CHURCH HISTORY, CHAPTER IV:
The Old Catholic Church of America
The Old Catholic Church of America has its origins in the Independent Catholic Church in London and its missionary efforts. The Old Catholic Church had already established itself in England by Archbishop Arnold Harris Mathew, and several bishops in the West were determined to bring Old Catholicism to America as well, among them was a Bishop Banks.
James Bartholomew Banks of London was consecrated to the episcopacy in 1922 by Frederick Samuel Willoughby (Titular Bishop of St. Pancras). Bishop Banks, who was the head of the Independent Catholic Church (later known as the Old Catholic Orthodox Church), came to America to establish an Old Catholic presence there as an outreach of the London church.
He consecrated Paul Francis Cope as the Bishop of Old Catholic Church of America (OCCA) in May of 1925. Bishop Cope was a pious, but cautious, pastor. He maintained his flock, being careful as not to introduce it to the numerous problems and schisms which had become commonplace in other Old Catholic churches in the United States. He later accepted Francis Resch, who would become the next Archbishop of the OCCA, as a candidate for the priesthood.
BISHOP PAUL COPE AND BISHOP FRANCIS RESCH
Francis Xavier Resch was a graduate of Southern Normal University in Huntingdon, Tennessee and received his degree in languages. He taught Latin and German in the public high school at Earlsboro, Oklahoma in 1912. He married Christine Agnes Dienhart, an Episcopalian, on May 1, 1912, who bore him two children. The first child died in Earlsboro, but the second child, Frederick Sylvester born December 31, 1913 lived to become an Episcopal priest in Arizona.
Francis Resch published a newspaper in Earlsboro and later moved it to Shawnee, Oklahoma in 1913. He was superintendent of schools at Leadville, Arkansas from 1930 to 1962 later moving to Kansas City, Missouri where he qualified for the priesthood under Bishop Cope and was ordained him March 5, 1939.
As an Old Catholic priest, Father Resch was anxious to promote the growth and impact of the Church. Bishop Cope was, in the new priest's opinion, too conservative and deliberate, and having learned of a Carmel Henry Carfora, he withdrew from Cope's jurisdiction and was incardinated by Bishop Carfora.
Archbishop-Primate Carfora accepted Fr. Resch into the North American Old Roman Catholic Church and, on December 8, 1940, consecrated him as a bishop. In a matter of months, however, Resch began to regret that he had ever left Bishop Cope’s communion, and sought to rejoin the Old Catholic Church of America. He describes all this in a latter to Fr. Charles Bauer of Chicago (August 19, 1942):
"the growth of the church was very slow because of the Archbishop's great care and solicitude against taking in men who were not worthy of the trust. He hesitated taking men into the church until I came along...but because his hesitancy to expand and reach out, I withdrew and went over to the North American Old Roman Catholic Church. I was consecrated a bishop in that church by Carfora. I soon learned that I had made a great mistake in joining that church. I went back to Archbishop Cope, to bask again in the sunshine of a saintly man, a man of whom anyone could be proud, After coming back, he told me that he had intended to consecrate me to the bishopric and prevailed upon me to accept the office of auxiliary bishop, which I did. The Archbishop is very conscientious, and he has kept the church free from all evil influences.”
Indeed, Bishop Cope welcomed Resch’s return into the Old Catholic Church of America and, accepting Carfora’s consecration of him as valid, appointed him as the auxiliary bishop on June 15, 1941. Keeping in mind the prevailing troubles experienced by those bishops consecrated by Carfora and other Old Catholic bishops, he insisted that the church distinguish itself as legitimately and theologically Old Catholic: "There are at the present time so many of the independent churches that it is hard to distinguish one from the other. There is only one way to know the Old Catholic Church of America and to distinguish it from the others, and that is by its purity of purpose, it honesty and its upright Christian polity." And again "We want to guard against Carforism. Our Church is clean and pure. Every man is a gentleman. Every man is a priest, a shepherd of souls. The Church is young and small but it is holy and without spot. The size of the church is less important than the nature and kind of clergy it possesses. We teach and believe all that ancient and historic Catholic Christendom teaches.”
Bishop Resch served the church well in Missouri and in Mississippi later coming to Illinois where as an Old Catholic priest he served in Episcopal parishes. He served for awhile in St. Margaret parish, Park Fall, Diocese of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and then in Good Shepherd parish, Momence, Illinois as listed in the 1953 Episcopal Church directory. He succeeded Cope as Archbishop of the church and established the headquarters in Illinois. He was a man of education and breeding fitting Newman's definition of a gentleman in all respects. He struggled to fulfill his charge as Archbishop, keeping the church solvent by committing his financial resources as well as his talents to the mission of the church.
BISHOP WALTER BROWN
Thanks be to God that after the conclusion of Bishop Resch’s fruitful years as Archbishop-Metropolitan, he was succeeded by man who also accomplish great things. This man was Walter Xavier Brown.
Brown was born in Portage, Wisconsin, November 9, 1931, the son of Henry and Alice (nee Parks) Brown. He was educated in Wisconsin schools, completed his undergraduate studies in Illinois. He joined the Old Roman Catholic Church and received his seminary training at the St. Augustine Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Richard Arthur Marchenna on August 21, 1961.
He was later incardinated into the Old Catholic Church of America and was elevated to the episcopacy by Bishop Resch on August 25, 1963. Upon the retirement of Archbishop Resch, he succeeded him as Archbishop.
The Church prospered and grew with the dedicated leadership and sacrificial labors of Bishop Brown. Holy Family Retreat Home for men and April House for women were operated by OCCA clergy as rehabilitation centers for recovering alcoholics. Hiermonk Gregory Valentine oversaw Eastern Rite communities. The OCCA entered into communion with Archbishop Pierre Pasleau of Belgium, Archbishop Pace of the American Orthodox Catholic Church in Rome, and Bishop Perry Sills of Evangelical Orthodox Church (San Jose, California). Though not in communion with the Old Catholic Diocese of Utrecht, Bishop Earl Gasquoine was invited to attend the Conference of Old Catholic Bishops in Europe as an observer. All candidates for Holy Orders and clergy applicants for incardination were watched under scrutiny to ensure that they possessed a “strong sense of duty with a deep piety.”
BISHOP JAMES BOSTWICK
Following Archbishop Brown’s tenure, the OCCA was again blessed with another virtuous leader, under whom the Church has again experienced some wonderful improvements; among them, a standard missal for the Mass used by all clergy and the growth of the parishes and clergy in South America.
James Edward Bostwick was born in Watertown, Wisconsin on August 14, 1949 to Lawrence and Isabell (nee Roedl) Bostwick. He attended Queen of the Apostles Seminary in Madison, Wisconsin, a Roman Catholic institution run by the Pallatine Fathers and Brothers, for four years and graduated in 1969, thereupon entering the Pallatine Fathers and Brothers in Phelps, Wisconsin, where he was vested as a religious brother for a year and a half.
Hasty changes occurring in the churches following the Vatican II Council, forced Bostwick to leave. Thereafter, he discovered the Old Catholic Church of America and the traditional liturgy and teachings which had been abandoned by the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1972, he began to attend Holy Cross Seminary under the jurisdiction of the OCCA. He studied under Archbishop Brown for three and a half years and was ordained to the priesthood April 10, 1976. After ordination, the Archbishop was made pastor of the Church of the Holy Angels in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, where he remained until 1981, when Our Lady of Hope was opened in DeForest.
He was consecrated as a bishop on September 19, 1992 at St. Nicholas Cathedral, Watertown, Wisconsin. Having served as coadjutor with the right of succession until Archbishop Brown's retirement effective November 1, 1997, Archbishop Bostwick has assumed the role of Metropolitan, being solemnly installed at a Mass of Ember Saturday in Advent, December 20, 1997 at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Angels, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He currently serves as the Archbishop-Metropolitan, with Bishop Earl Patrick Gasquione as Metropolitan Chancellor and Father William J. M. Smith as Dean of Holy Cross Theological Seminary.
Old Catholic Church
+ James Bartholomew Banks
+ Paul Francis Cope
+ Francis Xavier Resch
+ Walter Xavier Brown
+ James Edward Bostwick