They’re supposed to be fidgety. Bored, even.
But look down from the choir loft at Maternal Heart of Mary Church in Lewisham, an Extraordinary Form (i.e. Latin Mass) parish cared for by the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), and there are young heads dotted everywhere, and it’s hard to miss the relative lack of agitation.
This during a sung liturgy that runs close to two hours, with lots of incense, and is celebrated almost entirely in Latin; a liturgy in which there are many silent interludes and age–old Gregorian chant.
And yet for a non-territorial parish, there are not only children, but young parents, couples and singles everywhere, in addition to its more mature stalwarts. That was no more obviously the case than last Saturday when the Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes, Bishop Columba Macbeth-Green OSPPE, confirmed 40 children and three adults from the two FSSP Latin Mass communities in Sydney and Parramatta.
Parish priest Fr Duncan Wong FSSP said the day had been a great success: “It went very, very well. It was Bishop Columba’s first visit to Maternal Heart of Mary Church and the children were elated with such a kindly prelate.”
Maternal Heart’s historic Romanesque church was once the chapel of the Little Company of Mary Sisters who operated a hospital on the site.
On 15 August, 2013, George Cardinal Pell, then Archbishop of Sydney, made the community a personal parish.
The community has just entered into an agreement for a long-term lease with the church’s current owners, the Society of St Vincent de Paul, with the understanding that the Maternal Heart community will assist with some major restoration works on the beautiful and historical but dilapidated church. A car raffle is already under way, with more fundraising initiatives to follow.
The agreement with Vinnies is implicitly predicated on growth, yet another sign that the community which has called Maternal Heart home since the late 1980s is in it for the long haul.
“One common misperception”, Fr Duncan said, “is that we are attempting to recreate the past wholesale. The past is indeed important because it allows us to understand the present, in order that we may have a future. However, we are keenly aware that we are ministering mainly to a younger generation who are deeply thirsting for God, but raised in a different culture”.
On weekdays, low Masses are offered. On Sundays and greater feast days, the Masses are sung.
“Our faithful are very devoted to the sung liturgy, and participate actively in the parts of the sung liturgy that pertain to them. We are greatly blessed with enthusiastic servers, a talented choir and schola and devoted organists,” he said.
Many of the young people and families are involved in apostolates throughout the archdiocese, including with Family Life International, Frassati, charitable works, the Benedictine Oblates, and others.
FSSP holds catechetical classes, offers various pastoral services and has the special privilege of ministering at a local home for the dying.