St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church

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The Latin Liturgy

The traditional Latin Mass as used today essentially is the same as the rite of Mass promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1570. St. Pius did not, however, fabricate a new rite for celebrating the Mass, his work involving no creativity to accommodate the spirit of the age (the Protestant Revolt). Rather, his reforms were mostly to excise more recent accretions which had appeared and which were obscuring the venerable, ancient and somber Roman liturgy. His work codified ancient traditions and was a true restoration. Thus to speak of the Tridentine Mass is inaccurate. The prayers of the traditional Mass are extremely ancient, the Roman Canon being given its present form by Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604 A.D.), though most of this prayer is much older.

The Council of Trent declared that “in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an un-bloody manner, who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross” (Session 22). The traditional Mass emphasizes the sacrificial and propitiatory nature of the Mass by frequent references to sacrifice and begging God to forgive our sins by the application of the Sacrifice Christ offered once and for all time on the Cross. Because the Mass is a sacrifice and the priest acts in the place of Christ (and on behalf of the people), he faces the same way as the people, standing at the altar re-presenting the Sacrifice of Christ as well as the prayers of the people to the Blessed Trinity. The priest thus leads the congregation in worship and supplication directed to God.

The Latin language is used rather than the vernacular both because Latin has been the official language of the Church in the West since the early centuries, and also because the Sacrifice of the Mass is so sacred that it is fitting that a special language be used, distinct from that which we use in everyday life. The sacred nature of the Mass is also emphasized by the use of beautiful vestments, Gregorian chant, silence, and the various ceremonies such as numerous genuflections to Our Lord truly present on the altar and the frequent signs of the Cross. All the prayers and ceremonies of the Mass help us to raise our minds and hearts from this world to the transcendent God.

Although Pope Paul VI promulgated the New Order of the Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) in 1969, he did not abrogate the venerable and ancient form, both Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI making provisions so that it could be more widely celebrated. The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter is one of groups with the permission to use the traditional Roman Rite exclusively, in order to preserve for the Church this great treasure which has fostered the piety of generations of Catholics, including most of the Saints.

The Parish

Serving the Archdiocese of Atlanta, St Francis de Sales Catholic Church is a Latin Rite parish dedicated to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass according to the Missal of Pope St. John XXIII and the other liturgical books in force in 1962. Permission for Mass according to the rubrics of 1962 was given by Archbishop John F. Donoghue.

The parish traces its origins to Sacred Heart Church, benefiting from the kind and generous support of the pastor, Msgr. Stephen Churchwell. In 1994 the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) began offering Mass at Sacred Heart. The St Francis de Sales Latin Mass Community was founded in 1995 with the arrival of a full time priest. A rectory was established in Alpharetta and the Sunday Mass was moved to St Joseph’s Maronite Church in Atlanta. In 1998, the community was hosted at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish where a Sunday Mass at the Kelly & Leak Funeral Home was added. In January of 1999, St Francis de Sales Latin Mass Community finally found a permanent home in Mableton, purchasing the former Grace Baptist Church. At this time, the community was raised to the status of a parish, Rev. Mark F. Fisher, FSSP being named the founding pastor. He was later joined by Rev. Nicholas Zolnerowicz, FSSP who served as parochial vicar.

In 2003, Fr. Fisher was succeeded by Rev. Robert Fromageot, FSSP. In 2004, Fr. Fromageot moved to Rome to continue his studies and was replaced by Rev. Denis G. Bouchard, FSSP, assisted by Rev. Laurent Demets, FSSP. Fr. Bouchard was pastor until 2008 when Fr. Fisher returned, assisted by Rev. Roberto Cano, FSSP. In 2010, Fr. Fisher was replaced by Rev. Howard J. Venette, FSSP, assisted by Rev. Thomas Fritschen, FSSP. In 2011, Rev. Matthew J. McCarthy, FSSP was assigned as parochial vicar to Fr. Venette, succeeding him as pastor in 2012, assisted by Rev. Joel. E. Kiefer, FSSP. In June 2015, Fr. Kiefer was replaced by Rev. Joseph DeGuzman, FSSP. After 5 years as pastor, Fr. McCarthy was replaced by Rev. Carlos S. Casavantes, FSSP, in July 2017.
Fr. DeGuzman succeeded Fr. Casavantes as pastor and Rev. James Smith, FSSP was assigned as parochial vicar in August 2018.

Under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, St Francis de Sales Catholic Church continues to grow as a parish, serving over 200 families attached to the venerable and ancient Latin traditions of the Catholic Church.