Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Peoria diocese ordains its first married priest

By Michael Miller
Journal Star
May 17, 2008

Doug Grandon will add the role of Catholic priest to his roles of father and husband one week from today.

The 49-year-old Sterling native and father of six will become the first married man to be ordained a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. Widowers have been ordained, but never someone whose wife is still alive, said Monsignor Paul Showalter, vicar general for the diocese.
Grandon is a former Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism in 2003 along with his wife, Lynn, and four of their children.

About 100 Episcopal priests, many of them married, have become Catholic priests since a "pastoral provision" was created by Pope John Paul II in 1980, said Grandon, director of catechetics for the diocese.

Grandon said that though he came to the Christian faith as a 14-year-old born-again convert who attended an evangelical-Pentecostal church in Sterling, he’s been on this path to becoming a Roman Catholic priest the whole time, all along asking himself, "What is (the church) supposed to be like and how do I fit in it?"

"I’ve always felt from the time I was a teenager that I was called to be an ordained minister," Grandon said. "So it was natural as an evangelical and an Anglican and now as a Roman Catholic that I would pursue that."

Grandon brings plenty of experience to his new vocation.

He went to Yugoslavia in the late 1970s as a missionary serving underground churches, being ordained as an evangelical minister in 1978. Grandon started the Church on Glen Hill in Peoria in 1988, serving as pastor there until 1995, when he left for studies at St. Louis University.

After studying church history there, Grandon felt led to enter the Anglican tradition. Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1999, he was pastor at Christ Church in Moline for four years before converting to Catholicism. That move came out of a desire to more fully be in communion with the bishop of Rome, he said.

Grandon said the possibility of his becoming a Catholic priest was discussed early on. He went through several examinations, was assigned reading, and waited through the bureaucratic process.

Bishop Daniel Jenky twice asked the priests of the diocese whether they would have any problems with a married priest being among them, Grandon said. Jenky told Grandon there was "universal consensus" that he should proceed.

"The priests (of the Diocese of Peoria) have been more than kind, more than sensitive from the beginning," Grandon said.

The permission from Pope Benedict XVI for Jenky to ordain Grandon arrived on April 25. He and five other men will be ordained as priests at a 10:30 a.m. Mass on May 24 at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 607 NE Madison.

The best thing about becoming a Catholic priest, said Grandon, will be celebrating the Eucharist and knowing for sure the bread and wine are becoming the body and blood of Christ during the Mass.

His family life will remain the same, he said. Contrary to popular misunderstandings, he won’t have to be celibate.

"We have had comical questions about that from people that have tried to very graciously ask," said Lynn Grandon.

Actually, married priests are common in Eastern parts of the Catholic Church, such as the Maronite and Byzantine rites. He’ll also be able to provide for his family, since diocesan priests don’t have to take a vow of poverty.

His wife, who oversees the diocesan office of Respect Life/Human Dignity, said their children are "very, very happy" about the ordination.

The best change, she said, will be to hear him preach again.

"Honestly, we have had the joy of listening to his extraordinary sermons for 20 years, and we missed those," she said.

Vicar general Showalter said Grandon’s ordination and ministry will "offer an opportunity for us to have this experience in our diocese, see how a priest who is married will function in our parish and diocesan system."

"It’s going to be new, so there is some nervousness or apprehension on the part of some," Showalter said. He added, though, that Grandon already is well-known throughout the diocese as director of catechetics.

There will be no nervousness or apprehension for Lynn Grandon, only joy.

"I’ve watched him all of these years on this journey," Lynn Grandon said. "He has had to sort through all of his theology. I watched his anguish. I feel like he’s come on this arduous journey, and now he’s started on this new season of his life where he’s meant to be. We’re just going to get behind him and do all we can to back him in his ministry."

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