The relatively new pontifical society, devoted to celebrating Mass in the Extraordinary Form, reports a surge in Mass attendance around the country.
From its website:
Fraternity parishes and chapels around the country report major increases in Sunday Mass attendance compared with last year.
Newer apostolates have seen dramatic growth, some doubling their numbers over the last year, such as Los Angeles, which went from 250 per Sunday to 500. The apostolate did not even have its own church until 2018, so finally settling down in a small church in San Fernando provided needed stability, contributing to the significant increase it saw this past year.
“The main obstacle right now is a lack of space,” said Fr. Federico Masutti, assistant pastor of St. Vitus, talking to the Missive over the summer. His words echo the sentiment of so many other FSSP apostolates that find themselves outgrowing their buildings, but it’s really a great problem to have.
“When we were at 200 people,” said pastor Fr. James Fryar, “we decided to add the fourth Mass, and just adding that one Mass, from one week to the next, another 200 people came.”
“The growth was amazing,” confirmed Fr. Masutti.
In Naples, Florida, the FSSP has been operating for less than two years, and is at nearly 400 people per Sunday, up over 20 percent from last year.
“A plethora of young families are coming, attracted by the sacred beauty and reverence of the Mass, the traditional catechesis and true parish family life,” said pastor Fr. Jonathan Romanoski.
He and assistant pastor Fr. Joshua Passo do not have their own church, but offer Mass in two locations, one in Naples and one in Fort Myers. He pointed out that it is not only the liturgy that draws the growing congregation.
“It’s more than just the Latin Mass—they’re coming for the community life and all of the groups we have—for adults, for kids, for catechesis,” he said. “They come because we are two priests, we are a small community where everybody can get to know each other and the families can truly bond.”
Two new apostolates established last year—in the dioceses of Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island—have started off strong and now have 400 and 300 parishioners, respectively. Both locations have inherited magnificent churches that should accommodate their communities for a long time.
Fr. Carl Gismondi of St. Mary’s in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, said that his church is perfect for their needs. “Archbishop Chaput has been very generous in supporting the Latin Mass community,” he said. “The church here in Conshohocken, St. Mary’s, is in an ideal location.
“It’s a beautiful Neo-Gothic church built in 1950. It’s probably one of the last grand churches built in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.”
The growth of FSSP parishes comes amid decades of decline in the Catholic Church in the U.S., which has been marred by sexual abuse scandals. Since 1970, the number of priests in the U.S. has declined by about 38% to 36,580 in 2018.
In absolute terms, the Catholic population has grown from 54.1 million in 1970 to 76.3 million in 2018, although that is down from a high of 81.2 million in 2005. In relative terms, however, the Catholic population has declined as a share of the overall U.S. population over the past decade, from 24% in 2007 to 20% in 2019. The number of people identifying as former Catholics has skyrocketed from 1.8 million in 1975 to 26.1 million in 2018.
Former Catholics tend to leave the church at a young age, with one survey showing almost 80% of erstwhile Catholics abandon the faith before age 23. About half of millennials, those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, who were raised Catholic no longer identify as Catholic.
Two surveys of former Catholics from the past decade found people who left usually did so because they slowly lost interest in religion, stopped believing the church’s teachings, and did not have their spiritual needs met.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) is a clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right, canonically erected by Pope St. John Paul II in 1988. Their priests serve in apostolates across the world, with the faithful celebration of the traditional Mass and Sacraments (Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) at the center of their charism. The members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, nourished through the spiritual riches of the Church’s ancient Roman Liturgy, strive to sanctify the seminarians, religious and faithful entrusted to their pastoral care.
The Fraternity has chosen St. Peter as their special patron in order to express their gratitude, filial love, and loyalty to the Supreme Pontiff. With more than 300 priests and 150 seminarians from 30 countries, the Fraternity serves in over 130 dioceses on 5 continents. International headquarters are located in Fribourg, Switzerland and North American headquarters in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Fraternity seminarians receive training at one of two international seminaries: Priesterseminar Sankt Petrus in Wigratzbad, Germany (for German and French speakers) and Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, Nebraska (for English speakers).