With the hope of serving the Latino community, along with others who embrace the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America, seminarian Michael Clancy is seeking to establish the St. Bernadette Catholic Mission in Hernando County.
The church, commonly referred to as CACINA, is part of the family of independent Catholic churches that worship in the Catholic tradition but are independent and not in communion with the Vatican. It was founded in Brazil in 1945 and came to the United States in 1949.
There are 11 parishes and missions in six states in the United States, according to the CACINA website (cacina.org). This will be the second ministry in Florida. The other is St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Parish west of Brooksville, where Clancy and his wife, Janice, are members.
"We intend to worship and reach out to people in English and in Spanish and to foster a new Catholic community," Clancy said of his new mission, noting that he plans to minister to farmworkers who sometimes work seven days a week.
Clancy received approval for his mission from presiding Bishop Anthony F. Santore. It was in consonance with the College of Bishops, which, along with a House of Delegates, governs CACINA, and believes that apostolic succession has been maintained through the ages to the original apostles of Jesus Christ.
Santore is also the bishop for the diocese that includes St. Bernadette Catholic Mission and St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Parish.
"I'm excited about the opportunity my church has given me," Clancy said.
The name for the mission was selected by Clancy.
"For me, St. Bernadette (known for having a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1858 in Lourdes, France) presents a picture of faith and devotion, and that was in line with a startup mission," he said.
There is currently no physical location for the mission. Clancy is hoping someone will donate a private space that can be used on Sundays and perhaps for a midweek service as well.
Clancy's wife is supportive of his work with the mission, he said, and will serve as the secretary/treasurer.
One of the goals of CACINA is to grow and include people who wish to worship in the Catholic tradition, but not in the Roman Catholic Church.
Of special importance to the church is letting people know that everyone is welcome, regardless of race, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, political beliefs or economic status.
"With perhaps a slight emphasis on the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community," Clancy said.
CACINA churches celebrate seven sacraments: baptism, the Eucharist, reconciliation, confirmation, matrimony, holy orders and anointing the sick.
Clergy may marry and are ordained without regard to gender or sexual orientation. A former associate pastor who helped launch St. Paul the Apostle Parish was the Rev. Anne Stewart. Now deceased, she was the first female priest in the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America.
A retired Navy officer and police officer from Chicago, Clancy, 60, is now a certified computer technician with a business he started in 2001 — MichaeLogic. He expects to complete the academic requirements to be ordained by his church by year's end. He is currently a seminarian at the St. Charles Institute.
"(It is) a collective body of people, knowledge, experience and an educational archive that serves the objectives for candidates for holy orders within CACINA," Clancy said about the school, which is mostly attended online, along with service in various parishes and attendance at CACINA conventions. "The curriculum is combined with service at Mass and assisting with various pastoral duties and other ministerial endeavors outside of the parish."
Completing the program is equivalent to a master of divinity degree and is much the same as other seminaries in the Catholic tradition, he said.
He is also studying Spanish to brush up on the language he spoke in his childhood with his best friend, who was Puerto Rican, and other members of the Latino community.
At St. Paul's, Clancy is active with the church council, fundraising projects and charity activities. He assists Pastor Jim Marsh at the altar during Mass. Marsh will oversee the initial formation of St. Bernadette, as well as perform sacramental functions that Clancy cannot take part in until he is ordained as a priest.
Reared a Roman Catholic, Clancy says he strayed from the church as a teenager.
Facing a surgery a little more than a year ago, he decided to have a talk with God, which resulted in his being more thankful and complaining less.
"After a few months of thinking along those lines, I went completely to God," Clancy said. "Now I am thankful for what I have in life. If that means being a messenger for him, that is my intention."
His message is not a new one, Clancy said.
"I'm not going to say anything that anyone else hasn't already. I'm just a new person saying it."
Clancy knows that building his congregation will take time and that it will be small at the beginning.
He said he recently had the mission incorporated as a nonprofit ministry and is now a legal entity, able to rent or purchase property and open a bank account. He is ready to move forward.
"We are spreading the word that St. Bernadette is forming and that it is mobile and will bring Holy Communion to those unable to attend Mass," he said.
"So we start with nothing and need everything to build the new community."