The Reverend Christopher G. Phillips
Christopher George Phillips was born to George and Jeanne Phillips in New Hartford, Connecticut, on December 13, 1949. The eldest of three boys, he grew up on his parents’ dairy farm. Interested in music from an early age, he served as organist and choir director in his childhood Methodist church from the age of twelve. His interest in music led him to study church music at Westminster Choir College at Princeton, New Jersey, where he was an organ scholar.
At the age of twenty, he married his wife JoAnn while he was studying at Barrington College in Rhode Island, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies and Philosophy. While at Barrington College, he became an Episcopalian and was accepted as a candidate for ordination from the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island. He and his wife departed for England, where he continued his studies at Salisbury and Wells Theological College in Salisbury. Upon completion of his studies, he was ordained for the Anglican ministry in the Diocese of Bristol, England, where he served at the parish of St. Stephen Southmead for three years.
After having spent five years abroad, he returned to Warwick, Rhode Island with his family, including two children at the time. It was while he was serving at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, Warwick, that his gradual conversion to the Catholic Faith developed.
In August of 1980, Pope John Paul II issued the Pastoral Provision which allowed Anglican clergymen to become Catholic priests, even though they may be married. In January 1982, he resigned from the Anglican ministry, and moved with his family to San Antonio, Texas, at the invitation of a small group of people who had left the Episcopal Church with the intention of becoming Roman Catholics. On July 9, 1983, Father Phillips received permission from the Holy See to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood, and was ordained by Archbishop Patrick Flores on August 15, 1983 in the Cathedral of San Fernando, San Antonio. The original parishioners made their Professions of Faith at the Mass, and the parish of Our Lady of the Atonement was established as a Personal Parish of the Anglican Common Identity and Father Phillips was appointed Pastor. The parish was granted a separate liturgical use with the approval of the Vatican. In November of that year, Father Phillips travelled to Rome where he served on the Vatican’s Liturgical Commission for the Anglican Use liturgy, which resulted in the publication of The Book of Divine Worship, and during that time he met with and said Mass with the Holy Father in his private chapel. On June 20, 1987, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments formally approved the liturgy which originally had been approved on an interim basis, and ordered it to be published. It was published as “The Book of Divine Worship” in August 2003.
Father Phillips served for six years as chaplain to the Carmelite Sisters of the Divine Heart of Jesus as well as auxiliary chaplain in the Archdiocese of the Military Services. He was a contributor to the Catholic Encyclopedia, published by Our Sunday Visitor in 1992, and to the Catholic Dictionary which was published by OSV in 1993. Father Phillips has written several hymns for congregational singing, and has recorded hundreds of audio tapes on the Old and New Testament. He has hosted a Catholic radio series on WOAI 1200, and appeared on three religious videos promoting Eucharistic Adoration on EWTN, as well as being a guest on the Coming Home program. In 1989, he and his family appeared in the “Religion” section of TIME Magazine, and in a television interview on NBC Nightly News. In 2002, he was guest speaker on two radio broadcasts and appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes in September, 2002. From 2003 to 2009, he was guest speaker on several radio broadcasts including San Antonio Catholic Radio, Michigan Public Radio and Philadelphia Public Radio, promoting the Anglican Use within the Catholic Church, and he remains very active in pro-life work.
Father Phillips is the founding pastor of Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, which was established in 1983 with 18 members. Today, the parish consists of more than 500 families and also has a school for grades Pre-K through High School – the only such school encompassing these grades in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, with nearly 500 students. In 2005, The Atonement Academy was awarded the U.S. Department of Education’s Blue Ribbon School award, and in 2008, the Preparatory School was selected as one of America’s Top 50 Catholic High Schools. The Atonement Academy is one of only two schools in the San Antonio Archdiocese to receive both of these awards. The Atonement Academy continues to place in the top 25% for all grade levels for all schools in the nation according to the Stanford National Achievement Test scores for ten consecutive years.
Father Phillips and his wife JoAnn, have five children: Christian (34), Nathan (32), Sarah (29), Catherine (25), and Lurana (21). He celebrated his twenty-fifth anniversary of ordination to the Sacred Priesthood on 15 August 2008, the same date as the parish’s twenty-fifth anniversary.