Rorate Caeli

You Report: The "Extraordinary Form" in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, IN

The author of the following article is Fr. Michael Magiera. Ordained a priest for the FSSP in  2005,  he is currently a priest of the archdiocese of Indianapolis (on probation, pending full incardination) and Associate Pastor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Church.

The Extraordinary Form of the Mass in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, IN

The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite of Mass, the Tridentine Mass, the Latin Mass, the “Old” Mass, the TLM (however one wishes to call it) has been celebrated openly in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis for many years. The first one took place in 1988. It started out, as many do, on an “occasional” basis, every other month, and then gradually increased in frequency. These Masses were celebrated by good, holy, gracious and generous priests. They were “older” and somewhat out of practice, but the Masses they celebrated were a beginning of something which would prove nothing less than wonderful for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Both “Low” Masses and, occasionally, Sung Masses (with all appropriate ceremonies) were celebrated. At first, Mass was celebrated in St. John the Evangelist Church, the “Pro Cathedral” of the Archdiocese. It then moved to St. Patrick Church where weekly attendance was about 130, and then ended up – on a permanent basis – at Our Lady Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. It has been at Holy Rosary for the past 13 years. During the St. Patrick “period,” it became an “apostolate” of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP). Henceforth, TLM = EF; Novus Ordo or “English” Mass, the Ordinary Form = OF.

In 2005, another church was designated as an FSSP “Latin Mass Apostolate.” It is Ss. Philomena and Cecilia in Brookville, IN, also in the Archdiocese. This apostolate was established IN ADDITION to the apostolate at Holy Rosary in Indianapolis proper. Traveling distance between the two churches is approximately 1.5 hours. NB., at Ss. Philomena and Cecilia, it is the EF exclusively that is celebrated there. At Holy Rosary, it is celebrated along with the OF. But at Holy Rosary, there are more EFs than OFs, eight as opposed to four. The number of EFs was higher by two at one time, but so the “EF priest” could have (most of) a day off, the Monday noon EF was replaced by Mass in the OF. After a time, it was decided to have the OF in place of the EF at noon on Fridays as well. Also, on major Holy Days, there are additional Sung EFs at 7:00 PM. Except for Christmas and Holy Week, apart from very rare occasions, there are no additional, evening OF Masses. Of course, for Christmas and for Holy Week, there is the full battery of Masses and services for each form.

There is a school adjacent to Holy Rosary, a private Catholic School known as Lumen Christi. It is a “K through 12” school and “fed” by many Indianapolis city parishes, i.e., OF parishes. The students attend Mass every day, i.e., in both forms, and the boys from that school serve Mass in both forms. The boys are well acquainted with and very much at home with the duties appropriate to both forms and, of course, with regard to the EF, they know the Latin responses. In fact, Holy Rosary is very much a “dialogue Mass” church, which means that not only the school students but also all of the faithful (of all ages) who attend the EF know and make the Latin responses – and sing them at Sung Masses. All weekend, i.e., Sunday Masses at Holy Rosary, in both forms, are Sung Masses. OF servers for Sunday Masses tend to be older, high school or college students, in addition to archdiocesan seminarians. The EF Sunday Mass servers are boys from the congregation and the ages go from eight to 18. At a typical Sunday EF, there are usually between 16 to 20 boys in the sanctuary. Most, particularly the younger ones, assist “in choir.” When the services of another priest or deacon and subdeacon can be secured, there are EF Solemn Masses as well. Each “form” has its own choir and organist. In the case of the EF, also its own schola. Attendance at the Sunday EF averages 250 and seems to be growing steadily. Also, regardless of the liturgical form of Mass, ONLY BOYS serve Mass at Holy Rosary.
The EF made its move to Holy Rosary at a time when there was a danger that the church would be closed. The additional “congregation” and the funds it brought were just what the church needed to survive. In the ensuing 13 years, the congregations for both forms have grown considerably as have the Sunday collections. Holy Rosary’s parishioners of either liturgical stripe are very generous. The church functions at a comfortable financial level, has no astronomical debt, pays its bills and operates “in the black.” This, even after a significant restoration/renovation of the entire church in 2008! This restoration attempted to recreate the Italian Romanesque church, to the extent possible (including state of the art 21st century technology), as it was in 1924. There are seven real bells in the twin towers, activated by an up to date technical system. The high altar mensa “moves” forward and backward into the reredos, accommodating itself to “ad orientem” and “ad populum” Mass celebrations. There is also a venerable pipe organ which is scheduled for renovation/replacement when funding becomes available. The church has a staff of five, including its pastor, the archdiocesan Vicar General, and its associate, an archdiocesan priest and former member of the FSSP. Holy Rosary is now no longer an FSSP apostolate.
The EF has been a very stable phenomenon for the past 10 years. At first things were difficult, of course. There were suspicions and mixed feelings. The long time parishioners saw the Latin Mass crowd as invaders and interlopers, yet realized that they would provided needed infusions of cash. The new Latin Mass people saw the long time parishioners as people to be saved and converted and sometimes, unfortunately, to be “lorded over.” The long time parishioners saw themselves as immoveable owners. The newcomers saw themselves as financial and liturgical saviors. People on both sides of the liturgical aisle left. New ones came to take their place. Others left, others came. Yet, the number of parishioners at Holy Rosary continues to grow. Many travel great distances to come to Holy Rosary, even from the adjacent diocese – and not just to the EF. Many OF faithful are so turned off by what passes for liturgy at their respective parishes that they flee to Holy Rosary where the OF is just as reverent as the EF. Each liturgical form has subtly influenced the other at Holy Rosary. OF Masses are increasingly celebrated “ad orientem” and EF parishioners appreciate the degree to which they can participate in the liturgy and decry the lack of congregational participation at EF Masses they’ve attended elsewhere. Happily, there are also many marriages and baptisms and fewer funerals than one might imagine. As is the case in many other places, though many might not wish to believe it, the EF community is quite young in terms of parishioner age. That is not to say that there are none over 50 years of age at regular Sunday Mass, but many of the EF parishioners at Holy Rosary are young families, most with several children. The OF community is a bit older than the EF, but not by much.
Though stability reigns for the most part, every so often, undercurrents make themselves known. But, for the most part, though there are still a few that don’t like the EF, a few who wish that the OF would go away and, surprisingly, a few (very few, thankfully) who are not thrilled at the idea of parish unity, the two integrated communities at Holy Rosary have achieved a high level of mutual respect and charitable cooperation. Over time, the few trouble makers still present will either leave, learn to hold their peace or go the way of all flesh.
To look at Holy Rosary through the negative lens of the above paragraph is to do it an injustice, however. There is much to be thankful for at Holy Rosary and much to admire and even regard with a sense of wonder. To be sure, this is due to the predominant evenness and basic deposit of Catholic charity on the part of the parishioners, both OF and EF. The parishioners know that there is a job to be done in today’s world. They also know, and have come to recognize more and more, that Holy Rosary, in and of itself, is quite a remarkable place. Most of the parishioners know one another, actually like one another, or are at least respectful and civil. Most think it rather fantastic that the two liturgical forms can live together under the same roof, not just coldly respectful and distant, but actually, for the most part, harmoniously and even affectionately.
This is due also, in no small part, to the pastor and his associate and also the associate’s immediate predecessor. They all three operate(d) on the premise that, at Holy Rosary, there is One Church, not two churches. The pastor, as Vicar General, ensures that the rights and dignities inherent in the EF are respected and honored and is pleased to have the EF and its parishioners as an integral part of the Holy Rosary fabric. The former associate eschewed and the present one eschews: “rad trads;” any sentiment for or tendencies toward separatism; the idea that the OF is wrong or invalid; that the EF is the only way to ensure the Church’s future. Charity, justice and, above all, orthodoxy are the marks of Holy Rosary parish. As the church is one in her faith and magisterium, so Holy Rosary is one in its support of them. Holy Rosary is unique. The parish and the archdiocese of which she is a part can both serve as models for the Church in America. The two liturgical expressions of the Roman church, both valid and each possessing its special dignity, live side by side in peace and mutual cooperation.
Though most of the faithful usually attend one form or the other, not a small number of parishioners go back and forth from one to the other. If one Mass doesn’t fit into the family weekend schedule, then the other will. The faithful at Holy Rosary, for the most part, are very flexible – more so than parishioners at most parishes today where either one form or the other is exclusively found. At Holy Rosary, the antipathy or outright hostility experienced at other churches where liturgical forms “share” facilities, or at churches where one form is dominant and the other merely tolerated, is not found. There is one ladies’ prayer group to which ladies who attend each form belong. There is one Rosary and Altar Society to which ladies from both forms belong. There is one Knights of Columbus council, not one EF council and one OF council. The Lenten Adult Educational Series is attended by the faithful who may be attached to either the OF or the EF. The altar servers from the EF readily serve at the OF and are welcome to do so without asking. It’s not quite as easy for OF boys to serve the EF, due to the complexity of the inherent operations and, of course, the Latin. But, many OF servers have learned the EF and have been welcomed, not merely tolerated.
The pastor and his associate assist each other in their liturgical duties, each one hearing confessions at “both” Masses, assisting with Holy Communion at “both” Masses, preaching at “both” Masses. Recently, the associate pastor has learned the OF and occasionally celebrates It, substituting for the pastor. Once again, since it is not the pastor’s training, and since, as Vicar General, his time is limited, it is not possible at present for the pastor to celebrate the EF as a substitute for the associate. But, if it were possible, it would happen. Does this mean that all parishioners relish this kind of flexibility? Alas no. But, all parishioners know that they are free to leave and find another parish where they “think” everything will be to their liking. Of course, it’s a fact that no such “perfect” parish, be it EF or OF, exists – anywhere. Still the more the dissatisfied people leave, the more unified, integral and comfortably charitable Holy Rosary becomes.
Earlier, Holy Rosary was termed “unique.” That’s not quite accurate. There are several successful, unified parishes in the US, among them, such shining stars as St. John Cantius in Chicago and Assumption Grotto in Detroit. It seems that the EF is successful in churches either where it is exclusive, or where the EF and OF are unified. The EF never seems to do well in places where it is merely tolerated or where it is little more than a tenant. At the same time, it could be said that when the parish or chapel is exclusively EF, there is little effort on the part of that community to fit or integrate into the greater Church. This is, of course, not definitively the case, but words like ‘divisive’, ‘separatist’ and ‘exclusive’ tend to be used to describe EF centers that are either “stand alone” or tolerated as bothersome tenants. If there were more parishes like Holy Rosary, where the word ‘divisive’ is not welcome, it’s a safe bet that the American Catholic Church would be a much happier and faithful place.
Summorum Pontificum has technically removed more restrictions on the EF than any other motu proprio to date. But, of course, as the saying goes, “the mountains are high and the king is far away.” So long as the possibility of fear or stigma remains for priests who want to learn and celebrate the EF or for seminarians who wish to learn it, so long as there is this irrational fear, distrust, distaste or downright hatred of the EF among the American episcopate, there will always be problems for the EF. Bishops should foster the celebration of the EF in their dioceses, assuring their priests that sanctions and punishments are no longer in the equation. In places where there is a need, and if the unlikely situation exists where priests are unwilling to minister to people devoted to the EF, they should be ordered by their bishop to learn and to celebrate it. Note: This writer knows of NO PLACE where this is the case. On the contrary, there are many priests and seminarians who dearly want to learn and to celebrate the EF, but still, even in this day and age, they don’t dare even express that desire in some dioceses. To use the words of the present Holy Father, to penalize the faithful devoted to this form and to persecute clergy and seminarians who are attracted to the EF and who wish to serve those deprived faithful, such an attitude is “downright indecent.”
Thanks to the genuine support of the Archbishop and his Vicar General, happily, that is not the case at Holy Rosary. It is hoped that EF communities, be they exclusive or sharers of space, read this little exposé and re-evaluate themselves vis à vis their fellow Catholics. Likewise, it is hoped that OF communities, be they exclusive or be they “landlords” to EF communities, do the same, recognizing that they have nothing to fear.
Holy Rosary’s Pastor and Associate also believe that Holy Rosary embodies what the Council Fathers truly had in mind with regard to Sacrosanctum Concilium. Regardless of form, the active participation on the part of Holy Rosary Catholics is most impressive. And since the Holy Father recognizes the need for the EF and for harmony and cooperation between the two forms, how can any layman, priest or bishop do less?
Please check out Holy Rosary’s website: