Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Diocese of Baker: "We Are Searching for a Priest to Say the EF Mass"

I have received a copy of an email sent by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Baker in response to a request for an EF Mass in the Bend, Oregon area.

Here it is, in its entirety:

Fr. Rick Fischer,
Vicar General
My name is Father Rick Fischer and I am the Vicar General for the Diocese of Baker. I am also pastor to a parish 130 miles from the Chancery office, and I am also the Vocation Director for the Diocese. I am also the Administrator to two other churches. I tell you this, not to be pretentious but to give you an idea of the work load that is already on most of our priests. We are searching for a priest to say the traditional Latin Mass. We are a very small rural diocese. Bend is by far the largest city in the diocese. Most parishes are small remote parishes. I spend a great deal of time just finding priests to say mass in all of the parishes. Just in the last year we have brought 7 priests from India, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria to man parishes. The diocese of Baker is only 6% Catholic.

These are not excuses, but I hope they bring to light the immensity of our problem. We are in desperate need of Priests who can speak Spanish. Please know that Bishop Cary has a great love for the traditional mass and has stated that if he had time to learn how to celebrate it properly, he would like to do so. But when you are the bishop of 66,000 square miles, you don't have much free time.

I hope and pray that in the future we will be able to provide the TLM. I noticed on your link to ecclesiadei [sic]that many of these groups are either on the east coast or the Midwest, and not near to Oregon at all.

Please pray for our diocese that we may be blest with more priests.

God Bless you,

Very Rev. Richard O. Fischer V G

Sounds so very reasonable, doesn’t it? Yes…and no…

Fr. Fischer makes the point that the Diocese of Baker is very large geographically and very small numerically (in terms of parishioners). I think it is difficult for people in the Eastern US to understand the distances that our priests have to travel on a weekend. Many of them have a parish church along with 1, 2, or even 3 “mission” churches that must be served. Many of them say at least one Mass in Spanish each weekend.

It’s tough, yes.

On the other hand, of the 40 or so priests currently active in the diocese, there are six who are able to say the EF Mass. The Bishop, as the Vicar General notes above, is also able to say it. There are also several priests (I can think of at least three) who are interested in learning the EF Mass. And as the Vicar General notes, many foreign priests are brought into this diocese, to the extent that quite a large percentage – 50%? I’m not sure – are not US citizens and do not speak English as their first language.

So, if it is true that “we are searching for a priest to say the traditional Latin Mass” then it appears to me that “we” are not searching very hard. If the diocese is making the choice to bring in priests from other countries, why not add “is able to say the EF Mass” to the list of “job requirements”? Or at least, “knows Latin”?! After all, canon law states quite plainly that seminarians are required to learn Latin, right? Right…so how come so few priests seem to have any experience with that language? When Bishop Skylstad was here, he installed a pastor in Bend who was notorious for having sent out an email to a great number of people saying that he hated Latin! So...I just don't think he was too amenable to the EF Mass, but what do I know? Who am I to judge? And of course that was a different administration; and that pastor has been dismissed from the Bend parish. But still... I'm just sayin...

A couple of years ago, there was a monthly EF Mass in Bend at the “historic” church, complete with organ and Gregorian chant. That came to an end due to administrative action taken by then-Apostolic Administrator Bishop William S. Skylstad. After the priest who had been saying that EF Mass was made “unavailable”, two other priests who were able to say the EF Mass were transferred from the Bend area to more remote areas of the diocese. So…Bend, the largest city in the diocese, with the most people desiring the EF Mass, was left without a priest to say the EF Mass, even though the EF Mass had been established and was attended by a “stable group” of people. But what do I know of the inner workings of the chancery office? Who knows what lurks in the minds of diocesan administrators? Who am I to judge? I'm just sayin...

And then there was the up-and-coming seminarian for our diocese who was tradition-minded and knew how to serve the EF Mass. When he was due to become a deacon, he suddenly became not-a-seminarian for our diocese (though he is still a seminarian in another diocese). I know nothing of the details or the reasons. I’m just sayin’…

Oh sure, the laity can’t possibly know the hard decisions the administration has to make, and why priests are assigned and dismissed, etc. But after a while, you just start to get a little suspicious. The lay Catholic faithful really are not stupid.

My point is that there are priests in this diocese who are able to say the EF Mass, or who are willing to learn it. But it is not a priority for the bishop or the Vicar General to have it made more widely available, or to encourage priests to learn it.

I’d like to address one more point, which is sort of peripheral. It’s about language difficulties: 

Some of the priests of the Diocese of Baker with
Bishop Cary (center).
Fr. Fischer, in his letter above, notes that “we are in desperate need of priests who can speak Spanish”. No one ever denies this. In the Archdiocese of Portland, they are probably in desperate need of priests who can speak Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, and a multitude of other languages. Did anyone ever hear that the official language of the Church is Latin?!?

I am not discounting the desire and need of non-English-speaking people to have a priest who can understand them. But I’ll tell you this: if I were going to live in a country where my native language was not spoken, I would not expect to be catered to in that regard. I would expect to learn the basics of the language of the culture to which I was moving. Even if I were simply traveling overseas for a couple of weeks, I would not assume that people should know English so that they could assist me!

Here’s an alternative solution to the problem: Since there are so many more parishioners than priests, perhaps a new “ministry” could be started in which English-speaking parishioners teach English-as-a-second-language to the non-English speakers. That seems a very charitable thing to do, since the non-English speakers have to deal with English in many (most) areas of their lives in the US.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a parish that has such a ministry listed in their directory, though.

Yeah, I know, that is NOT the politically correct solution. But if you apply a little logic, it makes a lot of sense.

And this thought also occurs to me: Fr. Fischer is bringing in foreign priests to fill the gap in the Diocese of Baker, and he also states that we need Spanish-speaking priests. So he is bringing in priests from India, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. “Mexico” is strikingly absent from that list…I have no idea why; I’m just sayin’.

Of course, some of our foreign priests do speak Spanish. They also speak English. Now, I appreciate that they have come to our diocese to help us with our need for priests, and I appreciate that they know how to speak multiple languages (God bless them!!). But let’s be realistic: there is a “language barrier” for many native English-speakers who have difficulty understanding the English of a foreign-born priest.  Everyone knows this is true! Is it any less true for native Spanish speakers trying to understand Spanish spoken with a Nigerian, Indian, or Sri-Lankan accent?

Once, I listened to an African priest give a wonderful, impassioned homily against abortion and abortion-promoting politicians. Afterwards, I overheard another parishioner commenting, “He sure was excited about what he was talking about. I don’t know what he was saying…I wish I did, because he sure was excited about it!”

I'm just sayin’...

So…the Diocese of Baker is “searching for a priest to say the traditional Latin Mass”. And who can also speak Spanish.

If you know of such a priest, send him to Fr. Fischer!


  1. "Here’s an alternative solution to the problem: Since there are so many more parishioners than priests, perhaps a new “ministry” could be started in which English-speaking parishioners teach English-as-a-second-language to the non-English speakers. That seems a very charitable thing to do, since the non-English speakers have to deal with English in many (most) areas of their lives in the US. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a parish that has such a ministry listed in their directory, though.

    I'm been saying the exact same thing for years. By not teaching them English, they are being doomed to a life of economic slavery. How charitable is that??

  2. Spanish Mass in Oregon brings me up to mind that Clint Eastwood movie, Grand Torino. Why Spanish in Oregon and not Latin? That is nonsensical...so many things are nonsensical these days.

    PS dr jay, if you´d like to visit my blog you are really welcome. I dont like to come here and comment while you know nothing about me. Its in spanish, though ; )


    http://centropieper.blogspot.com.ar/ (thats our group of studies)

  3. Adrienne - ha! I stole that idea from you. I'd have given you credit, but I couldn't remember whether it was you or another friend who had said that before. So now I know! Thanks!

    J - I HAVE looked at your blog before! And you have the translate button, so that helps. One of these days maybe I'll leave a comment for you - in Spanish even! Ha ha! I haven't looked a the group of studies though; I will go visit now!

  4. Since the excuses given for no TLM in the Diocese are proven to be false and misleading one can only logically conclude that at least the Vicar, if not the Bishop, are really opposed to the TLM being said. They ought to just come out and say that rather than insult and scandalize those who know by their mis-statements of fact (aka lies). Let the Priest who once said the TLM in Bend and who knows it perhaps better than any other in the Diocese teach those who want to learn. Of course those who are supportive of the TLM have to be very cautious in this environment....too many "Siberias" in the Diocese to which they might be exiled.

  5. Dr. Jay. Your post is right on. Latin is the language of the Church. Way back when it didn't matter what part of the world you attended Mass you could follow along. I agree that while its nice to have priest from other countries come and help its very difficult to understand them. We use to have that problem at our parish and like the person in your post said that the priest was very excited about what he was saying. I wish I could have understood.

  6. And while I appreciate our new priest from India in Bend, i do not find him easy to understand. I will take ANY mass offered in Latin at this point! Thanks for posting that letter. Having lunch with one of the priests who could say the TLM and he told me previously that he just did not have time or energy to add another mass for the forty souls who would attend. He got moved away from Bend but he would have been brilliant if he had stayed. His masses I am sure are beautiful, but how I long for more here in Bend. Kathy

  7. Be sure to ask Fr. Julian for at least a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin! He has been doing it once a month at the Cathedral for years!

  8. Will do. Thanks for the suggestion. Kathy


Please be courteous and concise.