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
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
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
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.