History was made this month at St. Louis Catholic Church when Father Pedro Toledo became the first former Anglican priest in the Archdiocese of Miami to be ordained a Roman Catholic under the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter.
Making this occasion even more special was that Father Toledo would conduct his first mass at St. Louis on his 34th wedding anniversary. In attendance were his wife Betsy, daughters Lina and Eilyn, sons-inlaw Ruben and Victor and his 17-monthold granddaughter Olivia. His son, Andres, was away at college and could not attend.
“That’s unique in the Latino world, because nobody had heard of any Roman Catholic priest being married,” he said.
“Here in the states it is more common; some pastors from the Lutheran, Episcopal and Methodist churches who are married become Roman Catholic priests, but that is not the case in the Latino culture, even in the states.”
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Father Toledo was raised Catholic until the age of 10, when his parents became Pentecostal Evangelicans. He followed this faith into the ministry, where he began doing seminary work. It was there that he made the decision to move to the United States in 1991.
“The thing was, my professors were reformed – they were Presbyterians – and that got my attention,” he said. “I found, in the reformed tradition, too many answers to my spiritual questions. These professors encouraged me to come to the states and pursue theological study, which I did at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando.”
After completing his studies and obtaining his Master of Divinity, Father Toledo headed up a Christian reformed church for five years until he moved to Miami to start a Hispanic Christian reformed church in 2003. In 2008, he joined the Anglican Church, hoping this new path would provide him with answers to some of his lasting spiritual queries.
“The uniqueness of my pilgrimage is not due to my going from one denomination to another,” he said. “It’s not because of personal convenience. It’s because, every time, I found something new which answered questions that I could not find in the denominations I was in before.”
Father Toledo searched for those answers while leading his congregation. After five years, he still had questions. When Pope Benedict XVI established the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in 2012 to let members of the Anglican community join the Catholic Church while preserving elements of their spiritual, theological and liturgical patrimony, he decided it was time to return to his original faith.
Last Sept. 15, along with his family and 21 members of his Miami Springs reformed Episcopalian congregation, Rey de Gloria (King of Glory), he was received back into the Catholic Church after studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church for a year at St. Louis.
“Unconsciously, I believe I have been walking towards the Roman Catholic Church this entire time,” he said. “For me, this has enriched my spiritual life. I have to be grateful to God for allowing me to go through many Anglican and Protestant churches because I’ve learned from them, I have a sense of what they are trying to recover from what they say the Catholic Church lost and I believe that one of my roles here will be to teach both Catholics and Protestants about what the Roman Catholic Church believes. I think we all need to reunite with the Roman Catholic Church and one of the ways I’m showing that unity among Christians should be a reality is by becoming Roman Catholic.”