The TLM and Old Ethnic Parishes

Traditionalists sometimes complain about being put in “inner-city parishes.” Recently, I’ve seen complaints about how this practice inconveniences and intimidates traditionalists.* Are bishops intentionally dissing us this way?

Let’s propose a more charitable interpretation. In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were a lot of ethnic parishes in a America. The Irish wanted their own parish, and the Italians wanted theirs; so too the Germans, Poles, etc. In Wisconsin, you would get more exotic samplings, like Bohemians (=Czechs), Walloons (=Romance-language-speaking Belgians), and Dutch.

Anyway, as whites fled to the suburbs and hyphenated-American immigrant identities collapsed in the 20th century, the Church began consolidating these parishes. This was only a matter of time. Meanwhile, large parishes began to bloom in the suburbs. Chicago is closing its parishes because the Diocese of Rockford is expanding its presence among the ex-Chicagoans of the Fox River Valley. Etc.

This means that the surburban parishes often have a full schedule of Masses, while an older inner-city ethnic parish (unless it’s in an Hispanic neighborhood) is on the brink of closure. It’s easier to fit a traditionalist Mass into the schedule for these old ethnic parish. Also, the money helps keep the parish open. Often the artwork is traditional, too. So it’s a natural fit.

Here are some instances of the TLM being offered at older ethnic parishes:

  • Boston: Holy Trinity (since closed). German. Not too many Germans in Boston.
  • Syracuse: St. Stephen of Hungary (since closed). Slovakian. Why did Slovaks have the King of Hungary as their patron, you ask? Because Hungary used to rule Slovakia as part of the Lands of the Crown of Saint Stephen (
  • Milwaukee (actually West Allis): Mary Help of Christians (since closed). Slovenian. Under the title Help of Christians, Our Lady is the patroness of Slovenia (
  • Scranton: St. Michael’s. Lithuanian. This is an FSSP parish.

I’ve attended the TLM at Mary Help of Christians, St. Stephen’s, and St. Michael’s.

And the Poles. The Poles were a larger presence than any of the ethnic groups above were any of those cities. Poles have also clung to their heritage more than a lot of immigrant groups. As a result, parish closures seem to come later to them. Here are current Polish parishes that have a scheduled TLM:

  • Syracuse: Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Most of the priests who offered the TLM at St. Stephen’s were either Polish immigrants or Polish-American. One—Mons. Gleba (RIP)—was the Rector of the Basilica. So it was a natural selection after St. Stephen’s closed. Here is Mons. Gleba’s obituary:
  • Milwaukee: St. Stanislaus. Now an oratory staffed by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. This was an upgrade from Mary Help of Christians. Thank you, Cardinal Dolan!

In addition to Poles, St. Stan’s was the home parish for Milwaukee’s Kaszube immigrants. The Kaszubes are a little-known Slavic ethnos from the Baltic coastline of Poland. They lived as fishermen on Jones Island ( To get to St. Stan’s, they would take their boats up the Kinnickinnic River during the summer and skate or walk on the ice during the winter.

Anyway, traditionalists, if you get to keep alive some part of America’s Old World heritage, that’s a good thing. You’re holding up Christendom’s colonies in the New World. It sure beats empty whining about parish closures and tacky Modernist church architecture in the suburbs.

*I read a traditionalist complaining about poor parking in the city. Inconvenient parking is a very small offering to get someone out of Purgatory. Last Sunday, I heard a Salvatorian mission priest describe how in Tanzania priests need to take their mopeds through the jungle (elephant and lion territory) to reach the outstations. These outstations have Mass maybe only once per year. Also, Our Lord died on a Cross, and St. Lawrence was grilled to death. Perspective.

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