Rorate Caeli

You report: Traditional Latin Mass in the Diocese of Syracuse, NY

A glimpse of the past: TLM being offered in a private residence in Oswego in the 1980's, when there was still a "ban" on the TLM in the Diocese of Syracuse. The priest in this picture had a celebret from Cardinal Mayer, first head of the PCED. Thankfully the current situation is a lot better!

Mr. Byron Smith of Una Voce Syracuse sends us this report:
The diocese of Syracuse, New York splits the state in two, from the snowbound shore of Lake Ontario southward to the Pennsylvania border. Within its borders live 300,000 Catholics, organized in four deaneries, currently comprising 142 parishes served by 158 priests.

At the time of the papal indult, Quattuor Abhinc Annos (1984), the traditional Latin Mass was offered only in the cellar of the home of a retired priest in Homer. Petitions for the Mass began spontaneously in 1985. Bishop Frank Harrison permitted an experimental weekday evening Mass that year in each deanery, but when over 1,800 people attended the first week, he banned further celebrations. At that point, the Society of St. Pius X established a flourishing mission in Syracuse. Five years later, in the wake of the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei, Bishop Joseph O'Keefe reversed his predecessor's ban, authorizing a Sunday Mass in each deanery. For a time, the diocese had more indult Latin Masses (four each Sunday) than any other in North America.

Bishop James Moynihan succeeded Bishop O'Keefe in 1995. At present (May 2009), the Extraordinary Form Mass is offered each Sunday in Syracuse (Sacred Heart Basilica, 4:00 p.m.); Oswego (St. Mary's Church, 1:00 p.m.); Vestal (St. Vincent de Paul, 8:00 a.m.); and Utica (Our Lady of Lourdes, 9:00 a.m.) Approximately 400 Catholics regularly attend these Masses. In addition to these locations, Sacraments and Requiem Masses according to the 1962 Missal have been freely available in any parish with the permission of the pastor.

Over the years, relations between the chancery and the traditional Catholic laity have generally been positive. Una Voce-Syracuse, an apostolate incorporated in 1991, has attempted to represent the needs of the indult communities. Its goal is to make the Extraordinary Form visible in as many parishes as possible in accordance with Pope Benedict XVI's wishes recently expressed in Summorum Pontificum, while assisting the bishop in addressing the spiritual needs of the communities.

Syracuse has been afflicted by a severe shortage of priests, currently finding itself 16th from the bottom of all U.S. dioceses in comparing seminarians to Catholics. In 2007, the diocese announced that as many as 40 worship sites in the central New York area would close. This situation has affected the traditional Mass, as few trained new priests are available to fill the ranks left by the departure of older celebrants. To relieve the problem, Bishop Moynihan invited priests from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, in neighboring Scranton PA, to commute to Oswego and Utica in order to maintain the Mass venues. Another casualty of the priestshortage was St. Stephen's Church in Syracuse, which for 17 years hosted the indult Mass and which many hoped would become a traditional rite parish. Although that community migrated to the magnificent Sacred Heart Basilica, its Mass time was changed from morning to afternoon.

People of all ages attend the EF Masses, but particularly noticeable are large, homeschooling families. One of them has formed a schola to accompany the ancient liturgy in Oswego. It is edifying to newcomers to hear children render Gregorian chant and polyphony, under the direction of their musically-trained parents, even for a Low Mass.

Large families, have in turn, been formative vineyards for future priests. Although vocations have been scarce in the diocese, the four tiny Latin communities have been fruitful beyond their size. In 1993, a student attending Oswego State University discerned a vocation to Carmel after attending the traditional Mass; she took her final vows as a cloistered nun in 1999. In 2002, Carl Gismondi, who had begun serving the Latin Mass while a student at LeMoyne College in the 1990's, was ordained a priest of the Fraternity of St. Peter. Another seminarian in the diocese has been a regular attendee at the Syracuse and Utica indult locations. Like green shoots in the desert, vocations continue to spring from the reverent quiet of the ancient liturgy to nourish the Church.

To relieve the celebrant difficulties in Syracuse and across the nation, Una Voce America has launched a program aimed at teaching diocesan priests how to offer the traditional Latin Mass. UVA has partnered with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter: the Fraternity provides the training while the lay association (which now comprises over 65 chapters nationwide) provides financial assistance.

On May 26, 2009, Syracuse will receive its tenth Ordinary, Robert J. Cunningham. Speaking at a press conference on April 21 in Syracuse, he emphasized that he comes to his new flock primarily as a "shepherd of souls... sent by Pope Benedict XVI, I come to teach and preach the Word of God; to love you with wholehearted affection and to serve your needs especially as a minister of the Eucharist and reconciliation." Tradition-minded Catholics join their brethren in welcoming their new Ordinary, and pledge to collaborate with him in his mission of sanctifying the faithful through the liturgy.