Local News Archive
Print Issue: March 18, 1999
Latin Mass Community Becomes A Parish
BY KATHI STEARNS
MABLETON--A former Baptist church has been reborn as a unique Catholic parish.
The Latin Mass Community of St. Francis de Sales was elevated to a personal parish by Archbishop John F. Donoghue on Jan. 29, the old calendar feast of St. Francis de Sales. A personal parish is established based upon rite, language, nationality or other factor.
St. Francis de Sales is the only parish in the archdiocese committed to preserving the Mass as celebrated in Latin and according to the 1962 Roman Missal. It is one of four such personal parishes in the United States and Canada and the only one in the South.
Msgr. Peter Dora, vicar general, announced Archbishop Donoghues decree of establishment to the approximately 350 people in attendance Jan. 31.
Mindful of the will of the Church to preserve her sacred rites, and attentive to the entreaties of the People of God, and after having consulted with the Council of Priests of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, we now deem it fitting to establish St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, as a personal parish to serve the needs of Catholics who wish to attend the rites of Holy Mother Church according to the 1962 Missal, and in accordance with the provisions of the indult, Ecclesia Dei, of our Holy Father Pope John Paul II, said Msgr. Dora.
The Tridentine Mass was celebrated by the Western Church from 1562 to 1962 when, during the Second Vatican Council, changes in the liturgy, including use of the vernacular language rather than Latin, were promulgated. The Roman Missal promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 is now in use, but Pope John Paul II in 1984 gave permission for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass if the validity of Vatican II liturgical reforms is recognized.
Msgr. Dora also installed Father Mark Fischer of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter as founding pastor of the new parish.
The church, located at 587 Landers Drive in Mableton, seats 400 persons and was purchased for $700,000 Jan. 6. The first Mass was celebrated at the church Jan. 10. The facility has a cry room and office space, a parish library, classrooms, a parish hall and a gymnasium. The site consists of five acres of land, two of which are wooded. The members of the parish plan to use the wooded portion to celebrate the outdoor Way of the Cross. There is also ample space for a future rectory. The parish also hopes to open a small bookstore on the premises.
Parishioner John Elledge, an architect with Perkins & Wills of Atlanta, is overseeing and directing the church renovations. To date a Gothic style carved Philippine mahogany high altar which formerly resided in a convent has been installed. Two similar side altars are planned.
We are very happy with our new church, Father Fischer said. It allows us a full program of parish activities and enables us to reach out and serve the community, bringing the light of Christ to everyone.
In April the parish will host a series of special courses taught by architect Joseph Molloy on the art, architecture and music of the Catholic Church throughout history. The parish also plans to offer special evenings of prayer and reflection for both men and women on a monthly basis. Father Fischer additionally hopes to establish a home school extension program which would be available on a daily basis offering courses such as special religious education and art classes.
Parishioners echoed Father Fischers enthusiasm for having a place of worship they can call their own.
Having the Latin Mass Community become St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church and a parish of the Archdiocese of Atlanta with its own church is the culmination of answered prayers which had their grass-roots beginnings about five years ago, earlier for some, with a dream for a Latin rite church in Atlanta, said Frank Petraglia, a member of the parish. The members of St. Francis de Sales Parish are overjoyed at becoming a spoke in the great wheel of the Catholic Church and we are ever thankful for Archbishop Donoghue and for all the support given to St. Francis de Sales by the archdiocese. We believe we are one of the few churches worldwide established for the worship in the Latin rite since the indult granted by the Holy Father. We extend a gracious invitation to our brothers and sisters to visit our new church on this historic occasion.
The Latin Mass Community originated in 1995 when a group led by Joe Fradet of Atlanta asked Archbishop Donoghue to consider the regular celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in the archdiocese. When permission was granted by the archbishop the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter supplied a priest to celebrate the Mass once a month at Sacred Heart Church, Atlanta. In 1996 the community began to worship every Sunday at St. Josephs Maronite Church, Atlanta.
In July 1997 Archbishop Donoghue celebrated a Pontifical High Mass in the Tridentine rite at Sacred Heart Church. This was the first such Mass to be celebrated in the South since the close of the Second Vatican Council. In remarks that day Archbishop Donoghue thanked the members of the community for keeping the Old Mass alive and for their concern for the liturgy.
Latin has been the official language of the church since the third or fourth century. Because it is a language that no longer is spoken as the vernacular, Latin words do not change in meaning and do not reflect any particular nationality. As Pope Pius XII explained, The use of the Latin language ... is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth.
Father Fischer, who was the first chaplain of the community, grew up in Pittsburgh and earned his bachelor of arts degree in 1982 from the University of Cincinnati. In 1989 he entered the seminary of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Wigratzbad, Germany, where he completed six years of study in philosophy, theology and spirituality. In 1995 he was ordained a priest in Germany by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb. Before coming to Atlanta in December 1995, Father Fischer served at Holy Rosary Parish in Youngstown, Ohio.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter was originally established for priests and seminarians who broke with the late dissident Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre when he created a schism with the Catholic Church in 1988. They were reunited with the Catholic Church through the efforts of Pope John Paul II. Since 1988 the fraternity has grown and its priests include those like Father Fischer who entered in the last decade. The fraternity now provides priests to bishops and dioceses who request them to provide for the continuing use of the Latin-language Tridentine Mass.
As soon as living quarters for the priests are established in Mableton, Mass will be celebrated daily. Currently Mass is celebrated each Friday at 7 p.m. followed by eucharistic devotions and each Saturday at 10 a.m. followed by confession. Sunday low Mass is celebrated at 9 a.m. followed by the high Mass at 11:30 a.m.
Religious education classes are held at 10:15 a.m. on Sundays. Parish activities include an altar guild, the Society of St. Christopher, which provides transportation to members of the parish who need it, and the Legion of Mary. The parish also offers instructions for those interested in becoming Catholic. For information call (770) 948-6888.
OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED -- Msgr. Peter
Dora, vicar general, left, reads a decree from Archbishop John F. Donoghue
establishing St. Francis de Sales as a parish of the archdiocese Jan. 31.
Father Mark Fischer, FSSP, right, was officially installed as pastor.
LATIN MASS -- Father Mark Fischer, FSSP, celebrates Mass at St. Francis de Sales Church, Mableton. The Latin Mass Community formerly gathered at St. Josephs Maronite Church, Atlanta. The traditional Latin Mass has been celebrated in the archdiocese since 1995.