The importance of Tradition in the Long Island, N.Y. Diocese of Rockville Centre was recognized at a Tridentine Mass on Sunday, March 9, when Bishop William F. Murphy was on hand for his first pastoral visit to the Diocese's original Latin Mass indult community - a visit that, he promised, "won't be my last."
While he was officially on hand to confer the title of monsignor upon Father James F. Pereda, Judicial Vicar for the Diocese and a local champion of the Latin Mass, Bishop Murphy also seemed to signal his embrace of the Latin Mass's new status in the Church.
The extraordinary form of the Roman Rite is now celebrated at four locations in the diocese and Bishop Murphy has permitted and helped facilitate the training of diocesan priests for celebration of the old Mass.
Sunday's ceremony took place at the former St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary, where Msgr. Pereda has been the regular celebrant of the Latin Mass for more than a decade, and where he began his studies for the priesthood.
Long Island has always demonstrated a definite interest in the Latin Mass that probably cannot be matched by any other diocese in the U.S. - a statement that can be illustrated by recalling Long Island's role in the history of the the traditional resurgence, including the unapproved variety. The late Father Gommer De Pauw set up his "Catholic Traditionalist Movement" and Ave Maria Chapel here immediately after Vatican II without local episcopal approval.
The irregular Society of St. Pius X was quick to establish a chapel here, and SSPX founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was a frequent visitor, celebrating mass confirmations in large rented venues. It was also on Long Island that the Society of St. Pius V was founded in a break with the SSPX. Other independent chapels dot the area, making Bishop Murphy's solicitude for Traditionalists of his diocese - the seventh largest in the U.S, -- especially valuable for the future.
At Sunday's Mass, the bishop participated, in choir, along with several distinguished senior clergy from the diocese, some younger priests, and representatives of at least four religious communities, including the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, a teaching order, and the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The homilist, Msgr Charles L. Sangermano of Holy Saviour Church in Norristown, PA , a friend of Msgr. Pereda's, earlier this year taught a six-week program for priests on the Extraordinary Form offered by the Theological Institute at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia, PA.
Music for the Mass was provided by a large group of teenagers, Our Lady of the Angels Girls' Choir together with Saint Anthony's High School Gregorian Schola, under the direction of Br. Joshua DiMauro, OSF, assisted by Dominican Sr. Marilyn Pfriender, organist.
The chapel was filled to capacity with young men standing along the sides as the pews were filled to capacity. Many families with young children greeted Bishop Murphy during the reception.
It was enormously gratifying to many at this Tridentine Liturgy to see their shepherd process into the chapel, led by 11 young men serving as master of ceremonies, thurifer, crucifer, acolytes, torchbearers, and assistants; more than a dozen priests, Msgr. Pereda, and then the bishop.
Msgr. Pereda spoke at the reception about this day not being merely honoring a single priest but rather honoring the Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrating the communion in charity that Traditionalists enjoy with the See of Blessed Peter the Apostle. He thanked Bishop Murphy for requesting the papal honors for him, but was most grateful for his being a true father to him and to the Latin Mass community, and for never failing in his example of priestly zeal and holiness.
Mass in the Extraordinary form is currently offered within the diocese on a weekly basis at Saint Pius X Chapel, Uniondale; St. Matthew's, Dix Hills; Sacred Heart, Cutchogue; and at Our Lady of Lourdes, Malverne. This is a change in the post-Summorum Pontificum landscape as, in less than six months, we moved from one weekly and one monthly Traditional Latin Mass to the four weekly Masses we now have.
In light of the half-dozen or so young diocesan priests newly trained to offer the 1962 Missale Romanum, the outlook is positive for the growth of Latin Mass communities. History tells us that there is a fervent desire on the part of the Long Island faithful for Tradition - a desire that has now been met with active parochial and episcopal support and approval.