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Archbishop Mark Steven Shirilau was the founder and first Archbishop for the Ecumenical Catholic Church and he and Bishop Robert W. Martin were to play a significant role in encouraging me to re-embrace my vocation to the priesthood after my hellish experience as a candidate for the Roman Catholic Priesthood.
 
In 1995 the Holy Spirit arranged for a convergence between myself with the Ecumenical Catholic Church.  I was invited to attend one of their priesthood ordinations in Springfield Illinois and somehow Bishop Martin learned of my formational past and decided to make time to visit with me to discuss my considering to continue my vocation within the Ecumenical Catholic Church.  Despite my many gracious "no thanks" to Bishop Martin, I left Springfield back on the "formational hook" and within a few weeks accepted Bishop Martin's invitation to become a priest within the Ecumenical Catholic Church.
 
Shortly after my acceptance, Bishop Martin told me that I would be receiving a phone call from "the Archbishop."  After my Roman Catholic formation experiences, the idea of a chat with "The Archbishop" didn't especially impress me.  Nevertheless one night I was hosting a small party of friends and had enjoyed martinis, complimented with some fine wine with dinner and had just settled back with my guests and was having a B&B when the the phone rang.  After saying hello, the voice on the other end of the phone said, "Hi, this is Archbishop Shirilau."  I though it was one of my friends calling and joking, so I responded by saying, "and I'm the Duke of Windsor" and hung up.  Within the hour Bishop Martin phoned me to say that the Archbishop was trying to phone and was going to call back.  Marty's advice to me was "when the phone rings and the voice says this is the Archbishop - please give him the benefit of the doubt."
 
Mark called back and I followed Marty's advice and was ultimately ordained to the priesthood on May 25th, 1996 in Chicago.
 
Ironically my canonical relationship with Mark and the Ecumenical was destined to be brief.
 
The Ecumenical Catholic Church, which is part of the great Autocephalous Catholic Movement, became home and a refuge for many who had become pastorally and sacramentaly orphaned by the Roman Catholic Church.  Mark come to the ECC via the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches, whereas myself and a few other came to the ECC directly via the Roman Catholic Church.  As much as Mark loved us "Catholics," he was wise enough to recognize a possible conflict between our ecclesiology and the more Protestant ecclesiology of the ECC and very much wanted to avoid it.  In short, Mark suggested and with his blessings encouraged us to form a community in which our ecclesiology and sacramentology could be more fully celebrated and worked with us to create the Evangelical Catholic Church in July of 1997.
 
In many ways Mark Shirilau and Marty Martin were instruments of the Holy Spirit to help the pastorally orphaned to find new avenues to reconnect with God.  In my nearly 20 years of ministry, I am just now coming to a fuller understand of how the Holy Spirit worked through Mark and how Mark, very much akin to the willingness of our Blessed Mother - accepted God's task and vocation on behalf of a greater good.
 
It is because Mark gave of himself unconditionally to God for the greater good for the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth that I was saddened to see how Mark was used by so many others to obtain valid ordinations to the priesthood and consecrations to the episcopacy.  Mark was willing to give anyone who petitioned for ordination a chance.  It was tragic to see over the years to numbers of those who Mark ordained only to turn around and stab him in the back and run out the back door. 
 
Over the past 15 years or so it was interesting to see how both Mark and I evolved.  I believe that it would be fair to say that Mark's ecclesiology and sacramentology was significantly left of center and that mine was significantly right of center.  In recent years both Mark and I had significantly moved into the center ecclesial and sacramental lane. Both Mark and I had come to the conclusion that the wider Autocephalous Catholic Movement in the United States was in a "hot mess" and needed reform and professionalism.

In 2013, the Evangelical Catholic Church and I inherited stewardship of the Saint John the Evangelist Seminary and I invited Mark and the Ecumenical Catholic Church to make the Seminary a consortium project and Mark immediately agreed.  Mark and I, along with Bishop Dermot Rodgers of the Communion of Independent Catholic Churches believed that this program of academic formation would help correct many of the problems which has plagued the Autocephalous Catholic Movement.  And I believe that in time we will succeed in doing so.

Last year Mark and I worked on how our two jurisdictions could work more closely together and we agreed on a Concordat of Recognition between our two jurisdictions.  The Evangelical Catholic Diocese of the Northwest and I elected to nominate Mark to received the Saint Joseph the Worker Award at the 2013 Bishop's Dinner and Awards Ceremony this past November.  Sadly Mark could not attend due to the death of his father Ken in October.  Mark suggested that since we would be all be gathered for a combined Retreat and Conference in May of 2014, he would sign the Concordat at that time. He further suggested that I present him with his Award at that time, so there would be a keepsake picture of us together with the Award.  I said fine, but went ahead and mailed him his award in December.  When he got it he phoned and was very emotional with gratitude.  I'm glad that I didn't wait until May of 2014.

Mark and I spend considerable time together in Chicago this past September and laid the framework for working together in the future.  Our time together made us both feel like young and vigorous newly ordained priests.

Had it not been for Mark Shirilau, Marty Martin and the Ecumenical Catholic Church - I would have never been ordained. 

The best way for me to honor Mark's trust in me so many years ago is to simply continue to serving the People of God and to continue to work for the building of His kingdom on earth.



 

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2014