Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest establishes new roots for ancient Mass at St. Joseph Oratory
Detroit — The newest society of apostolic life in the Archdiocese of Detroit is bringing the oldest way of celebrating the Mass with it — and so far, it’s a big hit.
Parishioners and extraordinary-form Mass enthusiasts gathered at the newly named St. Joseph Oratory on Oct. 16 to welcome the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest to the historic, German neo-Gothic church on Jay Street overlooking Detroit’s Eastern Market.
The institute, invited by Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron to take care of St. Joseph Church, previously part of Mother of Divine Mercy Parish, has established its newest oratory in Detroit. The society’s mission is centered on approaching all aspects of the faith from the extraordinary form — the Latin-spoken Mass familiar to most Catholics from a pre-Vatican-II age.
“It’s been an incredible welcome and show of generosity we’ve received, first from the Archdiocese of Detroit, who invited us, and second from the faithful themselves who’ve been here in droves,” said Canon Michael Stein, ICRSS, the newly appointed pastor of St. Joseph Oratory.
The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has its provincial headquarters at the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago, and cares for 12 other oratories in the United States. The group has a track record of taking over large, historic churches in American cities and revitalizing parish life with new vigor, injecting energy into the parish and surrounding community.
“People are hungering for the supernatural, and they want to learn more about their faith,” said Canon Matthew Talarico, ICRSS, provincial superior of the Province of the United States of America, in an earlier interview with The Michigan Catholic, when it was announced that the institute was coming to Detroit. “They want more and more from their faith life, from Benediction, confession, rosaries and establishing a profound compliment to their spiritual lives. Confession will be made daily, and things like beautiful music will attract people.”
The biggest key to success for the institute is the accessibility of the priest, said Canon Stein, who said the institute’s priests often hit the streets to get to know people in the surrounding community, following the lead of the institute’s patron, St. Francis de Sales.
“The availability of priests is a key part of our ministry,” Canon Stein said. “The faithful are so generous to us, and we want to match that generosity with our consecrated life. We seek to extend the reign of Christ the King to all aspects of society. We have a catechism program for all ages. We provide many devotions, many retreats and are organizing cultural events to promote the greater things of God’s creation, where we learn more about God’s behavior.”
As part of immersing parishioners in the culture of the extraordinary form, Canon Stein and Deacon Jonathon Fehrenbacher will offer 20-minute lessons after Mass on the Latin liturgy, a crash course of sorts on all aspects of the Tridentine Mass. The first class will be offered on Sunday, Nov. 6.
Canon Talarico said the fact that so many young people are attracted to a style of Mass that fell out of common use decades before they were born is a testament to its ageless endurance.
“It’s not something that’s old; tradition is something that’s timeless,” Canon Talarico said. “It’s something that’s full of a rich spirituality, that’s ever ancient, but ever new. I see a lot of people hunting for sacrality and the sacred space of the Mass. The richness of the prayers, following the prayers in the missal, they love the devotions to saints and the prayers.
“It’s not about going back to something; it’s about receiving the beautiful things people passed on to us and adopting them as our own.”
The St. Joseph community is more than happy to adopt the institute as its own, with some in the parish community seeing the apostolic society as an answer sent by St. Joseph himself in regards to the future of the parish.
“When I found out they were coming, I immediately thought it would be great for Church maintenance,” said St. Joseph parishioner Nick Dey, whose family helps out with the maintenance of the 19th century building. “I think they definitely will revitalize the church as a parish, and it’s so great for the community.”
Christine Gray, who’s been active with St. Joseph for 25 years, said the institute is an answer to the community’s prayers, bringing back the Latin form of Mass she remembers being celebrated in the church years ago.
“I grew up with the traditional Mass,” Gray said. “It’s a beautiful, reverent Mass, and the language is so beautiful. I think the younger people want something holy, reverent to worship God in. I find great peace in the traditional Mass. I think this might be the best-preserved of the pre-Vatican II churches. I’m excited about the prospect of our parish flourishing again.”
The institute itself has been a rock star in the New Evangelization, bringing to life older parish communities and injecting hope in some of the country’s more depleted neighborhoods. When it was announced that the institute was coming to Detroit, several of the group’s supporters posted congratulations to Detroit and the St. Joseph community.
Taylor Polster and her friend drove from St. Louis, Mo., to be at the Mass to support the institute’s new apostolate.
“I’ve been going to Masses with the institute since November,” Polster said. “I discovered the Latin Mass a couple of years ago and found it to be an incredible experience with reverence with Christ at the center, for the glory of God.”
Polster said the Detroit community can expect great things from the institute’s presence.
“People should expect a very solid faith that treats the Mass as it should be,” Polster said. “People won’t be disappointed with what the institute brings to Detroit.”
With an ancient form of the Mass being celebrated at a historic church, a passerby might surmise that the institute’s arrival at St. Joseph is a recreation of history. But for many Detroiters, it represents a new beginning for a community that is attached to its roots but living Jesus’s ministry in the 21st century.
“This is going to be a blessing for Detroit and a hub for the New Evangelization the archbishop is praying for,” said Michael Connaughton of the St. Thomas Aquinas House in Hazel Park. “This is 2016 for our community. We’re Catholics living in shared experience of our faith the way our great-great grandparents used to. It’s the same words. There isn’t a liturgy more ancient than the Roman rite. It’s in continuity with everyone before us. In our religion, faith is passed by tradition, and by having this traditional Mass, we’re in complete communion with the people that came before us and the Archdiocese of Detroit.”