“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” -Isaiah 40:11
Céad míle fáilte romhat! Welcome to the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart, an ecumenical covenant community which, while being birthed by the Celtic Christian tradition, is a part of the Free Catholic Movement within Christ’s Catholic Church. We are Celtic in spirit, ecumenical in scope, and celebrate a deeply sacramental approach to the Christian faith. Please feel free to look around and discover more about us, who we are, what we’re about, and the many ministries we are involved in. These pages will give you a glimpse into the world of our Cetlic Christian community, our faith, our practice, our vision, and our work. We hope you discover something new not only about us but perhaps about yourself as well.
Perhaps you yearn to take part in a modern and poetic worship experience that has its roots in an ancient and spiritual culture. Maybe you wish to be a part of a community small enough that your individual talents and abilities are celebrated and not lost in a sea of people. Maybe you’ve been thrown away by a “church” because of your questioning, your race, your economic status, your theology, your sexuality, or your relationship status, or how you choose to love another, or even how you dress and you need a safe place to once again experience God’s love. And maybe, just maybe you want to develop a closer relationship with the God of Love, who you know must be out there, and you just need to find the right community to help you along.
We welcome lay sisters and brothers from all walks of Christianity and you’re welcome to become a member of our religious order while remaining within your current church home. We celebrate ecumenical diversity and the priesthood of all believers. If you feel called to a more formal and ordained sacramental ministry and are without a church home we can discuss that too, but regardless, our order is open to lay and ordained people of all Christian walks, denominations, or jurisdictions and we welcome you!
Whatever your reason for being here, welcome! We think you’ll find us to be a little different than the average religious order, after all we see ourselves much less as an institution and much more as a family and we’re so glad you stopped by! .
We are believers: The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart, is a community of believers, centered on Jesus Christ, holding to the faith and traditions of the apostles as expressed in Holy Scripture and the ancient creeds of the undivided Church: The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene, The Creed of Saint Athanasius. We are a Christ-centered and Trinitarian people, believing the Sacraments impart the grace which they signify, and that Apostolic Succession unifies and empowers us to administer the Sacraments and to proclaim the Gospel given to the Church by our Lord Jesus Christ, the author of our salvation. We freely accept the continued revelation of the Word of God through the Holy Spirit and the call to love God with all of our heart, mind, and soul while loving our neighbors as our self in the same sacrificial way that Christ has loved us. We really believe and take to heart – In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity. We practice ecumenism, compassion, hospitality, and radical inclusivity while celebrating the diversity of God’s creation.
We are a community: Love one another as Christ first loved us! Love is who and what we are and the ‘merciful heart’ is our vision. We are the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart, followers of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, sharing our very lives with one another as we attempt to live out together the Beatitudes and the Two Great Commandments which our Lord Jesus gave us, to be for us an example of the Christian way of life. We are a community of adults who accept a shared Rule of Common Life and the disciplines of our community life freely, as we attempt to become, with each other, more fully human, more fully alive to God’s presence in us, in all other persons, and in his splendid creation.
Our Order is not one of brick and mortar but rather of tribal or familial connection that calls us to share with each other the pasture of our lives. Though the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart may have a central gathering location such as an abbey, the continual focus is one of a community without walls or a pasture without fences so that we may truly bring back the wandering.
We are a seminary: From the Rule of our holy Father St. Columbanus: “What is best in the world? To do the will of the maker. What is this will? That we should do what he has ordered, that is, that we should live in righteousness and seek devotedly what is eternal. How do we arrive at this? By study. We must therefore study devotedly and righteously. What is our best help in maintaining this study? The Intellect, which probes everything and, finding none of the world’s goods in which it can permanently rest, is converted by reason into the one good which is eternal.”
Whithorn School of Theology (WST) is a spiritual continuation of the tradition of Celtic Catholic monks of long ago in the education of women and men in the theology and philosophy of the Christian Faith. WST was established as a seminary of the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart for the preparation and training of those who have been called to serve God and His Church through an ordained ministry. WST does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, or theological beliefs.
We are ministry intensive: The basis of the apostolic work of the members of the Order of the Shepherd’s Heart is to live the Gospel with a humble and joyful heart in a ministry of presence. The purpose for our presence is to proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. The most apparent manifestation of this ministry of presence is in making ourselves available and responsive.
Our ministry of presence is worked out in secular work, also, as a manifestation of our apostolic service. We do not detach our “spiritual lives” from our “secular lives”: all is one to us, and all an arena for bringing God’s love to a troubled and lonely world. We also must remember the good to the Order which such work provides, by assuring the care of the brothers and sisters and promoting the growth of the Order.
As such, we engage in various ministries as the Holy Spirit calls us to from time to time. We operate, as have religious for hundreds and hundreds of years, small enterprises that fund our various ministries. These offerings include but are not limited to, a small in-house publishing concern, St. Willibrord Press dedicated to preserving Catholic and Celtic Christian knowledge and various liturgies and documents. In conjunction with St. Willibrord Press we also operate a retail outlet in the form of Shepherd’s Heart Books and Gifts, an online Ebay store.
We are radically inclusive: Believing as Saint Isaac of Syria, “Do not try to discriminate the worthy from the unworthy, but let all people be equal in your eyes for a good deed.”
As our life is built on love, we must let our love be genuine and practical. Love does not put on airs, it is not haughty, not even inside where only God can see. For out of the abundance of the heart do we speak and act. Love allowed to work in our relationships, both with ourselves and with other persons, is respect. Let us treat each other as Christ has treated us. My brother is lonely; my sister is frightened; both are struggling to do the best they can to find love and happiness. From a gentle heart be gentle with them. See their frail humanity, created for glory by God, and love it for what it is, respect it for what it can become.
Accept those around you for who they are. Accept–but this does not always mean to agree. Respect for your own integrity will not allow you always to agree with others.
The Order of the Shepherd’s Heart does not discriminate and holds no regard for a person’s race, color, age, gender, sexual orientation, preference, relationship status, nationality, socioeconomic class, nor a person’s state of grace. We are fully committed to inclusivity and our support for the LGBTQIAPP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, questioning, intersexual, asexual, pansexual, polyamorous) and anyone who would seek to find a spiritual home within the Shepherd’s Heart is unwavering and unapologetic.
If you are so moved, please feel free to contact us for more information. Perhaps you feel that tugging upon your heart to be a part of something different, something intentional, something meaningful, maybe to be a part of our community. We welcome your inquiries and will help you as best we can to discover where God might be calling you on your “anam turas” or soul journey.
If you’re interested in joining us, please visit our Vocations Page.
Rath Dé ort!