Your Excellencies, this is meant to be read as a friendly challenge, with nothing but love and respect as the tone and subtext. Please don’t interpret it any other way.
Do you have a parish in your diocese that’s floundering? By that I mean, is it financially in trouble, and have you seriously considered the possibility of shutting it down and/or merging it with another parish? Before you do that, I want to present a challenge to you. Think of it as an experiment, if you will. If it doesn’t work, no loss. The parish was dying anyway, but if it does work, you have a revived parish! What have you got to lose? Here’s the challenge…
- Give it a 1-2 year window, depending on the circumstances, to turn around. If it fails after 1-2 years, shut it down as you originally planned. If it doesn’t fail, you’ve got a revived parish and a model for success for years to come.
- Train a relatively young priest (young dogs learn new tricks faster) in the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and I mean train him well. Get this man fluent in the TLM. Make him an expert, and make sure he’s one of your diocesan men. If this works, you’ll need him to train others when the time comes. The process of training one of your own men can be done in just a few weeks, especially if you send him to a Latin Mass monastery, seminary or training center.
- Place him in charge of your dying parish with a 1-2 year restoration goal, and these very specific instructions…
- Provide one TLM on Sundays, in the morning. He may also provide no more than two TLM’s during the week if so inclined.
- Provide one traditional Novus Ordo, or Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, in the vernacular on the Saturday vigil, Sunday morning or afternoon as convenient, and no less than two during the week. Instruct him to follow the pattern for a traditional Novus Ordo in the video below.
- Give him all the resources he needs to accomplish this goal.
- Inform him that he is at liberty to make whatever remodeling and artistic changes to the Church as he sees fit, as soon as the budget allows this. Expect the first change to be relocation of the tabernacle to front and center of the church, if this isn’t already the case.
- Encourage him to wear a traditional cassock, biretta or saturno as part of his regular clerical dress, and inform your other priests that he does this per your strict instructions. That way nobody gives him a hard time about it.
- Make sure he is given a letter of authorization from you, the bishop, for all of these changes, and instruct him to hang a copy of it in the lobby of the church, next to your picture, for everyone to see. Any and all concerns should be directed to the diocese chancery office.
- Instruct him to aggressively pursue donations, and to tell his parishioners that the life of this experiment will be dependent upon them.
- Instruct him to do parish potlucks no less than once a month to cohesively rebuild the parish community. Encourage other parish-wide activities for fun and fellowship as well.
- Support your priest 100%. The life of the parish is now in his hands. He cannot resuscitate it if he’s not given 100% backing from his bishop.
- If any of your other clergy express concern over all this, tell them it is simply and experiment, and ask them to respect your wishes.
- Make a full-page announcement in the diocesan newspaper, that henceforth the parish in question will be a “traditional” Catholic parish, providing both the TLM and Novus Ordo Mass in the most traditional way possible, and that all those inclined toward traditional Catholic worship should support this parish and it’s new priest with both their time and treasure.
- Wait and see what happens after 1-2 years. If the parish fails, shut it down as previously planned. If it thrives again, you’ve just restored life to a dying parish. CONGRATULATIONS! You just beat the odds. That’s something to be proud of.
Here’s a model of a traditional Novus Ordo Mass which, as you can see, bears a lot of resemblance to a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), but with significant modifications made for the post-conciliar liturgy…
What have you got to lose? I’m not suggesting you do this with thriving or stable parishes. No! I’m challenging you to do this with your dying parishes. If it works, you’ve saved a parish. If it doesn’t, pull your priest out of there, close the doors and merge the parish with another. You were going to do that anyway, so no loss no gain. Try it once, just once, and see what happens.
Shane Schaetzel is an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism and was trained as a catechist through the University of Dayton – a Catholic Marianist Institution. Shane’s articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. Shane is an author of Catholic books, which can be read here.