Program #0419 for Wednesday, November 28, 2012: Parish Profile: Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, Newton

November 28, 2012

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Parish Profile: Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, Newton

Parish Profile: Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, Newton


Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to air this show in our planned timeslot on Monday, November 19, 2012. We now present the show in its entirety. We thank our listeners and the parishioners of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish for their patience and understanding.

Summary of today’s show: Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish has a long history, from its beginning as the mother parish for Needham and Newton to being days away from closing in 2005 to its present vibrant life today as a parish that attracts Catholics willing to travel an hour for Mass on Sundays. Scot Landry and the TGCL team travel on location to Newton to talk with Fr. Charles Higgins and a panel of parishioners about the unique life of this parish in which reverence for liturgy is their top priority and where fellowship grows from that commitment. The people of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes celebrate both the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form, the Latin and the English, with equal joy, love, and beauty, and you can hear their love for the Mass and their parish in how they talk about it on today’s program.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry

Today’s guest(s):

  • Fr. Charles Higgins
  • John DeMatteo
  • Ron Goguen
  • Manny Goguen
  • Jeanette Pappin
  • David Allen
  • Tina McCormick
  • Jean Johnson
  • Rose Delgrosso

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: Parish Profile: Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, Newton

1st segment: Broadcasting live on location today from Mary Immaculate of Lourdes parish in Newton, Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show. They serve parishioners throughout the general region of the Archdiocese. The plan for the show is to show how parishes are coming up with new ideas for welcoming people back to the Church but also to help people grow in their faith. The pastor is Fr. Charles J. Higgins, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary of ordination. They were both at St. Michael’s in Lowell, when Scot was a young man and and Fr. Higgins was a deacon preparing for ordination.

Fr. Higgins said Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is the mother church of Newton and Needham, starting in 1870 as St. Mary’s Parish. In 1909 the cornerstone was laid for the “new” church, which is the present church. It was built on a hill and meant to be seen from far and wide. It has the style of an Italian hill town church with a soaring 135-foot bell tower. When it was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1910, the new archbishop of Boston, William O’Connell, decided that St. Mary’s was too plain a name so he chose Mary Immaculate of Lourdes. Fr. Higgins remembers it from growing up at St. Joseph in Needham and his family often attended Mass at Mary Immaculate on Sundays. He remembers his own fascination with the beauty of the church as a child. As time went on, the demographic trend worked against the territorial parish and in 2004, there was thought that the parish should be closed. Many felt there were many reasons to keep it open and so from 2004 to 2006 the final situation of the parish was uncertain and it was 5 days away from being closed. Vendors were cancelled and the end-of-life parish party had already happened. But then Cardinal Se├ín revisited the decision and at the end of 2006 a solution was found. Since Holy Trinity Church in Boston, where the Latin Mass community had worshipped for a decade, was slated to be closed too, they decided to merge the communities and give the parish a second life. The canonical status of the parish was changed from territorial to a mission parish. Since 2007, they’ve started a second life.

Scot welcomed Jean Johnson, director of religious education, and Ron Goguen, superintendent of the parish cemetery. He asked Jean about the parish praying for a new life in those days. Jean said she was appointed religious education director for 3 months until the parish closed and now she’s still here. Scot asked her about activities in the parish in those months they thought it was closing. She said there were many prayer meetings as well. There’s a lot more life to the parish after having experienced that and people are hopeful for the future. Scot said Ron is a father of 10. He asked what attracted him to this parish. Ron said he didn’t even know about the parish until after the non-closure. He’d known Fr. Higgins and brought his family when Fr. Higgins was assigned. It’s worth the travel for them. It’s very reverent and it’s just Catholic. He doesn’t have to worry about correcting a priest on the way home to Mass. He and his family travel 33 miles to the parish. His eldest son, who is 26, was the one on the drive home from Mass at their old parish one Sunday who suggested they just start going to Mary Immaculate of Lourdes every Sunday. Ron said it was the reverent liturgies and preaching that attracted them.

Scot said places with very high expectations on the most important things seem to attract people. He asked Fr. Higgins how he fosters the universal call to holiness among the people. He said encourages them in their journey of faith and continuing conversion. We see the fracturing of morality and knowledge in society. Young people who have never known the old Church, have grown up in this current chaos under what Pope Benedict calls the dictatorship of relativism. When they find this treasure. it’s like a ray of light for them.

Scot said Pope Benedict says that Vatican II has been misunderstood as a rupture with the traditions of the past, but we should see it as a continuity. Scot says many of what has been re-introduced at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is what Pope Benedict is trying to reintroduce worldwide. Fr. Higgins said the Pope is trying to bring us back to the core of our faith.

2nd segment: Now joining the show are David Allen, a cantor, and Jeannette Pappin of the Ladies’ Sodality Prefect. David said he and his wife love both the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass and the Ordinary Form. He said the great musical tradition of the Church is enjoyed in its fullness at this parish. He said there’s a great continuity. For example, the propers of the Mass are an important part of the Extraordinary Form and that tradition is kept in the Ordinary Form, just in English. they sing many English-language hymns as well. Scot said growing up in Lowell, two different parishes, one the men never sang and in the other the men out sang the others. David said the choir at Mary Immaculate for the Extraordinary Form is wonderful and they have about 15 members singing very difficult works. The faithful appreciate their ministry.

Jeannette said she’s one of those who came from Holy Trinity in Boston. She had worked in Waltham and needed a place for daily Mass and at the time Fr. Higgins had just arrived. She started attending in February 2007 for the daily Novus Ordo Mass and then a few months the Extraordinary Form came on Sundays. She also said at Mary Immaculate there was finally a pastor instead of rotating priests, so there was a parish life that could flourish. She said what she experiences is the fullness of what is supposed to be. she said the Mass there is sublime and you taste heaven and earth. She thinks of how her ancestors worshipped in the same way. This is how the Church changes with time and yet remains timeless. It’s what it means to be Catholic. She notes how people remark on the numbers of children at the parish. On Sundays there will be 16 altar boys serving the Mass. Jeannette also noted how they just had a young man enter seminary and another preparing to enter. She said they also have a priest who teaches truth from the pulpit in a kind, loving, and firm way, not regaling them with stories of his childhood or talking about the Red Sox.

Scot said Cardinal Dolan has talked about living the Year of Faith by returning to the basics. The fundamental way we live our faith is to draw people around us to the altar of the liturgy. This is one of the things that makes Mary Immaculate. Fr. Higgins said the Mass is everything and we allow it to be the act of worship, we’re just taking what has been handed down and respecting it as worship given to God, first and foremost.

Scot asked David and Jeannette what they love about the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass. Jeannette said that the way you pray is the way you believe and the way you live and when you look at the liturgy at this particular parish, you have much of that. In the Ordinary Form, there is still the reverence and still feel as though heaven is on earth. At the Extraordinary Form, it touches every sense and your heart wants to explode and your soul longs for heaven even more. Some will say it’s outdated, but it’s who we are as Catholics. We are a 2,000-year-old Church. She said she prefers the Extraordinary Form.

David said what sticks out for him in this parish is the eastward orientation of the altar. This ancient practice opens up so much of the dimension of the transcendent and mysterious as a pilgrim people greeting Christ as the rising Sun. We move forward together with the priest toward Christ. Scot said the priest leads in prayer, not looking at us, but looking forward. David said we are an open circle facing the Lord. He said there is also a sense of silence and serenity that bleeds into the way the Ordinary Form is celebrated.

Jeannette said the Ladies Sodality began in the late 1800s and became dormant and was resurrected in the 1950s and then became dormant again. A few years ago, the Ladies Sodality began again. They have 33 professed members and many postulants. The sodality is not just a ladies group. It was originally established as a way for the faithful to seek a lifestyle to form their lives to be children of Mary. They have young ladies from age 12 up to 70 or so. They meet once per month and pray the Vespers of Our Lady, hear a reading from Fr. Higgins on virtues to live by.

3rd segment: Scot now welcomes Ron’s son, Manny, who is 21 years old and the parish sacristan. Manny said Fr. Higgins had asked him to help out on the weekends at the parish and when other sacristans left he took on more responsibility. As a sacristan, Manny keeps the church neat and clean; prepares for the Masses, funerals, baptisms; keeps track of candles and altar breads and ensures that everything will run smoothly when it’s time for Mass.

Scot asked Manny about the youth of the parish. Manny said the main reason he and those age come is because is you get a real sense of heaven and there are fewer distractions at Mass. At other places, everyone has the same goal of being reverent in their prayer, which makes it easier for him to focus on God. Manny said when he comes to Mass, it’s nice to be where it’s all about God for at least an hour or so.

Ron said he and his wife try to focus everything on Christ even as society tries to take their focus away. He said it seems that everyone in the parish is focused on that. His family travels a lot and they go to many different Masses and it’s very different. Something has been lost somewhere for many of the priests and parishes they see. He notes they don’t even go to the Latin Mass generally, because they have little kids for whom its quite long, and the Novus Ordo is really reverent and holy and the music is the same from the Latin Mass. The music is very helpful in keeping things reverent and holy. The music is the biggest difference they notice in different parishes. Scot said music that is well done can help you focus more on the Mass and when it’s not good it can become a distraction.

Scot said the Holy Name Society for men has also been revitalized. He asked Fr. Higgins how the sodality and Holy Name Society have helped reinvigorate the parish. Fr. Higgins said the groups extend the experience of worship into a deeper fellowship. People get know each other and bond. These kinds of religious/social experiences are necessary to create a human connection. In the sodality, he sees how these women are becoming closer friends. when there is trouble in their families, they are there for one another and it’s the same way in the Holy Name Society. Many Catholics complain that you go to church and at the end of Mass people rush out the doors and there’s no sense of fellowship. It’s also a way to experience ongoing faith formation. There’s prayer with one another. They are accountable to one another. It strengthens them in their promise of their confirmation to be public witnesses for Christ.

4th segment: Now joining Scot are John DeMatteo and Tina McCormick. Scot asked Tina what attracted her and her family to Mary Immaculate of Lourdes parish. Tina said it was the focus on the Eucharist. Her family attends the Ordinary Form of the Mass, which still incorporates the many beautiful elements of the Latin Mass. Even with her five children, they found that the focus on the Eucharist is important. The children have come to appreciate and enjoy that, realizing that the Eucharist is the center of our faith.

Scot said John told him how the parish has three communities: the territorial parish, the Latin Mass community that comes for the Extraordinary Form, and the large community that comes from outside the parish area for the reverential celebration of the Novus Ordo, the Ordinary Form. John said this is why he and his family come here. He and his wife had read back in 2007 that the Latin Mass community was coming and they decided to see what it was like. The Mass lasted two hours and their 7 kids weren’t happy about the length of time, but Fr. Higgins in his homily welcomed everyone and encouraged them to come to any Mass that fits for them. They’d never heard a similar welcome like that, one that integrates the whole life of the parish. They never went back to their old parish. He feels like a new community started at that first Ordinary Form Mass.

Tina said that after the Easter Masses, especially after Good Friday, you find a whole group of people outside the church after the services standing around and saying to one another how amazing it was. They were stunned. She’d never experienced anything like that. People often stand around after Mass, talking about how wonderful it was. It was something they took with them the whole week.

John said the example of seeing a group of people that take a project seriously is inspiring in any situation, but when it’s something like your faith that a person or group of people clearly have devoted their whole life to, it’s inspiring and encourages others to be with them and do more of the same. It encourages other to come and stand with them in this Mass in this place. You can tell it’s a group of people who take it all seriously. That’s what has inspired his own family. The fact the parish is there and doing that is what has lead and will lead to evangelization, because spiritual seekers do just show up for whatever reason. Some internalize what they see here and come back.

One of the best tools for evangelization is the church’s beauty, not just art, but also how we pray. Fr. Higgins welcomed any listener to come and stop and by. This parish is one of the heritage parishes of the archdiocese and the country. It’s one of the last of what is called decorated churches. The whole interior of the church was the artist’s palette. The church and its stained glass windows are a catechism in stone.

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