Proposal for Boston’s Tridentine Mass community

Proposal for Boston’s Tridentine Mass community

The meeting between Fr. Mark O’Connell, representing Cardinal Sean O’Malley, and the people of Holy Trinity parish in Boston’s South End is going on now. Holy Trinity is one of the parishes slated to be closed in reconfiguration. It is the only parish with an authorized Tridentine Mass and also the last parish dedicated to ministry to German-speaking peoples.

A friend is emailing updates from the meeting and he tells me that the Archdiocese has proposed merging Holy Trinity with the Cathedral parish, rather than the previously proposed St. James parish in Chinatown. The Chinatown move had been adamantly opposed because of the fewer available parking spaces and generally less suitable facilities.

However, the big news is that the Tridentine Mass would move to Mary Immaculate Parish in Newton. That parish had been one of two, along with St. Philip Neri, that had been slated to merge in some way. It looks like Mary Immaculate is staying open.

The question is whether Mary Immaculate is suited to the celebration of the Tridentine Mass with an altar ad orientem and altar rail and the rest. However, it could be said that Newton is a better location than the South End because it is more centrally located and easier to get to than the South End of Boston. For my money, I would have seen it moved to Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, but that’s mainly because of the delicious irony it would represent.

Meanwhile, Fr. Charles Higgins, a frequent celebrant of the Tridentine Mass, would become the pastor of Mary Immaculate.

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  • I’m glad you were able to post my live-info, Dom. 

    In a sense, Holy Trinity’s fate was settled a long time ago when the Archbishop of Boston decided not to post a resident pastor there.  Some parishioners who spoke at the meeting consider the lack of a resident priest a factor in the parish’s weakness.  Cdl. O’Malley is, however, firm in continuing this refusal.

    The news from Fr. O’Connell runs counter to the plan for Mary Immaculate rumored in the Globe the other day: that St Philip Neri parish would merge into Mary Immaculate and bring the Korean community along.  That wouldn’t be practical with the Latin Mass community moving to Newton: a merger of four communities into one building would be too much. 

    Latin Mass parishioners at Holy Trinity actually don’t look very favorably on the Newton location.

    The site (tucked away in—I believe it’s Newton Lower Falls) may be more attractive to MetroWest suburbanites and to families than the current South End site, so it offers a potential for growth in those populations.  On the other hand, the move would add to the travel time for the North Shore and South Shore faithful who make up most of the Latin congregation now.

    It is quite far from the Green Line, so city dwellers, students, and other people without cars would find it hard to reach.  At best getting would take a long Green Line ride, followed by an unreliable bus ride (route 59); if those both work, one would arrive a bare six minutes before noon. 

    Separating the Latin community from the German community would leave the latter in place at Holy Trinity temporarily, with former parishioner Fr. Harry Kaufman as chaplain, but this would only be a brief reprieve.  The German community’s small size and inadequate finances (when considered alone) would compel the Cathedral rector to close the German church shortly, and some remnants of the German community’s observances and religious goods would be transferred to the Cathedral. 

    Fr. O’Connell made a point of noting that the parish’s goods would not go to the Archdiocese because a merger and not a suppression was taking place.  However, since the goods were going to the Cathedral, few were convinced that this would make much difference.

    According to Fr. O’Connell, the Archbishop is anticipating a new document from Rome that would promote the old Mass and somewhat redress the “mistake” that was made in its de facto suppression during the 1970s.  Moving the Latin Mass to a financially strong parish in a desirable location would be intended to aid this movement toward traditional liturgy by putting “more resources” into the old Mass: access to more priests, etc.  While the Cardinal doesn’t personally take an interest in the old Mass, he would be willing to do this, it seems, in order to follow what appear to be the Pope’s wishes.

    In what amounts to an alternative proposal, some Latin community members at the meeting suggested merging both communities into the Cathedral parish.  Putting the 1962 Mass at the Cathedral would serve to boost the status of the old Mass within the Archdiocese.

    The parishioners generally acknowledged Fr. O’Connell’s difficult task and his willingness to understand their concerns, although few of them found the plan of the Archdiocese agreeable.


    It’s wonderful Fr. Higgins finally has a parish assignment as pastor of a parish.

    I hope that the Tridentine will flourish and produce good fruit at Mary Immaculate.

    The Tridentine community has been kept at bay for so long… I hope and pray that this moves the community into a less precarious position – that they can now have Confirmations and Weddings and expand religious programs and be a light to us all.

    I will say though, that I weep for the closing of Holy Trinity. What a loss. I wish we could close some of the ugly modern parishes and keep these beautiful parishes that were built with the pennies and sweat of our grandparents or parents or even great grandparents. Even the stained glass windows in those beautiful old parishes are a catechism lesson – and some of the carved stations of the cross are breathtaking… never mind the incredible high altars. Lots of the interior will be sold for scrap and other stuff will be found on auction sites. Sad.

    I bet someday we will realize what a mistake all this was. This is what happens when we lose faith and/or do not pass it on.

  • Here’s a picture of the downstairs chapel at MIL.  Looks pretty uninteresting, if you ask me. 

    Any chance the congregation would welcome the lower-church altar from Holy Trinity to spruce things up a bit?


    I don’t know if the Archdiocese does this (sells the valuable interiors of closed parishes) but obviously, some dioceses do. I do wonder where some of the lovely interiors go – like what happens to the interior contents of a beautiful parish like Blessed Sacrament in Jamaica Plain? What do they do with the statues and windows and altars and tabernacles and stations of the cross in these parishes? It’s not like we’re building more parishes.

    And I agree with Rob Q – the situation that the parishioners in HT have been dealing with for years has only changed venue. I would have more faith in the Cardinal if he had placed the Tridentine community in a ‘high profile’ parish or if he was willing to allow the FSSP or ICK in our Archdiocese. This is still like the Tridentine is a nitch group that will change in the future. Like the crazy old aunt upstairs or something.

  • According to canon law it is somewhat difficult to remove a pastor during his regular term unless he has committed an offense. He can’t be airlifted out on a whim. Prior to Vatican II this was even stronger, but it’s still somewhat solid now.

    Colleen: The Archdiocese has a central storage facility to which all these things go. The archdiocese is indeed building parishes in those places where all the people are moving to. That’s been acknowledged by everybody form the beginning. But many parishes are also in need of various items for renovation. I know for a fact, as well, that many things have been sent to the missions. I know of a church built outside Quito, Ecuador, that has an altar, pews, and many other liturgical items courtesy of the Archdiocese of Boston and those very poor Catholics are very appreciative that these gifts to the Church are still being used the way they’re supposed to be.

    Whatever other dioceses are doing, this archdiocese at least is doing the right thing with the goods.

  • Thanks Dom. I am so happy that Boston does the right thing with our parish interiors. It breaks my heart when I see or hear of beautiful and sacred objects up for auction. It’s so disrespectful.

    I shouldn’t have said that we are not building more parishes… we aren’t in my neck of the woods but I do know of a few built recently elsewhere in the state. I hope the material from the central storage facility is used in those newer parishes although I don’t think (sadly) that high altars are in great demand anymore in the modern parish design. I always think of the Irish/Italian/Polish/German immigrants who toiled on them for very little money and that bothers me too.

    Anyway, my prayers for the Tridentine community of Boston.

  • One of Fr. O’Connell’s comments was that Mary Immaculate Parish would not have “two communities, but one community with two rites”. 

    From my point of view, this is understandable: the old rite should be regarded as the living heritage of all Roman-rite Catholics. 

    But from a more cynical point of view, though, Fr. O’Connell was just being consistent with the AoB’s unwillingness to recognize Catholics attached to the old rite as a distinct canonical community (chaplaincy, congregation, or parish).

    Happily, we don’t have to worry that the Latin Mass community would be swamped by an overwhelmingly large parish congregation at Mary Immaculate: the 2006 Directory gives MIL’s Mass attendance as 372, compared with Holy Trinity’s 200-225.

  • Rob: The office of pastor is much more significant than that of administrator. By changing from an administrator to a pastor indicates to me that they are trying to send a message about permanence.

  • I need to correct an erroneous impression I gave above; on Sunday I misunderstood part of the Archbishop’s plan for the merger/transfer/reconfiguration.

    St. Philip Neri parish is expected to merge back into Mary Immaculate, though perhaps not immediately.  The Korean community will, however, relocate to some other church.

  • I do wonder where some of the lovely interiors go – like what happens to the interior contents of a beautiful parish like Blessed Sacrament in Jamaica Plain?

    Actually, the ambo is now at Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

    I know this isn’t much help to any Holy Trinity parishioners, but please know that, if the two parishes merge, you will be warmly welcomed by us. We need you.

    My prayers are with Holy Trinity parish.