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Vienna church remains a ‘Guardian of tradition’

Parish continues with Latin Mass despite Francis’ restrictions

Staff photo / Guy Vogrin The Rev. John Fongemie, order of the Fraternity of St. Peter and administrator of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Vienna, gives a blessing during the traditional Latin Mass at 8 a.m. Friday morning. The Youngstown Diocese has given the green light to continue the traditional service that dates back to the early years of Christianity. As opposed to the Novus Ordo, or new order Mass instituted in 1969, the priest in the traditional Mass faces the altar rather than the congregation.

Pope Francis has put restrictions on the use of the old Latin Mass, reversing one of Pope Benedict XVI’s signature decisions.

Traditionalist Catholics in the Mahoning Valley, however, won’t have to worry about any of these new restrictions.

Francis, 84, issued a new law — or Motu proprio — on July 16 requiring individual bishops to approve celebrations of the old Mass, also called the Tridentine Mass, which went out of regular use by Catholic leaders just after the Second Vatican Council in the late 1960s.

The only church in the six-county Youngstown Diocese that offers solely Latin Masses is Queen of the Holy Rosary at 291 Scoville Drive in Vienna. Status of the Masses there is not changing, according to one Diocesan official.

“Queen of the Holy Rosary is part of our Diocese’s fabric, and Bishop David Bonnar sees to it that nothing will change,” said Monsignor John Zuraw, chancellor of the Diocese. “The Motu proprio (titled “Traditionis Custodes” or “Guardians of Tradition“) or decree gives proper oversight to the local bishop. It offers the bishop to be very careful and vigilant on who to give out the faculty to celebrate the Latin Mass.”

Zuraw said the Vienna parish “is a stable group of individuals” who come together each week for worship.

“That parish community will remain intact and will be permitted to celebrate the Latin or Tridentine Mass,” the monsignor said, noting priests who take care of the parish are part of the Fraternity of St. Peter.

One of its members, Joseph R. Zauhar of Vienna, said he prefers the old-style service that goes back to the fifth or sixth century.

“Latin Mass is the closest thing to heaven on earth,” he said.

A worshipper at Friday’s daily Mass, who only gave the name of Karen, said she has been coming to Latin Mass after being converted to the Catholic faith 17 years ago.

“It makes me feel more God-centered,” she said. “It has less distractions than the Novus Ordo (new order) Mass.”

Other than the language difference, the priest during the Latin Mass faces away from the congregation and toward the altar.

FRANCISCAN SHRINE

A Franciscan friar last year added a Latin Mass to a local shrine’s weekday schedule, but recently had to discontinue it because of sickness of one of his colleagues.

The Rev. Vit Fiala, Order of Franciscan Missionaries, director of the Shrine of Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted on South Belle Vista Avenue in Youngstown, said he added the Latin Mass prior to the lockdown in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a bi-ritual priest, Roman Catholic and Byzantine, I saw an opportunity to learn another church liturgy — the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). After brushing up on Latin and learning the liturgy itself, I offered a low TLM during weekdays at the Shrine.”

Fiala originally assumed attendance for the TLM would be minimal but he was “greatly surprised.”

“Many people began coming to this Mass on a regular basis. The solemnity and reverence of this Mass gave them the spiritual nourishment they sought.”

Critics said they never before had witnessed a pope so thoroughly reversing his predecessor. That the reversal concerned something so fundamental as the liturgy, while Benedict is still alive and living in the Vatican as a retired pope, only amplified the extraordinary nature of Francis’ move.

Fiala, however, said the pope’s edict did not cancel the TLM altogether, but rather put the decision into the hands of the local bishops. Pope Benedict had relaxed the restrictions in 2007, allowing priests to celebrate the Latin rite without permission from their bishops.

The order struck by Francis requires newly ordained priests to receive explicit permission to celebrate it from their bishops, in consultation with the Vatican. The pontiff said he was taking action because Benedict’s reform had become a source of division in the church and been exploited by Catholics opposed to the Second Vatican Council, the 1960s meetings that modernized the church and its liturgy.

In addition, Francis said bishops no longer are allowed to authorize the formation of any new pro-Latin Mass groups in their dioceses.

Fiala said several prelates such as Archbishop Samuel Aquilla or Bishop Athanasius Schneider have made good comments concerning this issue. He said many bishops, including Youngstown’s and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, have decided to continue the TLM in their dioceses.

A SPIRITUAL VIEWPOINT

Fiala, who provides spiritual guidance to many faithful Catholics in the Mahoning Valley, warned those traditionalists if they are hanging on to the old Mass for sentimental reasons.

“They have to be careful to question themselves for being upset (about the Pope’s statement on the TLM), is this nostalgia or spirituality?”

Fiala said he hopes for many, it’s spirituality.

“Personal spirituality ought to be respected. It is a journey of salvation and a stream of living water that gives life to an individual. Spirituality comes in many different ways. The religious ponders a way to look at it through a relationship with God, which is closely attached to liturgy, to church politics, or through seeking a mystical pursuit with God in Jesus Christ. The spiritual journey is a choice one makes.”

Whether they prefer Latin Mass or the Novus Ordo Mass, Fiala said this choice comes out of one of God’s greatest gifts to his creation: free will.

“And with this gift, some people choose marriage, while others choose to remain single, as well as choosing what type of job or career they want to pursue,” he said. “The unifying element is the call to answer a combination of what is given and what we desire.”

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