Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Motu Proprio, and Mass in South Bend

Hurray for Summorum Ponitficum!

After celebrating for the past couple days, I guess it's time to post something on the blog.

Interestingly, as we were awaiting the Moto Proprio, I received news that the priest stationed at the indult parish in South Bend was being transferred and that the Tribune wanted to interview me. Well, she started quoting me but didn't finish what I said. The article is also full of typos. I also said a whole lot more, including that this was a great time for hope because the pope was about ready to release a very important document.

But that's ok. It's nice to Tribune cares. Enjoy.

July 08. 2007 6:59AM

Latin service 'a time to stop, slow down'

Parishioners of St. John the Baptist fear traditional Mass will be lost with new priest.

Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND -- By 6:45 Sunday morning at St. John the Baptist Church, the parking lot is already close to full as parish members file into the small, dark church.

Women and girls wearing white and black-laced head coverings quietly take their seats in pews aside men and boys dressed in suits and ties.

Even the smallest of children seems to be following along with a prayer book when the service begins, a remarkable sight considering the words of the Mass are almost completely in Latin.

Many in this little church near the corner of St. John's Way and Ryer Street travel from as far as Michigan and Elkhart to attend the traditional service, an experience they say differs from common English Masses.

"I think a lot of people come for the solemnity, the reverence and the silence," member Dave Werling said. "We live in a busy world. (The Latin service) offers a time to stop, slow down, pray and be silent."

But although the rest of the world may soon gain more opportunity to experience the Catholic Latin service, members of St. John the Baptist may be losing theirs.

After three years, the congregation's much-loved, Latin-speaking priest, the Rev. James Seculoff, is being reassigned without a clear sign that his replacement will be able to give the same service.

This is the only one of its kind in South Bend -- and St. Joseph County -- and church members fear the change will permanently displace their Latin-Mass community.

"(It feels like) they're closing your parish, but we're not given anywhere to go," Werling said. "We're just kind of nervous about what the future is going to hold."

A faithful following

Parker and Monica Ladwig are among many who followed Seculoff from his prior parish in Bristol to South Bend because of the Latin-service Mass.

Monica Ladwig, who sings in the church choir, said their family was elated a few years ago when they learned Seculoff was moving to St. John the Baptist, a much closer trek from their South Bend home.

"We love it," Monica Ladwig said of the Mass after a recent Sunday service. "It's great for the kids."

The service is cherished by its followers for many different reasons, said Parker Ladwig, perhaps the most important being that it preserves the heritage of the Catholic church.

Along with songs and prayers in Latin, some of the Mass differences include the priest facing away from the crowd at times during the service and praying toward the altar.

Also, congregation members take Communion while kneeling in the first few pews instead of standing. The priest is the only one who gives Communion.

"We find it more edifying," said Steve Kampe, whose family drives from Benton Harbor every Sunday for the service. "It's a great treasure that was developed centuries ago."

Although "centuries-old" traditions are often seen as being kept only by those of older generations, the Ladwigs point out that the congregation at St. John the Baptist is primarily younger.

More than half the attendees on a recent Sunday were young parents with small children, which members say is common. And during the school year, a significant number of University of Notre Dame students attend the Latin service, parishioners say.

One of those students is Mary Elizabeth Walter, a Notre Dame senior originally from Maryland.

Walter says she has attended a Latin Mass since she was a child and, after moving the South Bend, was excited to find the same style of Mass.

"I've developed a great love for this particular liturgy," she said. "It seems to capture the entire spirit of the Catholic faith, especially in a university setting."

Every Sunday, Walter drives a group of Notre Dame students to St. John the Baptist Church. The population of students averages between five and 15, depending on the week, she said.

The students and other church members follow along with the Mass using a part English, part Latin missal.

Walter believes more students would attend if the Mass were closer, because many do not have vehicles.

"We would love to have a Latin Mass on campus," she said. "There is a huge student desire for this."

It's partly this growing youthful following that adds to the congregation's disappointment that a new priest able to give the same Latin-service may not be found.

"I really don't know what we're going to do," Monica Ladwig says. "Unfortunately, we're kind of stuck."

A larger Latin picture

A spokesman for or the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said last week that a replacement for Seculoff is in the process of being determined but that it's unclear whether he will be able to perform the Latin Mass.

Spokesman Vince LaBarbera said the bishop's office is aware of the parish's concerns but that he could not say for certain whether the Latin Mass will continue.

"I don't know if they will or not; it's up to the bishop," he said.

LaBarbera said an older priest would be more likely to know the Latin service, but such priests "are out there."

Bishop John D'Arcy was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

The local dilemma at St. John the Baptist comes at the heels of a recent move by Pope Benedict XVI's to allow more churches to use the old Latin Mass.

For decades, priests have had to seek permission from bishops to say the Latin Mass, and the services have largely dwindled across the country since the 1960s, according to reports.

But the pope recently signed a document -- released publically Saturday --which removes the regulation, according to Vatican.

The push has stirred debate in the Catholic community, with some reportedly arguing the change will divide the church by propelling two extremely different official rites.

Some cardinals and bishops are worried that the move will create additional changes to the reforms approved by 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, according to national reports.

But others, such as those who attend the Latin service at St. John The Baptist, believe the move is a step toward engaging more followers in the traditional Mass.

"I think if this Mass became more available to people that more people would attend," said St. John the Baptist church member Dominic Corpe.

Latin-service advocates do acknowledge that it isn't easy to find a qualified priest for the service, considering many older priests who learned the traditional Mass are now retired.

'Both are beautiful'

Seculoff, who has spent 45 years as a priest, believes both Masses are beneficial.

"The Mass is a Mass," he said. "Both Masses are beautiful. The essentials are all the same.

"I think everybody has their own way in talking with God."

In terms of being reassigned, Seculoff said he will miss his faithful followers but that he understands that priests are often moved based on need.

"I just take it as it comes," he says. "We're happy to serve wherever we are."

The priest said he is confident that the bishop will find an adequate replacement for him.

Meanwhile, members of his Latin-service community say they will continue to voice their concerns over the possibility of losing their Mass -- a service they desperately want to keep alive.

Parishioners of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church sign a petition asking the bishop to help them keep their Latin Mass service. The Rev. James Seculoff, who leads the Mass, is to be reassigned next week.


Monica Ladwig enjoys the solemnity of the Latin Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in South Bend. "I think it's a very holy Mass," she says. "This is what the Mass is supposed to mean."



Rae said...

Thank you for posting this!! I wish that they had used more of your comments--but overall, it is one of the better press treatments of traditional movement, don't you think?

Again, I'm so glad to hear that there's a strong desire for the Tridentine Mass on campus! Now that the Motu Proprio's been published, hopefully you'll soon be walking rather than driving to Mass.

Mary Liz said...

You're welcome :-)

It is pretty good and yes, hopefully, we will not be waiting much longer.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for helping to keep the magnificent Latin Mass alive.

There should be many more parishes in St. Joseph County making it available to people. In my parish, a dozen or so people have told me that they share my desire for the Latin Mass, but don't know how to go about requesting it in a way that won't put the pastor on the defensive.

Do you have any ideas?

Kathleen Martin