Halfway through the FSSP’s annual October census, Fraternity parishes and chapels around the country report major increases in Sunday Mass attendance compared with last year.
Newer apostolates have seen dramatic growth, some doubling their numbers over the last year, such as Los Angeles, which went from 250 per Sunday to 500. The apostolate did not even have its own church until 2018, so finally settling down in a small church in San Fernando provided needed stability, contributing to the significant increase it saw this past year.
“The main obstacle right now is a lack of space,” said Fr. Federico Masutti, assistant pastor of St. Vitus, talking to the Missive over the summer. His words echo the sentiment of so many other FSSP apostolates that find themselves outgrowing their buildings, but it’s really a great problem to have.
“When we were at 200 people,” said pastor Fr. James Fryar, “we decided to add the fourth Mass, and just adding that one Mass, from one week to the next, another 200 people came.”
In Naples, Florida, the FSSP has been operating for less than two years, and is at nearly 400 people per Sunday, up over 20 percent from last year.
“A plethora of young families are coming, attracted by the sacred beauty and reverence of the Mass, the traditional catechesis and true parish family life,” said pastor Fr. Jonathan Romanoski.
He and assistant pastor Fr. Joshua Passo do not have their own church, but offer Mass in two locations, one in Naples and one in Fort Myers. He pointed out that it is not only the liturgy that draws the growing congregation.
“It’s more than just the Latin Mass—they’re coming for the community life and all of the groups we have—for adults, for kids, for catechesis,” he said. “They come because we are two priests, we are a small community where everybody can get to know each other and the families can truly bond.”
Two new apostolates established last year—in the dioceses of Philadelphia and Providence, Rhode Island—have started off strong and now have 400 and 300 parishioners, respectively. Both locations have inherited magnificent churches that should accommodate their communities for a long time.
Fr. Carl Gismondi of St. Mary’s in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, in the archdiocese of Philadelphia, said that his church is perfect for their needs. “Archbishop Chaput has been very generous in supporting the Latin Mass community,” he said. “The church here in Conshohocken, St. Mary’s, is in an ideal location.
“It’s a beautiful Neo-Gothic church built in 1950. It’s probably one of the last grand churches built in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.”
Even apostolates that have been established for a long time (by FSSP standards) have seen significant increases, but most report constraints of space that inhibit their growth and they look forward to building or buying new churches.
St. Anne Parish, our apostolate in San Diego, for example, was established in 2008, and despite having a small church that can seat approximately 200 adults, had reached more than 800 parishioners by 2018 with three priests offering five Sunday Masses. Now, they are averaging over 1,000.
“At some of our Masses we will have as many as maybe 350 people and so not everyone fits and so people are actually sitting outside the doors looking in through open doors,” said pastor Fr. John Lyons.
Other long-established FSSP parishes that have seen strong growth include our first North American apostolate, Mater Dei in Dallas, established in 1991, which has seen its Sunday congregation grow 24 percent from 1250 to 1550 in the last year.
St. Joan of Arc Parish, our apostolate in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has gone from 650 to 840 in the past two years, an increase of about 29 percent. Likewise, St. Francis de Sales in Atlanta, established in 1995, has grown 30 percent over the last year. In October of 2018, it averaged 460 people each Sunday; so far this month, it has over 600. +