Now, these churches may have helped pave the way for Anglicans worldwide, or Episcopalians as they are known in the U.S., to become Catholic under a new Vatican plan created to make it easier for such conversions. The surprise move revealed in October is designed to entice traditionalists opposed to women priests, openly gay clergy and blessing of same-sex unions.
Saint Mary the Virgin stuck to many of its Anglican roots, such as offering a more traditional way of receiving Communion that includes kneeling instead of standing. But in other ways, it operates the same as Catholic parishes. "We didn't join to be completely different," said Giles Hawkins, 42, the priest's son and parish member.
The Vatican and Anglican leaders have been in talks for decades over how to possibly reunite since Anglicans split with Rome in 1534 when English King Henry VIII was refused a marriage annulment. But the Vatican move could be considered as a signal that the ecumenical talks' ultimate goal is converting Anglicans to Catholicism.
"Christ's will for his church is that it's one," Hawkins said. "As Anglicans, our background is with the church (in Rome), and we didn't create that division. I would also like to see Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians unite as well."
Although details have not been finalized, the U.S. bishops are expected to create the equivalent of a nationwide diocese with one leader to oversee Anglo-Catholic parishes. Currently, each parish answers to a local Catholic bishop.
"But being a married priest has never been an issue. When I'm with other priests, they always ask about my family. I've been accepted as a Catholic priest because that's what I am," Phillips said