Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Augusta, GA
I grew up in Augusta, Georgia and remember how devastated Catholics were there when Bishop Gerald Fry decided to merge three downtown parishes into one in 1970. Little did I know at the time and in high school that in 1991 I would become pastor of that merged parish. The church chosen for the merged parishes was the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Georgia's oldest Catholic Church, with its start on the same property it still owns in 1810. The "new church" was completed in 1863 and we restored it completely in 1998.
The exterior of Most Holy Trinity:
Sacred Heart Church/now Sacred Heart Cultural Center:
Bishop Raymond Lessard, Bishop Fry's successor, knew that Catholics were devastated that the symbol of Catholicism in Augusta and been closed and a for sale sign planted in front of it. Sacred Heart was considered Augusta's Catholic "Cathedral" because of its style and location, not Most Holy Trinity, even though the latter was older but less imposing than Sacred Heart and thus not considered Augusta's "Cathedral".
Prior to selling the property, Bishop Lessard was open to Augustans raising money to preserve it and maintain it as a sort of downtown shrine connected to Most Holy Trinity--but of course no one in the Catholic community formed any sort of board of trustees to make fund raising and restoration of this building possible to keep it as a Catholic shrine. Thus it was sold. Although Catholics are sad it no longer is a Catholic Church we are grateful to the Knox family for restoring and preserving it for new uses, although profane.
This brings me to Holy Innocents in Manhattan. One has to ask why in the name of God and all that is holy would the archdiocese even consider closing a vibrant parish there? It is not in decline and has more parishioners and resources than most parished in the USA. It makes no sense whatsoever and shows why bishops make so many mistakes in closing these kinds of churches. Why not simply turn them over to a "board of trustees" to preserve and maintain and allow it to continue. It makes no sense at all!
The proposed closing of Holy Innocents in NYC makes absolutely no good sense at all. It makes Card. Dolan look bad--as if he just wants to show he's got the power to do this or that he has a problem with such a strong, well-attended, financially sound parish. What gives?
Additionally, though I rarely get to Augusta, I have followed how they have been treated regarding the desire of a significant number of Catholics to have the EF Mass there. Is the situation improving there?
Years ago, three churches were forced to merge in Clinton, Iowa. One of the most beautiful churches, with a reredos carved by Germans was literally axed.
The new mega-parich is ugly, and the number of Catholics slipped because many old people could get to the downtown churches.
Merging is a sign of pride, just to "do" something. If those who made such decisions were saints, they would be thinking of God first, people second, themselves third, and money way down on the list.
Why pose the question when the answer is obvious?
Holy Innocents is a Traditional Latin Mass parish.
Cardinal Dolan can have his talk shows and photo ops all he likes, but he cannot mask one of his defining characteristics: He is still part of the core of leadership that cannot stand this Mass and will do all in their power to eliminate it. Holy Innocents raises money, is active and its members participate in the life of the Church as well as any other parish. This isn't about money or need. We know what it's about. And shame on those who are trying to close this parish down.
JJ, Augusta has at least 200 or more who are interested in the EF Mass. The couple of times it was held at Most Holy Trinity it garnered about 600 people if not more.
There is such insecurity and antipathy towards the legitimate requests of the laity by some priests which makes me understand what Pope Francis is saying about clericalism and the way priests treat certain groups of lay faithful.
Vatican II says the sacred pastors, "must be very careful to see that sacred furnishings and works of value are not disposed of or dispersed; for they are the ornaments of the house of God". It's too bad VCII wasn't applied to those reredos.
I suspect the Bishop listened to his trusted staff. I don't know anything about Cardinal Nolan's view toward the EF, but I suspect he is indifferent at best or would be more interested in ensuring that it remain available.
My NLM comment:
I understand that the archdiocesan committee making this closure recommendation reported that they found insufficient evidence of a vibrant spiritual life at Holy Innocents Church. At my considerable distance from Manhattan, I infer that the standards for parish spiritual vibrancy there must be most impressive indeed.
My WDTPRS comment:
”This is the same crowd, or their intellectual descendants, who ripped all the statues out, gutted the altars, and did their best to make the Mass as banal as possible in the first place.” (quote)
At my considerable distance from NY, I have no reason to doubt that such “sentiments” are partly behind this. But I wonder whether another significant factor might be the substantial value of the Manhattan property on which this vibrant spiritual gem sits. “Follow the money.”
Oops, I guess FR. did not like my comments about Dolan. I did not think they were so bad…he and other Bishops like him are part of the problem.
Henry if this is about money and the fact that there are plenty of other beautiful churches in the vicinity and selling Holy Innocents will bring in big bucks, I think Holy Innocents will have a friend in Rome in Pope Francis would who cringe at the idea of selling a church that is spiritually alive for 30 pieces of silver!
It all makes perfect sense! The Traditional Latin Mass and sacraments are held there, it is a vibrant and debt free parish, packed with Catholics of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, black, white, hispanic, asian, single, married and yes even homosexuals. All Roman Catholics devoted to Holy Church, yet the Cardinal wants to close it. Let's pray that Cardianl Dolan softens his heart and will not close this Holy Holy parish.
Good Father - You know, because you and I have spoken about them a number of times, that there were many factors and are many factors far beyond "insecurity and antipathy towards the legitimate requests of the laity by some priests" with the situation in Augusta.
You know this, yet you slander your brother priests, myself included, with your unfortunate and somewhat malicious accusations. It is not right and you should not be doing it in a public forum.
As a side question Fr. Mac., Do you know how vocations to the priesthood are doing under Pope Francis, I know that there was the "Benedict Spike" in the priesthood when Benedict was pope, is it too early to tell how it is under Francis?
Also, since you have been to Italy recently, an maybe others have been across Europe. Has Mass attendance actually risen under Francis? I have heard stories from Spain that it has but am not familiar with other places.
Would be interesting to find out if Francis is actually bringing ppl to the Church or pushing ppl away due to his what seems to be constant "scandals"
It is hard to tell about vocations. I think St. Pope John Paul II lay the foundation for the spike under Pope Benedict, but Pope Benedict's liturgical style and openness to tradition as well as novelty in some cases was/is attractive to men who love liturgy and want to be priests but also have a heart to serve not just preen.
Time will tell with Pope Francis. He connects in a different way with the populace even compared to St. John Paul II although there are some similarities in terms of comfort in being spontaneous, with Pope Benedict wasn't. He was more cerebral but exuded a warmth nonetheless.
Italians seem to be rediscover Mass in large part due to Pope Francis. Italians love him because he acts as an ordinary Italian acts and speaks. Pope Francis' Italian is very much the way Italians speak in the home and he understands the Italians sense of humor and how to use Italian in a funny way. In this he reminds me of some of my mother's sisters in Italy, one in particular.
I should add that Italians were very suspicious of a German being named pope. My mother was flabbergasted. Their experience of Nazi's in Italy during World War II was not a pleasant one in the least. In personality, Italians are the polar opposite to Germans.
But as Pope Benedict continued and to a certain extent loosened up as time went by and began to connect better, I think that changed with Italians and they came to love and respect him.
I think too that they felt empathy or sympathy for how he was treated in the press and persecuted by so many. I think they felt a very real sadness at his renunciation for they knew the hostility and agenda against him in high places too.
Perhaps the SSPX should purchase Holy Innocents in NYC?
FMK, I stand my my assertion concerning the clericalism that prevents the EF Mass from occurring in Augusta and on a regular basis. No priest should be forced to celebrate it himself he if is opposed to it, but no priest should oppose the laity's legitimate requests for it under SP and then find a priest to celebrate. I offered my services for Sunday evening Mass there once a month but nothing came of it and all of us know the reasons why.
It is clericalism to stick by a club mentality with we priests are not fair to the legitimate desires of the laity as approved by the Holy Father.
So, Ignotus, You going by your real name now, Michael J. Kavanaugh? Why the sudden change?
I would prefer the FSSP, but I doubt that the SSPX or any religious order has the mega bucks that those interested in purchasing this property have.
How much longer must we Traditionalists suffer at the hands of these haters of the TLM, 40 plus years and still we have to fight against altar girls, dancing nuns, dancing girls, drums, guitars, banjos, rock, mariachi, polka masses, felt banners, lay lectors, giant puppets, kiss of peace, hand holding, hugging, clapping, all of these are just fine with the Novus Ordo Church but God forbid there is a Traditional parish that believes in all the doctrines of the Church and yet are punished for it. Remember we believed what you once believed.
FR, my aunt was an army nurse in Atlanta during WWII. She said the Italian POW's were allowed to go out in town all day, to movies, swimming, Mass on Sundays, even make friends with local families. They always behaved, were happy, and came back to the POW camp in the evening as expected.
The Germans, on the other hand, were under lock and key constantly and guarded in an area with machine guns manned day and night. She said that several who spoke fairly good English would always say to American staff and soldiers when they walked by, "One day I will be liberated and I will kill you, your children, and all of your family."
Thank you Fr. McDonald.....and you have not slandered Fr. MJK ....he made it clear in writing that we did not "need" a Latin Mass at Most Holy Trinity, because our Novus Ordo was so good....even though scores of parishioners requested an occasional Latin Mass.
All I know is that if there is a group of people (no minimum size) with a steady and continuing interest in the EF Mass (a "stable group"--in the Augusta Ga. case 200-600 people) and a priest who is willing to celebrate it (apparently we have that too--at least once a month) there should be NO "factor" or reason (other than competition for the use of a church sanctuary for one hour) that can justify a denial by clergy of legitimate aspirations by laity for the reality of regular celebration of the EF Mass.
If laity want it, it is WRONG for the diocesan clergy to have a secret group "agreement" or "understanding" to deny (or limit) the EF Mass. It is wrong for diocesan clergy to exert peer pressure against potential "defector" clerics who dare depart from the "understanding" and consider offering the EF Mass.
Apparently, some clerics are all for lay involvement and "empowerment" when it suits their likes and purposes but many are (apparently) against it (and are very clericalist) when it comes to the laity exercising their legitimate aspirations and lawful options under Summorum Pontificum.
If a member of the U.S. military is taken prisoner, he is required to...sworn to try to escape and to help others to escape. I bet that Germany had the same code. Maybe Italy did not...or maybe the Italian POWs preferred movies and swimming and Mass over getting back into the war.
Fr, as someone with first hand PERSONAL experience with Holy Innocents parish in New York (I conducted the schola at the Wednesday evening TLM from November 2009 to February 2011) as well as being a veteran of efforts to save THREE parishes from being closed and/or demolished by the same Archdiocese of New York (under two different ordinaries) I can tell you that the number one issue is the absolute refusal of anyone in the chancery (from Cardinal Dolan on down) to "think outside the box" and see that, far from being a parish in decline, Holy Innocents stands on the verge of being a leader in the revival of Catholic life in Manhattan.
These clerics, who were taught in the seminary that the church is in irreversible decline and that their job is to amicably manage the decline, refuse to see the writing on the wall: i.e. orthodoxy is on the rise, younger Catholics hunger for the unvarnished Catholic faith that was denied them by their leftist/dissenting elders in the hippie-dippie '60s and '70s, and that the changing demographics of New York City, along with the incredible amount of rezoning of formerly industrial and business areas into residential districts and mixed-use areas have turned these formerly in-decline areas into fertile new areas for evangelization and renewal, AND that these grand old edifices, built with the blood, sweat, and tears of past generations of Catholic laborers out of love for Christ and His Church, are THE venue for carrying out this sacred mission of the Church.
It is like they all have their fingers in their ears and are shouting, "Nyah! Nyah! I can't hear you" or have bags over their heads so they can't see what is going on.
Until there is a way to break through that mentality, there's no hope (As I said, I've been down this road THREE times before!).
Gaudete in Domino Semper!
Pater Ignotus vis-a-vis Fr. MJKavanaugh:
Speaking as an outsider, but one who knew/knows the Augusta situation, I ask in charity: Perhaps those "many factors" should have been openly discussed with those faithful who in good conscience requested the TLM? The apparently troubling "many factors" might have been much more easily solved in the fresh air and light of His grace always filling the Church of the MHT in Augusta, rather than your chosen path of "discussed many times" in secretive clerical fraternity? Again In charity, THAT is a clerical dynamic we have all learned to distrust.
I might add that Augusta with its numerous faithful who desire the EF would have qualified for its celebration even under St. Pope John Paul II's more limited allowance of it compared to SP very liberal allowance.
My concern here is Fr. McDonald's misrepresentation of the situation I inherited and was involved in for the 16 months I was pastor there.
His assertion that "insecurity and antipathy," not to mention clericalism, are the reasons why no EF mass is offered in Augusta are simply rubbish. He KNOWS the circumstances I inherited there - in fact he and I discussed the problems any number of times.
And because they involve personnel matters I will not, under any circumstances, discuss them here.
Allan, until your post stated it I did NOT know you had offered to celebrate the EF in Augusta. And no, I do not know why your offer has not been accepted, so please don't say that I do.
Allan, it is wrong for you to pander to your supporters here by bad-mouthing your brother priests and misrepresenting their motivations. It is wrong.
And you would never say such things to their faces in the presence of the Bishop, now would you?
Interesting it is in your most recent post that I realize you thought I was talking about you when in fact you have been gone from MHT for 3 years. It is the current situation and not necessarily at MHT that I describe,that no priest is willing to open their doors to an EF Mass in Augusta. I could be wrong, but I thought you did allow it in your time there or maybe prior to you as I have lost track of all the pastors who have been there since I left.
FMK, you infer to much and the nerve that was struck is interesting.
I should have said that I was requested if I could by one higher than me to do so once a month in the late afternoon and this was after your departure. It all hinged on local cooperation of course which did not occur.
There should be no such thing as "local cooperation" not occurring, ultimately. Pastors are to "willingly accept" requests for the EF and, if the pastor will not satisfy such requests, the petitioners should go to the bishop.
I read SC as a positive statement of what SHOULD HAPPEN when a pastor receives requests for the EF. It is not so much a question of IF it should be allowed to be celebrated in a parish--it is a question of an inevitable WHEN (will it happen with cooperation of the local pastor, even if another priest comes in to celebrate or will it require recourse to the bishop or to the Ecclesia Dei Commission to make it happen).
To my knowledge, a group in Charlotte, NC, made it happen (it took about 3 years) by writing the ED Commission. I was told this resulted in the bishop (after getting a letter from Rome) making it happen when the bishop had previously not been too helpful.
Maybe the people in Augusta need to take it to the next level!
So, it takes all this for the laity to receive a Mass to which they are entitled...
I can't help but wonder if Luther is looking over the precipice of Glory and smiling...
I meant to say "I read SP (not SC)" (meaning Summorum Pontificum).
Pretty sure that where Luther is there is very little smiling.
"Augusta has at least 200 or more who are interested in the EF Mass. The couple of times it was held at Most Holy Trinity it garnered about 600 people if not more."
Amazing! A perhaps more typical scenario that reportedly has played out with fewer petitioners in several different dioceses:
A formal letter and petition was presented to the parish pastor, who was uninterested in hosting a TLM, and replied that no qualified priest was available to celebrate it. Next, a formal letter was submitted to the bishop, who replied that he was sympathetic, but had no priest to assign to celebrate such a Mass. Then an appeal accompanied by copies of all correspondence was submitted to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in Rome. Not long afterwards the bishop received a call from the nuncio who inquired whether he had a problem that could not be solved within the diocese. The bishop reportedly replied that he was capable of handling the problem, and required no outside assistance. Very shortly thereafter, a qualified priest was assigned to travel regularly to the parish to celebrate a scheduled TLM there.
I wrote to the bishop of Savannah about the TLM in Augusta. He told me it wasn't necessary because there was one Mass per month in Macon.
"The proposed closing of Holy Innocents in NYC makes absolutely no good sense at all."
Oh, I think it makes plenty of sense to people in the chancery. The archdiocese is deep in red ink, and Holy Innocents stands on property that is worth a small fortune. Indeed, churches tentatively slated for closure on the list seem to be on valuable property.
Holy Innocents is sitting on very valuable real estate at 37th St. off Broadway. Cardinal Dolan has a $210 million dollar bill to refurbish St. Patrick's Cathedral and (at last discussion on his blog) only $65 million accounted for. He has his CEO hat on and not his Cardinal's mitre. This is strictly business...a way to pay the Archdiocese bills. At least, that was the original thinking.
However, because of all the bigtime criticism, I think the Cardinal has already changed his mind. He said as much in a July blog that certain communities that serve special interest groups will not be closed and he included in his examples the community that wants the Latin Mass. This approach not only will bring him great praise from the Latin Mass community but it will give him cover for his habit of keeping his hands off the other "special communities" that he never criticizes and, in fact, he appears to encourage. Those are the 3 Manhattan churches that cater to LGBTQs, one going so far as to have a pre-Pride vigil Mass the day before the sexual frenzy called the Pride Parade in New York. The Cardinal’s silence has all but given his “bravo” to whatever the LGBTs call Catholicism. The whole city is watching. How can he bring a wrecking ball to the Latin Mass Church.
Marc, I don’t know personally of an instance in which a monthly TLM has sustained a thriving community. Ordinarily, a monthly TLM garners only initial enthusiasm, which then begins to decline and tail off. A bimonthly TLM is marginal, and a weekly TLM is generally required to sustain a vibrant community that attracts new adherents and supports a stable choir and corps of altar servers.
In a situation where a weekly TLM is not feasible, it seems to me that the TLM is most profitably offered not on an nondescript weekly-only basis, but as a highlight liturgy with available resources concentrated on special parish occasions and solemnities.
"...Pretty sure that where Luther is there is very little smiling"
Unless you have been granted the quality of omniscience, you have no idea where Luther, or any other soul for that matter, may or may not be at this time.
Gaudete in Domino Semper!
Giovanni, you know we cannot be sure where Luther is. That is presumptuous. But, if he is in the flames and aware of all this, he must be wondering why he is there and if he might soon be getting some clerical company. LOL!
Wow! So a monthly EF Mass in Macon is sufficient for all those in Augusta who desire the EF? Google tells me it's 132 miles, one way. So depending on the vehicle, $50-$70, round trip.
I am 43 miles from the nearest EF in the Atlanta area, and it is a commute which I would not willingly commit on a weekly basis.
I think it fair to say that such an explanation constitutes evidence of hostility to the EF.
I was once told, by one of our recently retired priests, that I should go to Savannah if I wanted to attend an EF Latin Mass--I live in Waycross (about two hours driving time).
What you just wrote about our bishop's response about no need for a Latin Mass in Augusta (because there is one in Macon, once a month for Sundays) is along the same line of thinking. I am not encouraged by this. I was hoping that our bishop might at least attend the Savannah Latin Mass in choro (if not as celebrant). It's hard not to feel like a second-class Catholic when it doesn't appear that your own bishop wants to encourage or get involved with the EF Latin Mass.
Maybe he'll read this (or it will get back to him) and he'll show me I'm wrong!
Just to illustrate how ridiculous all this is, a comment from Fr. Z's post today referencing this post here:
Viewing this gives rise to a terrible fantasy, which I hope is too extreme to ever be realized:
Papal hatchet man is dispatched to NYC, orders all Masses at Holy Innocents to cease until trouble can be straightened out. Priests at Holy Innocents are ordered to cease celebrating EF masses anywhere. Ordinations of seminarians who were nurtured at Holy Innocents are suspended until further notice. Etc.
Please tell me I’m nuts for even thinking such thoughts.
Henry, nothing would surprise me in today's Catholic Church in America. Nothing. Not women Priests, not dogs in the sanctuary, not a rubber machine in a unisex bathroom, not homilies by Joel Osteen, nor Mass conducted by an openly homosexual Episcopalian Priest in the interests of ecumenicism. I hold my breath every time USCCB meets, the Pope speaks, or Dolan opens his mouth.
Gene....I hear that some other kids hold their breath until they pass out. Maybe you should try it.
Anonymous, Most people can't do it, although some kids can manage…usually seriously disturbed ones like you. LOL!
There is, apparently, more interest in the EF Mass in Augusta (where there is still no EF Mass) than there is in Savannah (where a weekly Sunday EF is offered) or in Macon (where there is a weekly Tuesday afternoon low Mass and a monthly Sunday EF Mass). Something's quite noticeably wrong with this picture . .
By all rights, and according to SP, under present circumstances there is NO justifiable reason for there not being a monthly EF in somewhere in Augusta, Ga. Based on the higher level of interest by laity there really should be a weekly EF Mass in Augusta.
In fairness to the mostly unknown diaspora of tradition-loving Catholics in the geographically large Diocese of Savannah, there should also be a regular EF Mass in Columbus as well as somewhere in the Valdosta/Brunswick deanery (where I live--in the small town "hinterlands" of deep south Georgia).
This brings me back to one critical practical problem--the lack of priests who know how to offer the EF Mass and are willing to do so (obviously there are quite a few who know how, mostly older priests, but would refuse to do so on principle). I believe there are many priests who would be willing to learn but have never had the opportunity and now feel they don't have the time to learn.
The greatest hope in this area is in the youngest priests (those who don't carry the ideological baggage and experiences of the immediate post VII era). The problem for most of these youngest of priests is that most are still vicars working under an older pastor who may harbor outright opposition or, at least, indifference to the EF.
Our bishop needs to shake things up and sponsor a training session for as many willing priests as possible even if it means bringing in the FSSP, Institute of Christ the King or the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius to do the training over several days. Priests may need to be solicited privately and individually regarding their willingness to participate to lessen the negative interference or influence of some more senior fellow priests.
The main reason I have not been more aggressive in petitioning for the EF at my parish of St. Joseph in Waycross, Ga. is because I do not know of any knowledgeable and willing priest(s) withing reasonable driving distance who could come in and celebrate this Mass at my parish (my pastor has already indicated that he is not interested in being a celebrant).
I am a practicing attorney in Waycross, Ga. and I am listed in the telephone directory. I have always used my real name on this blog because I am not ashamed of what I believe---the EF Latin Mass is beautiful, historical accretions and all! I share this information because I would gladly welcome anyone with a serious interest in the EF Mass in the Diocese of Savannah contacting me to discuss these problems and possible solutions. It's pretty clear to me that it is going to take strong lay involvement to network and build a fire for the spread of the EF Mass in our Diocese. We see what expecting the clergy to do it all has gotten us. The willing priests NEED our help and encouragment. The priests with the opposing view should be approached with respect but with knowledge and determination on our part. We're NOT going away!!
This Bishop appears to be completely indifferent to these issues. He gives the impression of being just another go along to get along bureaucrat. It is something about the office of Bishop…it was the same in protestant churches with bishoprics…trying to get cooperation or active interest from a Bishop would wear any pastor down. Given an array of choices regarding how to deal with any issue, the bishop would invariably take the route of least resistance. The only pastors who received any hearing at all were those whose churches had the largest apportionment (money), and then it was generally a pat on the head…but, just P.O. a bishop and they react quickly and punitively.
Joseph, you speak with great wisdom here. The problem now is that:
1) Many of the faithful in Augusta who originally requested the EF 4 years ago were treated with disdain by both the pastor AND the bishop at the time (both now since gone)--some actually felt that they were singled out for ensuing systematic pastoral neglect by putting their request in the written form required at the time. Some felt that the pastor verbally maligned them behind closed doors to other priests and the bishop, and were actually accused of other wrong-doings not associated with the EF request.
I know of a few faithful who would still love to have an EF mass offered, but very few are willing to put their Catholic lives on the line to fight for it.
2) Those elusive other "many factors" (Fr. MJ Kavanaugh) secretly discussed among clergy but not shared with the faithful. How can this issue possibly be addressed and resolved if continued to this day in secret?
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