I am still receiving many messages from people upset about the doings at St. Agnes in St. Paul. People are worried about the changes. Some are afraid St. Agnes will fall apart. Really afraid. Others are angry about Fr. Altier. Really angry.
I have to say that if it weren’t for changes in the past, they wouldn’t have a parish they long to protect now.
Let’s leave aside the fate of Fr. Altier for a while. Whatever beef he might have with whatever program, or whatever stick might be stuck in whatever craw of the chancery… blah blah blah… Fr. Altier couldn’t stay there at St. Agnes forever, right? Eventually, he would have to go, even if it was because Death reassigned him with his inevitable scythe. Priests come and priests go. In Rome there is a proverb: Morto un papa, se ne fa un altro… A Pope dies, ya’ make another".
A Catholic parish is no more a fly in amber than Holy Mother Church.
Let’s consider a few things.
When you enter the rectory of St. Agnes parish, there is a line of photos of the former pastors. There were impressive pastors in that parish and impressive assistants.
Consider that if Msgr. Alphonse Schladweiler had not left St. Agnes in 1957 to become the first Bishop of New Ulm (thus changing the borders of the Archdiocese), Msgr. Bandas would not have come. Bandas was a peritus at all the sessions of the Second Vatican Council. He implemented the liturgical changes mandated by the Holy See as they were written and intended, without experimentation or exaggeration or confusion. If Msgr. Bandas had not died in office when he did, Msgr. Schuler would not have come. Msgr. Schuler, a member and officer of international Church music organizations, came to St. Agnes in 1969, on the cusp of the Novus Ordo. He brought with him an expertise in the Church’s sacred music as well as a spirit of obedience to doing what the Council asked. He defended the school when the world (and women religious) was freaking out. If Msgr. Schuler had not stepped down, Fr. Welzbacher would not have come. Fr. Welzbacher, one of the five truly brilliant men I know, raised preaching to a new level (he must be heard to be believed) and also restructured the school in a time of great challenge. He integrated his contributions into what others had done before. The new man coming in and he will leave his stamp.
Moreover, all the men who have been around St. Agnes and who are now priests have gone on to be pastors, teachers, writers, etc., all applying what they gained their to the service of the Church in other ways. One is now a bishop. They spent many and happy hours, days, months, years at the parish. They moved on to new tasks. Change is necessary.
Years ago I wrote an article on change for the journal Sacred Music. I began that article with a quote from Il Gattopardo (in English The Leopard): "Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi…. If we want everything to remain the way it is, then everything must change".