A visit to a great parish

I was recently in Grand Rapids, MI at Sacred Heart parish. I observed there some impressive things which confirm other experiences I’ve had.

First, what they have done with the school – rather, Academy – there could be a model for pastors with struggling schools to think about. They developed a classical curriculum and a relationship with homeschoolers which has produced amazing results. I walked through the school yesterday with the pastor, Fr. Sirico, and we visited classrooms, including two rooms where Latin studies were underway. The kids seemed really to be into it, which was encouraging. They have daily Mass, often in Latin and ad orientem.  The growth of attendance over the last couple years is astonishing.  They have been adding a grade each year.  Next year they start an 11th grade.

The parish Masses are great. They have the TLM and a Novus Ordo with good music, chant, Latin. Confessions are heard during the 10 and 12:30 TLM. I heard confessions pretty much as quickly as I could during the 10AM Novus Ordo: they were well-prepared, which is a sign of consistently solid preaching and use of the confessional.

All, I have noticed a great growth in attendance at Masses. I’ve been visiting the place for several years now.

One thing that very much caught me attention, is the deepening of reverence at the time of Holy Communion. After hearing confessions, I helped with Communion at the Novus Ordo Mass. Even though they don’t yet have a Communion rail (I think there are plans to reinstall one) people knelt along the step to the sanctuary where the rail once was. Virtually everyone received on the tongue. This is a big change from the last time I was there. The pastor told me that they haven’t pushed this very hard. They made some adjustments to their liturgical worship and … it just happened.

This confirms what I have seem at the parish where I usually am on Sundays. All Masses are ad orientem. There is a “dialogue” between the NO and TLM. A Communion rail was installed. People just started using it. Now, virtually no one receives in the hand. The time of Communion at the NO has a sharply different atmosphere than it did a few years ago. Some of the change is due to music at the time Communion.

In any event, what I am driving at is that careful reintroduction of traditional practices can make a huge difference.

I have little doubt that the pastor, Fr. Sirico, would welcome a call and friendly chat about what he has been doing there.

¡Hagan lío!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in ¡Hagan lío!, "How To..." - Practical Notes, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. george says:

    I have been there a few times for the TLM. The church and Mass are very beautiful! If we lived closer to Grand Rapids, we would consider sending our children to their Academy. I hope you enjoyed your visit to west Michigan, Father, you had excellent weather for your visit!

  2. ajf1984 says:

    Had to share this with the readership: my Eldest Son, who recently made his First Holy Communion, has now received Our Blessed Lord two more times (once at his weekly school Mass and once this past Sunday in our regular parish). Our DRE…strongly encouraged…our First Communicants to receive in the hand (Wife and I receive on the tongue) and Eldest Son dutifully complied. However, he–of his own volition–received on the tongue at the school Mass, and has officially declared his preference for that mode of reception. After only 3 times! Hagan lio, indeed.

  3. paladin says:

    I’ve gotten to know many members of the staff of Sacred Heart Academy… and they’re some of the most humble, faithful, sincere, enthusiastic (even the quiet and introverted ones), and generous people I’ve ever met; the students’ charitable and respectful treatment of each other is beautiful (and–when compared to most institutional schools, including many diocesan Catholic schools–astonishing), and it’s obviously inspired in large part by the example of the staff (though planted, first and foremost, by the parents… who are, as a whole, equally wonderful and classy people). I can’t say enough good things about them, and it didn’t surprise me much to see that their liturgies were beautiful and reverent. God bless Fr. Sirico (and his courage), and the wonderful people of like mind who are in Grand Rapids!

  4. Semper Gumby says:

    This is great. God bless this parish and Fr. Sirico.

  5. Sseprn says:

    What uplifting news; I pray more parishes will celebrate the TLM. It is hard to find in parts of Pennsylvania. A thought about reception of Communion on the tongue as a gift of health. Most of the days that I am at work ( in a Catholic Hospital), I am blessed to be able to start my morning with Mass at 0630. To get to the Chapel, I must open at least a half dozen doors. I may not be able to sanitize my hands before I get to Mass. Communion on the tongue reduces the chance of ingesting a GI bug by severely reducing the variables in the equation. Yes, Father must pick up and place the Host on my tongue, using his fingers, but traditional reception completely eliminates any chance of microbial contamination ( from door nobs, hymnals, handshakes during the Sign of Peace) passing from MY hands to MY mouth as I receive. God is the Chief Scientist…he only asks that we use our brains to understand the world he has created, and recognize the benevolence inherent in being fed by the Lord.

  6. JesusFreak84 says:

    Quiet different from when I was in college and the TLM was just being said by another parish’s priest o.o

  7. yatzer says:

    I hope the wonderful church you described has a kneeler or something similar so those of us who can kneel but then have difficulty standing up again can receive the way you mentioned. My parish, fortunately, has an altar rail we use.

  8. Michael says:

    I was blessed to visit Grand Rapids, MI about two and a half years ago. The Church of the Sacred Heart was one of the parishes that I visited. I desperately needed to go to confession (thank you Fr.Z for your constant reminders), and made my way to the confessional. There were already a good amount of people in line as well. To my surprise, a TLM was beginning as I was waiting. It was truly beautiful!

    I received the advice I needed by the holy priest at this parish. God bless them!

  9. TimG says:

    Ah ha! I see an opportunity to put in a plug for Schola Sancta Caecilia, a group of young ladies from Sacred Heart who have issued at least 3 CDs with their fantastic music.


  10. Discipula says:

    I still remember Fr. Sirico’s very first TLM. It was actually Fr. Grondz who brought the TLM to the Oratory. One weekend, well into spring (after Easter if memory serves) he had to go to the UP to baptize a nephew (or niece, I forget). He was warned that winter stuck around much longer in the north, and Fr. Grondz scoffed at that. God laughed and he got snowed in. Back then there was an extremely short list of priests who could say the TLM, and none of them were available on such short notice. Fr. Sirico had been studying the Mass, but didn’t think he was ready. He did just fine, and the parishioners were both pleased an amused.

    On a side note – that short list of priests included Fr. Lipka, who recently was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He can no longer say Mass. Please keep him in your prayers.

  11. Pingback: Fr Z, thank you for the kind words Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Parish

Comments are closed.