Query: is it possible for traditional parishes to become too large? May 10, 2016Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, Dallas Diocese, episcopate, General Catholic, Grace, Latin Mass, priests, Sacraments, sanctity, Tradition, Virtue.
We have been blessed by a particular “problem” at our local FSSP parish. This church has grown like wildfire since it moved out of the convent and into its own facility, a converted Korean Methodist church that was rundown when bought but which has been restored to something quite nice. Since that time, roughly the beginning of 2010, the parish has at least doubled in attendance, with a fourth Sunday Mass added recently and more and more new faces showing up every week.
I don’t have updates on the latest Sunday attendance figures over Holy Week but I’m quite certain they are now surpassing 1000 souls per Sunday. That’s quite small by typical NO parish sizes, but makes our local parish perhaps the largest, in terms of weekly attendance, traditional parish in the world.
Mind, this is after two priests were permanently assigned to a parish in Fort Worth, 30 miles away, and two priests are also in Tyler, 90 miles away. The three priests at our parish are swamped, and there is talk of bringing in a fourth.
Which gets to my question – is there an optimal size for traditional parishes? Traditional Catholic parishes are much more than just the Mass, they are the community, they are the intimate involvement of the priests in every level of catechesis, they are Sacraments always offered by priests and not deacons, they are communities where the priests try to visit the homes of every parishioner at least once (and generally, more than that). This is to say, a priest at a traditional parish is a true father to the souls in his charge, attempting to know all the families at least a little bit and taking great concern over the state of their souls.
As such, at a certain size, no matter how many priests are assigned, can a traditional parish not outgrow itself? Would it not be better to build a new parish to split some of the congregation off? Is that not what the Church did for centuries? And weren’t most parishes, outside the largest urban areas, smaller in attendance than the (it must be said) ludicrous situations we have today, where two priests supposedly supply pastoral care to a notional 15,000 families?
To me, the situation in Dallas is getting to the point where serious consideration for a second traditional parish should be underway. It is not unforeseeable that the current parish could have 2000 people assisting on a given Sunday within a decade, after the new church gets built (as we’ve outgrown the one acquired in 2010). Even with 3 confessionals, can you imagine the lines?!
Add to that the factor that many souls drive 20, 30, 50, even 100 miles to assist at Mass. Much of the parish attendance comes from the northern suburbs, and I’m positive that should a second Fraternity or other traditional parish open in Plano or McKinney, there would be no problem with attendance or funding. But would Bishop Farrell allow it? I keep hearing the words of a local diocesan (non-FSSP) priest ringing in my ears – “the Traditional Mass will never be offered in this diocese outside Mater Dei.”
What do you think? Do you agree that traditional parishes are best if they don’t grow beyond a certain size? Believe me, this is not a “I want this to myself” complaint, I constantly invite folks to Mater Dei, but I’m concerned that much of what makes a traditional parish special can be lost if it becomes too much of a behemoth. I think there is also a practical benefit in having more than one location, as there are more than a few folks who would assist at a TLM were it 10 minutes away, instead of 45 minutes to an hour. Might not four priests spread among 2 parishes not result in more folks assisting at the TLM than four priests at one parish? Isn’t bringing more souls back to the traditional practice of the Faith, and giving them the best shot at Heaven, the point of it all?
But really, it’s mine all MINE and I want you OUT!