Throughout its history, it has been the ecumenical mission of the Catholicate of the West (“to act as a center for the reunion of Christendom”) that has been the most prominent aspect of its work, expressed through the development of the Ecumenical Apostolic Succession and a wide variety of inter-church collaborations.
However, witness at the parish level has also continued throughout. The ministry of the Catholicate is not primarily expressed through building a network of parishes; to do so would be counter-productive in that it would attempt to compete with other churches – notably within the traditionalist heritage – whose work we desire to support. Nevertheless, there remains a considerable work to be done in terms of ministry to the unchurched and those who, for whatever reason, find themselves more attuned to the experience of ministry within our company than elsewhere. This work may find expression in a parish or mission, or it may be reflected in the work of clergy within the wider community, through specialist ministries, or in formal or informal chaplaincy. Moreover, the clergy of the Catholicate of the West have always been ready to offer assistance and co-operation with their colleagues in other churches over the years.
It follows that the work of the Catholicate of the West remains committed to evangelism, but not to proselytisation. We do not seek to have others leave their churches in order to join ours. We are not interested in numbers for their own sake. We stand ready to answer the call of those who need us – perhaps for a specific time in their lives, or in a more enduring relationship.
Inevitably, limited resources have always been an issue, particularly in a situation where our clergy are geographically widespread, yet we continue to serve Our Lord with joy and dedication. Those laity who are associated with us – through parishes, prayer or study groups – take on the responsibilities of maintaining contact with their clergy, and often travelling some distance in order to attend worship and enjoy the fellowship that is a vital part of the Christian life. Where there is a need for our work, we are happy to hear from enquirers who are interested in starting a mission, or a prayer or study group. We also encourage all our laity to keep in touch with their local church, whatever its denominational affiliation may be, so that they are not denied participation in the communal life of their parish, while still being able to experience the particular charism that the Catholicate of the West offers when the occasion allows them to do so. Of course, such links must be considered carefully, and if the local parish is committed to modernist theology or served by female clergy this may give rise to issues where specific advice is needed in order that witness is not compromised.
Where a parish of the Catholicate of the West has formed and has prospects of stability, clergy and lay members will form a parish committee that will be charged, among other things, with the administrative and financial responsibility for the parish. The Catholicate maintains no central clergy or ministry fund, and its clergy receive no stipend, giving their vocations without expectation of financial compensation. Parish funds are required to be maintained in accordance with the law on non-profit organizations in the country in question, and will usually be used for the hire and maintenance of buildings where worshippers meet, for the provision of the essentials for worship, and for any charitable works that the parish may wish to support. It is up to each parish to decide whether they wish to introduce formal tithing for members, or to rely purely on ad hoc voluntary contributions to meet their expenses.
Part of the Mission of the Catholicate of the West is the encouragement of the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are described by St Paul in 1 Cor. xii 8-10 as being nine in number: the Word of Wisdom; the Word of Knowledge; Faith; Gifts of Healing; Miracles; Prophecy; Discerning of spirits; Divers kinds of Tongues, and the Interpretation of Tongues. These were all manifested in the early Church, but were lost as the later Church suppressed them. In the nineteenth-century, prayers began for the restoration of these gifts, and in answer to those prayers, they continue to be available to those Christians who desire them. In the Catholicate of the West, the clergy are responsible for the lay ministry of charismatics within their parishes, and any person wishing to exercise this lay ministry in public must first obtain a license to do so from their regionary or provincial bishop.
The Catholicate of the West practices Divine Healing through the sacrament of Unction, but also encourages the exercise of a healing ministry by those who have been blessed with this charismatic gift. Services of Divine Healing may be held involving prayer and the laying-on of hands; these may be led by lay members holding a license from their bishop. The Catholicate does not present such services as a substitute for medical care, but as an adjunct to it.
One particular feature of the Catholicate of the West is that, following a long tradition among the clergy, a number of its clergy have been engaged professionally in education, and the Catholicate has made educational engagement a particular mission priority. This has shown itself in several journal and book publications dealing with aspects of theology and church history, as well as the practical work of classroom teaching. Our most vital educational role comes in the form of instruction in the Faith for those who are new to us and exploring our particular charism within Christianity, and of course, for catechumens.