From the Pastor: A Look Back to 2015
Last July I became the pastor of Epiphany of Our Lord parish. Most of you did not arrive until the first weekend of August, when the Traditional Latin Mass began being celebrated here. This week I will give you a look at what I wrote to the small but faithful congregation, giving them a glimpse of what they were in for! First they asked for a short biographical piece to put in the bulletin before I arrived:
Father Palka was born in Michigan but the family moved down to Florida when he was a child. He grew up in the Orlando Diocese but came to Tampa when he was in college and received his undergraduate degree at USF. He entered the seminary several years later and was ordained for the Diocese of St. Petersburg in 1996. He has had numerous parish assignments, the latest of which was as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua parish and school in San Antonio, Florida. His mother, Carole, has been active at Epiphany parish for many years so many of you have seen him occasionally at various parish events when he has come to visit. He has absolutely no outstanding talents or abilities but is rather a mediocre parish priest whose goal is to save the souls of his parishioners through a reverent celebration of the Mass and other sacraments. And now you are stuck with him!
That short article was, I think, a nice introduction to my writing style as well as to me. From that point on, people were on notice that my bulletin article may not always be a cut and dried theological discourse put into writing. A bit of self-deprecating humor makes even hard truth a bit easier to swallow! Next, I had to address some rumors going around that had everybody all worked up and worried. I wrote:
Rumors, rumor, rumors! Everywhere there have been rumors about what is going to happen once the new pastor (that’s me) gets to Epiphany. Several months ago Bishop Lynch called me into his office to tell me that he was giving me a new challenge. He was sending me to a parish of which he figured I didn’t even know the location, Epiphany of Our Lord. (Ha! It is my mom’s parish!) He told me that there were over 400 people attending the sole Vietnamese Mass Sunday evening but only 87 people attending the two English Masses combined. The long-time and beloved pastor, Fr. Tuoc, was retiring, he told me, and he wasn’t sure how to keep the parish open with its very small congregation. (St. Joseph Vietnamese Mission is a separate entity which, on the books, at least, basically “rents” the property from Epiphany. Father Tuoc had been pastor of both the parish and the mission so the expenses of only one pastor was incurred and split by both groups. The English community would not be able to afford a pastor on their own and no bi-lingual priest was available to be pastor of both at this time.) So the bishop had a bright idea. He would send me to Epiphany as pastor and bring in a Vietnamese priest to be in charge of the mission and, to try to increase the Mass attendance and, to be honest, the income of the parish so that they could afford an extra priest, I was to turn it into a “center for the Latin Mass.” This is not the Mass you have become used to for the last six decades. This is the old, traditional Latin Mass of the ages. Many know it as the Tridentine Mass. It is the Mass that all of the great old Saints we know and love either celebrated as Priests or attended as Religious or laity. It’s basic form dates back 1500 or more years and the last minor changes were codified in 1962, so this is the Mass which was celebrated by the Pope and all the bishops gathered for Vatican II. After the English Masses next weekend we have a little celebration which you are all welcome to attend. After everyone gets fat and happy I will answer questions and give a little explanation about the differences in the two forms of the Mass if any of you wish to remain for a while.
Now that the Traditional Latin Mass community has been here a full year and everyone is settled in, rather than relaxing and letting things simply be as they are, it is time to redouble our efforts to win the battle for souls. Manly, truly Catholic Men are the key to holy families, which make holy parishes, which make Saints. The men of the parish will begin a 54 day Rosary Novena on August 15, the feast of the Assumption of Mary. It will come to its conclusion on October 7, the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (in honor of the Catholic defeat of the muslim invaders at Lepanto). More next week.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka