A Brief History of (the return of) the Traditional Mass in Calgary under Ecclesia Dei

In 1991 a group of Calgary Catholics formed an association, which they called the Coalition in Support of Ecclesia Dei.  They wished to ask permission of then Bishop Paul O’Byrne for the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, authorized in the Apostolic Letter of Pope John Paul II, in which he stated in part, ‘…moreover, respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See, for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.’

So it was that in March of 1991, the members of association drafted and request and collected signatures on a petition that was sent to Bishop O’Byrne asking for the Traditional Latin Mass to be celebrated in Calgary.  After a period of ‘review’ and a second petition the Vicar General of the Diocese returned a letter granting permission for the celebration of the Latin Mass on one Sunday of each month.

The first Latin Mass was scheduled for November 3, 1991 at St. Ann’s Church in Ramsey, with Fr. Bernie Black as celebrant.  This was the first Latin Mass celebrated in the diocese in over 20 years.

The Bishop had asked his diocesan priests if any of them would be interested in celebrating this Mass; Fr. Black became aware of this and expressed interest.  Were it not for him, the Traditional Mass may not have proceeded.

Within a very short time, the Calgary Latin Society formed a Gregorian Choir with Stephan Bonfield as director, supported by James Hume, both of whom were trained at the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Toronto.  Thus, Gregorian Chant returned to Calgary.

In March of 1992, the Society was welcomed by Fr. Stephan Molnar into the more centrally located St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church. At that time, Fr. Louis Madey, a great proponent of the Latin liturgy and Gregorian music, offered Mass at 1:00 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of each month at St. Elizabeth’s.

By 1993, the Alberta Family Life Centre had incorporated with Executive Director Maureen Lawrence, and some of the visiting priests (below) celebrated the Latin Mass there on some weekdays, and even held baptisms. Among the visiting priests were the late Fr. John Mole, Fr. Paul MacDonald, Fr. Philip Creurer (currently parish priest at St. Clement’s in Ottawa) and Fr. Charles Ryan formerly of St. Clement’s  in Ottawa, and in the past several years, the priest for the Divine Mercy quasi-parish in Vancouver, he is now at the seminary in Nebraska.  Fr. Erik Deprey has taken over in Vancouver.

In 1995, the Traditional Mass found it’s present home in Calgary as Fr. John Maes warmly welcomed the Society to St. Anthony’s Parish where he was Parish Priest.   Fr. Madey left the diocese to return to the United States and Fr. Bernie Black returned to celebrating the Latin Mass at 11:45 am. on the first and third Sundays of the month at St. Anthony’s.

In 1996, Chris Goldring, the new Choir Director, spearheaded the growth of the choir, encouraging many younger members of the congregation people to join.  Together with organist John Morgan, their dedication and sacrifice provided richness, reverence and majesty to the Holy Mass.  During the year, Fr. Black was scheduled to be away for three months.  Unable to find a replacement, the Society asked permission to fly in a priest from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), to celebrate Mass twice-monthly.  The FSSP were working in apostolates in the United States and Canada by then. These FSSP priests included Fr. Charles van Vliet, Fr. Pedro Alvarez, Fr. George Gabet,(former District Superior for North America),  Fr. James Jackson (who was a convert to Catholicism),  Fr. Eduoard deMentque.

In the spring of 1998, after Bishop Henry’s installation, the Latin Mass group asked for a permanent Fraternity priest to serve the community, as well as to work in hospital chaplaincy in Calgary.  The bishop, along with Fr. Jerome Dowling, OMI, of St. Anthony’s, invited Fr. Peter Gee of the FSSP to the Calgary diocese.

In May 2000, Fr. Gee returned to England, with newly ordained Fr. Robert Novokowsky, FSSP, taking over in Calgary.  When Fr. Eulogio Estaris became pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish, he also welcomed the Fraternity priests.

In the summer of 2003, Fr. Novokowsky was transferred to St. Clement’s, Ottawa.  His successor, Fr. Christopher Blust, a native of Calgary who was ordained in June of 2001, has generously served our flock since that time. Also that year, the choir produced a CD of Sacred Music that proved very popular with the Calgary parishioners.  At that time, Debra Goldring created the LM bulletins and was the energetic social organizer when the potlucks were once a month on 1st Class Feast Sundays.

In March of 2008, some 30 children received 1st Communion according to the Traditional Latin Rite and the growing number of altar servers have now grouped together under the title of “Knights of the Altar”.

Since 2003 the following FSSP priests have been associate pastors at St. Anthonys:
Fr. Blust
Fr. Sumich
Fr. McDonnell

The St. Anthony’s Latin Mass Community in Calgary continues to flourish, with the Traditional Mass now available on a daily basis for most of the year and two Masses celebrated on Sundays.

Fr. John Shannon is now the associate pastor at St. Anthony’s replacing Fr. Antony Sumich in Summer of 2016. The two sunday Masses are attended by over 60 families including nearly 200 children of all ages.

We all understand that we are indeed privileged to be a part of this rich Tradition, this very Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It demands commitment through prayer and active volunteer participation to ensure well-ordered celebrations, not only of the Holy Mass, but also of the organizational needs for the ceremonies of all the Sacraments, and the administrative needs of our priest.  Added to these is now the care and maintenance of the Fraternity House in Calgary where our priests reside in community.

Our primary duty, as quoted by Fr. Calvin Goodwin of the FSSP, is ” to exist  to grow holy, receive the Sacraments frequently and fervently, ask questions, study the Faith and be prepared to respond in charity and with firm conviction.  We must speak the Truth in charity….but we must speak it.”

We are called to build up the remnant, soul by soul with vigour and courage, to bring about the gravitational pull to Tradition, which is still necessary even though we now have our Holy Father Benedict’s Summorum Pontificum – he can’t do it all himself…the process is there, the laity must move it forward.