The Latin Mass Society organises two 'Priest Training Conferences' each year, one in the North of England, at Ushaw College, Co. Durham, and one in the South. These conferences have become justly famous for providing priests with the time, space and expertise necessary to learn as much as possible in a short space of time (four or five days), in the company of like-minded priests from around the country and abroad, with talks on the Mass, the other Sacraments, the 1962 Missal and related topics. The conferences also include tuition in the Chant necessary for priests in singing Mass.
The first conference took place in Oxford in 2007, and was organised before the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum came out, though it was widely and eagerly anticipated. To indicate his approval of the proceedings, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, then Archbishop of Birmingham which includes Oxford, attended part of the conference himself. There was a second conference in Oxford in 2008; in 2009 there was a conference in St Cuthbert's Seminary at Ushaw, near Durham, the seminary for the North of England, and in the All Saints Pastoral Centre at London Colney, a retreat centre owned by the Archdiocese of Westminster. The London Colney conference was in association with the Archdiocese itself.
Conferences have also been attended by Bishop Rifan of Campos, Brazil; Bishop Slattery of Tulsa, Oaklahoma, USA; and Bishop Athanasius Schneider, from Kazakhstan.
In 2010 conferences took place in Ushaw and in Downside Abbey, Somerset; in 2011 they are planned for Ushaw and Buckfast Abbey, Devon.
Well over 100 priests have attended our conferences, with many coming to several. Sometimes a priest may find a single conference is not enough to master Low Mass; some priests, having learnt Low Mass at one conference, have returned to learn Sung Mass, or one or more of the roles at Solemn Mass. Others have attended as students and returned as tutors to help their fellow priests.
All places for priests learning the Mass are subsidised by the Latin Mass Society; the fee charged represents only a fraction of the actual cost.
Priests have attended the conferences from all over England and Wales, and also from Scotland, Ireland, Nigeria, and South Africa. In 2010 Archbishop Maclolm Ranjith, Secretary Emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and now Archbishop of Columbo in Sri Lanka, sent two priests from Columbo to our Ushaw conference to learn to say the ancient Mass.
The priest tutors include priests experienced in the usus antiquior from around England and Wales, as well as members of the Fraternity of St Peter and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Alongside the priests the conferences include lay men to serve and to sing at the liturgies, and the opportunity has been taken to teach servers alongside priests.
Priests attending the conferences have been most appreciative; Fr Michael Brown has blogged about the 2010 Ushaw Conference, and Fr Ray Blake about the 2010 Downside Conference. Our conferences have also been praised by important prelates from overseas, and in 2010 the LMS received two very encouraging messages.
"...I encourage you in implementing His Holiness' Motu Proprio and helping the priests of the Roman Rite in celebrating the 1962 Missal as the Extraordinary Form of the celebration of Holy Mass... Above all I must state that this form of celebration brings with it a profound sense of dignity, beauty, integrity of faith, and fidelity to both the Last Supper and the Crucifixion of Christ, which is not surpassed by any other spiritual experience. Therefore I congratulate you in this beautiful undertaking in the name of the Church's tradition and orthodoxy, which is our need and the need of the times". Most Rev. Malcolm Ranjith, Archbishop of Colombo and Secretary Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. (8 April 2010)
"The report of an interesting study week on the 'extraordinary form' of the Roman Rite, organised by the Latin Mass Society (12-16 April 2010) for the formation of priests in this most venerable rite of the Roman Church, has come to the notice of this Pontifical Commission... I congratulate the organisers most heartily for such an opportune and necessary initiative, and I urge you to persevere in this path..." Monsignor Guido Pozzo, Secretary, Pontifical Commission 'Ecclesia Dei'(27 May 2010)
See here for a blog report on the liturgies.
(From the Chairman, Joseph Shaw)
The Downside conference was really wonderful. The Abbey is a marvellous place to have the training and private Masses; there are about a dozen side altars, and the sacristy knocks London Colney's into a cocked hat: it is actually set up for dozens of priests to say Masses, and not just four or five. Here are some pictures of the training itself.
The priests were addressed by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, the Kazakhstan-based author of 'Dominus Est', which addresses the question of the manner of receiving communion.
Not only priests, but also a group of servers were being trained. A great many servers are needed each morning (ideally) to serve the private Masses, so this initiative, under the banner of the Society of St Tarcisius, made a lot of sense.
The conference was attended by 20 trainee priests; the trainers included Fr Andrew Southwell, the LMS' National Chaplain, Fr Bede Rowe, the LMS Chaplain for the South West, Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP (joined by The Rev Matthew McCarthy, an FSSP Seminarian), and Fr Kunkel ICKSP. I think this is the first time that LMS Chaplains and priests from both of these great traditional priestly societies have collaborated in a training event of this kind.
(From the Chairman, Joseph Shaw)
There are lots of pictures already up from Fr Brown at Forest Murmurs (there's also some commentary from our Leeds Representative, who was there; I took these during the last two days, when I was there. You don't have to be an archaeologist to see what kind of liturgy Ushaw was built for. The first thing I was able to attend was Vespers and Benediction on Thursday - notice the enormous monstrance on its throne above the High Altar in St Cuthbert's Chapel, where the crucifix normally stands. This was followed by the Conference Dinner, at which we had speeches, including a very interesting reminiscence from Fr Elkin, who had attended Ushaw as a boy and a seminarian in the 1950s. He told us the place was infested with rats, so not all the changes since then have been negative! The junior seminary has long gone, and instead of 400 students they now have a total of 24 seminarians. Fr Elkin, who has been a long-term supporter of the Traditional Mass, summed up by saying that 'our future lies in the past'. He got a standing ovation.
Early the next morning the priests were saying their private Masses, which is always a wonderful thing to see, on the numerous tiny chapels intended for this purpose but little used since the liturgical reform. These chapels are exquisite. This one below was unusable last year, because it was being used to store a drum kit.
This was followed by Lauds, which was supported by a liturgical schola led by Mike Forbester. The size of the chapel means that you need a good number of singers for it to work well. This was followed by an open forum for discussion of how the conferences should be developed. From this, and from other conversations, it was very evident how much the conferences are appreciated both for the knowledge of the Traditional Mass they impart but also for the social aspect. They are a great boost to morale for the priests, who often feel rather isolated in their dioceses, but through the conferences and similar events (such as Fr de Malleray's retreats for priests) are establishing a network of like-minded priests.
Several reiterated the point made, about the London Colney Conference last autumn by the Catholic Herald's 'Pastor Iuventus', that meeting other traditionally-minded priests at these events shatters the negative stereotype which was fixed in their minds - the other priests interested in the Old Mass are not weirdos, fanatics, political extremists or liturgical obsessives. They are perfectly normal and sane. Clearly, as this fact gradually gets out, more priests will be inclined to attend. This was followed by a splendid Solemn Mass, a votive Mass in honour of the Patron of Ushaw, the great St Cuthbert, which was accompanied by both a liturgical schola and polyphonic choir. It became harder to get good photos from the loft where I was stationed, as the sanctuary filled with ever-denser incense!
The priests taught at this conference go out into the world - into their parishes across England and Wales, in some cases into Scotland. We also had a delightful South African priest, and two charming young priests were sent to us personally by Archbishop Ranjith of Columbo, Sri Lanka - better known from his days at the Congregation for Divine Worship in Rome. Archbishop Ranjith sent us, by them, a very thoughtful letter of support and encouragement, which was read out at the Conference Dinner. These Conferences are always inspiring occasions, and this was no exception. It is truly wonderful to think of the 75 priests now saying the Traditional Mass thanks to previous conferences; as time goes on these will have an exponential effect, as they influence, and even train, other priests in their areas, young men interested in the priesthood, and the faithful. The fruits of the Motu Proprio are there to see.
Next Priest Training Conference: Buckfast Abbey: 3 to 6 May 2011
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See the books and DVDs in our catalogue.
The Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) has a page of Epistles and Gospels for Sundays and feasts sung to the correct tone; this is incomplete but extremely useful for priests.