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Introducing Fr. Johnson  
Introducing Fr. Phillip Max Johnson
After serving many years as a Lutheran pastor, Fr. Johnson, with his wife Janet, was received into full communion with the Catholic Church in August of 2006. Shortly after that, Phillip was invited by Bishop Galante to become a candidate for the Catholic priesthood. In October of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI signed the rescript, granting the exception to the rule of celibacy and approving the ordination, which took place in May of 2010. Since then Fr. Phillip has served in the University Parish of St. Bridget as the chaplain to Catholic students and faculty at Rowan University.
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A Married Priest? - Part I
“I didn’t know a married man could be a priest? . . . Do you have children? . . . What do they think about your being a priest? . . . Will you and your wife live in the rectory? . . . What led you to leave the Lutheran ministry and become a Catholic? . . . Did your wife convert too? . . . Are your children now Catholics?” These are but a few of the questions I have been asked in my first few days as your new priest.
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A Married Priest?–Part II
Priestly celibacy is not a matter of the Church's unchanging faith. It is, however, a very ancient and holy tradition of the Church, especially cherished in the Roman Catholic Church. As Pope Paul VI stated: celibacy “is not, of course, required by the nature of the priesthood itself. This is clear from the practice of the early church and the traditions of the Eastern rite churches.” In this reflection I want to make clear why this holy tradition ought to command our deepest respect and why I do not join those who call for a whole sale abandoning of it (even if I am deeply grateful for the exception granted in certain cases).
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A Married Priest? – Part III
As I began this series, I promised to answer at least some of the questions I have been asked about my entrance into full communion with the Catholic Church and about my life as a married priest. The long story of my journey to Catholicism will have to wait for a later article. Simpler questions I can answer briefly...
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A Married Priest? – Part IV
In the early summer of 2006, I communicated to my Lutheran Bishop my intentions to resign my pastorate and to enter the Roman Catholic Church. “If I thought I could talk you out of this, I would try,” he said. We prayed together for the unity of the Church. And he asked that I remain at my post for several weeks so that we might have time to gently prepare the people of my parish. On a Sunday in August, Janet and I bade farewell to the people of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Jersey City, where I had served as pastor for 19 years. It was a difficult and moving farewell. In a deeply ecumenical gesture, the parish presented us with a crucifix (now on the wall in my office) that had been brought from Rome several years before by a priest who had attended the Second Vatican Council.
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A Married Priest?–Part V
Why would a late-middle aged Lutheran Pastor give up his vocation and livelihood, estrange himself from many beloved colleagues, and willfully suffer a breach in communion within his own family in order to enter the Roman Catholic Church? What would so compel his conscience? When I began this series I promised that I would finally get around to that question. But it's hard to give a brief account of so long a struggle. After all, my “conversion” took 30 years!
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A Married Priest?–Part VI
Here I will give a brief condensed account of the experiences and the struggles that first led me into the Catholic tradition. Next week, I will explain how it was finally determined that this catholic had to become a Catholic.
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A Married Priest - Part VII
In the previous two articles in this series, I have explained my first “conversion” from a sectarian protestantism to a catholic-minded, sacramental Lutheranism. Here I begin the account of the way these catholic convictions and longings brought me to a crisis of conscience and led me into the Roman Catholic Church.
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A Married Priest - Part VIII
As a Lutheran pastor, for years I considered myself a Catholic Christian. Roman Catholic liturgists are aware that the liturgies of the Lutheran Book of Worship are Catholic in structure and content. I sought to lead parishioners toward a Catholic piety, including private confession according to Luther's own order. I had opportunities to advocate for a corporate reunion with the Catholic Church (see part VII in this series). This article gives an account of how Catholic hope and optimism among Lutherans proved illusory (at least to me), and how the question of entering the Catholic Church became yet more urgent to me personally.
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A Married Priest - Part IX
My explanations of how I, a married man, was approved by the pope for ordination to the priesthood grew naturally into an account of how and why I came to seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. It is time to bring the story to a close. I'm grateful to those of you who had the patience to follow the story.
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