Father Kimel Joins Church through Pastoral Provision
Among those witnessing the ordination were Father Kimel's wife, Christine, his mother, Ninon, and several other members of his family. Father Kimel's family includes three sons and a daughter-all adults.
Father Kimel's ordination was possible because of a special Pastoral Provision instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1980 in response to requests from priests and laity of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church who are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.
This was Archbishop Myers' first ordination of a former Episcopalian. Last year, William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, named the archbishop to the post of Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision (see The Catholic Advocate, Oct. 19, 2005). In this position, Archbishop Myers works with all other Catholic bishops in the country to oversee the process in the United States.
Father Kimel, 54, said his decision to leave the Episcopal Church, which he entered as an adult and served for more than two decades, was not an easy one. "I went through two years of painful struggle," he confessed, "but ultimately I felt that, because of the direction that the church had taken, I could not in conscience represent it to the world, nor could I summon sinners into its fellowship."
The time for this soul searching was late 2003, while he was serving as pastor of an Episcopal parish in Johnstown, PA. Father Kimel sought assistance from several friends who were Catholic clergy; one in particular-Father Augustine DiNoia, O.P., who has served on the staffs of both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.
Together they prayed and DiNoia counseled Father Kimel on the possible courses he could take.
Ultimately, Father Kimel wrote to Bernard Cardinal Law, the former Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision and after some time, Father Kimel began the formal application under the provision (see sidebar). He was received into the faith in June 2005 by another long-time friend and Catholic priest, Father Scott Newman, in Greenville, SC.
Because sponsorship by a Catholic bishop is essential to the process of being ordained under the Pastoral Provision, Archbishop Myers was happy to agree to serve as sponsor. "I spoke at length with Al Kimel and found him to be deeply spiritual and learned, and very anxious not only to come into full communion with the Church, but also to lend his talents and experience in ministry," Archbishop Myers said.
In September 2005, Al and Christine Kimel moved to New Jersey and he began serving in the archdiocese as a campus minister at Kean University in Union. Father Kimel will continue to serve in this post at the university.
"I am truly grateful to Archbishop Myers for his support and encouragement through this time," Father Kimel said. "To be accepted into the faith and to be able to serve the Church in a way for which I have been trained virtually all my life is a blessing."
Currently, some 80 former Episcopalians have been ordained under the Pastoral Provision. Five others, including Father Kimel, were approved for ordination this year.