, Salem, MA

Local News

April 22, 2013

'A step toward unity'

Former Episcopal minister ordained as a Catholic priest

BEVERLY — Nothing like it has ever happened at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church before.

On Saturday morning, more than 400 people gathered to see Jurgen Liias join the Catholic priesthood. Included among them were his two children, his grandchildren and his wife, Gloria.

The ceremony was not in defiance of the Vatican policy of celibate priests — rather, Cardinal Sean O’Malley officiated, instituting a policy set during the tenure of Pope Benedict. In 2012, he established the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, welcoming to the Catholic fold Anglican clergy dissatisfied with their own church.

This followed an earlier welcome to their unhappy parishioners from Pope John Paul II.

Liias literally grew up in the Episcopal Church and served as a minister for 40 years, including 14 at Christ Church in Hamilton. He now finds he cannot reconcile with new policies like welcoming homosexual clergy and countenancing abortion.

He describes these policies as an attempt to “compromise and sell everything out in an effort to be liked. ... The Catholic Church is closer to the things that are right and true.”

By becoming a Catholic father, he brings a dramatic new dynamic to that church — a priest with a wife and family.

Liias won’t say this speaks to things to come, but, “It at least shows the church it’s not impossible to be a married priest.”

In an interview prior to Saturday’s ceremony, Liias acknowledged that the priesthood has previously taken on widowers with children in a program of late vocations.

He is only the second Episcopal priest with a wife ordained in the Boston Archdiocese.

His new church, Gregory the Great, will be within St. Margaret Catholic Church in Beverly Farms. All Catholics are welcome, but for now, his congregation of up to 30 will consist of people from his breakaway Episcopal church in Danvers.

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