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Is there a Latin Mass revival in Brisbane’s country towns?

Latin Mass in Mt Perry

Renewal: Fr Adrian Sharp celebrating a Latin Mass in St Patrick’s, Mt Perry. Photo: Supplied.

TRADITIONAL Latin Mass could be set for a mini revival in rural churches around Brisbane.

Dozens of worshippers braved heavy rain and flooding to attend Mass in the extraordinary form at St Patrick’s Church in the historic gold-mining town of Mt Perry, west of Bundaberg, last month.

There was high praise for the Latin Mass from Oratory in Formation moderator Fr Adrian Sharp, altar servers and members of the congregation, with organisers already planning more Masses.

“I think the locals were very happy to welcome us to their special church, which they’re very proud of,” Fr Sharp, who drove five hours north from Brisbane to celebrate, said. “Many were asking if and when they could have another Mass, and I certainly look forward to being able to do it again some time.” 

Mass is celebrated once a month in the Ordinary Form in St Patrick’s, built in 1904 and heritage-listed, and it’s understood this was the first time the Latin Mass has been celebrated there since liturgical changes more than 50 years ago.

The Second Vatican Council ruled that the Mass could be celebrated in local languages while the priest faces the congregation.

The Constitution on the Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963, provided for use of the vernacular at Mass.

“We were able to have a Missa cantata (sung Mass with one priest), and the people joined in the singing of the Ordinary Mass and the hymns,” Fr Sharp said. “Many availed themselves of the Sacrament of Penance before and after Mass, and the Rosary was recited before the Mass.”

After the Mass, most of the congregation gathered for lunch across the road in the town’s Grand Hotel.

“They came from Gympie, Maryborough, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Hivesville, Biggenden and Mt Perry,” organiser Moira Thompson (pictured above), from St Peter’s Parish, Biggenden, said. “Local parishioners did a great job preparing the church, cleaning brass candlesticks, and moving the current altar.

“Fr Sharp gave an interesting homily on the difference between the Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo.”

Worshippers receive Holy Communion on the tongue during Latin Mass at Mt Perry

Communion time: Worshippers receive Holy Communion. Photo: Supplied.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI formally allowed the Latin Mass to be more accessible to congregations, and the International Una Voce Federation, lay groups associated with the Latin Mass, says member organisations are growing in all parts of the world.

Church-goers who attend the Latin Mass say the liturgical richness of the past and the seriousness of the service is what draws them.

One Brisbane parishioner dedicated to reviving the traditional service is 26-year-old Thomas Ryan (pictured at bottom). He first altar-served the Latin Mass when he was six, and says he loves it. Mr Ryan served during the Mt Perry celebration, and said he didn’t mind waking up at 3.30am to drive across Brisbane archdiocese to arrive in Mt Perry in time for 10am Mass.

“When I arrived, I found the altar set up for the Mass, the cantor practising and Fr Sharp holding confessions – something very difficult to get to if you live in regional areas,” he said. 

“I was excited to revisit a town I only ever drove through, visit a beautiful church I had never been to and altar-serve a Mass there for devoted families driving from all over to attend.”

Mr Ryan, a member of the Brisbane Oratory community, attributes his “love” for the Latin Mass as the reason he returned to the Church after years away, and he is keen to establish a group that could revive the traditional Mass for others to appreciate and enjoy, particularly in rural parishes around Brisbane.

“Definitely. It would be popular enough to attract people from four hours’ radius I would estimate – a traditional Mass with confession,” he said. “This would revive the Mass in regional areas for sure.”

In Brisbane, Fr Sharp said about 200 parishioners regularly attend Sunday Latin Mass in Annerley, and about 180 in Wilston.

Brisbane Oratory in Formation also provides Latin Mass in Townsville several times a year, and Fr Sharp said the Oratory priests would be happy to do the same elsewhere, time and resources permitting.

“More Latin Masses will certainly allow more people to experience it, and perhaps choose it regularly,” he said.

“For me it’s not so much the numbers but rather the fact that it’s part of the Church’s patrimony and part of the diversity of the Church’s life.

“My hope is that those who want to access it can do so without too much trouble. The Brisbane Oratory can do a bit, but our own parish is our first priority.

“Ideally there’d be more priests here and there who can say the old Mass.

“It’s something that seminarians should be offered during their training (to learn familiarity with the old Mass) so that they can provide it at least occasionally for their parishioners should the faithful desire it.”

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