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.


  1. Anonymous6:47 PM

    The traditional communities must start TRADITION and BIBLE study classes to teach the importance of TRADITION to the faith and Latin Mass. This isn't 1950 the folks aren't going to just walk in .....we need trad evangelization!!!

  2. Anonymous:

    There is Blessed Mother of God Church & Academy in Syracuse that is doing a great job in "trad evangelization".

  3. Anonymous7:58 PM

    I attended Mass at St. Stephens for a couple of years with my wife and 6 children. The Diocese set up the indult Mass directly across the street from BVM Mother of God chapel which is where the SSPX celebrates Mass. I was an adherent of the SSPX but had a hard time understanding the French priest, and to be honest felt he was somewhat aloof.
    Fr. Timothy Pfeiffer became the Prior a few years ago. It was right about this time that the parishioners of St. Stephens asked the Bishop to perform the Sacrament of Confirmation for the our children in the Latin Rite. We were denied. It was at that point I realized that we were only going to get Sunday Mass and the Holy Days of obligation from the Diocese. The full richness of Tradition was right across the street at BVM with the SSPX!
    I do not mean to denigrate Una Voce or the "Indult" folks because I know quite a few of them. They are outstanding people, and the Priests who minister to them are wonderful as well. However, IMHO the best thing I ever did for my family was to go back to BVM full time and to enroll my children at the SSPX school in Warners, NY which is about 10 miles from the Church. VIVA CHRISTO REY! T. Massett

  4. Anonymous8:54 PM

    To Paul,

    Ha Ha real funny. (Assuming you are attempting to be funny)

    Those of us who are familiar with the situation in Syracuse know that BV Academy is an SSPX school. In fact, the church is right across the street from the St. Stephen's church referenced in this article. The diocese plan to park an Indult community across the street from the SSPX backfired because they ended up with two growing traditional communities instead of one. So the diocese moved the idult comminity to a nicer church with an unworkable mass time. (They must have consulted Bishop Clark in Rochester)

    I don't know what Byron Smith's relationship with the SSPX is but I know he has suffered a lot for the faith. One of the issues that I have with the SSPX (though I support them) is the attitude that sacrifices made by people like the Smith's in mostly pointless. I've had SSPX priests in Syracuse tell me that it's better that I drive my family 1.5 hours to their mass than to attend the indult mass in Rochester. Even though the SSPX saw fit to train some of our priests how to say the mass some thirty years ago.

    The SSPX has done a lot of good from the outside looking in but until we fix things on the inside the situations in places like Syracuse and Rochester and Buffalo will never improve. We should all commend people like Byron Smith who have worked very hard to keep tradition alive for the next generation of catholics.


  5. I am grateful indeed for this kind of reportage of individual dioceses and the Latin Mass.

    But now that we are well on the way to three years since our Holy Father blessed us beyond measure with Summorum Pontificum, what I would really, really love to find is a more overall picture ... a synthesis - either for America or the world.

    What really have been the effects of the Motu Proprio?

    Has there been overall continued growth, month after month?

    Has there been a certain levelling off?

    If any one knows where I can find up to date reportage on the bigger picture, I would be very grateful indeed.

    As I am other readers would too ...

    Or if anyone cares to just report their general impressions, or knows a forum where that happens, that would also be deeply appreciated.

  6. Anonymous9:36 PM

    Byron Smith has been a tireless proponent of the Traditional Mass in the diocese of Syracuse and he has witnessed many disappointments and frustrations with a sometimes clueless hierarchy, yet he persists in his loyal attachment to the Tridentine liturgy and courtesy toward priests and bishops. Catholics like Byron are very impressive and I thank Rorate Caeli for having so long an "arm" in carrying this report from Syracuse. Let us all pray for the Syracuse Catholics and their new ordinary.

  7. Just another reminder that since 7 July 2007 there are no longer any "indult" traditional Latin Masses in the Catholic Church. The proper adjective is no longer "indult" or "indulted" but something like authorised or licit.

  8. Anonymous12:03 AM

    In my city, the FFSP parish was established literally few blocks away from the SSPX chapel. I always wondered if that is done consistently and on purpose by the novus ordo bishops in other places...

  9. Anonymous12:40 AM


    Let me qualify my use of term indult by saying that all of the events in my previous post happened before SP existed.

    But since we all seem to be in the mood for splitting hairs let me just say that until any person of significance in my diocese acknowledges the existance of SP then I will continue to refer to my community as an "indult" community. It was the 1988 indult that the current Pope used to strong arm Bishop Clark into granting permission for our mass. And since SP was released nothing has changed in this diocese or our community other than receiving the privelage of having the sacrament of confirmation adminstered by a priest who has been assigned to do so by our diocese. So, as far as I can tell, nothing has changed since SP and some would argue it has gotten worse. Yes, "indult" will do for now.


  10. Re Anonymous saying:

    "So, as far as I can tell, nothing has changed since SP and some would argue it has gotten worse."

    This sounds very tragic indeed. Tragic beyond words ...

    I would very much appreciate clarification of this.

    And it makes me feel further to my last comment, that there needs to be greater general clarity among this Traditionalist Community to what extent things are improving or not.

    "Trad evangelization" these words also invoked above... are ringing in my ears and striking at my heart.

    I am writing from an isolated region of Spain. Difficult to discern the post SP situation.

    Clartification could help GALVANISE many others beside myself ...

  11. PJL, what you describe is unsurprising, since Bishop Clark has long been known to be one of the worst of a bad lot of U.S. bishops, and thus one would expect to find few if any of his priests willing or able to offer Mass in the traditional rite. Still it's no excuse for misuse of terms, and in this case there is a need to rub Bishop Clark's face in the fact that there's no more indult.

  12. Anonymous2:28 PM


    I agree that we need to use SP to our advantage. The problem with Bishops like Clark is that they are experts at spreading fear into the hearts of tradition minded priests. There are many in our community who have been trying to take this approach, but you need at least one priest who is willing to put his neck on the line. Our priests are not going to take that risk. They spent the first half of their career in exile and aren't willing to risk anything further.

    Clark is a master at keeping orthodox and traditional catholics silenced. He has provided the bare minimum to the traditional community. It's just enough to make our priests not want to risk "what we have gained." Mind you, we have been a "community" for 16 years and are no closer to parish status than when we started.
    Our priests are in a holding pattern waiting out the next 3 1/2 years till we get a new bishop.

    Which brings me to a larger point about SP as a whole. SP is not strong enough to make a difference where bishops are steadfast against tradition. One can argue that SP was not even necessary if the 1988 indult was administered properly. There were several traditional parishes that were established well before SP. It was all because of the local ordinaries.

    The only thing besides a new bishop that will help places like Rochester is for the Pope to establish a separate structure for traditional catholics. Many are hoping that this will be accomplished with the SSPX. But why wait for the SSPX? Why not do it for the FSSP and ICKSP?

    Until this happens it's all about the bishop. Taking a like from the 1992 presidential campaign, "it's the bishop stupid."


  13. 6th Anniversary of Muslim-Catholic Agreement in Diocese of Rochester

    On Saturday, May 2, at 6:00 PM at Sacred Heart Cathedral, 296 Flower City Park, the Muslim Catholic Alliance will celebrate the sixth anniversary of the historic signing of Rochester's Muslim Catholic Agreement.

    Signed in Rochester on May 5, 2003, it is believed to be the first local agreement in the world between Muslims and Catholics, pledging mutual dialogue and cooperation to promote tolerance, understanding, peace, and justice. Several other local communities in the United States have since followed the lead of Rochester in entering into similar agreements based upon the one first developed here.

    Bishop Matthew Clark will welcome the event's keynote speakers: Dr. Louay Safi, Executive Director of the Leadership and Training Program of the Islamic Center of North America; and Rev. Francis X. Mazur, Diocesan Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Officer for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. These nationally recognized speakers will each address the celebration theme of achieving peace by working for justice.

    This event is free and open to the community, and is co-sponsored by the Islamic Center of Rochester, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester, and the Commission on Christian Muslim relations.

  14. Anonymous7:39 PM

    The Latin Mass Communities of Central New York owe a considerable debt of gratitude to both Byron and Sandy Smith that can never be fully repaid. They have courageously fought the good fight for over 30 years. Only God knows how much they have sacrificed and suffered for TLM. Truly, they are unsung heroes.

  15. Anonymous9:42 PM

    "The Diocese set up the indult Mass directly across the street from BVM Mother of God chapel which is where the SSPX celebrates Mass."

    Actually the indult was there first -- it started at St. Stephen's on the first Sunday in January 1991. At that point the SSPX chapel was still on Gillespie Road, on the west side. They outgrew that chapel and purchased an abandoned Polish National Church right across the street from St. Stephen's.

    "What really have been the effects of the Motu Proprio? Has there been overall continued growth, month after month?"

    Go to and check the link, "October 2008 Report on the First Anniversary of the Motu Proprio." Also check the graph on TLM's in the U.S. at

    "The traditional communities must start TRADITION and BIBLE study classes to teach the importance of TRADITION to the faith and Latin Mass."

    It's easy to go into a traditional TLM community, sit in the pew for Mass, and then walk out. Much more difficult to volunteer for such things as CCD, server training, choir practice, vestment and equipment maintenance, missalette & veil supplies and all the other behind-the-scenes activities that go into making that Mass happen. The diocese won't help, so my advice is - volunteer! Apostolic work is thankless work, believe me so don't expect any reward on this earth. Non complangere. Ora et LABORA.

  16. Anonymous4:17 AM

    First, Byron Smith is out for Byron Smith's best interests, that is a Traditional Latin Mass in Oswego. In June 2007 he signed a venomous letter to Bp. Moynihan about so-called 'mean-spirited' Mass-goers at St. Stephen's Church who were supposedly 'printing incorrect information' by exercising their rights to the Canonical Appeal process as provided for by Holy Mother Church, to attempt to reverse the closure of that church, clearly displaying a lack of support for an established and growing Latin Mass Community. This same man tried unsuccessfully in 2006 to discourage St. Stephen's parishioners from traveling outside the diocese to have their children confirmed in the Latin Rite. This was after the Bishop of Syracuse declined to confirm them himself in that rite or allow an out-of-state diocesan bishop to come into the diocese to do so. Byron DID successfully convince and even intimidate parishioners in his own church to not do so. These families had their children confirmed locally in the Novus Ordo Rite; I know personally some who did later regret doing this. Does this sound like it would come from an Una Voce chapter head? You support for a church trying to grow its Latin Mass Community in the diocese of Syracuse and no tolerance of people wanting their children confirmed in the Latin Rite.

    Second, the SSPX came to Geddes St. AFTER the Latin Mass started at St. Stephen's. Anyone who has attended the SSPX for over 16 years can affirm this fact. Fr. Hatala who offered the Traditional Latin Mass privately for years in Homer was formerly a priest at St. Stephen's Church.

  17. This posting is about the TLM in the Diocese of Syracuse, not Byron Smith.

  18. Anonymous3:06 PM

    To the Previous Anon,

    First of all, let me apologize for incorrectly stating the timeline of the SSPX move to Geddes St.. I have not had the privilage of attending SSPX masses on a regular basis since the SSPX abandoned the Rochester priory some 20+ years ago and left behind dozens of faithfull to wither on the vine with the SSPV.

    Secondly, if you are going to attack someone it would be a bit more noble to leave some sort of signature behind. Also, a few more details to support your attack might be useful as well.

    If Byron has taken the stance that it is not wise to willfully accept sacraments from the SSPX, it is a very reasonble stance and should be expected from the head of a local Una Voce chapter. I'm assuming by "outside the diocese" you actually meant across the street at the SSPX chapel. Was Mr. Smith also against driving to another diocese such as Scranton to have the confirmation administered? You need to clarify your statements.

    There is a big difference between rejecting illicit sacraments (which sspx sacraments technically are) vs. rejecting sacraments administered by a bishop in another diocese.

    It sounds to me like Mr. Smith's positions are consistant with someone representing and organization that is in full communion with Rome.

    Finally, let me ask you this question. Is it any worse for an SSPX priest to strongly discourage you from receiving traditional sacraments from a diocesen priest? I've heard those sentiments from more than a few SSPX priests. Sounds to me like a double standard.


  19. Anonymous6:24 PM

    No, we don't go to the SSPX...we go to a diocesan confirmation out-of-state. This is a forum and I gave dates and churches. If I don't wish to be identified, that is my choice. 'PJL' doesn't exactly identify you either, by the way.

    BS started the attack when he came after the St. Stephen's Latin Mass goers precisely when we needed unity in this diocese. My guess is that he was still miffed that we went out-of-state for our children's confirmations in 2006 against his desire. He is not the representative of the TLM in the diocese of Syracuse, though maybe he imagines that he is. He comes from a very small TLM community in Oswego. People need a 'reality check'. The St. Stephen's mass goers saw the letter of June 2007 that he signed and know the truth; the parents of the 2006 confirmandi in Oswego also know.

    By attending Mass in Rochester, I don't really understand why it is of such concern anyway. You seem very anxious to get into the SSPX discussion too, which I am not a part of at all.

    To Palad, this a forum and I'll comment on any part of the article that I choose, btw

  20. Anonymous7:58 PM

    Anon from Syracuse,

    First of all, you should probably take some blood pressure meds before submitting any more postings. I wouldn't want this site to be a detriment to your health.

    The point of signing your post is not to reveal your complete identity but to provide a reference for present and future postings to the blog. That's all, no need to provide your address and social security number.

    Since your previous post did not contain specifics to where confirmations were being done my questions were honest ones. There were more than a couple of families that attended mass on both sides of the street in syracuse. And no, your original post did not contain enough details to make an accurate determination. Details like which diocese and what bishop would have been sufficient.

    If the families in your community sought confirmations from a bishop in another diocese in good standing with Rome than I commend them. I most certainly will do the same if needed when the time comes for my children to be confirmed. My father drove my oldest brother all the way to Michigan to get confirmed almost 30 years ago.

    What goes on in Syracuse is of very much concern to me. When I can not make it to the traditional mass in Rochester I most always drive to Buffalo or Syracuse to meet my Sunday obligation if it's alright with you. I would like to think that traditional catholics are charitable enough to welcome one another from neighboring diocese, especially in these times.

    If you recall some 13 years ago our three neighboring diocese (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse) organized the Christ the King conference. It was very successful and great show of support between our communities. Mr. Smith was a very active participant in that event.

    All of that being said anon, I have meet Mr. Smith several times and I would hardly characterize him the way you have done so in your postings. I'm not saying you are a liar, but my gut tells me there is more to this story than what you have put forth.

    Here's hoping that all is peaceful and well in your community.


  21. I guess some of you people don't know what respect is.

  22. Anonymous4:52 AM

    No, PJL, I'm too young and healthy for blood pressure meds. And yes, we seek the sacraments only under the jurisdiction of Rome...sorry, no more details.

    The truth is what it is...though if I come across 'the letter', I will surely post it.

  23. Byron Smith4:26 PM

    Thanks to all who found my report on the Syracuse Diocese informative.
    (To PJL -- if you are who I think you are -- please say hello to your Dad and brother for me.)

    I sent the report in hopes that it would not provoke a negative reaction from some individuals who felt UV-Syracuse should have joined a faction at St Stephen's Church in a futile campaign to keep the church open. I have been reluctant to air trad disputes in the public forum because it is unedifying, and gives aid and comfort to those who oppose the TLM.

    The private letter that Anonymous calls "venomous" was signed not only by me, but also by the chaplains of the Binghamton and Oswego communities as well as the lay coordinator of the Utica community. Its purpose was to express gratitude to a bishop who had helped us, but who was being denounced in street demonstrations organized by this faction. Bishop Moynihan thanked us for the letter, which was forwarded to the chaplain of the St Stephen's group who, I am told, also expressed appreciation.

    When a representative of that group sent me a long email in July 2007, expressing sentiments similar to those of Anonymous regarding Confirmation and the church closure, I responded very clearly as to my reasons. If Anonymous is not that person and would like to see the correspondence, please send your name & address to me at byron AT oswego DOT edu and I'll share it with you.

    Congratulations BTW to all the young people who received the Sacrament of Holy Confirmation yesterday at St Michael's Church, Scranton!

    Byron Smith

  24. Sandy Smith1:08 AM

    To Anonymous from Syracuse who does not sign her name...

    There have been many years when I have watched Byron be the first to arrive for Mass and the last to leave. Many times he missed family events and going on vacations because he put the community first. We've been in the trenches since 1984 and you are pretty much a new kid on the block, but all you seem to be doing here is complain.

    Years ago, we traveled to Homer and were inspired to do something to bring the rite back. This meant countless doors being shut... going to Rome and meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger who is now our Pope... and giving spiritually, emotionally, and financially without stint. In this case, I must speak out: you have not traveled the road that we have. We could have given up years ago but did not. That is why I am amazed at your comment that implied that my husband was self serving. He has met with bishops, priests and gone to Rome for YOU. By the way... he is only one person. In the midst of it all we had sick parents and our own illnesses, but we never let any cross stand in the way of serving for the glory of God.

    Sandy Smith

  25. Anonymous6:21 PM

    Hello Byron and Sandy,

    Is the priest in the picture who I think it is?

    Jim H

  26. Byron Smith8:46 PM

    Jim H said:
    Is the priest in the picture who I think it is?

    Hi Jim,
    No, it's not him... but he was elsewhere in the same room... and supplied the candlesticks, crucifix and vestments for that occasion!

  27. S. Kaderli12:21 AM

    I would just like to say that Byron Smith has always put the entire Traditional Latin Mass Community in the Syracuse Diocese ahead of his own needs or desires. His letter to the Bishop was only meant as support to separate those who did not want to be identified as antagonists to the Bishop. If it were not for his many hours of selfless dedication there would not be a Traditional Latin Mass in Oswego or in Utica.

  28. Anonymous9:18 AM


    Father is such a good, holy and kind priest and, like a good Boy Scout, he is always prepared for any type of liturgical action. Thank you and Sandy for all of your huge efforts for the TLM. Best regards!


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