out to many people in a realistic healing manner.
"Another plus I see is that we are able to respond with a lot more spiritual ministry to three Catholic schools as well as being able to respond more adequately to parishioners' needs. This ordination will help the whole dialogue process with other churches. We have historical differences but can actually begin to take steps to remove obstacles that exist and move towards a higher degree of unity."
Smith says, "Throughout the whole experience of becoming Catholic, Marilyn's accident and my ordination as a Catholic priest, I had to struggle with my faith. I needed to learn to relax more, let go and trust in God.
"I have been a musician for many years. I played double bass in the orchestra. Now I play guitar and love to sing. I guess one of my dreams is to have the congregation more involved in the music ministry at St. James, at least lending their voices to sing God's praises."
Father Stephen Smith was ordained a Catholic priest on July 14, 2002, in Okotoks. He took up duties as assistant pastor of St. James Parish to work with Bastigal.
On the day the newly ordained Smith and his family moved closer to his new parish, a group of 30 people showed up to help with the move. These people were from St. Paul's Anglican Church and St. James Roman Catholic Church.
Smith was moved by this experience: "It made us see more clearly that God's family is a very large extended family."
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