Growth of Latin Mass parishes and chaplaincies in Australia

Growth of Latin Mass parishes and chaplaincies in Australia

Michael E. Daniel

In 2007 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum, a motu proprio which recognised that the form of the Roman Rite, often referred to as the "Latin Mass" had never been abrogated and which made provision for more widespread celebration of this liturgy, which it called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Seven years on, the positive fruits of Summorum Pontificum are being experienced in Australia, not only by those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but by the wider church.

Not only have the numbers of Masses available increased, but there are now numerous Extraordinary Form chaplaincies, particularly in major capital cities, and two personal parishes, Maternal Heart in Sydney established in 2013 and and Bl John Henry Newman in Melbourne, established recently on 28 March 2014.

Personal parishes

Article 10 of Summorum Pontificum encourages the use of the provisions of Canon 518 for the creation of personal parishes dedicated to the Extraordinary Form.

In the Catholic Church, most parishes are territorial parishes, that is, the parish priest is responsible for the pastoral needs of Catholics who live within a clearly defined area.

By contrast, the parish priest of a personal parish looks after the pastoral needs of Catholics resident in a diocese who have registered as members of the parish.

This of course, does not prevent Catholics living outside a diocese that has a personal parish for the Faithful attached to the Extraordinary Form from attending Mass and receiving the pastoral ministration of clergy of the personal parishes.

Indeed, a significant number of regular congregants of Maternal Heart and Bl John Henry Newman, including active volunteers, live beyond the boundaries of the respective archdioceses.

However, like any other parish, they have their own parish priests and assistant priests, and their own parish registers.

Thus, whereas baptisms and marriages performed, for example, at St Aloysius Caulfield in the Extraordinary Form have been hitherto entered in the Caulfield parish registers, they are now entered into the registers for Bl John Henry Newman parish.

Other Australian personal parishes with which readers may be familiar are those of the Anglican Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

What makes a parish different from a chaplaincy? By establishing a parish, the bishop of a diocese grants a community the same status as a local parish church.

When a parish is established, a bishop is obliged to appoint a new parish priest when the position of parish priest is declared vacant.

Thus, personal parishes are established only when the lay faithful have demonstrated to their bishop that there is a stable group of worshippers who regularly attend Mass and are able to support financially the running of a parish.

Melbourne and Sydney both have Latin mass communities that have existed for several decades.

In the case of Melbourne, Latin Masses have been offered continuously from the late 60s to the present day by priests in good standing with the Archdiocese, significant milestones being the establishment of a Sunday Mass at Box Hill North in 1986, and the Fraternity of St Peter commencing their Australian apostolate in Melbourne in 2000.

Both Melbourne and Sydney, together with many of the Latin Mass chaplaincies around Australia, have given a new lease of life to beautiful older church buildings.

The Maternal Heart Chapel was a convent chapel, which was no longer required with shrinking numbers of nuns. St Aloysius Church, used by Bl John Henry Newman parish for most of its Masses, is in an area of Melbourne with a high Jewish population that now has only a tiny resident Catholic population.

Similarly, the Perth Latin Mass community is housed at St Anne's Belmont, which had been closed as a parish church due to lack of congregants. There are also chaplaincies in Adelaide, Brisbane, Parramatta and Canberra.

One Chaplaincy established recently is that of Fr Terence Naughtin OFM Conv as the Latin Mass Chaplain to the Wagga Wagga Diocese.

In addition, there are other groups which support the provision of Masses and other sacraments, such as Summorum Pontificum Wangaratta, which organises Masses in the North East and which marked this year with celebration of the Easter Triduum at St Stephen's Tarrawingee, a chapel of ease for the Wangaratta parish.

The priests who staff the parishes and chaplaincies are drawn from diocesan clergy (e.g., Melbourne and Perth), religious orders (e.g., Brisbane and Wagga Wagga) and Societies of Apostolic Life such as the Fraternity of St Peter (Adelaide, Parramatta, Sydney and Canberra).

Masses are also celebrated in Hobart on some Sundays.

However, in an interesting development, the Sacred Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil) liturgies in the Extraordinary Form were celebrated in Hobart this year for the first time in over forty years.

The parishes and chaplaincies run activities similar to those of other parish churches, that is Masses, catechism and confirmation classes.

While each particular community has its own dynamic and discernible ethos, there are some common features.

Perhaps one of the most obvious is that vocal dissent from the Church's teachings is noticeable by its absence.

Catholics who regularly attend Extraordinary Form liturgies are the sort of Catholics who are interested in apologetics, rather than apologising for being Catholics.

Another noticeable feature is the number of young families. In many instances, the parents of the young families had their marriages celebrated with Nuptial Masses in the Extraordinary Form.

There are also significant numbers of young adults. On more than one occasion I have attended Extraordinary Form Masses and felt, that I in my mid-40s was one of the older members of the congregation!

Frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is also a hallmark of communities, with priests hearing numerous confessions before and after Masses, and in some cases during Masses.

Devotions such as the rosary and Eucharistic adoration are also extremely popular.

While Extraordinary Form communities are geographically distant from each other, members can keep in contact with each other through social network sites such as Facebook.

Christus Rex Pilgrimage

Many members from various communities gather together in the last weekend of October for the Christus Rex Pilgrimage, when they walk most of the distance from St Patrick's Cathedral, Ballarat, to Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo.

Beginning over 20 years ago with a modest number of pilgirms, currently some 250 to 300 pilgrims now walk the route annually, accompanied by various clergy who regularly celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

Their numbers are augmented by approximately 200 more Catholics at the final Solemn Mass in Sacred Heart Cathedral.

The presence of bishops, particularly at opening and closing liturgies, has also been encouraging.

Their presence at these and other Extraordinary Form liturgies, such as confirmations and Pontifical Masses to mark special occasions, is a recognition by the Church of the contribution the Extraordinary Form is making in the life of the Church.

Archbishop Hickey, Perth's Archbishop Emeritus, assists by celebrating Masses at St Anne's Belmont, and in recent years, Bishop Basil Meeking, Bishop Emeritus of Christchurch, has joined the Bl John Henry Newman community for Holy Week.

There are many reasons as to why people are attracted to the Extraordinary Form. The reverence for the liturgy and its emphasis on the transcendent are factors that draw a lot of people to it.

One criticism of the Extraordinary Form is that it does not allow for active participation. However, as Fr Tattersall, parish priest of Bl John Henry Newman parish, recently observed, celebration of the Solemn liturgy requires a significant number of servers and choristers.

While this can often be demanding on serving and choral teams, particularly during times of the year such as Holy Week, those who regularly participate acknowledge its intrinsic value in developing and sustaining their faith lives.

Indeed, lay involvement is a hallmark of Extraordinary Form apostolates, not only in assisting with the liturgy, but also in tasks such as church and building maintenance, and administration.

As with other parishes, lay people are also involved in a range of charitable and voluntary works. For example, parishoners at Bl John Henry Newman have been involved in works ranging from fundraising for orphanages in Africa to donating blood at the local blood bank.

One of the fruits of this movement has been the number of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, which are arguably disproportionate to the number of Catholics involved.

Some of these are for communities that celebrate the traditional liturgy exclusively. James Middeldorp, a young man from Adelaide joined the Benedictines of Clear Creek, Oaklahoma a number of years ago, and Br Paul Marie of the Cross Castieau, from Bunbury, Western Australia, professed his perpetual vows as a Carmelite in Wyoming on March 25 this year.

There has also been a steady stream of men testing their vocations with the Fraternity of St Peter at Ezechiel House, a place for discernment in Sydney, before they go abroad to study philosophy and theology.

However, other members of Latin Mass communities have gone to seminaries and congregations that offer the Ordinary Form, as well as the Extraordinary Form.

In recent years, Bl John Henry Newman parish has been blessed with numerous vocations either from members of the community or people who worshipped regularly in the Extraordinary Form at St Aloysius.

Fr Ashley Caldow, ordained on 14 September 2013 for the Diocese of Sandhurst, has regularly attended and been actively involved in the Extraordinary Form Mass at Caulfield for over ten years.

Fr Richard Waddell, a former Anglican priest, was ordained on 8 September 2013 for the Anglican Ordinariate. Br Luke Samy OP recently took his first vows with the Dominicans in the United States, Mich-ael Wood is a seminarian studying at Corpus Christi for the Archdiocese of Melbourne and Sr Paschalina Marie Peters is in simple profession with the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church in Spokane, Washington State, USA.

The most recent member of the Newman Parish to commence formation is Br Shawn Murphy, who is currently completing his novitiate as an Oratorian in Toronto, Canada.

The Toronto Oratory celebrates Mass both in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms and is known for its exemplary liturgical standards and pastoral care to a parish with a high number of low-income immigrants. Br Shawn is the first student for the Brisbane Oratory, which is currently in formation.

Another fruit of the movement has been the significant number of converts who have entered the Church in recent years, and Catholics who have returned to the practice of their faith through their discovery of the Extraordinary Form.

In many instances, this has occurred through people surfing the internet, and stumbling upon a webpage either by chance or providence.

Thus, chaplaincies and parishes dedicated to the Extraordinary Form are an integral part of the Church's fundamental mission of preaching the gospel of Jesus and the salvation of souls.

The lifting of restrictions on celebrating Extraordinary Form Masses has also seen a profusion of Extraordinary Form Masses celebrated by other priests.

In parishes such as Mentone, Blackburn North and Dandenong North in Melbourne Extraordinary Form Masses are regularly offered by parish clergy.

The greatest level of interest in the Extraordinary Form is amongst younger clergy, with workshops and individualised training being offered by priests who regularly celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

The establishment of parishes in Melbourne and Sydney thus heralds a new stage in the development of the Extraordinary Form of Mass in Australia.

One can only speculate as to what developments the Church in Australia will witness in the next seven years. Readers interested in finding out more about the Extraordinary Form can visit the websites of the various apostolates.

Michael E. Daniel is a regular contributor to AD2000 and actively involved in Bl John Henry Newman parish.

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