Saturday, March 03, 2018

The 50th Anniversary of St Clement’s Parish in Ottawa

Our thanks to Mr Ian Gallagher for sending us this item about St Clement’s Parish in Ottawa, Ontario. This parish is the outgrowth of a community which held fast to the traditional liturgical practice of the church through some the worst during the early years of the liturgical reform. Today, they will have a High Mass at 9am to mark fifty years since the first Mass of the community was offered on the altar they still use today, on March 3, 1968.

A Humble But Honourable Place
“…for it is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honourable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people.” - Pope St Clement I, Epistle to the Corinthians

On March 3rd, 1968, the First Sunday of Lent, at the Monastery of the Sister Adorers of the Precious Blood in Ottawa, Canada, a small group of Catholics, with the permission of Archbishop Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, gathered for a Low Mass according to the Missal of 1962. No one in that quiet chapel that day knew what impact this Mass would have on the history of the traditionalist cause. In fact, to this day, few do. Parish historian Bernard Pothier (1936-2016) described the event in these words: “This gratifying decision was only the first of many providential gestures made by the local Ordinary on behalf of the traditional Latin Mass community over the next five decades. It was an historic beginning, the birth in fact of the modern Latin Mass movement.”

Fr John Mole, one of the many chaplains of the Latin Mass community in Ottawa before and after its erection as a full parish of the Archdiocese, offering his first Mass. The altar seen in this photo is the same one referred to above.
For it is from that humble, grace-filled day that sprung the Latin Congregation of Ottawa, a group of Catholics faithful to the papacy and dedicated to preserving the traditional Roman liturgy. The development and indeed the very survival of the Congregation owes much to Divine Providence, which was most obviously manifested through the actions of three extraordinarily accommodating bishops: the aforementioned Plourde (1967-1989), Marcel Gervais (1989-2007), and Terrence Prendergast (2007-). These bishops were vocal supporters, each making major contributions which ensured the Community’s growth over the years, even during times of great liturgical upheaval in the universal Church.

The Congegration grew steadily from its humble beginnings in 1968 and was able to offer the usus antiquior with the support of the Archdiocese until 1974, when a letter from the Congregation of Divine Worship should have surely spelled the end of the group’s activities. The message from Rome read that since the promulgation of the apostolic constitution Missale Romanum in 1969, the Mass of Paul VI was mandatory for the Latin Rite of the Church. In the face of this news, the Latin Congregation did not disband, however, and complied with the Holy See’s directive. In a somewhat countercultural move, the chaplains began offering the Novus Ordo Missae in such a way as to preserve traditional liturgical elements, thus partly consoling the members. Gregorian chant, the ad orientem posture, and the Roman Canon were all retained; the prayers at the foot of the altar from the 1962 missal were used as the priestly greeting. For ten years, the Congregation never lost hope, and it was eventually rewarded for its patience when Pope John Paul II’s Quattuor Abhinc Annos liberalized the use of the traditional Mass in 1984.

Imbued with a new spirit of vigor, the Congregation’s population increased and eventually took St Clement I, Pope and Martyr as its patron. In 1993 it attained the rank of quasi-parish after purchasing its first proper church building, following years of hosting Masses in a variety of spaces. In 1994, the community was entrusted to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, and by 1997, Archbishop Gervais had erected it as a personal parish in the Archdiocese of Ottawa according to Canon 518, almost thirty years after its inception. In 2012, the parish made headlines in local media and in the Catholic blogosphere when, at the invitation of Archbishop Prendergast, it moved into historic Saint Anne’s, a large designated heritage church near downtown Ottawa, originally built in 1873, which had been suppressed the year before due to low numbers and unmanageable debts.

Saint Clement Parish has been offering the traditional Mass uninterrupted since 1984 and, according to available evidence, was the first diocesan parish in the world to be established after the Pauline reforms to celebrate the usus antiquior exclusively. On Saturday, March 3rd, the parish will celebrate its 50th anniversary with a High Mass offered on the same altar as on that distant First Sunday in Lent in 1968, when the faithful gathered in that humble but honourable place to worship Almighty God.
The parish’s shield.

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