Several distraught parishioners called me yesterday with the news that the Children's Mass which the retired pastor, Fr. Mason, has offered for over thirty years in the OLL chapel every Sunday morning will be cancelled when Advent begins, while Fr. Heinlein's Youth Mass which has also been celebrated for many years in the school chapel, will stay on the schedule---the latest in a series of controversial and confusing changes made in the last few months by Msgr. Lisante.One of the parishioners, a father who says he has been bringing his children to the Children's Mass for the past sixteen years, told me that at the end of yesterday's Mass, Fr. Mason made a short announcement that the Mass was to be cancelled.After the Mass he said the bewildered families gathered outside the chapel, many in tears, asking why the popular Mass was to be ended. One mother said she was "devastated," telling how she had just discovered this Mass two years ago and rarely missed a Sunday to attend with her family.Another couple was visibly upset, explaining how they had continued attending the Mass after their children were grown because of the joyful family atmosphere at the weekly liturgy.One mother recalled how she has seen her children and other children grow up over the years attending this Mass. She told me, "They haven't just learned the faith, they've come to know a priest who is very knowledgeable, and has a great love and devotion for the Catholic faith, and that's what they'll remember. They've learned that the priesthood is about giving of yourself and communicating the truth with love."What makes this Mass so dear to the families and others who attend? One of the fathers described the format which is not your typical Children's Mass. No balloons and Barney puppets here! After the children do the readings, a chalkboard is set up and Fr. Mason, a la Bishop Sheen, explains the Gospel, with anecdotes, examples, his famous line drawings and a definition or two from the Catechism, in a manner accessible to young children and adults.Mass usually takes well over an hour, which is one of the reasons it's held in the chapel so the regular schedule of Sunday Masses won't be disturbed, but parents marvel that the children never complain. One mother told me that her young children and others' children and even the teenagers eagerly look forward to the Children's Mass every week and stay remarkably focused and attentive throughout the sermon. Babies and toddlers are welcome and can often be found contentedly playing in the back of the chapel or in the school hallway for a few minutes if the wiggles get to be too much.Several seniors can be found in the pews as well, contributing to the diverse and friendly family environment. Along with the substantial sermons the communal gathering afterwards is another highpoint of the weekly Mass. The adults mingle and catch up on the week's events while the children play together in the hall or on the school playground. Over the years, a strong bond of community has grown among the "Children's Mass" families and parishioners, which, I've witnessed myself, is open and welcoming to all newcomers.Just why this well-loved and long-established family Mass cannot be continued is inexplicable. One of the fathers inquired of Msgr. Lisante a few weeks ago if the Children's Mass would be allowed to continue, and Msgr. Lisante assured him it would stay in the schedule.Ironically, the Youth Mass on Saturdays with Fr. Heinlein which, like the Children's Mass, has been held for many years in the school chapel on Saturday afternoons is to be continued. Here's Lisante's effusive blessing on that Mass in the Sept. 21 bulletin:
On Saturday, we'll have the 5 p.m. in Church as we presently do. We also have a 5 p.m. Mass celebrated in the Chapel. Now, at one time this was considered a Mass for Youth. But, in reality, it's not that anymore. It is a wonderful group of parishioners who enjoy celebrating Mass with Father Tony Heinlein.I talked this over with Father Tony. And, for the immediate future, he'd like to continue celebrating this Mass. As I like and respect this good priest, I'm in agreement. The only change? It will become a 5:15 p.m. Mass instead of a 5 p.m.
Can't the Children's Mass community be similarly described as "a wonderful group of parishioners who enjoy celebrating Mass with Father Mason?" Why the double standard here?Perhaps Msgr. Lisante doesn't think this particular group of people is so wonderful. Perhaps one or two of those people complained about a homosexual activist being the song leader. Perhaps one or two of those people wrote a letter or made a phone call to the rectory and the chancery.Could he be taking the Children's Mass away as retribution? Some parishioners are wondering this very thing, considering Lisante's recent assurances that the Children's Mass would remain on the schedule. I have been informed that a priest in the OLL rectory has threatened repeatedly that Fr. Mason will be punished if parishioners continue to complain about Lisante's decisions.Retribution was threatened to occur in September by this priest, but it seems to have arrived now as payback for the Blockley/Rapanaro fiascos.If this is it, it's despicable that the highly respected, venerable former pastor will not be allowed to keep saying the Mass he delights in offering every Sunday morning, one of his few pleasures in retirement, in retaliation for a letter and a phone call allegedly made by a few people who may or may not even attend his Mass, a very remote connection indeed, but one for which he is apparently to be severely punished."Diamond Jim" Lisante has already shown he has no regard for the safety of the children and young people in his care---as demonstrated by his actions regarding Fr. Matthew Blockley, a suspended priest who helped manage OLL until he was discovered and expelled by the bishop, and his employment of Peter Rapanaro, known and feted in homosexual circles for the blasphemous play he directed in 2003.
Taking Fr. Mason away from the faithful people and children at the Children's Mass shows Lisante's complete contempt for their sensibilities and emotional attachments as well, and a total disregard for the impact this will have on a good, faithful, elderly priest.How sad that Jim Lisante, vaunted for his charm and easygoing ways, has shown himself to be an uncaring and ruthless administrator willing to hurt an innocent priest and the poeple who love him to protect his own reckless and irresponsible management of the parish bequeathed to him.Shame on you, Diamond Jim!