09 Feb They Have a Dream: LA’s Parish in Search of a Church
by Beverly De Soto Stevens
Father James Fryar of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) has been invited by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to found a parish there. Regina Magazine caught up with Fr. Fryar and his intrepid band of parishioners-without-a-parish recently. Here’s what they told us:
Father James Fryar: The places where we are saying Mass and the home blessings are a mere ‘whetting of the appetite’ compared to what we will have. Still, it is much appreciated. The people of Los Angeles are hungering for what the FSSP has to offer.
REGINA: What is your dream, Father Fryar?
A. We hope to have a parish like the other parishes of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter that people have come to know and love throughout the world. A place that is safe for our children. A place where we can visit and enjoy the company of Catholics who are striving to save their souls. A place where processions are common. Where conferences are often. Where there are youth groups, young adult groups, ongoing education for adults, Legion of Mary, and all the many Societies and Confraternities that were common in parishes before the changes of the 60’s. In a word: our home away from home. A home that has Christ and the Mass at its center. That is what we are going to establish.
REGINA: You have attracted a good number of Catholics; what have you been up to in the last few months?
A. The places where we are saying Mass and the home blessings are a mere ‘whetting of the appetite’ compared to what we will have. Still, it is much appreciated. The people of Los Angeles are hungering for what the FSSP has to offer. This is an exciting moment for the city! Much overdue and most needed!
Jeff Ostrowski will be able to lead the music department in a way that will have the quality of the choir match the quality of the serving, and we will be able to strive for a perfect liturgy. Because God is perfect. And liturgy worthy of Him should also be perfect.
REGINA: You have also attracted some extraordinary talent, as well?
When I was first assigned to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of providing a parish for the FSSP in Los Angeles, I got on the phone with a very close friend of mine and asked him if he move to LA to be our choir director. In spite of the great sacrifice that this will cause him and his family, he energetically said yes!
I first met Mr Ostrowski when I sang in his choir in Kansas. I was still a subdeacon at the time. Impressed with his compositions for our Masses each week, I asked him if he could compose the music for my First Mass. Not only did he compose the music, but he trained a choir of around 70 voices, many of whom were not professional musicians and practiced with him for about half a year. The Best Mass of my life was the most amazing Mass anyone present had ever seen!’
‘That was the beginning of what has become a lifelong dedication to Sacred Music for Mr Ostrowski. He has since directed several church choirs, taught high school, contributed to the Church Music Association of America and much more.
REGINA has interviewed Jeff Ostrowski about his Campion Missal, which was released last year.
He is currently President of Corpus Christi Watershed. He has compiled, written and created amazing Hymnals, including the Campion Hymnal… Other hymnals that he has made are the Vatican II Hymnal (for the Ordinary Form) and most recently the St. Isaac Jogues Missal and Hymnal. His missals and hymnals are far superior to all others in the quality of content and presentation. He also provides an online library of sacred music resources that is used by choir directors throughout the world, and he is continuously adding to these resources.
REGINA: What are your plans for Mr Ostrowski in your new parish?
My vision for FSSP of LA is to make a parish that is second to none. In the world. I do not know if we will achieve that, but that is my vision and what I am shooting for. I want precise and perfect liturgy that people can look to as: “How is the Mass celebrated in LA?”
The choir is an essential part of the liturgy. Oftentimes parishes give much attention to the liturgy within the sanctuary – the beauty of the vestments and the precision of the altar servers etc. However the choir is forgotten or neglected. This is like hobbling around on one leg. One of the columns of the liturgy is missing.
Instead, we are going to do this right. From the ground up we are going to have a liturgy that sits firmly on the two strong columns of a good choir and good servers. To have perfect liturgy in LA I would like to push not only for a choir, but a music program. Eventually even have a choir school where children could be formed in Sacred Music.
SAN FELIPE CHAPEL: Six months ago from the other side of the country, Fr Fryar initiated conversations at “the Table” on the FSSP.LA website. These continue now in person after Mass at San Felipe, Mondays after 7:00 pm Mass and Conference, at the potluck suppers after Sunday evening Mass at St Victor’s and just recently when he visited 100 Catholic homes for Epiphany Blessings.
My vision for FSSP of LA is to make a parish that is second to none. In the world. I do not know if we will achieve that, but that is my vision and what I am shooting for.
Ian Pulley, 30, is an Emergency Medical Technician, and JoAnne is his mother. Charles Coulombe, 31, is an accountant and business manager. Ida Moe Nge is a laboratory assistant. Elizabeth Acosta is a wife, mother and grandmother who is also a Certified Public Accountant.
What sort of people start an amazing parish? What motivates them? What challenges do they encounter?
Regina Magazine recently discussed their quest with these would-be parishioners in search of their ‘spiritual home’.
ST VICTOR’S IN WEST HOLLYWOOD: Right now we have eleven locations including St. Victor and San Felipe. And the problem is that there are places like Lancaster, Santa Barbara, Los Alamitos, Santa Monica, places where people can’t get to us because of traffic or it’s too far
REGINA: What is the situation now in Los Angeles?
Charles Coulombe: Los Angeles is a very big city, it’s way too much for just one person, it’s way too much for three priests to do the Mass so we need as many as possible. There are people in many areas who want to have Latin Masses but we don’t have the personnel.
Elizabeth Acosta: This is a very large multi-city multi-County Archdiocese, the largest in the United States, with very dense traffic, so we need to provide Father Fryar and all the parishioners with our own church. And this will not happen with one or two big donors; this will happen when a lot of caring people help us in raising the funds that we need to get a church!
Ian Pulley: We attend Mass at 7pm Sunday at St Victor in West Hollywood. Fr. Fryar was graciously granted permission to celebrate the Latin Mass there indefinitely.
Father James Fryar, FSSP blessing candles for a Candlemas procession in Los Angeles, California
REGINA: Why is the Latin Mass so important to you?
Elizabeth Acosta: I have been able to rediscover my Catholic faith and tradition thanks to Father Fryar’s tireless work of showing us how beautiful, holy and grace-filled the Liturgy is. So in 2014 and 2015 I was able to attend Midnight Christmas Mass in the Extraordinary Form, something that I hadn’t seen since I was a little girl. He also organized a Solemn High Mass with Priest, Deacon and Subdeacon for All Souls Day in Holy Cross Cemetery Mausoleum, blessed wine in the Feast of St. John the Apostle, and went to 100 homes to give Epiphany blessings.
Ian Pulley: I heard a lot of talk about Vatican II and how it changed the way the Church does things. I read Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium and found no prescription for any of the changes to the Mass I saw in my parish and so many of the Ordinary Form parishes I had visited. This is when I began to learn more about the Latin Mass, that it was the authentic Mass of the Church.
IAN PULLEY & FAMILY: We had decided to relocate to St Francis de Sales in Atlanta. Then we learned the Fraternity would be sending a priest to Los Angeles. We met Fr Fryar and were joyful that God had sent us such a good and holy priest. We have since put our plans of relocating on indefinite suspension in order to lend our help, material support and prayers to Fr Fryar.
I’m not a schismatic. I knew not to seek out any church that was not in communion with Rome. My mother told me about the Fraternity. Over the course of several months my wife and I searched for Fraternity parishes. We found a Latin Mass community in the meanwhile, but because diocesan seminaries are not producing priests that celebrate the Latin Mass, I knew our days there would be numbered.
REGINA: How did you find Fr Fryar?
Elizabeth Acosta: I had been attending a TLM once a month in Orange County for a couple of years where my daughter and her family attend on Sundays with the intention of helping her during Mass with her children. By the end of 2013 I had become very interested in finding weekday Masses, but the only ones in the Los Angeles Archdiocese were held in Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, close to 3 hours away!
I thought if I could at least watch the daily Mass from a computer; so on the internet I found an app, ‘IMASS,’ for both IOS and android operating systems. When I bought the android one and found that I could not make it work properly, I emailed someone for assistance. It turned out it was Father Fryar who was the developer! Little could I have guessed that he would become my Pastor!
Sometime in early 2014 I found out about Una Voce LA and George Sarah, its President. I then joined his email list and found out that a priest from FSSP was coming to Los Angeles and was going to be offering the Mass of St. Joseph on March 19th at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Wilmington, so my husband and I were present and that’s the first time that we saw Father Fryar.
JO ANN PULLEY ON HER FIRST LATIN MASS: I had read enough to know how to receive Holy Communion but not much more. I was lost. So I just watched and took it all in. I can still see the family in the pews in front of me, the father with the missal. Beyond them the ladies in veils. The beautiful white vestments of the Priest. The appointments of the altar. The statues, stained glass, paintings, columns and the soaring ceiling. The incense hanging in the air. The bells. The silence. The reverence. The mystery. It was the mystery that captivated me and still does.
Charles Coulombe: I met Father Fryar in 2009 at San Buenaventura Mission in Ventura California. He was doing a retreat there, and I volunteered to serve. I was Vice President of Una Voce Los Angeles with George Sarah as President and we started a petition about two years ago to bring the FSSP here. Archbishop Gomez asked George Sarah to do the petition; you had to be in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to be able to sign it.
Charles Coulombe: We went to parishes with traditional Mass communities and stood outside gathering signatures: Lancaster, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, Glendora, we went to all four corners of the archdiocese to get signatures. Una Voce LA gained about 1000 signatures; Una Voce Ventura gathered about 600 signatures.
We sent them into the Archdiocese around March 2013 but they were temporarily put on hold. In March 2014 we were told that the Fraternity was coming. I got to meet Father Fryar, went to lunch with him and discussed some plans. We started the Parish in August 2014 and here we are!
Ida Moe Nge: Although baptized as a Catholic, I was not raised as one. I used to go to a Baptist Bible study class and in there one night they were studying the passage of Luke 8:19-21 where Jesus is told that his mother and brothers were looking for Him, and in the class the instructor was saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary was not a Virgin, so I realized that I had to go elsewhere to learn about the Catholic faith.
After reading about Our Lady of Fatima and learning how to pray the Rosary I realized that She was guiding my soul spiritually step by step. Soon after that I joined a Legion of Mary Praesidium in a church that offers one of the very few Extraordinary Form Masses on Sunday in the Los Angeles area.
It was in the lobby of that church, on a table with Una Voce LA books that I learned about the Liturgical changes that had occurred and I started to long for the FSSP to come to Los Angeles. So finally Father Fryar arrived!
FATHER JOSEPH LEE, ACADEMIC DEAN OF FSSP SEMINARY CHALKING THE EPIPHANY BLESSING: “Some of us have started to say extra prayers and penance on Fridays so that Father, the altar servers and others can get to their various destinations safely. And with all this incredible amount of driving and activity you never hear anyone complaining or grumbling. It is truly a faithful community.” Elizabeth Acosta
Ian Pulley: I found the FSSP during my search for orthodoxy within the Catholic Church. I converted to the One, True Faith on Easter 2012 in an Ordinary Form parish. Soon thereafter, my eyes were opened to the grave issues within the Church. As my knowledge of the Faith grew, the small things that belie an erroneous theology became evident to me. Why was the tabernacle of our Lord not in the sanctuary? Why do so many insist on receiving our Lord in the hand while standing? Why does the music sound so removed from anything resembling holy, reverent music? Why do so many come late and leave early? Why are there girls acting as altar servers? When I learned the truth of what things mean and what things represent, I could not stay in the kind of parish that could put my mortal soul, and the souls of my family in danger. I must be solicitous for my salvation and the salvation of my family.]
Charles Coulombe: My hope is that when we do establish the Fraternity Church it will be in a central location where other priests can learn the Latin Mass, altar servers, choir members, etc. It takes me approximately six months to train a priest. So we need a central training location for priests, altar servers and choir members. That’s why we urgently need our own Church!
Ida Moe Nge: I really thank Almighty God, Our Lady and Pope Benedict XVI for granting permission to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass for all of us. I hope that soon we will have our own Church where we can attend the Extraordinary Form Mass without Father having to go from place to place to do so and with all of us driving around to attend, kind of like lost sheep. Pictured above (from l to r) Christie Kwan, Elizabeth Acosta, Fr James Fryar, Ida Moe Nge, Gerardo Garcia, Charles Coulombe, Jo Anne Pulley, Anthony Perlas
REGINA: What is your hope for finding a church?
Charles Coulombe: At the very beginning Father Fryar had three plans: Plan A was that hopefully the Diocese would have something for us. Plan B was to basically look around and see if we could find a church to buy. The Archdiocese is willing to subsidize us so if we can come up with a certain amount they will come up with the rest, depending on how much it is.
Plan C, which is where it looks like where we’re going now, is to actually rent a place, look for a place like where we are now and then end up building our own place, hopefully as close as possible to the center of Los Angeles. And the reason for that is because it’s a big city and if we were to go anywhere else it would take twice as long to get anywhere, taking into account traffic patterns and all.
Ian Pulley: We have limited financial means, but our tithe goes to the Fraternity. We stay after Mass for a short time to talk with our fellow parishioners. My wife and I do not attend Father’s weekly conferences due to our work schedules and also owing to the fact we have a small child. Beyond that, all I can offer at this point in time is prayer and penance. I am hopeful that we will find a parish. There are obstacles that stand before Father, but many of his parishioners are offering prayers and penance for this very purpose. I am confident the Lord will continue to provide for His unworthy servants.
Elizabeth Acosta: I have high hopes that we will have our own Church soon. Father Fryar, the altar servers, choir members and parishioners make many sacrifices to be able to sustain the present arrangement of being a parish without a church.
Jo Anne Pulley: On the fourth Sunday of Advent Fr Fryar closed his series of sermons on the Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form with a reference to a particular place in Rome where, by looking through a keyhole, one can see three countries. He then said, “The Mass is the keyhole to Heaven. Look through this keyhole. You have to die to get closer to God than this.”
This is what I want. This is what I want for my son and his family, for my grandchildren. This is what I want for my friends and their loved ones. I want this for my neighbors. I want to know what God expects of us in our submission, our obedience, in adoration, in the worship due Him and in right praise. I found that in the Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. What Fr Fryar is bringing to us is a parish life built around the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass not only on Sunday but every day.
So what’s missing? A church or the land to build a church. We continue to petition God with prayers for the finding and funding of our “home away from Home. “ I have faith those prayers will be answered. But faith is a two way street. We ask for this from God. God requires something from us. He has given us time, talent, and treasure. How shall we use them for His greater glory?
The Ongoing Novenas
Holy Innocents Church in New York City won a reprieve from the New York Archdiocese in late 2014; they received this marvelous news upon completion of their third 54-day Rosary Novena.
Upon learning this, it occurred to Elizabeth Acosta that praying 54-day Rosary Novenas to “ask Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary for a Church for our parish would be a wonderful collective effort that would unite us and grant us our wish of a church.
“With Father Fryar’s blessing and approval we started our first 54-day Rosary Novena on Sunday, November 16th, 2014, and we just started a second Novena on January 9th, 2015, the day after we finished the first Novena,” she said. “This novena is comprised of three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary in petition and three novenas of the prayers of the Rosary in thanksgiving. The novena consists of five decades of the Rosary (one set of mysteries) each day for twenty-seven days in petition; then immediately five decades each day for an additional twenty-seven days in thanksgiving, regardless of whether or not the request has been granted yet. To do the novena properly one must pray the Rosary for 54 consecutive days, without missing a day, and must pray the particular Mystery indicated for that day following the correct sequence. The first day of the novena always begins with the Joyful Mysteries (regardless of what day of the week the novena is started); the second day, the Sorrowful Mysteries are prayed; and the third day of the novena the Glorious Mysteries are prayed. The fourth day of the novena begins again with the Joyful Mysteries and continues on in that sequence throughout the 54 days of the novena.”
Jo Anne Pulley: The Divine Redeemer claimed the victory for my soul on the Cross. But the battle is mine to lose. What is the value of my soul? What is the value of the souls of those I love? Immeasurable. Nothing less than immeasurable. Whatever time, whatever talent, whatever treasure I claim was never mine to begin with. In His time and according to His Will, we will have a church. And toward that end, whatever time, talent and treasure I claim is offered to Our Lord with a grateful heart to further that effort.
PHOTO CREDITS: Thomas Coe (Thomasdavidcoe@gmail.com and Tdcphoto.moonfruit.com)