December 14, 2017
When Father John Brancich arrived in Nashua, New Hampshire in the summer of 2016, the Bishop himself was there to greet him.
His Excellency Bishop Peter Anthony Libasci and the parish of St. Stanislaus share an extraordinary bond. Bishop Libasci himself is responsible for bringing the Latin Mass to the Diocese of Manchester, to which he was named in 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI. There was a clear desire, illustrated by the myriad letters that would arrive at his office, among the members of his flock for a Latin Mass in the area. To learn more about the founding days of the parish, we talked to Fr. James Smith, who joined the parish as assistant pastor this past summer after his ordination in May.
The bishop’s office researched suitable communities that could provide the Traditional Latin Mass and the bishop reached out to the Fraternity, inviting our North American District Superior, Fr. Saguto, to meet with him in New Hampshire. The meeting was a fruitful one, the two superiors sharing common ground in their New York Italian heritage, but, more importantly, in their mutual goal of saving souls and caring for their flocks.
The Bishop gave the Fraternity the 100-year-old Polish church of St. Stanislaus, which was merged with St. Aloysius Gonzaga parish in 2002 and had been closed as a Mass location since that time, but had remained in use as a place of Eucharistic adoration. The Bishop reopened it as a parish in 2016, Father Brancich celebrating the first Sunday Mass on August 7 of that year. The size of the extant Latin Mass community was made apparent on that Sunday, when 40 young men turned up to offer their services at the altar, and 450 attendees came to the Mass. Since the parish began counting the number of attendees in March of 2017, attendance has increased almost 50%, from 240 to 380 on one Sunday in November.
Fr. Smith told us more about the strong friendship the parish has with Bishop Libasci. The Bishop sat in choir during Holy Week at St. Stanislaus and had lunch with the parish on Palm Sunday. He comes to Mass unannounced, says Fr. Smith, and will drop by the rectory at times just to say hello. “He is very good to us,” he says.
Parishioners come from various regions in New Hampshire and from as far away as the dioceses of Worcester, Massachusetts and Portland, Maine, one family even coming from the Diocese of Springfield, MA, on occasion.
The urban parish is situated in downtown Nashua, a city of 90,000 people that is the two-time winner of the Money magazine’s annual “Best Place to Live in America” survey (1987 and 1997). As far as New England goes, New Hampshire is one of the more conservative corners, and its lack of income tax and sales tax make it an attractive prospect for many. It also partakes of the cultural benefits of being near Boston, such as access to theaters, museums and other activities. The Massachusetts capital is a little over an hour’s drive from Nashua.
And those are not the only benefits of its geography. The parish is perfectly positioned to become an integral part of the growing traditional Catholic hub in the Northeast. The traditional community that met the Fraternity on its arrival is complemented by that found at the nearby Northeast Catholic College, which has the Traditional Latin Mass weekly and whose talented choir lends its voices to almost every Sunday High Mass at St. Stanislaus. Also close by is the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, which celebrates the Traditional Latin Mass on Fridays and runs a van to the Latin Mass on Sundays. As well as the choir from Northeast Catholic, the parish is also blessed to welcome the choir from Thomas More on occasion. The video below is from Sunday, May 7, 2017, the 3rd Sunday after Easter.
The Thomas More choir also sang a High Requiem Mass on November 4, just after All Souls Day. Thomas Aquinas College, which celebrates the Latin Mass daily, is looking to open an east coast campus next year, at a location in Massachusetts about an hour and a half away from Nashua.
The growing parish of St. Stanislaus is the first apostolate for the Fraternity in the New England area, and its presence is therefore a source of great excitement and joy in the FSSP community. A U.S. region that has historically been and continues to be such a population center, a gateway of international travel and immigration and a hub of cultural activity is a vineyard of immense potential, and the FSSP goes into the fields rejoicing.
Our thanks to Mr. David Laskey for the photographs used in the text of this article.