The roots of the Celtic Christian Church go deep, and into the personal religious history of both Bishop Joseph Grenier, and Rev. Cait Finnegan. Some of their early personal history can be read on this website on other pages which highlight our foundation community or ministries, St. Ciarán's, as well as the page which tells about Our Presiding Bishop. Other influences in their lives include not only their families of origin, which were both devoutly Roman Catholic, but the circles surrounding them as they themselves began to follow Christ's call.
Joseph began novitiate with the Augustinians of the Assumption (The Assumptionist Fathers) in 1952. His spirituality was greatly influenced by his Franco-American family and the spirituality of his religious order. When, in 1980, he married Cait Finnegan, this spirituality remained and deepened within their marriage. During the first two years of their marriage he worked for a non-profit organization directed by a Jesuit and located at Fordham University. He also studied computer programming and worked for a publishing company. At that time he and Cait became very involved in CORPUS (Corp of Resigned Priests United for Service) whose members were all married Roman Catholic priests who remained willing to serve as priests in the Roman Catholic Church, while remaining married to their wives.
At the same time, they became involved in a "support group" for women who were involved with Roman Catholic priests, understanding that priests and women in that situation rarely felt safe sharing their lives with others, and therefore hid their relationships until they were able to announce their wedding, or as sadly happens all too frequently, the woman discovered she was involved with a priest who was abusing his power and did not love her. Eventually, Joseph and Cait began directing this support group and renamed it Good Tidings (to relate it to the scriptural reference to Christ's presence among us in our lives). That ministry escalated into full-time for Cait, and nearly full-time for Joseph. It was then that they relocated to the Poconos in Pennsylvania, and began offering hospitality to those women and priests who loved one another and who were honestly discerning their own futures, and to those women who had suffered from the abuse of clerical power from some priests. This ministry evolved into regularly scheduled times of fellowship and liturgy, with some of these profoundly wounded women knowing they would never again return to the Roman Catholic Church or confess to or trust a Roman Catholic priests. Cait's ministry in these circumstances is what awakened her to a call to priesthood.
In 1996 Cait and a friend went to Ireland and spent time with the married priests in Dublin, and with Cait's family in Longford. During that time in Ireland, among family and friends, and her ancestral roots, Cait's early childhood spirituality returned in a profound way, renewing her spirit. She talked with the married Irish priests who were reading Matthew Fox's ORIGINAL BLESSING, and they remarked how they'd never lost what Matthew was discovering through Creation Spirituality--their Celtic Christian Spiritual roots. That sparked an epiphany moment for Cait, and when she returned home to Pennsylvania she knew that it was a Celtic spiritual home she sought, and that the Latin Rite was not where she was most profoundly at home. Joseph, on his part, was reading the work of Matthew Fox on Creation spirituality as well, and he too sensed a call to another spiritual path, that seemed more of a home for him. When they talked and prayed, and investigated Celtic Christian spirituality together, it gradually became very clear where they both were called.
At that time several people were gathering in Joseph and Cait's home regularly for a shared Eucharist, and fellowship. They introduced Celtic Christian spirituality, and the reality of the Old Catholic Church and Independent Catholic Churches which were rooted in Roman Catholicism, and preserved the sacramental life in their Churches. These Churches also shared in apostolic succession as part of the historic Catholic Church. After discussions, prayer and reflection, the community choice was to follow a Celtic Christian spirituality, and join with a Celtic body of Churches. At this same time, others were contacting Joseph and Cait regarding beginning cell communities, and St. Ciarán's Fellowship of Celtic Christian Communities as an Independent Old Catholic Celtic Rite Church was born on April 6, 1997 with the consecration of Father Joseph Grenier to the episcopacy.
Soon after, Cait founded a Celtic religious order, The Order of the Merciful Christ for men and women who were called to live by the Rule of St. Columba.
St. Ciarán's Fellowship joined what was at that time called: The Celtic Christian Communion, as a third Church family, along with Bishop Ivan MacKillop of the Church of the Culdees in Oregon, and Bishop Thomas Faulkenbury of the Anamchara Celtic Church in Texas. The Celtic Christian Communion continued for another year and dissolved over differences regarding "open Communion" or "inclusive Communion."
St. Ciarán's Fellowship held strongly to welcoming Christians to our Eucharist, as did the Anamchara Celtic Church. When the Celtic Christian Communion dissolved, St. Ciarán's Fellowship then changed its legal name to The Celtic Christian Church, and continued to reach out to others who felt called by Christ to live a Celtic Christian spirituality in the Church Catholic.
Since the members of the Church were scattered around the country, it was decided to have a yearly retreat together, which was called a "spiritual ceili" borrowing that term from Bishop Faulkenbury. It was time to pray and play together and celebrate their Celtic Christian Faith. These yearly gatherings continue in various retreat centers chosen each year.
As the years passed, the Celtic Christian Church welcomed its second bishop, Katherine Kurtz, who joined the Celtic Christian Church on November 6, 2001, as already a consecrated bishop, transferred from the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church, and presides over All Angels Jurisdiction. Bishop Katherine's career as an author is combined with her spiritual ministry. The third bishop, Wilson Finnery, who was consecrated July 13, 2002 by Bishops Joseph Grenier, Raymond Kelly and Williard Shultz of The Catholic Apostolic Church of North America at the Kenbrook Retreat Center, and served St. Brendan's Jurisdiction since then.
On that same weekend at our Church's yearly spiritual ceili we celebrated the ordination of Deacon Brenden Fleurinck, and the Profession of Vows of Sister Patricia McClellan and Brother Seaghn O'Meara of the Order of the Merciful Christ. (The Order of the Merciful Christ, an ecumenical Celtic order, eventually became independent of the Celtic Christian Church to more easily welcome members of other denominations.)
Many have been ordained since then, and today, the Church continues to grow slowly, and beautifully, seeking not "corporate growth" but spiritual growth, with its members seeking to serve God and neighbor. We are a Church based upon the early Celtic Christian growth of "cell communities" which when they become too large to maintain the spiritual intimacy of true communities whose members know one another, break into two communities, with the second community calling forth a leader, or a leader naturally emerging from the first. We are not in a rush to build an institution, but rather are on fire to share the Good News of God-With-Us.
Bishop Joe Grenier at CCC 2009 Spiritual Ceili