Apostolate Spotlight: Allentown
This July, St. Stephen of Hungary in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a flourishing parish under the care of pastor Fr. Gregory Pendergraft, FSSP, will celebrate one year of being an FSSP apostolate.
St. Stephen’s road to its current status was not an easy one, however.
The Latin Mass community at St. Stephen’s goes back to 1995, when a monthly Mass, offered by the late Msgr. Charles Moss, was begun at St. Roch Church in West Bangor, PA. The Mass became weekly in 1998, and the community would remain at St. Roch until shortly after the death of Msgr. Moss in 2006. The community then moved to St. Stephen of Hungary in Allentown.
For the complete story on St. Stephen’s road to apostolateship, we talked to a parishioner of St. Stephen’s, one who has been a member of the Latin Mass community of Allentown since 2004. He told us more about the events following the move to Allentown.
“It was a very challenging time,” he explains. The Mass was at 8am, whereas it had been at 9:20 at St. Roch’s, and the early time presented a travel problem for the distant members of the TLM community. The Mass was eventually changed to 10 and then 10:15 am.
The next 10 years proved to be a struggle for the parish, and the size of the community stayed stable but did not grow significantly. At times, the TLM could not be held at the parish, if the pastor was away and could not get a replacement. When the pastor was forced to to take an extended hiatus due to health issues, a group petition was initiated asking for the FSSP to come in. The chancery said that the request would be considered in the fall. The parish spoke with the FSSP a couple of months later, who in their turn informed them of their interest in sending them a priest. Soon after, at a meeting at the chancery, representatives of the parish found out that St. Stephen’s was going to be closed soon due to financial challenges. The parish put the case forward for the FSSP taking over, and the chancery was open to that option.
Two weeks later it was announced that the pastor of St. Stephen’s would be going on sabbatical and ending his term as pastor, and the TLM was offered by a rotation of priests while the parish waited to hear the final outcome. On Pentecost Sunday 2016, via a letter from Bishop Barres read before Mass, the parish was informed that the FSSP would be taking over in July. When the letter was read, “you could tell that nearly everyone was both completely stunned and delighted,” says our parishioner.
As they say, the rest is history. Mass attendance doubled, and this month, the parish welcomes their new assistant pastor, Fr. Joseph Favole-Mihm.
“When I was in college, a friend was giving me a ride to St. Roch’s and I naively asked him if there was a plan to bring in the FSSP if something happened to Msgr. Moss,” the parishioner says. “Little did I know what would be involved in making that actually happen.”
He offers some concluding thoughts. “When I discovered the Latin Mass in high school, I fell in love with the beauty of it and realized I couldn’t simply go back to attending the Novus Ordo at my childhood parish. While this was a blessing, it left me uprooted in a certain sense. With the arrival of the FSSP at St. Stephen’s to provide for parish life with the Latin Mass and the spiritual life it entails, I’m finally settled after 17 years of feeling like a nomad with my family.”
July 6, 2017