Chuck Hough III was thrilled when his son decided to enter the family business. His concerns were like those of any other parent: He wanted his son to make the decision independently, without pressure from family members or friends. Hough's business, though, is unlike any other in the country. He and his son, Chuck Hough IV, were recently ordained Catholic priests. Both are serving in Texas. The Houghs will join the 75 or so married former Episcopal priests currently ministering in U.S. Catholic parishes.
The married Catholic priests are being welcomed through a special arrangement called the "Pastoral Provision," approved in 1980 by Pope John Paul II. Their reasons for converting are diverse.
"I didn't become Catholic to be a Catholic priest," says the younger Hough, 31, the newly appointed pastor of Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church in Houston. "I became a Catholic for the salvation of my soul and the souls of my children and my wife. It's a grace from God that they are allowing me to petition to become a priest. It was something that was on my heart, and I would faithfully be a Catholic layman for the rest of my life."
While preparing for his diaconate ordination, Hough served as an assistant director of religious education at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller, Texas. Hough and his wife, Lindsay, lived in the parish rectory with their two children, Charlie, 4, and Wills, 1. He taught religious education and coached his son's soccer team, the Thunderdragons.
The younger Hough renounced his Episcopal orders in June 2011 and, along with his wife, joined the Catholic Church in November. The couple is among a growing faction of Episcopalians who have left the Anglican church, many because of objections to the ordination of women and gay priests as well as changes in the liturgy.
Hough and his dad received their "rescript" from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome earlier this year. That means they have met all of the spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral requirements for becoming Catholic priests. Together they were ordained deacons in May, with their ordinations to the priesthood following in June. The preparation process involved weeks of study, oral and written exams, and psychological testing.
The elder Hough, 58, served as an Episcopal priest for 31 years until March 2011, when he resigned as the Canon to the Ordinary, a position similar to the vicar general in a Roman Catholic diocese. He was received into the Catholic Church last September.
Crossing the Tiber
Father and son had been working for several years with a group of Episcopal priests in Forth Worth to join the Catholic Church en masse. They even made a presentation to the local Catholic bishop, Kevin Vann, five years ago about unifying the Episcopal and Roman Catholic dioceses.
"We thought the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was the diocese to do this," says the senior Hough. In the end, he said, several priests got cold feet.
"We were then forced by conscience to resign our livings and take this leap of faith," he says.
The younger Hough said he wasn't running away from anything when he made the decision to leave the Episcopal Church. "I was coming toward truth. I can sum up my decision by saying there was a lack of authority [in the Episcopal Church]. We looked, we sounded, and we acted like Catholics, but we weren't Catholics," he says.
One of his predecessors in the provision, Father David Bristow, 72, had an entirely different conversion. He made his decision to become Catholic when he was 12 years old. "I knew nothing about the Catholic Church except that it was down the street from our little church and it was big," says the priest in charge of St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Fort Worth. Raised by devout Episcopalians, Bristow became intrigued with the Catholic Church by reading books such as Buffer's Lives of the Saints and Faith of Our Fathers by Cardinal James Gibbons. …