Bishop Silva of the Diocese of Honolulu
adjusts status of Latin Mass community
Bishop Silva names a chaplain on Maui, a pastor on Oahu
Hawaii Catholic Herald
The Latin Mass of 1962 is receiving increased recognition from the Diocese of Honolulu. Bishop Larry Silva has named a chaplain on Maui for a community of adherents to the “extraordinary form” of the Mass, commonly called the Tridentine Mass, and a pastor on Oahu. Both are first time positions.
On Feb. 1, Father Steve Nguyen, who has been chaplain of the existing Oahu Latin Mass community since May 28, will become pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Pauoa Valley in Honolulu. The Latin Mass community will be incorporated into that parish on the same date.
Coinciding with new pastor’s appointment will be the separation of Blessed Sacrament Parish and neighboring St. Stephen Parish in Nuuanu, who have been sharing a pastor since 2004. The dual pastor, Father Khanh Pham-Nguyen, will remain in charge of St. Stephen Church only.
The Oahu Tridentine group has been renting Blessed Sacrament Church at $75 a week for its weekly Sunday 10 a.m. Mass.
Besides weekly Mass, the Latin community also has religious education programs, but they have not been subject to parish oversight or diocesan certification, Father Nguyen said. Bishop Silva has administered Confirmation to some of its members.
As pastor, Father Nguyen will oversee the community’s catechetical and sacramental programs, but as to whether they will be part of the regular parish programs or separate, “I’m not quite sure,” he said in a phone interview with the Hawaii Catholic Herald last week.
Whatever money the Latin Mass group has collected up to Feb. 1 will become parish funds, but used only for the Latin community, according to the bishop’s instructions. Latin Mass collections from Feb. 1 onward will go into the general parish fund.
Father Nguyen said the Tridentine community has 75-100 members from all over Oahu —“Waianae, Waipahu, Makakilo, town, Kailua,” he said, giving a partial list of the places where they live.
The group will not have its own separate parish council, he said, but will be represented on the Blessed Sacrament parish council.
Bishop Silva said that “Latin Mass Community members should register as members of Blessed Sacrament Parish, if they are stable members of the community and not occasional visitors.”
Father Nguyen is now the parochial vicar, or associate pastor, at St. Anthony Church in Kailua. He is also a canon lawyer assigned part-time to the diocesan Tribunal and Canonical Affairs Office, 1-4 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Although he has been its chaplain for five months, Father Nguyen has not yet celebrated Mass for the Latin Mass community. The local priests who have are Marianist Father Francis Nakagawa, Father Khanh Hoang and Sacred Hearts Father Christopher Keahi.
At age 40, Father Nguyen is too young to have experienced the Tridentine Mass as it was originally celebrated. He learned it recently in Chicago through eight to nine days of private training in a program run by an 11-year-old religious community called the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.
Asked what he thought of the Tridentine Mass, he said, “I really like it.”
“It is very deliberate,” which, he said, “being a canonist” appeals to him.
While the only prayer interaction during the Mass exists “between the priest and the server,” Father Nguyen said, what draws people to the Latin Mass is the “vertical relationship between you and God” rather than with other members of the congregation.
While a common notion has the priest celebrating the Tridentine Mass with his back to the congregation, Father Nguyen said, in reality, the priest and people are facing the “same” direction — traditionally “ad orientem,” toward the east. (Blessed Sacrament Church is actually aligned in a northeast direction.)
The late Bishop Joseph A. Ferrario gave permission for the Tridentine Mass to be celebrated in Hawaii following Pope John Paul II’s 1984 decision to allow the liturgy to be used with the local bishop’s approval.
Pope Benedict XVI liberalized his predecessor’s pronouncement in a July 2007 apostolic letter, “Summorum Pontificum,” which said that the Tridentine Mass should be made available in every parish where groups of Catholics desire it, and that a diocesan bishop’s permission was not required.
The pope called the present Mass in the vernacular from the 1970 Roman Missal the “ordinary” form of the Mass, and the Tridentine Mass the “extraordinary” form.
Bishop Silva anticipates difficulties in setting up one parish with two kinds of liturgies, but hopes for the best.
“I know this arrangement will be a challenge for many,” he wrote in a Nov. 27 letter to Blessed Sacrament parishioners and the Latin Mass community, “but it is also an opportunity to enrich all spiritually and socially.”
“I have no illusion that this transition will be easy,” he said.
“Following Jesus,” the bishop said, “may take us where we would rather not go, but if we are faithful, the Lord will always lead us to a place where we can grow and be nourished in our love for God and for one another.
Father Nguyen said the diocese has “never had anything like this” before.
Steve Sagucio, a member of the Latin Mass community, anticipates “mixed feelings” from his group.
While the community will gain the stability of a parish and a pastor, he said it may lose some of the independence that had allowed it to schedule its own special liturgical celebrations like Christmas Midnight Mass, to fly in “traditional” priests from outside the diocese, and to listen to homilies that reflect its more “traditional” Catholicism.
He said it is likely that the “novus ordo” (what the Tridentine community calls the present ordinary liturgy) will be the primary Mass for parish-wide celebrations. This could create potential hardships, he said, using the reception of Holy Communion as an example. At a Latin Mass, communicants receive the host on the tongue, while kneeling, and only from a priest. Whether this practice should be accommodated in the ordinary parish Mass would be a question, he said.
“The traditional [Latin] Mass is totally different,” he said.
The Mass on Maui
Celebrating the Mass in Latin is also new for Father Escanilla on Maui.
He volunteered to learn the liturgy when requests were made for it on that island.
Father Escanilla, 59, belongs to the Diocese of Sorsogon at the southeastern end of the island of Luzon. He came to Hawaii last year at the start of a two-year sabbatical, and was assigned as administrator of Holy Rosary Church in Paia on Nov. 1, 2009.
He learned the Tridentine Mass on Maui over the course of one-and-a-half months from a priest who made three visits from the mainland to train him.
He started offering the Mass in July at 10 a.m. on the first, second and third Sundays of the month. The parish has only one other Sunday Mass at 7:30 a.m. and a Saturday vigil Mass.
On the fourth Sunday of the month, Father Escanilla celebrates the Latin Mass at 3 p.m. at Maria Lanakila Church in Lahaina.
He said his congregations are growing, from less than 10 in Paia five months ago to about 20 to 30 today. Lahaina has about 15.
Father Escanilla said that while older Catholics were expected, there are also young people in his congregations. He recently performed an infant baptism and is now preparing a group of youth for Confirmation.
The priest said he wants to make sure the Latin Mass congregation at Holy Rosary doesn’t become an “elite group” but remains a part of the parish.
He asks members to attend the English Mass on the fourth Sunday of the month.
He said he has never celebrated a Tridentine “high” Mass, in which parts of the Mass are sung in Gregorian chant, but hopes to do so at Christmas.
Father Escanilla said that he appreciates the reverential qualities of the Tridentine Mass.