A Current Overview
The North American Old Roman Catholic Church is the original, historic and canonical Old Roman Catholic jurisdiction in the Western hemisphere. It came to the United States on November 7, 1914 when the Prince-Bishop Rudolph de Landas Berghes arrived here from Great Britain.
Bishop Berghes had been consecrated by the Old Roman Catholic Archbishop, Arnold Harris Mathew in London on June 29, 1912. He emigrated to the United States due to the political climate in Europe during the early years of the First World War. Bishop Berghes was a subject of the Austro-Hungarian empire with whom much of Europe was at war; he was related to most of the royal houses of Europe, including the Royal Family of England; and it would have been a great embarassment to the Royal Family and to the government of Great Britain, to have interned a family member of the aristocracy as a resident enemy alien. Thus with the assistance of the Royal Family, the British government, the government of the United States and the direct cooperation of the Church of England and the Episcopal Church, Bishop Berghes left England and took up residence in the United States. He settled first in New York City, later in Waukegan, Illinois, later still in Chicago, Illinois and finally in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he died in 1920.
Bishop Berghes straightway began a mission of the Old Roman Catholic Church here in the USA and on October 4, 1916 consecrated as a Bishop, The Most Reverend Carmel Henry Carfora, a former Roman Catholic Franciscan Friar, to serve as his associate and colleague. Together they laid the firm foundation in the Catholic Faith, with an indisputably valid lineage of Apostolic Succession of Holy Orders, descended from Rome and currently held in common by the greater part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy throughout the world, on which The North American Old Roman Catholic Church firmly rests today. Bishop Berghes was elected as the First Primate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church in 1916 and served in that capacity until December 22, 1919 when he returned to the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church, entering the Augustinian Friars in Villanova, Pennsylvania where he died on November 17, 1920.
The Most Reverend Carmel Henry Carfora succeeded Archbishop Berghes, serving as the Second Primate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church from October 12, 1919 until his death on January 11, 1958, having held the Office of Primate for 38 years and 3 months. Archbishop Carfora presided over the Church during its greatest missionary expansion and activity, guiding the Church's apostolic labors and growth in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Europe, South America and even into parts of Africa and Asia. Archbishop Carfora fell asleep in the Lord on January 11, 1958 in Chicago at the age of 78, after a long and valiant battle against multiple illnesses.
The Third Primate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church was Archbishop Hubert Augustus Rogers, a native of St Eustathius in the Dutch West Indies. General Synod confirmed his election to the Primacy of the Church in May 1958 following the death of Archbishop Carfora. Archbishop Rogers led the Church through the turbulent decades of the 1950's and 1960's. Society was being rocked by the Civil Rights Movement at this time, and Archbishop Rogers courageously led The North American Old Roman Catholic Church despite the many racial attacks which were made upon his character and person. The Church proudly elected a black man to the Office of Primate during these difficult times, and supported him throughout. While a number of parishes entered the Russian Orthodox Church during these years, Archbishop Rogers led the remaining parishes with great wisdom, preserving the integrity, faith, mission and apostolate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church. Archbishop Hubert Rogers resigned from the Primacy of the Church on April 30, 1972 and returned to his childhood home in the Dutch West Indies, where he was well received by all of the denominations represented in the islands, and where he finally returned into the arms of his Lord when he died on August 25, 1976.
The Most Reverend James Hubert Rogers, son of Archbishop Hubert Augustus Rogers was elected on May 20, 1972 to succeed his father as the Fourth Primate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church. For most of his Primacy, Archbishop James Rogers was faced with a problem that has plagued every denomintion since the late 1960's ... the growing sense of irreligion which has come to pervade American society. American society of the 1970's was charcterized by the "God is dead" slogan and the prevailing notion that the Church had become irrelevant in such an "enlightened world and generation". Despite these powerful influences, Archbishop James Rogers held firm to the Catholic Faith and the historic position of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church, and worked diligently to hold the church together and to initiate a number of new missions and projects. Having reached the age of 70, and after 18 years as Primate, Archbishop James Rogers handed over the Office of the Primacy to his successor.
Bishop Herve Lionel Quessy of Montreal was elected to serve as the Fifth Primate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church on September 1, 1990. Archbishop Quessy served a mere 8 months in the Primacy when he was required to step down for reasons of health and incapacity to fulfill the responsibilities of the office.
On September 1, 1991 Archbishop Edward J Ford of Boston, Massachusetts was elected to succeed Archbishop Quessy. Archbishop Ford served as the Sixth Primate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church from 1991 until he resigned from office for health and personal reasons on March 10, 2002. During the years of his Primacy, Archbishop Ford presided over a Church which had undergone a great crisis beginning with the death of Archbishop James Rogers in January 1991, together with the ensuing difficulties which occured during the short Primacy of Archbishop Quessy and the subsequent schismatic actions of several of the clergy of New York and French Canada. During these eleven years Archbishop Ford saw the slow but steady growth of the Church, the resurrection of The Augustinian as the Official Organ of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church, the re-establishment of the Franciscan Order within the Church and the revitaliztion of Religious Life in general. Many new missions were inaugurated during his Primacy and there was a short period of growth in the Church.
On March 10, 2002 Archbishop Edmund F Leeman of Forked River, New Jersey assumed the leadership of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church as the Seventh Primate in succession from Archbishop de Landas Berghes. Archbishop Leeman led the Church through a very necessary and badly needed period of self-reflection and regrouping. He held the office officially for 4 years until June 27, 2006 when Archbishop Ford was requested and designated to resume the Primacy of the Church, but actually remained at his post until June 16, 2007 when Archbishop Ford was enthroned and installed in the Primatial office.
Archbishop Edward J Ford now serves as the Eighth Primate of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church. In the short time since Archbishop Ford has resumed the Primacy, Saint Francis of Assisi Theological Seminary has been reorganized and restored to its vital role in the life of the Church; new methods of communication have been inaugurated: websites, blogs, chat rooms, online newsletter,etc. The Diocesan Bookstore has been established. The Franciscan Third Order Regular has been firmly established within the Church; new missions have been started and new clergy have joined the Church and are now laboring for the expansion of the ministry of The North American Old Roman Catholic Church; new publications have been printed and distributed; and a calendar has been prepared. The spiritual life of the church and the clergy has been a prime focus of Archbishop Ford's ministry as Primate, with the re-establishment of the Ember Saturday Clergy Days of Recollection which were originally established by the late Archbishop James H Rogers, and the establishment of new Feast Days and Holy Days to be observed within The North American Old Roman Catholic Church.
In short, The North American Old Roman Catholic Church is trying, in Christ, to make all things new, and to bring everything to perfection.
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