I wrote the following letter shortly after arriving at St. Joseph Church in July of 2004. Bishop Boland had asked all priests to implement the new General Instruction of the Roman Missal and some other things requested by Rome by October 4, 2004. I had replaced Msgr. John Cuddy, an excellent pastor, but one who was a bit slow in adapting the Ordinary Form of the Liturgy to new norms. There was nothing radical in his approach by any means, but certain things had to be changed. Msgr. Cuddy has been here since 1974 and remains in retirement, so the change of pastors after 30 years was quite a jolt to this parish, a jolt I really underestimated when I first came. On top of that my personality and spirituality are different than his (wow, what a revelation). So I had to do some damage control by writing this bulletin letter in late October of 2004.
One of the problems that I encountered here because of the fine work that Msgr. Cuddy had done in the area of bringing new Catholics into the Church was the fact that many of these new Catholics, who now had been Catholic for over 25 years, still had a bit of a Protestant Congregationalist approach to local Church life. So I had to address this in the letter too.
With this said, I would have to say then and now that St. Joseph Church is one of the best parishes in the diocese, if not in the state of Georgia. We grasp our Catholic identity and continue to work at developing this identity through fine tuning. This is a great parish to pastor and I'm glad to be in Macon!
October 28, 2004
Some of our parishioners have questioned the reason for the recent “fine-tuning” of our liturgical practices here at St. Joseph Church. Since I arrived, I have stated that for the most part we were in compliance with recent Vatican and diocesan requirements for the celebration of the Mass. However, we did need to do some “tweaking” to be in full compliance. There are two recent documents from the Vatican that require us to implement these changes: “The Revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal” issued in 2002 and “The Instruction on the Eucharist” issued just this past May. Bishop J. Kevin Boland issued a letter this past August 23rd along with our diocesan synopsis of these changes requesting that all parishes implement the changes by this past October 4th, the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.
I am enclosing Bishop Boland’s diocesan synopsis of the Vatican’s changes in the Mass along with the letter he sent to all priests and deacons of the diocese.
Some have questioned the manner in which I implemented these changes and suggested to me that I could have been more sensitive to the feelings of those who find change difficult. For me, most of the liturgical changes that we have made have been minor and are truly a fine-tuning of what is already in place here. In other words, in my mind, these changes are inconsequential and no big deal. If we can’t implement small things that we are requested to do, how will we do with the bigger issues of adult obedience in the Church? At the same time, I am beginning to realize that your change in pastors and this pastor’s personality is a monumental transition for some. Time will be the only cure for the feelings of anxiety this dramatic change as brought about. At any rate, I apologize to any I have offended in the manner in which I institute change and ask your forgiveness. I suspect, though, this will be only the first in a litany of apologies I will need to make in my tenure as your pastor which I hope will last until I’m 75 years old, that’s 25 years from now! Only God and our bishop know for sure though!
With my apology in place I would be remiss nonetheless if I did not emphasize that as Catholics, we are not congregationalists who decide for ourselves what we will or will not follow when it comes to the laws and norms of the Church. We owe respect and obedience in the areas of faith and morals to our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II and to our local bishop. We are part of a diocesan family of churches under the leadership Bishop J. Kevin Boland, whom I represent as your pastor. Bishop Boland as one of the successors of the apostles joins us to the universal mission and discipline of the Church headed by the Vicar of Christ, the successor of Saint Peter and the Bishop of Rome, Pope John Paul II. As well, as Pastor I may make executive decisions concerning certain issues of discipline that are at my sole discretion, although I usually consult with my staff or our various councils before doing so. Guidelines for weddings, funerals and other parochial issues are examples of this.
I ask your patience with me and with the changes that are underway in our parish. For some it is a test of faith and for others it is a time of great excitement and renewal. I pray that our dialogue and relationship will be mature, cordial, open and above all, Christ-like. Together we comprise the “Body of Christ” here in Macon striving to be faithful disciples in mission. Pray that we will be faithful to our high calling as Catholics. May God bless you.
Father Allan J. McDonald