A fortunate flock in Grand Rapids, MI

A reader sent the following.  It is posted on the parish website as a PDF, but he took the time to send me the text, which aided me in posting what comes below.

This parish priest has made a determination for the good of his flock.  Let’s read what he has to say with my emphases and comments.  First comes the intro from the man who sent this piece:

Fr. Z, this is from this Sunday’s bulletin from the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Mich. Sacred Heart has a weekly Sunday TLM at 12:30pm. They alternate celebrants from our diocese and have a rotation of Low Mass, High Mass with (mixed sexes) choir and High Mass with schola. (The column is titled "Twin Towers" because the church has two, large bell towers.)


Last month, on the 15th of January, I celebrated a weekday Mass a bit differently. The appropriate word for what I did is described by the Latin term ad orientem. That means "towards the east". Or some would say, "the priest turning his back to the people". Why am I doing this?

To celebrate the current Mass properly, the Liturgy of the Word is done with the priest at the chair. [He is talking about the Novus Ordo, of course.] He only comes to the Altar for the preparation of the Gifts and then the Eucharistic Prayer. After Communion he normally goes back to the chair for the concluding rites. So the time at the altar is not that long[Nor would it be for a solemn Mass with, say, orchestral music.]

I was ordained in 1979, so I always celebrated the Mass in this manner. But to be very honest with you, I’ve never understood why. What was there to see? [good] It takes Faith, belief that bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Our human eyes cannot see that happen – only our hearts & souls do. So again, what is there to "see"?

Unfortunately, what has happened to the Mass – which has been a topic of some objections to the reforms that began in 1964 – is that at times, the Mass has become a human-priest centered event. But the human-priest is a physical stand-in for the true priest of the Mass, Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest. The Mass is HIS; He leads us all to the Father in worship, in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The idea is for the human-priest AND the rest of the worshiping community to stand in the same direction "following Jesus" to the Father. Picture Moses leading the Hebrews to the Promised Land.  [So… here is one image: the priest is leading the people toward something.]

"Ad orientem", literally "facing the East", comes from the Book of Ezekiel in which the People of God await the coming of the Lord FROM THE EAST (43:2). And St. Matthew declared the return of the Lord Jesus: "As the lightening from the east flashes to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be" (24:27).

Churches used to be built purposely facing the direction of the coming of the Lord – the East. [There is a second point: the Lord is coming from the East, so we face that direction in expectation.] The point of all this is not that we have to all face the East – although that would seem to be the most desirable direction – but that the priest and people are on a spiritual journey together. [Right!  "East" in this sense is not limited to geographical East, as some enemies of ad orientem worship will at times obtusely blither.] The priest is not an entertainer that he has to face an audience, unless he is specifically talking to them: when he says "The Lord be with you", reading the Scriptures, or giving a homily or some other liturgical instruction. Otherwise, the priest is NOT TALKING TO OR LOOKING AT THE PEOPLE. The prayers of the Mass for the most part are addressed to God the Father, not the people.  [This reminds me of a something that happened to me once at St. Peter’s Basilica… but.. another time…]

It has taken me some time to come to an understanding, that "facing the people" as if I were doing a cooking show on TV seemed to go against what the Mass was all about. Looking at the congregation as I pray and talk to God just didn’t make sense.

The fact is however, that that’s the way Mass has been celebrated for nearly 40 years now and little old Edie Hankiewicz is not about to change things. But then something else has happened, Pope Benedict, from time to time, celebrates Mass "ad orientem"! What I believe he has been trying to do, among other changes he’s made in celebrating Mass (like insisting people kneel for Communion and receive only on the tongue) is the fulfillment of a lot he was written about Roman Catholic Liturgy for many, many years.  [Yes… this priest gets it.  Also, the so-called "Benedictine arrangment" of the altar is really a transitional arrangement back to true ad orientem or ad Deum worship.]

I believe I’ve made this change (once a month) for good, spiritual reasons, not whim or simply to be different. I will continue to do so, with advance notice, (with the Latin words, "ad orientem" next to the Mass time) so if anyone doesn’t like this idea, one can go to another Mass in the area. That will be the case this coming Thursday, 12 FEB at the 7:30am Mass.

Father [Edward] Hankiewicz

Big WDTPRS kudos to Fr. Hankiewicz and his fortunate flock in Grand Rapids.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. John Enright says:

    Good for him! I get a sense that we are slowly but steadily returning to the faith of our fathers. As Fr. Z. says, “Brick by brick.”

  2. Petrus says:

    What I wouldn’t do for a priest like that in my church.

  3. Brendan says:

    I live in the Grand Rapids Diocese, and am a student at the Catholic college in the Diocese, Aquinas College (which, btw, needs a LOT of work to truly be considered Catholic).

    The secretary told me that the 1st and the 3rd Sundays of the month are High Masses and the rest are Low Masses. By High Mass it means that the degree of High Mass varies, since the priests differ from week to week. I don’t have a car so I can’t get to the Mass too often, but I have been before, and the highest Mass (I don’t know what to call it) I’ve been to there was a Missa Cantata with no choir. Someone did tell me that he went one time and they had a choir (schola)

    Hopefully I will be able to make it on the 15th.

    God Bless Fr. Hankiewicz and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.

  4. frv says:

    This church is indeed blessed! That’s the true brick by brick mentality that is so often repeated here. A great introduction to Holy Mass facing east is to do it once a month. Over time, as people understand it and get used to it, all of the Masses can be celebrated that way! I really admire his humility in acknowledging that he certainly wasn’t formed to understand the Sacred Liturgy as the Church does in regard to ad orientem, but has come to understand it, and wants to serve the Sacred Mysteries. Bravo, Padre!

  5. Carolina Geo says:

    Since I exclusively attend the traditional Mass, I don’t normally care about what is going on in the Novus Ordo. However, this line caught my eye:

    “if anyone doesn’t like this idea, one can go to another Mass in the area.”

    I have found this to be a rare attitude among priests. Most are overly concerned with attendance at their particular parish. They would shudder to consider actively sending someone (and, more importantly, his offertory envelope) to another parish.

    Of course, if Masses were uniformly celebrated, there would be little need for someone to go looking for a different parish because of the way Mass was celebrated. Yet another reason for the traditional Mass and its uniformity!

  6. Jared Zimmer says:

    I have been attending the Tridentine Mass at Sacred Heart for about four weeks now, and I truly appreciate having this available to the community. Fr. Ed gets it!

  7. Gregor says:

    …”facing the people” as if I were doing a cooking show…

    LOL – That is a brilliant line. What is the Latin for that? – versus stove?

  8. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    Offering Mass in both forms of the Roman Rite is an excellent way to start out from a purely practical standpoint. This way parishioners can’t really complain that their priest is anti-OF. I am particularly impressed by a few parishes where the OF is moved to the early morning slot. (Fr Finnigan, if I recall correctly). All too often the EF is placed here. So if one reeeeeeaally wants to go to the OF, all they have to do is make it to the 7.30 or 8.00am celebration.

  9. irishgirl says:

    Bravo, Fr. Ed!

    As you say, Fr. Z, ‘this priest gets it’….

  10. don Jeffry says:

    [This reminds me of a something that happened to me once at St. Peter’s Basilica… but.. another time…]
    Enquiring minds want to know!

  11. Frank H says:

    “[This reminds me of a something that happened to me once at St. Peter’s Basilica… but.. another time…]
    Enquiring minds want to know! Comment by don Jeffry — 9 February 2009”

    Ditto that!

  12. TJM says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful priest. He has a marvelous way of expressing himself in ways the ordinary parishioner can understand. Tom

  13. Jake says:

    I live in Grand Rapids as well and am fortunate enough to be able to go to
    Sacred Heart. I have seen four different priests say the TLM there, and I
    know at least three of them are diocesan priests in Grand Rapids (Fr. Ed included).

    My wife and I were actually at the 10:30 NO mass yesterday and Fr. Ed told
    everyone to read in the bulletin about something that he was doing, and since
    I am a WDTPRS reader I instantly speculated ad orientem!

  14. chironomo says:

    “LOL – That is a brilliant line. What is the Latin for that? – versus stove?”

    Perhaps “versus culina”? Or if we want to better express the “Eucharist-as-meal” concept… “versus cibum”?

  15. nw says:

    Can someone clarify? I don’t think there are degrees of sung Mass
    in the EF.

    Brendan wrote:
    By High Mass it means that the degree of High Mass varies…

  16. Brendan says:

    “Can someone clarify? I don’t think there are degrees of sung Mass
    in the EF.”

    What I mean by that was the 1st and 3rd Sundays are designated as “High Masses.” I have seen a sung Mass on one of these days, and a friend has been to a sung Mass with schola on one of these days. I have not witnessed a SOLEMN High Mass there.


  17. Jared Zimmer says:


    Other than Fr. Ed, pastor of Sacred Heart, three other priests say Mass: Fr. Dennis Morrow, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul, Fr. Don (his last name escapes me), pastor of St. Isador, and a priest who I believe is retired (his name escapes me, also).

  18. jaykay says:

    Oh if only…

    I look at the glorious High Altar in our parish church (still in situ but with a bit of the original mensa moved forward for the versus populum) and then look at one of our priests in particular who, though a good priest, nevertheless feels that he has to perform every action complete with what he must deem to be appropriate facial expressions to make it “relevant” for us, (but in fact serve only to make him appear as though he has intestinal troubles)…

    and I think: “oh, for ad orientem”. But it ain’t happenin’ soon in our neck of the woods. I don’t want to be cynical, but they’d propbably thnk it was one of the local Chinese restaurants.

  19. Bobby Bambino says:

    Thanks for posting this, Father. My dad sings in the Sacred Heart schola.

  20. Scott says:

    Fr. Z, thank you for posting this. Sacred Heart is a wonderful parish, one of a few that served the Polish population on the west side of Grand Rapids for many many years. In fact, the territorial boundaries of the parish are quite small–that tells you just how many Catholics (and Poles, especially, although other immigrants were also registered parishioners) lived on GR’s west side at one point in history.

    In the 1960s, Sacred Heart was the first parish in the diocese to undergo “liturgical renovations.” Most (if not all) of its original sanctuary has been removed and the walls whitewashed.

    In the mid-90s, the indult “Latin Mass” was moved to the parish. There are a group of priests who regularly offer it: Fr. Hankiewicz, Fr. Morrow, Fr. Lomasiewicz, Fr. Bozung, and Fr. Pettit. I believe Fr. Bozung and Fr. Pettit are “retired” now…with full schedules (of course). The Latin Mass is offered every Sunday at 12:30 as both High Mass and low. A choir and a schola perform regularly.

    Not surprisingly, the parish attracts many who have recently moved to the Grand Rapids area. Many, of course, have sought out the Latin Mass (still the only parish that offers it every Sunday). But because of Fr. Hankiewicz and Fr. Pettit (Fr. Pettit has routinely assisted with saying Mass, both EF and OF), the parish is known for its orthodoxy and traditional practices in general. They are wonderful priests. Mass is offered every day. The Sacrament of Confession is emphasized and times extended during the Advent and Lent seasons, parishioners are reminded of appropriate dress inside of church, and kneeling at Mass (any Mass, not just the EF) to receive the Eucharist is perfectly acceptable–as is wearing chapel veils (for the ladies). The parish also has a wonderful organist.

    The GR diocese, like many, experienced quite a bit of tumult in the wake of Vatican II. But the group of priests who regularly offer the traditional Mass have remained a close-knit bunch even amidst a great deal of “change.” All are wonderful, holy priests. Sacred Heart is a great parish as a result, and Fr. Hankiewicz is a wonderful pastor, not afraid to lead his parishioners “to the East.”

  21. Chris says:

    Very nicely said.

  22. tradone says:

    Way to go Fr Hankiewicz!

  23. David Deavel says:

    I’m visiting Grand Rapids in two weeks but have to fly out at 1 PM so I can’t go to that 12:30 Mass on Sunday. Where else should I go? Does Sacred Heart have a 10:30 or something?

  24. Jake says:


    Sacred Heart has a 10:30 Novus Ordo Mass on Sunday.

  25. Brendan says:


    St. Isidore has the OF Mass on Sunday at 8:30 and 10:30. I have not been to St. Isidore, but I have heard great things about them. I think the Pastor there is one of the priests that occasionally says the EF Mass at Sacred Heart.


  26. Jared Zimmer says:

    Brendan, I have been to St. Isidore’s, and it is indeed a fantastic parish!

    Scott, I just got the new schedule for the Tridentine Mass at Sacred Heart and Fr. Pettit’s name isn’t on there. I know Fr. Pettit, though, and see him occasionally; I’ll be sure to ask him about it next time I see him.

  27. Scott says:

    Jared: Fr. Pettit is at the Basilica of St. Adalbert for the time-being because the pastor there has recently had some serious health issues.

    Brendan: You are correct. The St. Isidore pastor is Fr. Lomasiewicz, who occasionally says the 12:30 Mass at Sacred Heart. Also a great parish in the GR diocese.

  28. Joan Ellen says:

    I would like to make the Thursday 7:30 a.m. Mass. Thank you Fr.
    Also, I believe there is a Tridentine Mass offered around 10:30 a.m. Mondays at St. Isaddore’s.

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