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Holy Family Catholic Church in Latrobe to revive traditional Latin Mass

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Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
The Very Rev. Daniel C. Mahoney, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Latrobe, stands for a portrait on Friday, February 8, 2013.

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Emoke Pellathy of Unity said she is thrilled the traditional Latin Mass is being resurrected in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg, where it will be celebrated on Sunday in Holy Family Church in Latrobe.

“I grew up with the Latin Mass. If you use it (Latin), you are transported to a different place,” said Pellathy, a Mt. Pleasant Area High School language teacher who taught the language before it was discontinued two years ago.

“If you use only the local language, it's the here and now. It's ordinary,” said Pellathy, who grew up near Buffalo.

Holy Family will be the only church in the diocese's four counties — Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland — where the Latin Mass will be celebrated, at 2 p.m. every Sunday, said spokesman Jerry Zufelt.

Greensburg Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt announced in December that the Mass, referred to as the Mass in Extraordinary Form, would be celebrated in Holy Family, whose pastor, the Very Rev. Daniel C. Mahoney, studied Latin for eight years.

Latin was the universal language for Mass in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries until changes by the Second Vatican Council in 1962 permitted use of the local language.

In 1984, Pope John Paul II granted permission for celebration of the Latin Mass if approved by the local bishop.

Former Pittsburgh Bishop Donald Wuerl allowed Latin Masses at St. Boniface Church in Pittsburgh's Spring Hill neighborhood in the 1990s, but former Greensburg Bishop Anthony Bosco did not sanction them because the local council of priests repeatedly rejected them.

Mahoney said he has received positive feedback from his parishioners, and about 50 people attended an informational meeting about the Mass three weeks ago.

Ordained in 1970, Mahoney said he has never celebrated a Mass in Latin.

The songs and readings will be in Latin, but the homily will be in English, he said.

Mahoney said he has been “brushing up” on the Latin Mass and has been retraining older adults to be altar servers and to learn the Latin responses.

“The ritual is very intricate. There's some things (in the Mass) that are slightly different,” Mahoney said.

Priests face the altar during the Mass, symbolizing facing east toward Jerusalem, Mahoney said.

Among the preparations he has had to make for the Latin Mass is acquiring a 1962 Missal — a book containing the text and rubrics of the Mass — and altar cards, which contain prayers said in the Mass, Mahoney said.

By the Greensburg Diocese's permitting the Mass, church officials believe some local parishioners who drive to Pittsburgh's North Side to attend Mass in St. Boniface Church may be drawn to the Latrobe church.

A Latin Mass was celebrated in Greensburg in the late 1990s by a small group of Catholics who brought Bishop Patrick Taylor from Beckley, W.Va., but Bosco did not sanction it.

The diocese said Taylor was not listed in the official church directory and the Catholics who attended that Mass could jeopardize their bond of unity with the bishop and the pope.

Laura Roy of Greensburg, who along with her brother Nick Roy helped organize that unsanctioned Mass, said, “It's about time” that Brandt permitted the Latin Mass.

In the 1990s, she said, supporters were attracted to the Latin Mass because “we wanted to maintain the rules of the church,” ones that were established centuries ago, Roy said.

The group of Greensburg-area parishioners celebrated the Latin Mass for about seven years before differences of opinion split the group in 2004, Roy said.

Brother Norman W. Hipps, president of St. Vincent College, said the Latin Mass has a place in the Catholic Church, only “if it is not being celebrated as an experience of nostalgia.”

“It has to be a genuine celebration of faith,” he said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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