Vocations and Incardinatons
The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International does not offer stipendiary positions, all our clergy are “non-stipendiary” meaning that they must be financially self-sufficient and are either (self) employed, retired or members of religious institutes (shared economy), unless Parishes are able to support their priest themselves. Expenses are sometimes covered by congregations, but applicants should be aware that no accommodation or salary will be provided by the Church to them.Clergy are not required to be celibate, married and single alike are welcome to apply. All clergy are required to be chaste i.e. faithful to their partner, or modest in the development of their personal relationships. Celibacy remains an option for clergy i.e. to remain single and chaste, and many of our clergy live such a consecrated life.
The following criteria are required in support of any application for Formation/ Incardination:
You must be Christian…
First and foremost, we expect our clergy (like the Apostles) to be followers of Jesus. Non-Christians, no matter how learned or eloquent, need not apply. We expect our clergy not only to believe in Jesus as the living Son of God, but also to have acted upon that belief by giving their lives to Christ.
That means a conscious effort to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, adopting his attitudes and (inasmuch as possible) following his example. All of us fall into sin occasionally, but those who are habitual, unrepentant, public sinners are not suited for ordination. Likewise we will not ordain those who are blatantly promiscuous, regardless of their sexual orientation. Similarly, those who are dishonest will not be accepted. There have been too many charlatans in too many churches parading as people of the cloth. To be ordained is to be set apart to serve. This means following the example of Jesus as he washed the feet of the disciples at the last supper. It means at least trying to follow him in all things.
This in turn requires that one be as familiar as possible with the One we are to emulate. This requires familiarity with the Scriptures, especially the Gospels. Applicants should have gone beyond just reading the Gospels to a deep and prayerful study of them, absorbing the words of Christ and reflecting on their application to our lives and the lives of those to whom we minister. Whether this was done in a seminary setting, in weekly Bible study sessions, or in private is immaterial (although interaction with others studying the same passages can be extremely valuable). What’s important is that our clergy have an insight into the mind of God through familiarity with the words and actions of Jesus.
You must be an Catholic…
Secondly, since we are an Independent Catholic Church, applicants should be “catholic” Christians. That means that in addition to the common Christian beliefs contained in (for example) the Nicene Creed, applicants should have an appreciation for the Apostolic Succession, should believe that the seven sacraments are a means used by God to impart grace, and should believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. (Note that this does NOT require acceptance of the legalistic formulations in the relatively recent Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.) Since one of the primary duties of Catholic clergy is the administration of the sacraments, there’s no sense becoming a Catholic priest if one does not believe that sacraments can really “do” anything. Likewise, why become a priest if one believes that it doesn’t make any difference and that it doesn’t empower one to make Christ present for his people at the Mass? Likewise, it would be hypocritical to seek the sacrament of Holy Orders if one believes that this act cannot confer grace nor empower or change one.
You must be called…
The third requirement is that this Catholic Christian person has received and accepted a call to the ordained ministry. There are many wonderful ways for Catholic Christians to serve God’s people in “unordained ministry.” This includes teaching, volunteering at soup kitchens, counselling, even preaching. While opportunities for preaching are greatly expanded by ordination, they exist for others as well. A desire to preach, by itself, should not be considered a good reason for ordination beyond the Diaconate. The office of deacon is valued highly in the Church. It predates the Christian priesthood and should in no way be considered subordinate or inferior. It is different. Those who feel they are being called to ministry must at some point decide if they are being called to ministry as a priest, a deacon, or a layperson. Just because some churches require you to be a priest in order to do almost anything in the church doesn’t mean we have to follow that same practice … and we don’t. Being a counsellor, for example, requires lots of education, training, and experience. But it doesn’t require Holy Orders.
The call to ordained ministry as a Sacred Minister is essentially a call to administer the sacraments and to evangelise. “Go therefore and make disciples of those in all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Unless one has a desire to celebrate Mass for God’s people, he should not seek the priesthood.
You must be educated…
The fourth requirement is education. In order to fulfill their duties as confessors, counsellors, and homilists, members of the clergy must be educated.
You must be trained…
The fifth requirement is sufficient training so that the candidate is equipped to properly, reverently, and inspirationally celebrate Mass, perform weddings and funerals, deliver outstanding homilies, and administer the sacraments. The Formation Course is designed to give both theological and liturgical training and to fully equip the candidate for Catholic ordination. No man will be ordained who has not completed academic Formation sufficient for the Formation Faculty and Examining Chaplains to recommend him to the Bishop for Ordination. Every candidate is expected to complete the programme of study set him by the Formation Faculty. Though a small denomination with limited resources, we intend all our Sacred Ministers to be competent and professional Clerics, fully conversant in theology and philosophy of religion, with sufficient knowledge of Canon Law and absolutely confident in Sacramental intention and liturgy as well as those disciplines necessary for effective pastoral ministry.
Incardination is the process by which a Cleric or Sacred Minister becomes Canonically part of a Catholic Church or jurisdiction. Every Catholic cleric belongs to a particular church, this has been the case for centuries since the earliest Church Councils stipulated that every Ordained man should belong to a particular church community and a particular Bishop. In every Catholic jurisdiction in the world, East or West, Sacred Ministers be they deacon, priest or bishop belong to a Church in this way.
In the OCFCI Ordination means “belonging to” and “obedience” i.e. the cleric is recognised as a member of the Church and is entitled to the privileges and rights that pertain to his status in Canon Law and at the same time is beholden to certain responsibilities and ultimately subject to his ecclesiastical superior, the Bishop. Catholic tradition and order dictates that a cleric and particularly a Sacred Minister can only act sacramentally on behalf of a Bishop, incardination provides this cover.
Why incardinate with The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International?
There are several reasons why an cleric may wish to incardinate with The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International. Through no fault of their own some clerics find in the development of their spiritual life and vocation that they no longer feel called to minister within the original church of their ordination. The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International does not discriminate against clergy who left a celibate ministry to become married or who no longer feel called to a celibate expression of commitment; who no longer feel able in conscience to continue their ministry in the church of their ordination or who for whatever reason resigned their original ministry and wish to become active again.
The process of incardination in the The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International involves a period of discernment and communication in the first instance between the inquiring cleric and the nominated liaison for the Church. During this time, the candidate is invited to supply as much information as possible as to their reasons for seeking incardination, the circumstances of their leaving the church of their ordination and the liaising representative answers questions about ministry within The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International. All discussions at this stage are kept confidential. If after this initial period both parties feel that pursuing incardination would be the best step forward, on recommendation of the liaising representative an Application Form will be sent to the candidate from the Chancellery who will oversee the Incardination Process.
Throughout the Incardination Process candidates will be invited to provide as much information as possible regarding their previous ministry, the circumstances of their leaving, their reasons for seeking incardination within The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International and what they feel they can contribute to the mission and ministry of the Church. A cleric will not be incardinated who does not have some plan of ministry for the future unless he is sufficiently prohibited from exercising a ministry through infirmity or advanced age.
Various documents will be required from clergy wishing to incardinate supporting their Application including Certificates of Ordination, Confirmation and Baptism as too any documents providing proof of professional training and academic qualifications. As well evidence of excardination or rescript from a candidate’s previous jurisdiction or equivalent documents are desirable. In certain circumstances where it is not always possible or difficult to provide documentary evidence (e.g. the church of baptism no longer exists, documents/records destroyed or mislaid etc), some alternatives of proof are accepted.
References too are required from people who have known personally, worked with or taught the candidate both in secular and church life and if relevant a letter of support for their application from the candidate’s spouse. The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International believes that incardination is an holistic process seeking to know the “whole person” and candidates are encouraged to be open about their life and experiences – the good and the bad. The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International does not discriminate nor re-judge candidates for passed mistakes neither does it seek to inflict renewed condemnaton however, severe legal sanctions whether secular or ecclesiastical will be taken into consideration sensitively.
The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International hopes that whatever the outcome of an Application, the process will have been as painless and as spiritually rewarding for the candidate as possible.
The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International is an independent jurisdiction possessed of sacramental validity through an unquestionable, authentic and recognised Apostolic Lineage.
- It is a recognised Christian denomination and enjoys membership and affiliation with the World Council of Churches and other Christian bodies.
- It has fraternal relationships with other recognised independent churches of the Catholic Tradition both nationally and internationally and by Eastern and Western rite churches and has a reputation for stability and propriety. It also enjoys charitable relations with other churches within the UK of various traditions.
- It is a Canonical jurisdiction where the rights and responsibilities of clerics and laity are provided and protected and it conducts its internal affairs appropriately, justly and charitably.
- It is a personable church meaning that due to it’s size its clergy and people are known to each other and know and are known by their Bishop(s) a real community of Christian fellowship and a living school of Christian discipleship.
Deacons in the Early Church were the assistants to the Bishop not just liturgically but assisting in the organisation and pastoral care of the Church Community to which they belonged. As the Order of Presbyter developed and the distinction between Priest and Bishop became clear, the Deacons remained the first vocation in service of the Church.
PERMANENT: Following the Apostolic example of the Early Church and historical and current developments in the exercise of the Sacred Ministry, The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International offers Ordination to people desirous to serve the Church permanently in the Clerical State as Deacons. The Church recognises that not all people called to ministry are called to be Priests and recognises that over the centuries the Church as a whole has failed to give the respect and honour due to this Order as it was understood and practised in the Early Church.
Permanent Deacons are fully “Clerics” of the Church, that is they are Canonically bound in obedience to their Bishop and to the recitation of the Divine Office. They are “officers” of the Church and as such may hold positions of responsibility both locally within a Parish or generally within the Diocese.
TRANSITIONAL: Deacons ordained transitionally prior to Priestly Ordination. The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International sees no distinction between the rights and duties of Transistional and Permanent Deacons except the desire of the former to receive Priestly Orders.
A Priest stands at the Altar on behalf of the Bishop – he is a Deacon still and yet also permitted, authorised and Ordained to share in the priesthood of his Bishop. A person cannot become a Priest without a Bishop and he cannot exercise a Priestly ministry without belonging to a Bishop.
A Priest is bound Canonically i.e. by the Church’s Law, in obedience to his Bishop; he cannot do anything without the Bishop’s permission as it is the sharing in his Bishop’s ministry that he is able to celebrate the Sacraments and most especially the Mass.
In The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International this understanding of Priesthood (as explained above) forms the basis upon which we discern vocations to Priesthood. The length of time for discernment and seminary study reflects the ongoing and careful discernment of the Church and the Bishop as to the suitability of the candidate and his understanding of priesthood. Commitment and dedication to The Old Catholic Fellowship Church International, to the Church and primarily the Bishop, is what will decide whether a candidate is Ordained or not to the Priesthood.
For request Ordination and Incardination please complete the ocfci_ordination_and_incardination_application (1) and return the form to:
The Right Reverend Dr Jonathan T Hughes, Provincial Bishop for the UK, Old Catholic Fellowship Church International, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.