ASK FATHER: How to obtain a traditional parish?

From a reader…


What, if anything, can I do to bring about the establishment of an FSSP led parish in my community? The parishes in my county are all post-Vatican II. Can one person do anything? Thank you!

Only a bishop can establish a parish. That’s part of his job description. Only he can invite in a religious community, like the FSSP, to staff a parish.

However, there’s much that we all can do.

First, Be the Maquis!  Start participating fully in the life of your local parish. Get active in any way you can, especially with works of charity and service. Get to know the people at the parish.  Get to know like-minded Catholics in the area. Is there a Juventutem chapter in your state? Join it. Sign up to it’s websites and keep apprised of all activity. There probably are others in your immediate area who also would like easier access to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and the Sacraments.

Next, keep at it. Don’t necessarily make it the first question you ask when you join your local parish, especially if there’s a long history of heterodoxy or bland liturgy there. Join in, worship God, find like-minded folks, and when you’ve found about forty or fifty solidly committed friends, ask the pastor if he’d be willing to offer, or at least host, an Extraordinary Form Mass.

Network with others through the internet who have gone through this process in the past.

Always be upbeat and positive, always look for ways that you can make your pastor’s life easier. He needs to learn to think of you and your like-minded friends as an asset to the parish, rather than a headache.

If twenty of the fifty people who are asking for an Extraordinary Form Mass are the backbone of the parish’s food pantry, or if the men who are involved are the ones who just volunteered to repaint the parish hall (and pay for the paint!), even a pastor disinclined to offer the EF Mass himself might be more inclined to make some allowances.

On the other hand, if the fifty people asking for the EF Mass are the fifty people who are always calling and complaining about something, or who collectively contribute $20 a week in the offertory, Father is not going to be easily persuaded or accommodating.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Be The Maquis, Si vis pacem para bellum!, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM, The future and our choices. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Dave N. says:


    As very valid as people’s concerns are, acting as the self-appointed liturgy police concerning the Pastor’s N.O. Mass will not likely yield a positive response to a request for an E.F. Mass at that parish. Keeping the end in view is always good. Pick your battles.

  2. Darren says:

    Here is what a certain FSSP wrote a friend of mine a couple years ago when we were starting the effort to bring a TLM to our area:

    “To get an FSSP priest assigned, you need two things, the invitation from your bishop, and the availability of priests for the FSSP to send.

    Recently the requests from bishops that include offering a church and rectory for the exclusive use of the FSSP get the most attention. Those requests that do not offer those two things usually do not get priority. And usually we are short on priests and so priority is essential.

    Also having many people who will genuinely be interested helps a lot. Not just names on a page, but people who will definitely come every Sunday once the Mass is available. If you can find 500+ of those people you will most surely have a good chance of having an FSSP apostolate soon. “

  3. Always be upbeat and positive, always look for ways that you can make your pastor’s life easier. He needs to learn to think of you and your like-minded friends as an asset to the parish, rather than a headache.

    May I please second that with the assistance of the London Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus?

    Make yourselves indispensible.

  4. WYMiriam says:

    I have to laugh and cry at the same time — I understand the need for large congregations for the FSSP to be able to operate a parish, and may God increase their tribe!! But I have a very wry smile on my face . . . I don’t think we could dig up 500 people in our whole diocese who would habitually come to the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, EF, even if we weren’t spread out so far.

    And while I also understand Fr. Z’s target of finding forty or fifty like-minded Catholics in one parish. . . .that’s roughly half of the number of parishioners at the two weekend Masses (Sat. p.m. and Sun. a.m.) in my parish. I doubt we’ll get even a once-a-month regular EF Mass here, ever. In the meantime, there’s one weekly 140 miles from here, and I get to that pretty often, all things considered.

  5. AVL says:

    This is a hard thing to do in a liberal diocese where everyone looks at you like you are crazy if you want something more traditional that On Eagles Wings. But it is possible! so, of course keep trying! In our entire Diocese of Las Vegas there are only about 150-200 people who come consistently to our TLM. But we are allowed to operate in peace and are very grateful about that! We started out with a group of 50 and were allowed to have a Low Mass once a month, late on a Saturday evening downtown. From that it developed into a weekly Mass, still in the late evening (7pm – too late for families with small children). And eventually, fast forward 2 years or so, the Saturday nights were moved to Sunday morning 9:30am Mass with a children’s Schola Cantorum. Downtown is a lot more palatable when its during the day, ha. So it is entirely possible to get the TLM you desire even when it seems like a totally impossible pipe dream. Pray, hope, and don’t worry… :)

  6. AVL says:

    I forgot to add that our parish itself is not traditional, though it has traditional elements (for example, there is a Resurrecifix in the Perpetual Adoration chapel) . The people who come to our TLM are generally “refugees” from other parishes. You may not be able to make the whole parish more traditional but as long as you have a traditional community within the parish and the pastor tolerates these traditional elements you will be fine. You also need a priest to say the TLM. you will have a harder time if the Diocese has no priest who can say the TLM. Ours is a retired priest, but if we didn’t have him I have my serious doubts that we would have a TLM at all.

  7. @AVL
    “But we are allowed to operate in peace and are very grateful about that! We started out with a group of 50 and were allowed to have a Low Mass once a month, late on a Saturday evening downtown. From that it developed into a weekly Mass, still in the late evening (7pm – too late for families with small children). And eventually, fast forward 2 years or so, the Saturday nights were moved to Sunday morning 9:30am Mass with a children’s Schola Cantorum. Downtown is a lot more palatable when its during the day, ha. ”

    I know the situation is better now but wow, this must have been such a cross and still is for many like the person wrote to Father Z.

    The attitude of being “allowed” to worship God out of the ghetto and above ground is still prevalent . It is disheartening and frustrating to say the least but still, something very real to offer up. A few years back our local TLM community was “allowed” to use the Cathedral for a special EF Mass. I had to take one of my little ones out and heard the NO Deacon complaining to someone in a condescending tone that it is a mystery to him why we ( the large TLM community ) was so attached to the EF Mass. There were other annoying comments that were so uncharitable it was shocking to hear coming from a Deacon. Let’s just say, I am not shocked anymore. Also, our Catholic radio station seems to have changed colors overnight and has started to describe the Latin Mass (again) as archaic, old fashioned, for elderly folks who don’t know how to do anything but pray their sweet little devotions like the rosary during Mass. Ridiculously comparing the EF to the NO Mass saying in the NO there is full participation and in the EF there is…not.

    This truly is a valley of tears more so for some than others. Life is much easier when a person has a beautiful Mass and a good supportive community. It is a good reminder for me that to whom much is given much will be required.

  8. liebemama says:

    In our diocese, only retired priests are allowed to say the EF in the designated church on Sunday. There is a fear of a younger priest attracting a following… FSSP priests are not invited to say Mass in our cathedral city, for the same reason. (I heard someone say there is fear that some kindly old lady might take a liking to a FSSP priest and donate her Villa to the order… ) While very frustrating for the devoted EFers, I do understand that the bishop(s) want to keep the “good” people in the NO parishes to help transform them. Although there is a lot of rot in our diocese, we still have some holy priests. Some of whom are sent to very liberal parishes where the “good” families have already fled and the holy priest suffers greatly with little support. I can think of the last couple of Kaplane we had in our parish here… very holy priests . They have been assigned to parishes where the pastor is of another generation let’s just say. We do pray for our priests daily.

  9. Darren says:

    I think Father of the FSSP threw the number 500 out there to simply say you need a decent size stable group. I am sure 350 would do ;)

    I am in the Diocese of Trenton and I was told that Bishop O’Connell wants at least one TLM in each of the 4 counties. We have three regular in one county (Monmouth), although one is on the border with Mercer so that county is technically covered. Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, NJ (Diocese of Camden) is on the border with Burlington County (Diocese of Trenton), so that leaves Ocean County, where I am with nothing in or too nearby. The hardest part is gathering enough people from throughout the county.

    I wonder if starting an Una Voce chapter might be a good thing.

  10. Gerard Plourde says:

    In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which covers the five counties of Southeastern Pennsylvania, there are currently five parishes which offer Mass in the Extraordinary Form weekly, three locations in the City and County of Philadelphia and two in the suburbs. The priests are all diocesan, secular clergy.

    Also a note – there will be Mass in the Extraordinary Form avialable daily during the World Meeting of Families within a half-mile of the Convention Center, celebrated Monday through Friday at Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church (a parish established in 1941 under Dennis Cardinal Dougherty to serve the Catholic community of Philadelphia’s Chinatown.) Sunday Masses will be at one of the regular Extraordianry Form locations – St. Edmund’s in South Philadelphia. Full information is available on the Archdiocese’s Web Site through the Office for Divine Worship link (found under the “Archdiocese” tab).

  11. Gratias says:

    The way to start an EF mass is through diocesan priests. These are sometimes ostracized by the bishop. The FSSP likes to take over already established EF communities. If you have an EF mass do contribute generously. Money talks. My EF community has helped my so much. We are very lucky in the U.S. to have this mass which is almost non-existent in Latin America. A good online resource to locate EF masses is Wikimissa.

  12. Darren says:

    Gerard, also note that Mater Ecclesiae of Berlin, NJ will have the Vigil of the Assumption Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul… Friday night, August 14 at 7:00 PM. The current rector is a friend of Fr. Pasley and a friend of Tradition. Assumption is the big feast for ME every year in honor of Maria Mater Ecclesiae. I went last year, the first year they had it there, and it was really something amazing.

  13. Athelstan says:

    Liebemama says: “While very frustrating for the devoted EFers, I do understand that the bishop(s) want to keep the “good” people in the NO parishes to help transform them.

    This is a very good point to understand if you are trying to discern why even a conservative bishop may be reluctant to invite an Ecclesia Dei society of priests in to shepherd your TLM communit(ies). (They also would like to gain more of the possible vocations, too.) Oddly, it has occasionally been easier to get the FSSP in by more liberal bishops (see Richmond under the previous ordinary); the thinking seems to be that it’s an easier way to isolate all that Latin Mass stuff away from the rest of the diocese (and often coincides with the arrival of an SSPX chapel).

    Getting a personal parish for the TLM run by an Ecclesia Dei society is a wonderful thing, but not an easy one. Many of the ones that do exist originated in smaller communities that had to work their way up to that over many years. This has the advantage, at any rate, of proving to the Fraternity or Institute as well as the bishop that your community could be a viable one to support such an apostolate. You might not need 500 regulars, but you’ll need more than 50. Until then, you may just have to work your way up to that, step by step, adhering to Fr. Z’s advice insofar as you are able, once you find a priest who is sympathetic or could be made to be so.

  14. Paul_S says:

    Amen, Be the Maquis!

    If you have friends anywhere near Ann Arbor and any energy to help support a parish’s occasional TLM, send around invites to an ordinand’s forthcoming First TLM and the subsequent bonfire blessing.

  15. Geoffrey says:

    Though I understand the reasons for them, I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the idea of “traditional” parishes. I fear it creates a ghetto mentality for all involved. “Okay, you trouble makers, you go over there and do your Latin thing and we’ll stay over here and do our ‘glory and praise’ thing”.

    I am not sure how the mutual enrichment of both forms of the Roman Rite and a restoration of the sacred in the liturgy is to ever occur in such a circumstance.

  16. Lisieux says:

    While this story relates to the OF Mass in Latin, I think it’s relevant.

    My parish has four Masses each Sunday (including the Saturday evening Mass), all Ordinary Form with one of those in Latin. (There are several priests attached to the parish.) Nearly two years ago our parish priest gave us (those of us who do the ‘work’ for the Latin Mass (singers, servers, etc) to understand that he was intending to stop the Latin Mass altogether. However, our organist pointed out to him that, though there are about 700 people who attend Mass each Sunday and only about 100 of them attend the Latin Mass, roughly 40% of the parish income is provided by the Latin Mass regulars. Furthermore, that Mass has an older demographic, meaning that any bequests to the church in people’s wills are more likely to come to fruition!

    We still have the Latin Mass. Moral: put your money where your mouth is.

  17. Darren says:

    I personally like seeing the EF at a parish that also has the OF for the reason of exposing more people to the EF. However, I see EF-only parishes (FSSP, ICKSO or Diocesan) as serving the purpose of training (as well as providing probably better catechesis for small children). One of the priests who says the TLM in the Diocese of Trenton learned at Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin (an EF-nly Diocesan parish in the Camden Diocese) and said his first TLM there… then Bishop O’Connell made him pastor of a parish where both forms are now celebrated… and it has become a rapidly growing parish.

    Personally, the EF-only parishes, well spread out around the country, can contribute a lot to OF parishes by providing training to those priests who want to learn.

  18. Auggie says:

    Render what is usually rendered unto Caesar, and write that big fat check, and maybe, just maybe, the bishop will be more open to giving you an authentic experience of God?

  19. Inigo says:

    I would like to confirm every word Father Z. wrote about this topic.

    We did everything according to what Father Z. said. We began to take part in the parish’s life, and became part of it. We joined Juventutem, and thanks be to God, we also have a religious order, who’s priests support and say the EF. The EF community coming to mass on sundays is now 170 people strong and growing, with lots of families, small children, youth and vocations.

    A few more things:

    1. Stick to what Summorum Pontificum really says! Pope Benedict didn’t just give a TLM-free-card, he envisioned something more. This is paramount! Read the document over again a few times to remind yourself, what Benedict XVI. really intended, and do just that!

    2. Don’t be afraid, to talk to your pastor or bishop. Most of the time traditional initiatives close the “getto” gates in on themsleves, by being unreasonably afraid of, or mistrustful with the hierarchy.

    3. My experience shows so far that the large majority of bishops and priests who act reserved towards traditional initiatives do this because they’ve had bad experience with such faithful in the past (liturgy police type folks), or are misinformed or even uninformed. Only a very-very small minority, usually ideologically motivated in a completely different subject is truly hostile towards the TLM.

    Keep this in mind: If you want help from your pastor or bishop, offer your help for them first!

    Be brave, take off the training wheels and ride the bike! It works!

  20. TKS says:

    @AVL. I come to LV frequently to visit friends and have been watching the growth of the TLM although I couldn’t attend the night Mass as I’m night blind. It was with great joy that I attended the High Mass last Sunday. I see the effect it has on the NO as daily Mass has Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Best of all it’s part of the normal Mass schedule- I’ve not seen that before. Also the bulletin has the collection amounts for each Mass showing how well the group contributes. Perhaps I’ll see you there this month.

  21. AVL says:

    @TKS – Come say hi next time you attend. I am usually the one cantoring. The kids are taking over cantoring for the next few weeks in June so I can have a break, but if you don’t find me singing I’ll be in the back pew just next to the Schola with my husband and my 4 kids (including one very noisy 13 month old boy who hates to be restrained from crawling everywhere!) :)

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