Dominican Fr. Vincent Kelber consercrates the Eucharist, Dominican Frs. Gabriel Mosher and Corwin Low kneeling behind him. Fr. Kelber celebrated his final Mass at the parish Feb. 21. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
Dominican Fr. Vincent Kelber consercrates the Eucharist, Dominican Frs. Gabriel Mosher and Corwin Low kneeling behind him. Fr. Kelber celebrated his final Mass at the parish Feb. 21. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
The angelic sounds of Cantores in Ecclesia and a solemn high Dominican-rite Mass marked the end of Dominican Father Vincent Kelber’s time at Holy Rosary Parish.

A crowd gathered Feb. 21 at the Northeast Portland church to honor the friar, who came to Holy Rosary in 2011.

Melanie Fitchner attends Mass at Holy Rosary every week. She’s drawn to the Cantores in Ecclesia choir as well as the Dominican order. She wanted to be part of the Mass to say farewell to Father Kelber.

“He’s just a wonderful priest,” said Fitchner, adding how much she loves his and all the parish priests’ homilies.

Walter van Zuylen, also a member of Holy Rosary, was sad to see Father Kelber go.

“I really appreciate what he’s done to maintain a reverent liturgy, which you can find in very few parishes anymore.”

Father Kelber celebrated the Mass with Dominican Fathers Corwin Low and Gabriel Mosher serving as deacon and subdeacon respectively.

After the Gospel was recited, Father Kelber took to the ambo to give his final homily.

“If you want to understand me, just look — appropriately — somewhere between East and West, between the 13th and 21st century, between Seattle and Rome,” he said to the congregation.

The pastor recounted his upbringing in 1990s Seattle and eventual encounter with Eastern traditions on a trip to San Francisco. Then one day he picked up a video a solemn high Mass and was mesmerized.  A devotion to the liturgy helped get Father Kelber through priestly formation. He joked that he didn’t make the greatest career choices around liturgy but doesn’t regret it.

“We had fought for this altar as it was written in the breviary, incense in the liturgy, the way we carry the missal in the Mass …  these sorts of things,” recalled Father Kelber, noting the resistance he and others received.

The liturgy holds so much for us, said the friar. The liturgy “gives what is best about humanity to God — in sacred art, in sacred action, in sacred music and even for those who don’t believe in the Lord, they too know this great heritage that the church holds. This is a treasure.”

After Father Kelber came to Holy Rosary, the Dominican rite Mass became a regular celebration at the parish, and the ordinary form celebrations were enhanced with incense and more music.

“Father Vincent has been a key component in the development of the parish life in that time and for good reason — he’s got a good spirit,” said Dominican Father Gabriel Mosher, who serves Holy Rosary as parochial vicar.

“It’ll definitely be a transition. As far as the community is concerned, when any member of the community is transferred, it causes the entire dynamic of our daily life to change,” said Father Mosher. However, Father Mosher is looking forward to see what his new change will bring.

Father Low will serve the parish as parochial administrator.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org