In a sudden announcement read before Mass was to begin at St. Stanislaus Church in New Haven on Sunday, December 31, Fr. Sebastian Kos, Priest Administrator of St. Stanislaus Church, announced that the regular celebration of the traditional Latin Mass in New Haven was to be canceled. Permission for the cancellation was requested by Fr. Kos and Fr. Ryan Lerner, Pastor of Blessed Michael McGivney Parish, and granted by The Most Reverend Leonard P. Blair, Archbishop of Hartford. The last official Mass in the traditional form is to be celebrated on Sunday, January 14, at 2 p.m.
The announcement came as a shock to the congregation and leadership of the St. Gregory Society of New Haven, the organization that has sponsored the Masses for the 38 years of its existence. In making his decree, Archbishop Blair noted two reasons: alleged declining attendance (in fact, attendance is up) and staffing the Mass with priests competent to celebrate the ancient rite. Chairman of the St. Gregory Society, Nicholas Renouf, who was in attendance, was as surprised by the announcement as the congregation, and had to field questions from concerned congregants following the service.
Permission for the celebration of the Latin Mass in New Haven was granted by the late Archbishop John F. Whealon, following the indult Quattuor abhinc annos, promulgated in 1984 by Pope St. John Paul II. The indult gave limited permission for use of the pre-Vatican II Roman Missal. The St. Gregory Society of New Haven was estasblished in 1985 to fulfill the requirement of the petitioning process to demonstrate a stable group of faithful who desired the older rites.Archbishop Whealon responded by allowing three locations in the Archdiocese to regularly celebrate Mass according to the “Tridentine” Missal.
The first Latin Mass under the terms of the indult was celebrated on January 12, 1986, in Sacred Heart Church, New Haven, where its regular celebration remained until that church was closed in 2009. At that time, the Society was invited to use St. Stanislaus Church and has remained there ever since.
“It is ironic the last traditional Latin Mass allowed by the Archdiocese, this Janury 14, is the 38th anniversary of a Latin Mass presided over by Archbishop Whealon at Sacred Heart Church, was attended by nearly 1,000 people,” said William Riccio, the master of ceremonies of the SGS.
In its 38-year history, the services sponsored the Society have become known for the beauty of the liturgy and the music to accompany it. The Schola Cantorum of St. Gregory Society was invited to many locations to sing for other Latin Masses. Moreover, its Master of Ceremonies helped train many dozens of priests and servers to learn the rites. It would be no exaggeration to say many of the Latin Masses celebrated in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, and even Pennsylvania have been aided by the efforts of the Society. Among the musicians in the Schola there have been several conversions, and a number of its alumni have gone on to establish Scholas in other churches throughout the country.
The Mass on January 14, the Second Sunday after Epiphany, will be celebrated by the Rev. Richard G. Cipolla, former pastor of St. Mary’s, Norwalk, and longtime supporter and chaplain of the group. The Gregorian chant and polyphonic music for the service will be provided by the Schola Cantorum of the St. Gregory Society.