By Tim Johnson
SOUTH BEND — St. Stanislaus Parish in South Bend will become a “personal parish,” serving the faithful who worship according to the extraordinary form of the Latin rite. The parish will continue to offer Mass in English as well. This change of canonical status will take effect Sept. 8, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, according to a decree issued by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades on Aug. 21.
In a letter dated Aug. 20, Bishop Rhoades thanked St. Stanislaus parishioners who attended an Aug. 8 meeting and said, “I was happy to receive your support for my plan to preserve St. Stanislaus Parish and Church by altering its status from that of a ‘territorial parish’ to a ‘personal parish’ that will also serve the spiritual and pastoral needs of the Latin Mass community in South Bend. I expect that this will bring an influx of new members to the parish, thus enabling the parish to survive and grow, with the necessary income for ordinary and capital expenses.”
According to canon law, “As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory. When it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established determined by reason of the rite, language or nationality of the Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason.” — Canon 518.
Msgr. John Fritz of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the chaplain for the past 15 months of the St. Mother Theodore Guérin Latin Mass Community in South Bend will become the pastor of St. Stanislaus effective Sept. 8.
“I know that the present parishioners of St. Stanislaus will extend a warm welcome to the new parishioners from the Latin Mass community,” Bishop Rhoades shared in his letter. “I learned at the Aug. 8 meeting that many present parishioners may be interested in attending the Latin Mass on occasion. Some may prefer to attend only the English Mass. There may be some parishioners who choose to transfer their membership to Holy Cross or another parish. My sense from our meeting was that the great majority will choose to remain parishioners of St. Stanislaus.”
In the decree of alteration, Bishop Rhoades noted, “I have made this decision in order to preserve St. Stanislaus as a parish. It is clear that the present parishioners, who have diminished in numbers through recent years, are unable to provide the financial income for the operations and capital needs of the parish. Making St. Stanislaus a ‘personal parish’ will add parishioners of the Latin Mass community, thus providing additional income and support for a sustainable parish.”
“At the same time,” the bishop added, “the Latin Mass community, which has been worshipping at St. Patrick Church in South Bend, has desired a parish of its own. This community should grow by having its own parish with the opportunity to increase its spiritual, charitable and educational activities and programs.”
He said, “I believe the alteration of St. Stanislaus Parish will promote the future growth of the parish, allow the continued upkeep and use of St. Stanislaus Church, and provide for the spiritual needs of the Latin Mass community as well as for those who worship according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. Regarding the latter, the pastor will ensure the provision of the ordinary form by enlisting the service of priests outside the parish.”
Holy Cross Father Robert Epping, who has been the pastor of St. Stanislaus and Holy Cross parishes in South Bend since 2013, told Today’s Catholic, “Bishop Rhoades has asked the priests serving at Holy Cross Parish and who have been entrusted with the pastoral care of St. Stanislaus since the combination (since 2001) to continue providing assistance by celebrating the Saturday Vigil Masses at 4:30 p.m. in English.”
The priests who currently serve at Holy Cross include Father Epping and Holy Cross Father Edmund Sylvia and Holy Cross Father Vincent Coppola. They will all be assisting at St. Stanislaus with Masses.
“Besides the Masses for Sunday, we will be available at the invitation of the new pastor to assist with other liturgical services like funerals and weddings, etc. that the faithful of St. Stanislaus ask to be celebrated in English according to the Ordinary Rite of the Mass,” Father Epping said.
Appointed pastor Msgr. Fritz told Today’s Catholic, “A ‘personal parish’ is a unique challenge, and the situation that will be at St. Stanislaus will be even more so. Since a personal parish does not have boundaries like most parishes, which are territorial, it will be a pastoral challenge for me to minister to the people who will be under my care. But this is a very welcome challenge.”
“This arrangement will have a stabilizing effect on the community and will definitely help it grow and thrive,” Msgr. Fritz continued. “Every family needs a certain level of stability and consistency in which to achieve its potential — a parish family is no different.”
“I am excited for the people that will have a legacy preserved and a parish home,” he said. “For myself, I am excited as this is my first appointment as a pastor. I take the responsibility of the pastoral care of souls very seriously — so please pray for me that I might be a shepherd after the heart of Christ.”
Msgr. Fritz described the St. Mother Theodore Guérin Latin Mass community in South Bend as “a very small community, but growing.”
“On average we have about 140 people at Mass on Sunday, and have even had 180 or 200 on occasion,” he said. “Although there are people of every age that attend, a large percentage of our community is comprised of families with young children — and that is where much of our growth lies.”
Most are from the immediate South Bend area, he said, “but we have some that come all the way from LaPorte, Bremen, Goshen and even a few from points in Michigan.”
Since its founding in 1899, St. Stanislaus has been served by the Congregation of Holy Cross.
“I am deeply grateful to Father Epping and to the Congregation of Holy Cross for their pastoral care of St. Stanislaus Parish through the years,” Bishop Rhoades wrote in his letter to parishioners.
Father Epping noted that in the last decades, extensive economic, ethnic and demographic changes have drastically changed the neighborhood population around St. Stanislaus. The number of registered parishioner households has diminished to slightly more than 100, many of whom are single or widowed persons.
“Many also have moved from the area but still fiercely maintain their loyalty to the parish,” Father Epping said. “There are few young families who belong to St. Stanislaus.” He said, “Becoming a ‘personal parish’ entrusted to the pastoral care of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and moving the Latin Mass community, who gather and celebrate liturgy at St. Patrick’s Parish to St. Stanislaus, provides a ‘home’ for an exciting and potentially growing community of many younger families to the membership of the parish.”
“It is anticipated that new life and new energy will effectively resurrect parish life and provide for the extended life-line of the parish and the rich and vibrant use of the parish facilities that otherwise may continue to deteriorate,” Father Epping said. “I don’t know if I would use the word ‘save’ but rather extend the life of the parish. The other alternative seemed to be to close the parish and sell or demolish the property of a very beautiful church with a long and revered history.”
St. Stanislaus parishioner Phyllis Largey, who has served on the Holy Cross-St. Stanislaus Pastoral Council, spoke to Today’s Catholic about the benefits of the alteration.
She said, “St. Stanislaus Church will remain open. The long-time parishioners will continue to have St. Stan’s as their spiritual home. We will have a significant increase in parish members as we welcome the members who worship in the Latin rite. We will also have the opportunity to look to the future for increased activities within the parish and hopefully be able to build the cash necessary to maintain the physical plant.”
Another pastoral council member, parishioner Tom Cleveland added, “The older parishioners will still be able to be buried out of their church since we are being given a reprieve from being closed and we will be standing on our own again. That’s what is important to them.”
Stephen and Suzanne Judge, who are active in the St. Mother Theodore Guérin Latin Mass Community, said, “Our family is extremely grateful to Bishop Rhoades and thrilled about the move to St. Stanislaus.”
“St. Patrick’s is a beautiful church and the pastor and parish have been gracious to host us. We will always remember our time there — which has included three Baptisms and two first Holy Communions — with fondness and tremendous gratitude,” Stephen Judge said.
“But we are excited that the community will now have its own home to grow into and greater control over its own future,” he added. “We hope the move will not only provide greater stability for those, like ourselves, attached primarily to the extraordinary form, but will also help share the beauty of the older form to those outside our community.”
Bishop Rhoades, in his letter to parishioners of St. Stanislaus, noted, “A similar alteration of a parish in Fort Wayne a few years ago saved that parish, which had been unable to remain viable until it was made a ‘personal parish’ for the Latin Mass community in Fort Wayne. Today the parish is doing well as parishioners who attend the English Mass and those who attend the Latin Mass work together as one for the good of the whole parish. I am hopeful that this will also happen at St. Stanislaus.”
The first Latin Mass at St. Stanislaus will be Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. for the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It will be a sung Mass with incense in thanksgiving to Almighty God and the intercession of Our Lady for this wonderful opportunity.
History of St. Stanislaus
SOUTH BEND — In 1897, Holy Cross Father Valentine Czyzewski, who was pastor of the first Polish Parish in South Bend, St. Hedwig, suggested the need for a new parish for the growing number of Polish immigrants on the northwest side of the city. By the end of the year the committee took the name St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr, as its patron and began fund raising.
Ground was broken in October 1898 and completed by early 1900. The first Mass was celebrated on March 25, 1900 and the first appointed pastor was Holy Cross Father Theodore Jarzynski. St. Stanislaus Church was officially dedicated on May 13, 1900. In the summer of 1900, Holy Cross Father Roman Marciniak was appointed pastor and remained in that post for 28 years. According to the historical account, “Holy Cross and the South Bend Polonia,” written by Holy Cross Brother Donald Stabrowski, it was during Father Marciniak’s tenure that St. Stanislaus was firmly established to serve the immigrants, mainly from the Poznan region in what was called the “golden hills.”
History of the St. Mother Theodore Guérin Latin Mass Community
The St. Mother Theodore Guérin Latin Mass Community was established by Bishop John M. D’Arcy in response to Pope Benedict XVI’s “Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum” and the request from the Latin Mass communities in Fort Wayne and South Bend who desired that the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter establish an apostolate in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and to supply priests in full communion with Rome to offer the Latin Mass and sacraments in the extraordinary form.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, at the request of Bishop D’Arcy, sent a priest in March 2008 to celebrate Mass and then established the St. Mother Theodore Guérin Community. This community would subsist within the diocesan parishes of Sacred Heart in Fort Wayne and originally St. John the Baptist Church in South Bend, and then later transferred to St. Patrick Church in South Bend, before the move to St. Stanislaus.
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