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Bishop attends Latin Mass, gives update on its future

By Deacon Kyle Eller 
The Northern Cross 

The future of the extraordinary form Latin Mass in the Diocese of Duluth received new clarity Jan. 22, as Bishop Daniel Felton sat “in choir” and preached at a celebration of that liturgy at St. Benedict Church in Duluth.

Clergy and servers gather before the celebration of the extraordinary form Latin Mass Jan. 22 at St. Benedict in Duluth. Bishop Daniel Felton preached at the Mass and gave an update to the Latin Mass community on how the liturgy will be celebrated in the diocese in the coming years. (Photo courtesy of Father Seth Gogolin)

The bishop began by sharing the text of a letter he would send out to the clergy of the diocese later in the week, detailing the steps that had been taken in light of Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditiones Custodes in July 2021 and subsequent clarifications of it from the Holy See. Those efforts included a committee formed by Father Joel Hastings, the diocesan director of liturgy, to monitor developments relating to the motu proprio and how they related to practices within the diocese. 

In the letter, the bishop announced, “I have decided that the public celebration of the Mass using the Missale Romanum of 1962 will take place in our diocese exclusively at St. Benedict Church in Duluth.” 

“… St. Benedict Church has been, and continues to be, the home of the vast majority of Catholics in northeastern Minnesota who deeply appreciate this form of the Mass,” the bishop wrote. “I am fully in support of those who worship at St. Benedict Church, and I wish to state clearly that this community of the faithful is a rich blessing for our diocese.” 

Since Traditiones Custodes restricts celebration of this form of the Mass in parish churches, Bishop Felton wrote that he sought and received a dispensation from the appropriate Vatican office to permit it. He said the dispensation lasts for two years, until October 2024, after which he will “need to ask for another dispensation.” 

Three priests — Father Hastings and Fathers Anthony Craig and Nicholas Nelson — will have faculties to celebrate the extraordinary form Mass to support the community, and Father Hastings has been appointed moderator of that ministry. 

The bishop also addressed a past practice of celebrating the extraordinary form Mass in the Brainerd area once a month but said he has not presently asked for a dispensation to continue that practice, noting the lack of an available priest for it and the availability of an extraordinary form Mass nearby in the St. Cloud Diocese. 

In the remainder of his homily, Bishop Felton acknowledged that many of the faithful drawn to the liturgy celebrated before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council had experienced confusion, shock, and anger, and echoing his recently released pastoral letter, he encouraged them to find healing in Jesus, particularly in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Mass. 

He said one of the ways to open up to that healing is beginning with respect for one another and listening to one another, noting that he had been grateful to hear the voices of those attached to the Latin Mass during the diocese’s “Let’s Listen” sessions. 

He said that appointing Father Hastings — who celebrates most of the extraordinary form Masses in the diocese and has long ministered to that community — as moderator would help to ensure that the community’s needs and concerns would continue to be heard at the diocese. 

Expressing a love of the sacred liturgy in all its forms, the bishop said that he desired to “return to the intention of Pope Benedict XVI,” who in his own motu proprio in 2007 allowing broader celebration of the extraordinary form liturgy “envisioned that the two forms of celebrating the Mass, the ordinary form and the extraordinary form, would indeed inform and enrich each other.” 

In addition, he said the dialogue should center in the context of the New Evangelization and how each form of the Mass helps invite others to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and into the healing, hope, and joy that can only be found in him. 

Editor’s note: Deacon Kyle Eller served on the diocesan committee to implement Pope Francis’ motu proprio Traditiones Custodes.