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.