Fr. Stephen Kenyon sprinkles holy water on the faithful during Mass in the extraordinary form at Sacred Heart Church in Medford before the pandemic.
Fr. Stephen Kenyon sprinkles holy water on the faithful during Mass in the extraordinary form at Sacred Heart Church in Medford before the pandemic.
GRANTS PASS — A traditionalist group has been holding unauthorized liturgies in Grants Pass. The Archdiocese of Portland has responded with a warm invitation to a Sunday extraordinary form Mass at Sacred Heart Parish in nearby Medford.

Members of the Society of St. Pius X, based in Veneta, travel to Grants Pass roughly twice per month to offer liturgies at a private school. The society is in what is called a “canonically irregular situation” within the Catholic Church, meaning it has persisted in disobeying legitimate authorities.

The founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, brought excommunication upon himself and a group of bishops he attempted to ordain in 1988. But members of the Society of St. Pius X, including its priests, are not excommunicated. Archbishop Lefebvre died in 1991 but Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunication of the four bishops in 2009 hoping for reconciliation of the group with the universal church.

The society’s priests in Veneta asked Archbishop Alexander Sample if they could hold their liturgies in western Oregon. The archbishop declined to give permission, but the society holds its liturgies anyway.

Instead of condemnation, St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Veneta for several years has been offering the Vatican-approved extraordinary form Mass each Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Held in Latin, it is the Mass from 1962, before the Second Vatican Council.

Now the same is true in Southern Oregon. Historic Sacred Heart Parish offers the extraordinary form Mass each Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

Father Bill Holtzinger, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Grants Pass since 2009 and vicar of the region, made arrangements for the extraordinary form shortly after he arrived in Southern Oregon. The challenge was finding a priest trained in the Latin prayers and the rubrics, or motions. A clergyman from Crescent City, California, would make the trip every other month. When that priest was no longer available, the Mass paused.

The faithful who wanted the extraordinary form Mass appealed to Archbishop Sample, who found a way. Newly ordained Father Stephen Kenyon was willing. Assigned last summer as parochial vicar to Shepherd of the Valley Parish in Central Point, Father Kenyon started making the quick trip to Medford on Sunday afternoons this Advent. Before the pandemic, about 100 people attended, compared to the several dozen who went to the Society of St. Pius X liturgy.

Father Holtzinger discourages worshippers from attending the Society of St. Pius X events and invites them to the Sacred Heart Mass instead.

“To be Catholic is to be in union with Rome” and the local bishop, Father Holtzinger said.

It took a little construction at Sacred Heart to make the Mass fit. Workers extended the platform in front of the altar so Father Kenyon could stand there, facing the same direction as worshippers.

“I love it,” said Father Kenyon. “It’s a beautiful liturgy, and it’s a wonderful group of people. It’s really good to be able to offer this to fulfill the pastoral needs. Many people here have been longing for it.”

Father Kenyon said the extraordinary form Mass is both living worship and a link to the church’s long history. As a student at Mount Angel Seminary, he served a pastoral year at St. Joseph Parish in Salem, where the extraordinary form is offered. He did independent research and learned how to preside.

Father Kenyon said a significant number of the faithful at the Medford Mass are young families. Before the pandemic, more than a dozen altar servers showed up on many Sundays.

Father Kenyon understands that people who have attended the Society of St. Pius X liturgies may not immediately trust that the Medford extraordinary form Mass will last. He hopes to stay steady and gain their confidence.

“I also want them to know they are supported,” Father Kenyon said. “They need to hear, ‘If you like this, you are not less Catholic, or in a niche. This is part of the life of the church.’”

Father Kenyon invites those attending the St. Pius X liturgies to consider that they could instead have the deep devotion of the extraordinary form Mass along with all the sacraments within the Catholic Church and “be fully one with the successor of the apostles, Archbishop Sample, and the successor of St. Peter, the pope.”