Healing Ministries: Serving God, Serving Others
Bishop Martha Theresa Shultz (1937-2007)
The Open Catholic Church was founded as a religious order called the New Order of Glastonbury in 1983 by seven clergy members of the Church of Antioch Syro-Malabar Rite, founded by Archbishop Herman Adrian Spruit. Bishop Frank Ellsworth Hughes was the first Presiding Bishop. The Order was centralized in Garden Grove, California, and under the leadership of our second Presiding Bishop, Martha Theresa Shultz, they began teaching a unique blend of esoteric Christianity, ancient Celtic spirituality, theosophy, metaphysics, together with a liberal serving of New Thought as well as traditional understanding and interpretation of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, celebrating all of the Catholic rites rich in formal, elaborate ceremonies and rubrics from both of the Latin and Eastern streams. A national following of the spiritually curious developed, and correspondence courses were expanded into seminary coursework formally established in Cortez, Colorado as the Seminary of St. Mary Our Lady of Glastonbury, where Bishops Martha and Dale Shultz purchased a seven-acre farm with the intention of creating a monastic center for religious studies.
This group of seven shared a vision of community and a desire to manifest that vision in physical reality. They had an abundance of enthusiasm but limited time, and even less money. They dreamed of creating an intentional family; a small community of mostly unrelated persons coming together to worship, celebrate and teach; a loving, caring group of people dedicated to similar goals, bridging the gaps between races, sexes, social status and religious belief and practice; but most of all, the gap we perceive between ourselves and the Wholeness we call God. As with any intentional community, religious or secular, it must have a common purpose or mission to survive and expand. The Open Catholic Church’s mission, purpose and apostolate has been to create a community of clergy healers where differences of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation or spiritual practices were far less important than the interior journey of spiritual formation with a singular purpose: to learn to love God and one another through service.
We are not the only jurisdiction in the Independent Catholic/Sacramental Church (ICSC), sometimes referred to as the Parallel Church. The diverse ministries within the ICSC reflect so much independent thought that they create and hold space for congregations that choose to worship as traditional Tridentine faith communities or establish open and affirming worship centers for the LGBT community. Many other communities follow the familiar and comfortable post-Vatican II Novus Ordo liturgical expression, while still others have developed Gnostic or Celtic liturgies, or serve the specific, cultural needs of ethnic groups. What is most common within the many ICSC is a coming together of people who have been disenfranchised by other religions to create faith communities where they are accepted, supported, loved, and their spiritual needs are being met. We believe that the original vision of being a catholic (universal) church included embracing diversity.
From 1980 until 2007 over 200 seminarians and lay students have studied at Seminary of St. Mary. St. Mary’s was one of the few established and well-regarded seminaries in the ICSC, with students being accepted and trained for other jurisdictions as well. The majority of those who sought ordination are now in active ministry with other ICSC jurisdictions or other Christian denominations. Our graduates and clergy are teachers, healers, authors, pastors, youth ministers, healthcare chaplains, and nurses. They are missional, they are travelers, and they provide pulpit supply for various churches in their communities. They do what they can do – mostly in small groups – to serve the people of God. A handful of original members are still active in the Open Catholic Church. Many have retired, and several have died.
Bishop Martha’s drive and leadership are responsible for developing the coursework for St. Mary’s, recruiting students, establishing the network between ICSM jurisdictions, and keeping the dream alive. An inheritance from her mother enabled +Martha to dedicate herself to leading the Order, overseeing the operation of the seminary, teaching classes, and directing the priesthood formation of the seminarians. At the time of her death in 2007, most of the active membership was too busy with full-time employment and part-time ministries to provide more time recreating curricula that would appeal to a new generation of seminarians.
After several false starts and failed attempts to reestablish the seminary under the direction of bishops still living in Colorado, it was decided to move the seminary to California to become a partner program of Claremont School of Theology (CST). Seminary of St. Mary is now St. Teresa Open Catholic Seminary (STOCS) and has the distinction of being the only seminary in the ICSC with the ability to transfer students into an accredited and highly regarding School of Theology in order complete graduate-level degrees.
The Open Catholic Church is an organization that seeks to build up its members and enables them to pursue their calling to leadership –as laypersons as well as ordained clergy. Like many jurisdictions of the ICSC, there are no barriers to membership, and ordination is offered to a broader spectrum of candidates than the Roman Catholic Church can offer under its current canons. ICSC clergy have and will continue to create non-traditional ministry opportunities that will include, planting churches and leading congregations in the traditional manner, provide missional ministries to assisted living and other residential communities for seniors, as well as people with disabilities, establish healing centers, serve as chaplains for military, healthcare, campus, campgrounds, corporate, and even sporting events. In fact, the possibilities for service and employment are limited only by one’s imagination.
From the beginning our motto has been “Healing Ministries: Serving God, Serving Others.” That is fundamentally what we are about. The mission of the Open Catholic Church has always been focused on training teachers and healers and creating missional ministries. However, there has also been a long-standing tradition of training teachers of teachers for the Open Catholic Church, as well as those serving in other jurisdictions.
The Open Catholic Church was originally established because of many issues with Roman canon law. It’s highlighted by its treatment and acceptance of women in ministry, the LGBT community, and its own clergy. It is our fervent belief that authentic Catholic faith lies in encouraging and promoting equality amongst all its participants. Due to our love of Catholic spirituality, the Open Catholic Church has kept Catholic traditions at the heart of its core practices. St. Teresa’s Open Catholic Seminary is a school of religion that is steeped in orthodox Catholic doctrine. We intend to bring Catholicism back to the simplicity and purity of early Christianity before canons and creeds – a time when the Church was still in conversation with itself, when the small communities of believers accepted ancient writings for the truths they held, rather than the imprimatur they bore and how they understood the Great Commandment to “Love one another.”
The Open Catholic Church encourages all its members to deepen their spiritual connection and to serve in their unique ministries according to their spiritual gifts. We offer sacraments and services to all who wish to receive them with a sincere heart, including those who have been marginalized for whatever reason from other religious groups. Our student body may belong to, attend, study the writings of, and serve in other churches.
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials,
liberty; in all things, charity.”
(Rupertus Meldenius 1582-1651)
Unlike the Protestant Reformation, the ICSC has always been closely aligned with the Roman Church in matters of doctrine, liturgy and the efficacy of the sacraments. More importantly, the many jurisdictions of sacramental churches that are not in union with the Roman Church share the same apostolic succession as Roman clergy, and, therefore, our sacraments – including Holy Orders – are considered valid. Where we differ are in the areas of inclusivity. Many of these parallel jurisdictions ordain women, married men and those who are LGBT. Some are traditionalists, celebrating the Tridentine Mass. Some are nearly identical to their Roman counterparts in teaching, preaching, liturgical and devotional practices. Others have restored the esoteric understanding and practices of ancient rites. In short, the ICSC jurisdictions all seek to minister to “other Catholics” – those who have been marginalized by the mainstream Catholic faith communities.
Progressive, Independent, Truly Catholic
Teresa of Ávila was born Teresa Ali Fatima Corella Sanchez de Cepeda y Ahumada in Ávila, Spain. She was born in 1515 – just two years before Luther started the Protestant Reformation, and less than 20 years after the Western Hemisphere was opened to colonization by Europeans. The outer turmoil that existed around her led to her own quest for inner peace.
At a time when the only paths open to women were marriage or consecrated life, Teresa’s growing love for God and prayer led her to a Carmelite convent, where she began to learn and practice contemplative prayer. While her spirituality expanded, she watched nuns in her community become worldlier and sought for reform first in her own community and, later, within the broader practices of the Church.
Besides being the founder of the Discalced Carmelites, the Roman Catholic Church declared her a Doctor of the Church in 1970 for her writings and teaching on prayer, an honor bestowed upon only three other women in the history of the Christian Church: Hildegard of Bingen, Therese of Lisieux, and Catherine of Siena.
We have chosen St. Teresa of Avila as our patroness because of her zeal for God and her willingness and courage to risk it all for reform where she saw it was needed.
The mission of STOCS is to provide an excellent education for those who serve the ICSC jurisdictions to ensure that our graduates will never have to be concerned that their seminary training did not properly prepare them for parish ministry or professional service in other fields.
The Master of Divinity degree is the professional degree required for those desiring to pursue a career in ministry, whether one seeks ordination to the Catholic priesthood or chaplaincy in the fields of healthcare, military, prison ministry, campus ministry or elsewhere. Candidates for Holy Orders in the ICSC cannot attend Roman Catholic seminaries. For those in the Parallel Church, there is no path to priestly formation and education, except through non-accredited schools or to enroll in an M.Div. program through a Catholic College in their lay leadership tract, or an M.Div. program with a non-Catholic seminary. Each option presents its own challenge: the non-accredited degree might not be accepted for employment; the Catholic M.Div. lay leadership degree lacks the essentials of priesthood formation and the non-Catholic seminary does not offer the necessary education in sacramental theology.
By completing the ecclesial degrees offered through STOCS, students will receive a solid educational foundation in sacramental theology, scripture, liturgy, and spiritual formation and a pathway to accredited M.A. and M.Div. degrees through our relationship with Claremont School of Theology. This credit transfer program requires application and acceptance into to both institutions. Upon acceptance into both schools, STOCS students may transfer up to 48 units earned through STOCS and complete the academic requirements for an M.Div. degree through CST. At this time, no other seminary in the ICSC can offer its candidates for ordination or lay leadership this opportunity.