Coming Home: Sister Thomas Aquinas and Sister Amata Veritas Share the Effects of the Anglican Return

The article below is an excerpt taken from “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” a weekly podcast series hosted by Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP. The producer of the series was GoLEDigital, a digital community created by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

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Sisters Thomas Aquinas and Amata Veritas, both raised Catholic in the Roman Rite, share their experience in a relatively new and quite unique apostolate, working with the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. This ordinariate is one of three in the world that serves the Anglicans who have converted or come back into full communion with the Catholic Church. Sisters Thomas Aquinas and Amata Veritas give us a glimpse into the process, the people, and the faith that overflows abundantly throughout this apostolate.

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Today you are doubly blessed because two of my wonderful sisters are here today. We have them here on purpose because they’re in an unusual apostolate for our community, which our community loves, and we are pouring ourselves into it. First, I ask each of you to tell a little bit about your background. I’m privileged to know the families of both Sister Thomas Aquinas and Sister Amata Veritas. They’re beautiful people. Sister Thomas Aquinas, tell us about where you grew up and how you found your vocation.

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

I’m originally from Houston, Texas. My family we moved around, and I grew up all over. My mom has a very strong faith and she passed that down to us. My siblings and I grew up with a strong faith, and more than anything we loved the Catholic Church. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Is that not the most beautiful statement?

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

We did, and as a little hint to what’s to come, I am a cradle Catholic, so the mission that we have this year has stretched me to express my love of the Church. 

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Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

How did you find your vocation? 

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

It was through the influence of a very good friend who was living in Detroit at the time. She was a mentor to me and my own faith life and growing into my own expression and my own dedication to the Lord, and I admired her. At one point, I was on a trip to visit her and she didn’t tell me where we were going exactly. She said, “Let’s go to Ann Arbor.” I thought that was amazing because I love Michigan football. I didn’t know what she had in mind. This was in 1999, so the sisters were a small group and in the old Ford house. We came, and I was blown away. My twin sister was with me. I remember when we were leaving, Mother Assumpta said to her, “I think you have a vocation,” and I didn’t hear those words, but the seeds were planted at that time. We had already talked, and we both agreed that she’s the one that had the religious vocation. That’s the beautiful thing about my family is that we have two vocations. My twin sister is actually a cloistered contemplative sister. She’s in the Order of the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Alabama, and it has been almost 18 years since her solemn vows. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Do you notice she took a very Dominican name, Sister Thomas Aquinas. Nobody’s going to ask you what you took Sister Thomas after. You wanted the whole thing stated very clearly. 

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

I did, and the name had not been taken. I came early enough in the community, and I struggled with the strength of the name. It’s not particularly feminine, and I knew that would be a statement, and I was I willing to take that on in order to spread the devotion to St. Thomas and make his teachings known.

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

You’re doing a beautiful job. We always say our names are written in Heaven. We pray, and we believe the Holy Spirit guides us. I was thrilled when you received that name because that’s like saying it very clearly who you want to emulate to the world. 

Sister Amata Veritas, where are you from in? Tell us a little about your upbringing and how you found your vocation.

Sister Amata Veritas: 

I entered right around Sister Thomas Aquinas. My mom always had a sense that I had a vacation. I’m the fifth of six kids, and my family has always been faithful. My mom and dad had holy hours, and we said the family rosary, and we listened to EWTN on shortwave radio after dinner when we were teenagers. I grew up with the presence of the faith in the house. I always had an awareness of it and always strengthening our prayer life and the teachings of the Church. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Where are you from?

Sister Amata Veritas:

I’m originally from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Did you know sisters growing up? 

Sister Amata Veritas:

I had Benedictine sisters in grade school. We had sisters around but growing up I didn’t think about religious life very much. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

When I met you, you were dating. You had determined it was marriage, and you had found the man. Tell us a little bit about how that happened. 

Sister Amata Veritas:

I went to Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. After I graduated, I taught for a couple of years at a public school. I continued to be restless, desiring what is God’s will. My mom kept on suggesting religious life and communities. Something critical that happened through God’s Providence is that I met a young woman who was discerning. She was working with our diocese on a catechesis program, and she knew my older sister. My sister kept insisting that I meet her because she knew that I would see something in her, somebody who’s young is discerning religious life and that’s not something I had seen. The young woman was entering this community the next year, Sister Elizabeth Ann. When I met Sister Elizabeth, that was influential in me. The reality of religious life is real. I came to one of our discernment retreats and again was blown away by how young everybody is. At the time, I was still dating, so I felt like I have these two beautiful vocations right in front of me. I had to be honest. I really wanted to do God’s will. That’s what I desired, and it was religious life. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Both of you have been in religious life long enough to have been in many different aspects serving the community and the universal Church. Right now, let’s get to what this quite unique apostolate is for our community especially because our community being founded on the cusp of the New Millennium and by Saint John Paul the Great, I think we have a certain courage and fearlessness with prudence and a certain gift of the Holy Spirit to be able to see the needs of the Church in the New Millennium and to say where can we serve on what capacity. Tell us about this beautiful apostolate. 

Sister Amata Veritas: 

Both of us work for the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Why don’t you explain that before we go any further? 

Sister Amata Veritas:

This is a very kind of a different apostolate. Both sister and I high school trained teachers, so this is a shift out of the classroom but still in evangelization, catechetical and love of the Church. The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter was established by the document Anglicanorum coetibus, which we are now celebrating the 10th anniversary of. It streamlined the way that Anglican converts or other denominations can enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. It was deep in Pope Benedict’s heart to promote Christian unity. This is a way to promote Christian unity. There were groups that desired union with the Catholic Church, and Anglicanorum coetibus makes it easier, particularly as a group or the priests who come. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz: 

You mentioned Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. This shows you how God uses each of us, however, we are for the plans He’s entrusted to us for the good of the universal Church. You think a person that is quieter by nature and probably has one of the most intense interior lives has to sacrificially step up to the chair of St. Peter, and yet he also is the one who was gifted by the Holy Spirit’s gift of courage and fortitude to march forward and something that had been looked at but the timing wasn’t there. I think what courage that took to establish this when our community was 12 years old. I was thinking back to 2009 and the things that were going on in us as Pope Benedict is so courageously beginning this initiative. Sister Thomas Aquinas, what would you say was the background that the Holy Father would be thinking of this and why the timing and was there that much interest?

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

There are a couple things to answer a question. I want to say one of the most unique aspects of why the Holy Father started that Ordinariate is these Parish communities are coming into the Catholic Church. Why don’t they integrate into the Diocesan system that we have? The genius of Pope Benedict was allowing these communities and clergy to retain a unique identity that they have as Anglicans, the tradition and the patrimony of English Christianity, their Saints, their form of worship, their hymnody, their architecture, and the way that they emphasize the roles of ministers within the Holy Mass. It has been a unique learning experience for me. That’s what Pope Benedict had in mind, not only the salvation of souls, but also there is this group that has a gift to give to the Universal Church, and therefore they are allowed to retain it and celebrate it and to actually put it forward. When I say the mass, just a word of clarification, the liturgy is not called the Anglican Rite or Anglican Usage, but their missal has been approved by the Sacred Congregation. It’s now referred to as the Ordinariate Form of the Liturgy. It’s within the Roman Rite. We have the extraordinary form. We have the ordinary form, and now we have the ordinariate form. Any Roman Catholic of any stripe is allowed, so to speak, to attend these masses, and they enrich Roman Catholic faith. Sister and I are both born and raised Catholic, but I had to learn how to go to mass for the first time. 

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

It’s very close. There’s a couple additional prayers and a couple different rubrics. 

Sister Amata Veritas:

It is in English, and in some ways the missal retains a lot of the Elizabethan character, so that language is unfamiliar to common Americans. It’s been very beautiful. Something I would emphasize as an essential connecting point between our community and the work that they’ve asked us to do in the ordinariate is: How can we use this? How can we promote this as a way of educating and as a way of evangelizing because that is one of Pope Benedict’s major themes in theology: the worship of God evangelizes, and if that’s done in a beautiful, worthy and reverent manner, how much more. I can see him rejoicing in it. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

Historically if you look at Pope Emeritus Benedict, it definitely will go down in history as one of the major highlights or acts of tremendous faith. Both of you play different roles. I’m sure they would love to use our entire Community. I’m sure they have so many needs as Sister Thomas Aquinas was referring to whole parishes coming in, and I’m thinking of the numbers that are growing in the Church. It reminds me to a certain extent that even when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared, how many numbers came back, and we’re in an age where the statistics that are published are always going to be much more focused on how many are leaving the faith instead of how many are coming in. God will be with His Church until the end of time. He’s promised this. It’s very clear. It’s one of my favorite passages of Matthew at the very end of the Gospel. “I will be with you until the end of time.” I think this is so exciting to be, as a community, on the cusp of something just born ten years ago, yet blossoming and blooming and bringing new life. Sister Amata Veritas, explain what you do, with whom you have the privilege to work, and how you see the future and where it’s going from your standpoint, which is very unique.

Sister Amata Veritas: 

I work on the Chancery staff for the Personal Ordinariate. One thing to help people understand is that an ordinariate is a diocese. There’s three ordinariates throughout the world. There’s the one based here that’s comprised of the United States and Canada. Then there’s the Australian ordinariate, which is the Ordinariate of the Southern Cross, and then there’s the ordinariate in England, which is the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. They’re dioceses, but they’re spread all over a geography, so instead of slicing based on geography, like the Diocese of Lansing, this diocese is based on the patrimony of the Anglican tradition that’s brought in with those who convert. That means our parishes are scattered all over the United States and Canada. There are over 40 parishes. Many of these came into the Church as a parish led by their pastor after Anglicanorum coetibus was promulgated. I mainly work with Bishop Lopes, who was consecrated as the bishop in 2016. Our staff reaches out to and supports the parishes and priests of the ordinariate. The priests of the ordinariate are also a little bit more unusual than a regular diocese because most all of them are converts to the faith, and many of them are married and have children, and they were former Anglican priests and came to understand that the Catholic Church is the one true Church and had to take great risks. Their lives are an industry. Their stories are beautiful, the acts of Grace that God gives them. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz:

What did they go through if this Anglican priest and his family and hopefully his Parish decide that they want to become Catholic? 

Sister Amata Veritas: 

First, when they come to the further knowledge in their faith that the Catholic Church is the one true Church, it means that in some ways they risk everything that they have worked for. They’ve gone to school to become an Anglican priest. They have a whole parish. Their parish is their livelihood. It’s how they support their family, their wives and their children. When they come to that realization, they realize they’re going to convert, but they’re not ordained priests in the Catholic Church because the Church does not recognize their ordination. It’s very much an act of Faith. They might not be a priest again. Once they convert and come into the Church, there’s the next discernment of is God calling me to become a Catholic priest. That’s the next step for many of these men who are looking to discern what is God calling them to do. There are a couple seminarians who have found their call to the priesthood from these ordinariate parishes now that have children growing up in the parish and now want to enter the priesthood. We do now have some homegrown vocations.

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz

These vocations at ordination, they will no longer be able to marry. 

Sister Amata Veritas: 

Those who enter the Seminary in the normal route, will not marry. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz

Introduce us to Father Hough and your role. 

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

Sister Amata Veritas works in the Chancery, so she has a bird’s eye view. She works closely with Bishop Lopes. I work in a specific parish community that is the cathedral. It’s on the same side as the Chancery. I’m working more on the ground level with a specific community. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham is an amazing parish community that is growing in leaps and bounds and has just started a mission church.

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz

I was there before anyone was around, and again, it’s the liturgy that would gather. We knew Bishop Lopes from back in Rome when he was in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. See how God plants the seeds, and if you follow, the growth occurs, and now you two are right there.

Sister Thomas Aquinas: 

It’s beautiful, and it’s been enriching for me. I work closely with Father Charles Hough. He’s the Rector and Pastor of the cathedral. It’s been a real privilege to work closely with a priest but in this context, he’s a married clergy with children. He’s very young, and he’s on fire for his faith and for his community. Our Lady of Walsingham is nearing 900 families, and this is a blossoming parish of young families. A lot of them are families that are Roman Catholic, not part of the Anglican tradition or converts. A lot of them are coming in drawn by the life of the parish. My work is directly connected to education. I’ve been asked to look at some of the current educational initiatives that the cathedral has and supports. How can these be enriched in any way? Basically it’s a contact point between the life of the ordinariate and the mission of Catholic Education in the United States. 

Sister Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz

Isn’t it beautiful that you’re catching all the important realms? Talk about the wisdom of the Church revealed in the bishop and certainly his right arm, Father Hough, and what a great duo they make. I must tell our audience a funny story. Father Hough’s son ran up to me one day and said, “I’m going to be just like my daddy,” and I said, “I think that’s wonderful, but what do you mean by that?” He said, “I’m going to be a priest someday too, but I’m not going to be like him. I am not going to get married.” It was so perfect. He already understands the change in 2009. Sisters, it’s so exciting for the entire Community to have us there and to know that you are working in a new chapter of Salvation history in our beautiful Catholic Church, and a chapter that’s going to make such a mark on our Church and has so much to offer, not only specifically in what they are doing, but virtuously in the courage to do the good, the true, and the beautiful when I’m sure many other people would not have thought it possible, and yet through the Holy Spirit’s guidance of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, it became not only possible but a reality with such an incredible blessing. Who would have thought that this early initiative, which is always the basis, which I know as a Foundress, that what you do in the beginning is what you will live with, so you better do it right and you better pray, in the Holy Spirit would have our sisters’ presence there in both of you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules, because I know you up to your ears and beyond, to come and be with us today, and may God continue to bless you and give you all the fruits of the Holy Spirit because you’re going to need them paving the way towards this beautiful new chapter of our beautiful Church’s history. On behalf of all the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, we thank you for being present today. This certainly has enkindled many more questions, so you’ll have to go on the various websites to read more. You will have to go visit Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas and see for yourself the incredible things God continues to do for His Church because He promised and will be with us until the end of time. God bless you and thank you. 


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