Category Archives: Parishes

‘Occupy the Vatican’


The new English translation of the Roman Missal goes into effect Nov. 27. (CR/Bill McAllen)

It’s no secret that some priests – especially those who were energized by the Second Vatican Council – aren’t very pleased with the pending Nov. 27 implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. They think the new language, which strives to be a more literal translation of the Latin prayer book, is archaic and inaccessible.

Early this week, I e-mailed all the parishes of the Archdiocese of Baltimore to find out if anyone was planning to do anything to mark the last weekend of Masses using the current translation. Archdiocesan leaders had encouraged parishes to find ways of celebrating the decades of service of the current translation. I wanted to see if any parishes were actually planning to ceremoniously retire, bury or burn their old Sacramentaries, as suggested.

The first response I received was from an Anne Arundel County pastor, informing me in just three words how he planned to mark the passage of the old translation.

“Occupy the Vatican,” he wrote.

How are you observing the end of an era?


Introducing the new translation of the Roman Missal can be fun?

Father Gerard Francik has the right approach to introducing the new English translation of the Roman Missal. 

Instead of taking an “I-don’t-want-to-do-this-anymore-than-you-do” stance, the pastor of St. Mark in Fallston is encouraging his parishioners to embrace the translation as an opportunity to deepen their understanding and love of the Mass.

Young St. Mark parishioners seem genuinely excited about Nov. 27 – the date the new translation takes effect in the United States. They’ve made two fun videos to help educate their fellow parishioners about some of the coming changes.  (See below).

Sure, not everyone is going to welcome the new translation.  It will take some time to adapt to language that’s going to be more formal than what many of us have known our whole lives. But, it’s good to see a parish taking a positive approach.  The introduction of the new translation really can be an opportunity for liturgical renewal if we just give it a chance.

Here’s a guide to the new translation produced by Catholic Review Media you might want to check out.

VIDEO REPORT: Parishioners say goodbye to St. Michael, Fells Point

It was a bittersweet day for parishioners of St. Michael in Fells Point July 31 as they gathered for their church’s final Masses. Because of the exorbitant cost of maintaining the parish buildings, the church is closing and the community is relocating to Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown – a daughter parish of St. Michael.

St. Michael is one of the most beautiful churches in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and will be sorely missed.  Read about the last Masses here. You can also check out the following video report.

‘And with your spirit’

Father Richard Hilgartner talks about the new Roman Missal during a June 23 workshop at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

PITTSBURGH – You might call it liturgical autopilot.

As soon as Catholics hear a priest say, “The Lord be with you,” they instinctively respond, “And also with you.”

That’s all about to change Nov. 27 when the English-speaking world begins using the new Roman Missal – the book of liturgical prayers that has been more literally and poetically translated from the Latin.

With the new translation, English-speaking Catholics will now respond to the priest or deacon with, “And with your spirit.”

Father Richard Hilgartner, a Baltimore priest who serves as director of the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for Divine Worship, acknowledged that the change will probably be one of the more challenging ones for Catholics to accept. “And also with you” has been used for more than four decades. It’s the only response many Catholics have ever known.

During a June 23 workshop on the new Roman Missal, given at the Catholic Media Convention in Pittsburgh, Father Hilgartner delved into some of the reasons why “And with your spirit” has been adopted.

The phrase has ancient roots in Scripture. It was used in the Book of Ruth and the Book of Chronicles. The angel Gabriel greeted the Blessed Virgin Mary with those words, the priest noted, and St. Paul often signed off his letters that way.

Father Hilgartner pointed out that there’s also an important functional component to the words.

The Latin is, “Dominus vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo.” It contains no verb. It’s as much a statement of fact as it is a greeting, Father Hilgartner said.

“‘The Lord be with you,’ is saying that the Lord is present in this gathering,” the priest explained. “The people’s response back to the priest – ‘and with your spirit’ – is an acknowledgment that the priest’s spirit has been configured and conformed to Christ by virtue of ordination to act as Christ presiding over the assembly.”

When the priest says, ‘The Lord be with you,’ the people’s response is not some kind of “right back at you Father!” as much as it is focused on allowing Christ to work through that priest, Father Hilgartner said.

“It’s a reminder to the priest that what he does, he does because the Church has called him and ordained him to act in the person of Christ,” he said. “The priest acknowledges the presence of Christ in the assembly and the assembly acknowledges the presence of Christ working in and through the priest.”

The liturgical act can take place, Father Hilgartner explained, “because the Church is rightly gathered and rightly ordered.”

“It’s a statement of ecclesiology,” he said.

Father Hilgartner noted that English-speaking countries are in the minority by not having a literal translation of the Latin for the dialogue, which is used at the beginning of Mass, at the proclamation of the Gospel by a priest or deacon, at the beginning of the eucharistic prayer and at the final blessing at Mass. The Italian translation is “E con il tuo spirito,” French: “Et avec votre esprit,” Spanish: “Y con tu espíritu,” and German: “Und mit deinem Geiste.”

It will take some time before people adjust to the change. But, if parishes do a good job explaining the reasons behind that and other changes, it will be a great moment of catechesis when we can all learn more about what we really believe as Catholics.

In the coming weeks, The Catholic Review will feature an in-depth look at Father Hilgartner’s ministry at the bishops’ conference.

Planning puts Mountain Maryland on solid footing

In this week’s Catholic Review, you will read about a new parish forming in Western Maryland.

Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien has approved a proposal to unite the five Cumberland-area parishes into a single faith community with one pastoral staff to be known as “Our Lady of the Mountains.” The affected parishes are Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Mary and St. Patrick in Cumberland; St. Ambrose in Cresaptown and St. Patrick in Mount Savage. The new faith community will be led by Capuchin Franciscan priests.

Monsignor James Hannon, the longtime pastor of six parishes in Garrett and Allegany Counties – and the temporary pastor of St. Mary and St. Patrick in Cumberland and St. Patrick in Mount Savage – will be leaving Mountain Maryland to become the associate director of the clergy personnel office at the Catholic Center in Baltimore.

I recently asked Monsignor Hannon about the ongoing planning in Western Maryland and what he will miss about the region. His parishes include St. Michael, Frostburg; St. Ann, Grantsville; St. Joseph, Midland; St. Mary, Lonaconing; St. Peter, Westernport and St. Gabriel, Barton.

Monsignor Hannon gave such thoughtful responses that I thought I’d share them with you here.

Q.  With your upcoming appointment to the Catholic Center, you will be leaving Mountain Maryland after shepherding the area’s parishes through a time of transition.  As you look back, what was the biggest challenge in taking a more regional approach?  What made it work?

A. I would say that the biggest challenge in taking a more regional approach was that first step for people to look beyond their own parish boundaries. I think that over the years parish leadership has promoted such a strong sense of “my parish” as a place, a locality that inspires loyalty that we sometimes have lost sight of the idea that we are a larger church family. I believe that Catholics in our area have and are making that transition well. People are seeing that a regional approach offers life to our parishes – it is not a threat. Moving beyond familiar boundaries can be frightening – but once people do it – they begin to see a larger picture, and a positive picture of how our parishes will walk into the future emerges for them.

Q. Do you think the parishes of Mountain Maryland are well poised for the future? Is the organizational model effective?

A. Yes, I do think that the parishes of Mountain Maryland are well poised for the future – for a number of reasons:

1. Our parishes have been in a planning process over the course of a number for years. Parishioners are used to hearing and thinking in a “planning” mode. While actually changing can be challenging – the idea of change and the need for change are not new concepts to our people.

2. The approach that we have taken to our parishes working together is one that has the ability to adapt to even more changes as they are needed. For example – with the parishes that we call the “Mountain Maryland Six” – we recently had to re-do our weekend Mass schedule in order to accommodate only two priests serving the four weekend Mass sites. We met with the combined Pastoral Councils, Finance Committees and Corporators and talked out a suggested Mass schedule that would meet everyone’s needs. The new Mass schedule that emerged is one that is solid – it gives people choices and it allows the priests who will be celebrating Mass to go from church to church in such a way that they are not rushed. The priests can stay after Mass and greet people, perhaps even attend an after Mass social gathering – without feeling rushed. I believe that the revised Mass schedule for our MM6 parishes allows the priests to serve the people better – that is what it is about.

3. The organizational model is effective because it allows change as it is needed. The models that the Mountain Maryland Six is presently engaged in – and the model which the Cumberland parishes are moving into – may not be the same in 7 years. The overall model is one that allows us to look at the parishes, their needs, the population trends, – it allows us to ask the question, “What would be best for our people at this time? How can we be better stewards of our gifts? How can we allow staff to really use their gifts to the good of the Church?” Rather than supporting a “status quo” and simply existing as we “always have” – we are encouraged to seek an organizational model that supports life in the parishes. While many of the changes that have been made in Mountain Maryland are to address a general decline in population over the years here, it is important that we frame the changes in terms of the goal. The goal is a lively Church – living parishes. Staying the same as we did in the past is not an option.

It is also important to note that the model that was proposed and accepted for the Cumberland area parishes address some administrative issues. Instead of 5 separate Pastoral Councils, Finance Committees, sets of corporators – now there will be ONE of each of these bodies. That approach will encourage UNITY – something that will serve the people of these sites in a better way. This model also allows the pastor and the parish leadership to work more efficiently for the good of all.

Monsignor Hannon also wanted to give credit to the many people involved in the planning process throughout Western Maryland. Deacon Charlie Hiebler, Dr. Tom Little and Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski were among them.

There are those from the Division of Facilities and Real Estate Management who have walked with us in assessing our buildings, making them safer, planning for work that needs to be done, looking at our cemeteries and their future, – Nolan McCoy, Hugh Andes, Matt Regan and David Owens have given us many hours of committed service to ensure the health of our parishes in this area.

Development – Greg Leitner has been our “go to guy” over the past years. He has been an immense help to me personally – and to our parish staffs as they have faced the need to address any number of areas of parish life that have been served by Greg and the Development people.

Human Resources – Regina McCurdy has been a real service to us on a number of occasions. Regina has helped most recently in the Cumberland parishes as they have and are maneuvering through the process of re-definition. She brings a calm and respectful approach to staffing issues that have presented themselves. She has advise me and other pastors in our area in a way that shows that she sees her work as a service to the Church.

Fiscal offices – Ashley Conley has especially been helpful to our bookkeepers and to me as a pastor. Ashley has always been available to help in any way she can. John Matera has worked closely with our parish staffs in answering questions and being attentive to our needs.

Petra Phelps has helped our parish staffs to better understand employee benefits. She has worked with others at 320 to help our parish staff personnel maneuver changes and the information needed to know what those changes are about.

Chancery – Dr. Diane Barr has come to our area meetings of parish leadership, the regional planning commission and parishioners and has served us so well. She is a real teacher – and she has been able to bring clarity in answers to questions that have emerged as we walk into a future that brings up many uncertainties. She has taken the fear out of the unknown – and brought to light and focus to our work.

Communications Office – Sean Caine has worked to help us present the changes that are necessary in our area in a positive light. He has been a calm and reasoned voice in promoting the Church’s voice on many important issues that are part of the lives of our own parishioners here in Mountain Maryland.

Evangelization – Since Fr. Hurley took on leadership of the Department of Evangelization – members of the “E-Team” have been available and generous in giving their time and interest! We have a member of TWO of the E-Team with us each month when the leadership of our parishes meet. They advise us and offer their expertise as we have gone through changes in our area.

Insurance – Tom Alban has served us so well over the years. If there is an accident, Tom is the guy we call. He is always re-assuring and has served us well in the past years. When St. Ann’s had a fire some years ago – Tom was here, as were other members of the Archdiocesan offices, as we walked through that time and charted a future church for the St. Ann community.

As you can see, George – I think it is important that we name names of people who have been part of our own larger team. The notion of “team-work” includes those from the archdiocesan offices who have worked with us – and we are grateful for their service. They are part of why a new vision of parishes can work. I hope that my own work might break down the “Us vs. Them” mentality that sometimes is present. Giving credit to those who have really been present to us is part of that effort.

Q. What are you going to miss about Mountain Maryland?

A. That is an easy question to answer – THE PEOPLE! The people of the parishes I have served are wonderful, good people. For so many – their connection to the parishes transcends their own generation – it goes back in time to past generations when their own ancestors settled in the area. The many smaller towns that make up Mountain Maryland have a rich and beautiful history – and our Catholic Church is a vibrant part of that history. Their ancestors built these churches. Their ancestors worshipped in these buildings that represent so much to them. Given this connection to the past – it is all the more impressive that so many of our parishioners are able to look beyond their own local parish to see a church that needs to embrace change. It is this ability that will ensure that our parishes will be vibrant into the future.

Mountain Maryland has been home to me for some years. I will, I know – be “home sick” for a while. I have been blessed by some wonderful friendships over the years – ones that I know will continue to be a blessing. I will certainly make it a point to visit often – and to return to be refreshed and re-energized by the people and places that have been an important part of my life these past years.

VIDEO REPORT: Changes coming to Cumberland

Last week, I covered a town meeting in Cumberland regarding the future of parishes in the area. A proposal will be presented to Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien that would unite the parishes into a new faith community with a new name and a single pastoral staff.  Cumberland’s St. Mary, St. Patrick and Ss. Peter and Paul and Cresaptown’s St. Ambrose would continue offering weekend Masses under the plan, while St. Patrick in Mount Savage would become a “station” for funerals, weddings and special liturgies – but no regular Masses.

Much more will be coming in a story in The Catholic Review.  In the meantime, check out this video I put together on the meeting.

5/3 Update:  Click here for the full report on the Cumberland town meeting.

Carney parish explores Bach’s St. Matthew Passion

“Monumental” is the word often used to describe Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

Written to be performed at Good Friday services, the spiritually haunting work retells the story of Christ’s arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial as presented in St. Matthew’s Gospel. It also incorporates other poetry and chorales. 

Unveiled in 1727 at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, the composition is believed to have been performed only three other times while Bach was alive. The masterpiece was then lost to virtual obscurity until a young composer named Felix Mendelssohn revived it in 1829.

Katherine Scott, a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore who now serves as the very talented music director of St. Isaac Jogues in Carney, will lead a small faith-sharing group over the course of the next few Sundays that will explore the St. Matthew Passion. Participants will listen to and discuss the sacred music, and Scott will provide the full text and translation.

Scott said she plans to look at how Bach uses musical devices to bring out the text’s meaning.

“If you have never heard this work,” she said, “prepare to be floored!”

The discussion group will meet Sundays March 13, 20, 27, and April 3 from  7-8:30 p.m. at St. Isaac Jogues’ Cronin Center, 9215 Old Harford Road.

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