Archbishop Carlson ordains former Anglican priest Father Michael Rennier

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson conferred the Sacrament of Holy Orders upon Father Michael Rennier Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Coneption, at the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) Downtown.

Father Rennier is a former Anglican priest who entered the Catholic Church in 2011. He underwent a period of formation before receiving permission from the Vatican's Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith to proceed with ordination to the Catholic priesthood.

He was ordained under a pastoral provision established by St. John Paul II in 1980 for the reception of Anglicans and Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. Since 1980, more than 100 former Episcopal or Anglican clergymen have been ordained in the Catholic Church.

He is the second priest currently in the archdiocese who previously was an Anglican priest, and the first to be ordained in the Archdiocese of St. Louis since the 1980 provision. Father John Jay Hughes was an Anglican priest for six years before his conversion in 1960 and ordination in 1968.

Father Rennier and his wife, Amber, have five children, ages 2 through 9. For the past several years, he was a pastoral associate at Epiphany Parish in south St. Louis, and spent the past six months there serving
as a transitional deacon. He will receive his first assignment in January. The archdiocese, which financially supports its priests, has made a special provision for the care of Father Rennier and his family.

Pope Francis once said that "there is nothing more beautiful for a man than to be called to the priesthood," Archbishop Carlson said in his homily, "called to follow Jesus, to be with Him, to bring Jesus to others, to bring them to His Word and His forgiveness. Although the work of a priest is not always easy, drawing near to Jesus in the tabernacle can renew and re-animate priestly zeal."

Father Rennier said it's not clear to him why God called him the the priesthood, but he described the calling as a "gentle, steady series of love letter in which I fell more and more in love with God. In the end, His calling on each of us is gratuitous."

Raised in St. Charles, he attended St. Charles West High School and started his faith journey in the evangelical church. He and future wife Amber attended Oral Robert University in Tulsa, Okla. Eventually, there was a calling to the Anglican church and he began his studies at Yale University where he was in formation to become an Anglican priest. He went on to serve for five years at two parishes on Cape Cod, Mass.

Father Rennier said the story of a faith journey "is not one of picking and choosing among different kinds of denominations, but is a story of a lover and beloved, the way in which we seek and ever-closer relationship with God. It's important to note that I haven't left anything behind in my journey to the fullness of the Catholic Church," adding that his conversion "is much more like coming to understand the reality at the heart of a love poem than it is an intellectual process."

He never questioned the desire to become a protestant minister, and after his conversion, he continued that desire for the Catholic priesthood. "God in His grace has brought it about," he said. "I say that it is God's grace because once a desire is formed and once your destiny is known, the only path to happiness is to throw your whole self into it and pray that our Lord will met you there. It is a constant marvel that Jesus has never missed a meeting with me yet."

In balancing the vocations of marriage, fatherhood and priesthood, Father Rennier said he gives himself completely to all of the tasks to which God has called him. He has a strong appreciation for the Church's wisdom of requiring celibacy for priests in the Roman Rite, and recognizes that because he does not share in that, he stands slightly removed from the sacrifice they have made.

"It shows the absolute commitment of these men to their Divine Spouse and to caring for the people of God," he said. "I try to be the best father possible, the best husband, the best priest, and as meager as they are, God honors those efforts. No matter a person's vocation, there will always be grace to make it possible." 

Father Rennier at a glance

Home parish: Epiphany of Our Lord, south St. Louis

Family: Parents, Steve and Kim Rennier; Wife, Amber; Children, Catherine, Mary, Michael, Augustine, Teresia

Education: St. Charles West High School; bachelor’s degree in New Testament literature, Oral Roberts University; master of divinity, Yale Divinity School

Ministry experience: pastoral associate, Epiphany of Our Lord, south St. Louis; pastor, Anglican Church of the Resurrection, Dennis Mass.; pastor, Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd, Sandwich, Mass.

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