About st. mary church
St Mary Church and Quasi-Parish Status
Many are confused about the status of St. Mary Church as a Quasi-Parish. First and foremost, the purpose of the Quasi-Parish of St. Mary is to become a flourishing, self-sufficient, full-fledged parish.
Archbishop Chaput established the quasi-parish in his March 15th Decree. In it he did three separate things:
1. He established the Quasi-Parish of St. Mary for the pastoral care of those wishing to participate in the Extraordinary Form.
2. He entrusted the Quasi-Parish to the Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP).
3. He made the physical property of St. Mary Church in Conshohocken available for the use of the quasi-parish. The physical properties are the church, rectory, garage/barn, parking lot and fields.
In the Decree he stated:
“In response to growing interest, it has become timely to provide additional pastoral care for those wishing to participate in Divine Worship in the Extraordinary Form. While it remains to be seen if this community will flourish so as to become a parish, the establishment of a quasi-parish (canon 516) to provide this spiritual care appears to be most fitting at this time."
Transition to Parish
While the quasi-parish is working on becoming a parish, the archdiocese helps the quasi-parish on its path to being a parish by providing support and applying less stringent standards than other parishes. The goal is for the quasi-parish to grow and be able to sustain itself including the buildings and grounds. At that point the quasi-parish will take ownership of the buildings and grounds and become a full-fledged parish. This will only happen when St. Mary's is flourishing, both financially and attendance-wise.
The phrase: “it remains to be seen if this community will flourish” points to our goal of becoming a parish. The faithful of the archdiocese who wish to participate in the Traditional Latin Mass need to truly make St. Mary “flourish.” In other words the Archbishop does not want the community to barely scrape by—but to “flourish” both financially and attendance-wise.
The reason for the establishment of the exclusive Extraordinary Form community is so that better pastoral care can be given to the faithful. In other words, the faithful who want to worship using the Extraordinary Form will have a permanent home in the Archdiocese. Archbishop Chaput entrusted the Quasi-Parish to the FSSP because the FSSP priests are trained in and exclusively offer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The Quasi-Parish will function like a parish while it prepares to become a parish. This is why the Quasi-Parish has a pastor and not a chaplain overseeing it. The FSSP expects St. Mary to operate like other FSSP parishes. For the pastoral care of the faithful, all functions of a parish would be available:
· Catechism for children
· All the sacraments in the Extraordinary Form, namely:
o First confession and communion
o Extreme Unction
· Individual spiritual groups for men, women, couples, teens, children, and young adults
· Pro-life activities
· Altar servers’ group
· Programs and support for homeschooling families,
· A full choir program, namely:
o men’s schola
o women’s schola
o mixed choir
o choristers for children
· Adult educational programs
· Convert classes
The FSSP decided to send Fr. Gismondi to establish the quasi-parish in the archdiocese. He was the founding pastor of the FSSP parish in San Diego. It is hoped that Philadelphia grows in the same way that the parish in San Diego has developed over the past 10 years.
Membership in the Quasi-Parish
Anyone within the Archdiocese can join the quasi-parish and become a member. The Archbishop stated in the same decree: "This quasi-parish is to serve a community of those throughout the archdiocese who choose to participate in Divine Worship on the Extraordinary Form."
There are two types of parishes: territorial and personal (or non-territorial.) Most parishes are territorial and have a specific designated geographical boundary. Everyone living within those boundaries is a member of the territorial parish—even if they are not registered. In the past pastors and bishops were vigorous in enforcing parochial boundaries.
The Church does have another type of parish without boundaries. They are called personal parishes, and these were usually established as national parishes for a specific ethnic group. Italian, German, Polish, and other nationalities would have their own churches within the territory of the geographic parish. A person would usually have to register and have some connection to the ethnic group to belong to these types of parishes. Once a person registers they no longer fall under their territorial parish, but they become members of the non-territorial, personal parish. Ironically sometimes the territorial parish was called the “Irish” parish because all the other ethnic groups in an area had their own parish, and only the Irish would be left attending the territorial parish.
Latin Mass Extraordinary Form parishes are often established as personal parishes, so that they can serve all the faithful in a diocese. The Quasi-Parish of St. Mary is likewise a non-territorial personal parish for this reason. As a result, anyone within the archdiocese is permitted to register and become a member. People living outside the archdiocese are encouraged to register and be active at St. Mary.
St. Elizabeth House
Archbishop Chaput, in addition to establishing the Quasi-Parish of St. Mary and entrusting it to the FSSP, granted the FSSP a formal residence in the Archdiocese under Canon Law.
The FSSP has named this residence St. Elizabeth House and it is the rectory of St. Mary Church. This building is the official residence of the FSSP in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Often the FSSP is present in a diocese or archdiocese without a formal canonical house—sometimes the house is granted only after years of working in a diocese. Sometimes it is never granted.
The fact that the FSSP has an official residence should be understood that the Archdiocese sees a permanent presence of the FSSP in the Archdiocese to minister to the faithful who prefer the Extraordinary Form. In one way this is a greater gift to the faithful than the Quasi-Parish itself. Permanency results from canonical houses, because in Canon Law once this right to reside is given, it cannot be taken away lightly. The religious order can plan to engage in its mission long-term in a diocese.
The priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter are supposed to live in houses with more than one priest. In other words, we live in community. Because the FSSP priests live in community, the FSSP sees the current situation of only one priest in the parish as lasting only one year—the expectation is to staff the parish with two full time FSSP priests next year and eventually three priests. Note that these priests are in addition to the FSSP chaplain to the Carmelite nuns in the archdiocese.
Polish Community and Merger with St. Matthew
The old St. Mary Parish was a Polish national parish that closed and was merged with St. Matthew Parish in 2014. At that time all the personal parishes in the area were merged with the territorial parish of St. Matthew. As a result, all the parishioners of the old St. Mary became members of St. Matthew. All sacramental records of the old parish are permanently kept at St. Matthew.
The property of the old parish followed the parishioners to St. Matthew and is now part of St. Matthew parish. With the establishment of the new Quasi-Parish of St. Mary, the property of the old parish is available for the new quasi-parish, but is still owned by St. Matthew. When the quasi-parish is ready to become a parish then the physical properties would transfer ownership.
Many of the parishioners of the old parish have an attachment to St. Mary Church—and rightly so. It was their church, and their parents and grandparents helped build it. Some of the parishioners established a non-profit corporation, the St. Mary Polish American Society, and they fought to keep the church and property from being sold to developers. For the past 4 years they paid the insurance and utilities for the church. It was a true labor of love. The “new” St. Mary is for the Extraordinary Form, but is open to welcoming the parishioners and Polish heritage of the “old” St. Mary Parish to the Extraordinary Form.
All of this—the Quasi-Parish, the Canonical House, the FSSP committing long-term, the Archdiocese making the beautiful St. Mary’s the home for the Latin Mass—is being done for one reason and one reason only. It is for the faithful who want the Extraordinary Form of the sacred liturgy.
Many asked the archbishop to establish a parish for the Extraordinary Form. He responded with in best possible way. The location is ideal. The church is beautiful. His priests and staff are supportive. The archbishop stated in the decree, “it remains to be seen if this community will flourish…” It is as though the archbishop is saying that it is now for the faithful to respond. Sometimes when the FSSP arrives to set up a parish, the Latin Mass faithful are so used to not having a home, that it is hard to comprehend what is being established for them. It can be overwhelming.
May this new Extraordinary Form quasi-parish quickly flourish to become the premier Latin Mass parish on the east coast.