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Servants of the Holy Family is a religious order of priests and brothers in Colorado Springsmarker, Colorado, which is currently in schism from the Roman Catholic Church. They operate a parish where priests belonging to the order celebrate the Tridentine Mass. According to the website of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, in which the parish is located, "Since Fr. Ward and the priests of the Servants of the Holy Family do not possess canonical faculties to execute the sacraments publicly in this diocese, all sacramental absolutions and attempted marriages witnessed by them are invalid."

Founding of the Order

Servants of the Holy Family was founded in 1977 by Rev. Anthony Ward, without permission of the local ordinary. Their website states that they live a semi-contemplative life which also includes apostolate for the salvation of souls, that they are unswervingly faithful to traditional liturgy, and that they operate a seminary to train members of their community.

Father Anthony Ward was ordained a priest (validly but illicitly, in the view of the Catholic Church) in 1973 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of Saint Pius X. The newly-minted young priest was Lefebvre's first personal representative in the United States, and also first superior of the first SSPX seminary in the United States, in Armada, Michiganmarker. At Christmas time of 1976 Father Ward traveled to Switzerland to meet with Lefebvre, and whatever happened there was not pleasing to Ward. Returning to the US, the young priest persuaded most of "his" seminarians to follow him in early 1977 to found a religious order in Colorado Springsmarker, where there was an existing community of traditionalist Catholics desiring a permanent priest. Hugo Maria Kellner, a much more radical sort of traditionalist, wrote in 1977 that "The replacement of Anthony Ward... by Clarence Kelly as the 'country leader' for the U.S.A. probably caused Ward to leave the Lefebvre organization." Richard Cure, a Catholic traditionalist in Colorado who was an adolescent when he knew Ward at that time, speculates in a memoir that the priest's choice to quit the SSPX may have related to differing beliefs; Ward was strongly anti-sedevacantist, and he considered dangerous the belief common at that time in the SSPX in the US, that the current Pope held that seat illegitimately.

In Colorado, things were tense. SSPX priests tried to get access to the seminarians in order to convince them to return, while Father Ward tried to seclude them and keep their loyalty. Ward aggressively sought control of the traditionalist Catholic chapel on Bradley Road in Colorado Springs, then sold the chapel and used the money to buy property in the mountains to afford more privacy to his seminarians. Another bitter struggle ensued, for control of a chapel in Stratton, CO; again Ward obtained what he wanted. Richard Cure describes Ward as "a very imposing person and one who demands allegiance: unquestioning allegiance," whose sermons were excellent but whose controlling actions were very damaging. Meanwhile, Father Ward continued training the young men for priesthood, and eventually there were ordinations; these ordinations were illicit (done in violation of Canon Law) and the identity of the bishop(s) who celebrated the ordinations is not publically known. The Servants of the Holy Family were said in 2004 to have five priest members.

Irregular Relationship With the Catholic Church

The Colorado Springs Diocese was founded in 1983, and its first Bishop, Richard Hanifen, wrote articles in the diocesan newspaper giving notice to the faithful that these priests had split off from the Catholic Church. In the Fall of 2004, his successor, Bishop Michael Sheridan, mailed letters to 60 families associated with the Servants of the Holy Family parish, saying he believed their intentions were good, but advising them of the irregular status of these priests in relation to the Catholic Church and the invalidity of some of the sacraments administered by them. "I entreat you to separate yourself from the Servants of the Holy Family and return to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church," Sheridan wrote. "No one can claim to be authentically Catholic if he or she is not in communion with the diocesan bishop and the Pope." Former parishioners described the church to the press as a "cult of personality," and a strict environment where unquestioned allegiance was demanded and family rifts ensued when some family members left the parish. Online, mixed views can be found from those who have visited there, with some expressing negative experiences, but others praising the devout atmosphere, the priests' solicitude for souls, and good sermons.

The Servants of the Holy Family are also chaplains to the Sisters of Carmel, a traditional Catholic monastery of nuns founded by Rev. Ward in 1987, which is also in schism from the Catholic Church.

Notes and references

  1. Servants of the Holy Family
  2. Paul Asay, "Rogue Parish Not Roman Catholic." 'The Gazette'. Nov. 14, 2004. Colorado Springs, CO.
  3. Servants of the Holy Family -- website of the Diocese of Colorado Springs
  4. About Us-Servants of the Holy Family -- from their website
  5. Visit Us-Servants of the Holy Family -- from their website
  6. Hugo Maria Kellner. The Final Unmasking of "Archbishop" Lefebvre's Satan-Inspired, "Traditionalist" Imposture, by the Detection of the Invalidity of His Own Orders. July 1977. Pages 18-21, 29. -- a not particularly sober sedevacantist publication of that time period. Has a few paragraphs about Anthony Ward.
  7. Based on Kellner and other sources, the seminary in Armada, MI, called Saint Joseph's House, seems to have been a pre-seminary or minor seminary. A key text was the "New Saint Joseph's Baltimore Catechism", a standard Pre-Vatican II American catechism which today the Servants of the Holy Family and Sisters of Carmel both sell on their websites.
  8. If Kellner is an accurate source, the motivation for Anthony Ward's trip to Switzerland Christmas 1976 may have related to Lefebvre having replaced Ward with someone else as Lefebvre's personal representative in the US. Clarence Kelly, seminary classmate of Ward's who replaced Ward as Lefebvre's US representative, would later (1983) be expelled from the SSPX by Archbishop Lefebvre together with three other priests, because they refused to celebrate the Mass according to the Missal of 1962 but insisted on an even earlier version of the Mass, apparently due to their doubts about the legitimacy of all the Popes since Pius XII (died 1958). The expelled priests founded the Society of Saint Pius V. This perhaps ties together Kellner's and Cure's speculations about why Ward left the SSPX, perhaps because he was replaced as "country leader" and the replacement was someone whose sedevacantist ideology he found intolerable. It would not be surprising that Kellner, a sedevacantist, would emphasize Ward dramatically splitting with the SSPX as a result of losing his position as US "top dog" in the organization, but not explain in a fair-minded way the princple that motivated it, strong objection to sedevacantism.
  9. Richard L. Cure. Keeping the Faith in Stratton. 2004. PDF document. A detailed memoir of the author's experiences growing up in the traditionalist Catholic movement in Colorado. It is not perfectly certain to this researcher whether the property purchased in the mountains refers to the place where the order's current facilities would be constructed, but this would seem to be the case.
  10. David Bawden and the Society of Saint Pius X -- article from the website of someone who believes he is the Pope, briefly mentions Anthony Ward's role as superior of a SSPX seminary and leaving there for Colorado Springs
  11. Orthodox Roman Catholic Movement -- Wikipedia article mentions Anthony Ward
  12. The Servants of the Holy Family official website page Supporting Bishops lists names of three now-deceased foreign Bishops who each once or twice performed Confirmations at the Servants of the Holy Family parish. Three living Bishops who have administered Confirmations and two who have sponsored Ordinations for the group are also mentioned but not named. The Servants of the Holy Family are said in a Nov, 2004 newspaper article to have five priest members.
  13. Excerpts from Bishop Sheridan's letter to Servants of the Holy Family congregants: "In recent months I have been receiving an increasing number of inquiries about the Servants of the Holy Family. Some of these inquiries are from former members of the community; others are from people who are curious about the community. These inquiries have made it clear to me that there is a great deal of confusion as to the ecclesial/canonical status of the Servants of the Holy Family." "It is of critical importance that you know that Father Anthony Ward and the other priests of the Servants of the Holy Family have never possessed faculties to exercise sacramental ministry in the Diocese of Colorado Springs." "This means that any and all marriages he witnesses in this diocese are invalid as are all attempts to confer sacramental absolution to penitents. Any Masses celebrated by Father Ward and the priests of the Servants of the Holy Family are valid, but illicit." "I understand that those affiliated with the Servants of the Holy Family have been told by Father Ward and others that the community is in communion with the Diocese of Colorado Springs and with the Apostolic See. THIS IS NOT TRUE, as the documented history of the matter confirms." "Although I believe your intentions are good, it is very important that you understand that the community of the Servants of the Holy Family are not in communion with either the Diocese of Colorado Springs or the Holy See." "To live a life outside of this necessary communion with the local bishop and, therefore, the pope cancels even the noblest of intentions." "In light of all this I entreat you to separate yourself from the Servants of the Holy Family and return to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. No one can claim to be authentically Catholic if he or she is not in communion with the diocesan bishop and the pope." from: Paul Asay, Rogue Parish not Roman Catholic 'The Gazette'. Nov. 14, 2004. Colorado Springs, CO.
  14. Servants of the Holy Family -- a Catholic Answers Forums online discussion. See also another thread on the same website: Are the Servants of the Holy Family in Schism?
  15. Sisters of Carmel -- their official website


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