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'Leaving in sorrow,' Catholics start new church in Hickory (NC)
Charlotte Observer ^ | August 13, 2012 | Michael Gordon

Posted on 08/27/2012 2:59:49 PM PDT by NYer


The Rev. Tom Sanford prepares the altar for Blessed John XXIII Ecumenical Church's Mass Saturday. Members meet at the old Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hickory. The small community of Catholics became unhappy with what they feel is a regression from progress made in recent decades.


HICKORY Our first reading Saturday comes from the Book of Kings, with an angel nudging an exhausted and distraught Elijah, telling him to get up and leave.

The Rev. Tom Sanford and his congregation have done just that.

Sanford left the Catholic priesthood more than a quarter-century ago. But now he’s back behind the altar. He’s pastor of a new spiritual community, born out of his frustration with what he believes is the philosophical backsliding of the Catholic church.

Sanford started Blessed John XXIII Ecumenical Church around Easter, and he’s starting small. When he walks down the aisle to “We Gather Together,” three worshippers stand and sing along.

Yet Sanford and his flock say there’s a larger point beyond their small numbers: They have left the Catholic church to become better Catholics.

While millions of followers of the worldwide church vigorously debate Vatican positions on birth control, women, liturgy and the balance of priest-lay authority, the members of the Blessed John church have taken the added step of breaking with Catholic leaders.

“This is a pretty grave act, setting yourself apart from the rest of the Catholic community,” says the Rev. James Martin, author of “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.”

Plenty of Catholics disagree with church teachings, he says, “but they don’t leave.”

Sanford says he couldn’t stay. He believes church traditionalists are trying to undermine 50 years of church reforms set in motion by the worldwide councils known as Vatican I and Vatican II.

The final straw came early this year: the church’s decision to reinstate the original 1963 English translation of the Mass. Supporters say the wording better reflects the beauty of the traditional Latin liturgy. Critics call it clunky. More importantly, Sanford believes, it springs from a philosophical retrenchment, “and I couldn’t abide by it.”

So in March he ran a notice in area newspapers announcing a new ecumenical house of faith that would use the previous post-Vatican II liturgy for its Catholic Mass.

Right around Easter, the church opened in the chapel of Jenkins Funeral Home in Newton.

Sanford, after a month of cramming, performed his first public mass in 28 years. Thirteen worshippers attended.

“I had one more than Jesus did for the Last Supper,” he says.

Mass or sin?

But is this really a Mass?

No, says the Diocese of Charlotte, which serves some 500,000 Catholics in Western North Carolina.

Under church rules, Sanford, who left the priesthood in 1984 to marry, cannot perform the Mass, says David Hains, a spokesman for the diocese. To do so publicly, after giving up his priestly duties, Hains said, is “a grave error.”

It is also sinful for Catholics who “knowingly go to a Mass that’s celebrated by someone who doesn’t have the authority,” Hains says. Nor would that worship fulfill the Sunday obligation for attending Mass.

Jackie Mate says that’s the problem: The church “has become so much more concerned with rules rather than deep spirituality.”

Mate says she agonized over the changes in the church, even as she continued to attend Mass at St. Aloysius in Hickory, her parish for more than 25 years.

“I’d come home sobbing. No one in their heart could be more Catholic than I am,” she says. “It still tears me apart. I still feel very conflicted. I don’t know if I’ve done the right thing. And I still don’t know.”

If she needed a push, it came when Vatican leaders harshly criticized groups of U.S. nuns as having a radical feminist philosophy and for focusing too much energy on issues of poverty rather than church teachings on same-sex marriage and abortion.

“We’re supposed to be totally obedient to the pope and not to listen to our conscience,” Mate says.

“The main thing for me is that it’s not anger making us do this. I’m leaving in sorrow. At this point, I have no choice.”

Sanford, who became a priest 35 years ago, and his wife, Dianne, have three children.

She has chosen to stay at St. Aloysius, where the couple were members for more than 20 years.

The parish’s priest, the Rev. Bob Ferris, could not be reached for comment.

The Rev. Ed Sheridan, who led St. Aloysius on two occasions, says he regrets Sanford’s move.

But he says he shares Sanford’s opinion about recent church changes.

“We’re coming up on the anniversary of Vatican II, and it seems like we’re taking all these wonderful things and moving them backwards, rather than building on them,” he says.

“I wish he hadn’t made the decision to leave. The church is the church. If we don’t agree with it, we just hope and pray that it will change. … I guess the frustration just got to him.”

Finding peace

Sanford’s new church is an example of what author Tom Roberts calls “intentional Eucharistic communities.”

Many have sprung, he says, from a weakened relationship between some Catholics and their leaders.

“The old ties that used to bind are simply breaking down. They’re just not there anymore,” says Roberts, author of “The Emerging Catholic Church: A Community’s Search for Itself.”

The fraying began, Roberts says, with the Vatican’s decree on birth control in 1968. It picked up speed when sex scandals involving abusive priests surfaced two decades later.

As much as she agonized over her move, Mate says she’s found peace at Mass.

“I don’t have to be afraid of what I’m going to hear in sermons, what I’m going to be told about politics, about how I’m supposed to vote.”

Her new congregation meets in the old sanctuary of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, off U.S. 321 south in the Mountain View community.

Sanford pays $25 a week for utilities. He uses part of the weekly collection to keep Phyllis Huffman, a Lutheran, playing piano.

Barbara Jackson, Mate’s neighbor, cuts out the numbers for the list of hymns. Mate handles the readings.

After Sanford’s sermon, Robert Read brings the water and wine to the altar, the collection basket tucked under his left arm.

With Sanford leading, they recite the Apostles Creed.

“We believe in the Holy Spirit,” they say, “the holy catholic Church …”

Communion comes and goes. The service takes less than a hour.

The group gathers at the back at the church and talks of Mate’s pilgrimage this week to Poland.

They hope attendance improves after summer vacations ends. A storm builds on the horizon as they head to their cars.

Sanford, though, is smiling.

“Y’all come back,” he jokes, disappearing behind the closing church door.


TOPICS: Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 08/27/2012 2:59:53 PM PDT by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...

Sad, ping!


2 posted on 08/27/2012 3:00:34 PM PDT by NYer (Without justice, what else is the State but a great band of robbers? - St. Augustine)
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To: NYer

Martin Luther II?


3 posted on 08/27/2012 3:06:17 PM PDT by Past Your Eyes (You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.)
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To: NYer

“regression from progress”

???

sounds like commie code words


4 posted on 08/27/2012 3:10:21 PM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: NYer

So this schmutz is leaving the RCC because it’s not liberal enough. I’m sure he won’t be missed.


5 posted on 08/27/2012 3:10:33 PM PDT by MeganC (The Cinemark theatre in Aurora, CO is a 'Gun Free Zone'. Spread the word.)
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To: NYer

Seems like a lot of pain and trouble to go through just to become Protestant. Don’t they have a local Episcopal church that they could have gone to instead? I’m sure there is a lot of room in the pews for them, and someone else has already paid for and hung out the rainbow flags.


6 posted on 08/27/2012 3:10:51 PM PDT by jboot (This isn't your father's America. Stay safe and keep your powder dry.)
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To: Past Your Eyes

No, Martin Luther MMMMMCCC and counting.


7 posted on 08/27/2012 3:12:42 PM PDT by tiki
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To: GeronL

Yep. Good riddance.


8 posted on 08/27/2012 3:15:28 PM PDT by pgkdan (A vote for anyone but Romney is a vote for obama...got that? u)
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To: NYer

Sad? I don’t think so. I say its cause for celebration. The more the Church is purged of this ilk the better.


9 posted on 08/27/2012 3:18:35 PM PDT by pgkdan (A vote for anyone but Romney is a vote for obama...got that? u)
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To: NYer

The Church in the US has broken with tradition and is paying the price. Trying now to amend itself under dear Pope Benedict, it is painfully slow for those longing for a return to orthodoxy, and frustrating for those who see it as a step backwards.

The priesthood is old now, lenient and not particularly lovers of piety having come up through the Church in the 60’s. The tide is changing however, and foreign priests are now evangelizing us!

I am grateful to them.


10 posted on 08/27/2012 3:25:53 PM PDT by RitaOK
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To: RitaOK

“The tide is changing however, and foreign priests are now evangelizing us!”
Agreed. My parish had an Irish priest for the past 10 years. Liked him a lot... but he was transferred and we had some fill ins for a few weeks from India, Kenya, Nigeria ... all of them gave stellar homilies. The replacement priest is from Cameroon and is fantastic as well.


11 posted on 08/27/2012 3:32:14 PM PDT by crusadersoldier
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To: NYer

I get very disgusted with newspaper that report on Catholics. They treat Catholicism as though it is a democracy that votes on each change. It is not. Therefore, this headline is false. This man is not a Catholic priest starting his own parish. He is now a religion of four people. The Pope will not try to force him back, nor will he send the Swiss gaurds to arrest him. No one has to be a Catholic, or any other religion. So why continue to call him one?


12 posted on 08/27/2012 3:45:01 PM PDT by Seabeejas (h)
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To: jboot

Don’t they have a local Episcopal church that they could have gone to instead?

&&&
Yeah, but that would not have gotten him all this attention, now, would it?


13 posted on 08/27/2012 4:03:38 PM PDT by Bigg Red (Pray for our republic.)
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To: Past Your Eyes

It’s nothing new. Martin Luther did the same years ago, and others have done it.

These people are not fooling anyone but themselves bu calling themselves catholic. They are apostate.


14 posted on 08/27/2012 4:12:22 PM PDT by Venturer
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To: RitaOK

“The tide is changing however, and foreign priests are now evangelizing us!”

that is not just a “Catholic” condition, it is something happening among many Protestant churches as well


15 posted on 08/27/2012 4:12:36 PM PDT by Wuli
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To: NYer

Yet Sanford and his flock say there’s a larger point beyond their small numbers: They have left the Catholic church to become better Catholics.

Actually, they left to become protestants. Pray for them, all. Fervently.


16 posted on 08/27/2012 4:13:33 PM PDT by sayuncledave (et Verbum caro factum est (And the Word was made flesh))
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To: NYer
Sanford, after a month of cramming, performed his first public mass in 28 years. Thirteen worshippers attended. “I had one more than Jesus did for the Last Supper,” he says.

WOW. Talk about chutzpah.

17 posted on 08/27/2012 4:16:38 PM PDT by workerbee (June 28, 2012 -- 9/11 From Within)
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To: NYer; Anoreth; BelegStrongbow; Skulllspitter

OH, this is really about non-Catholics. What a surprise!


18 posted on 08/27/2012 4:19:37 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Now a hit television series starring Judi Dench!)
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To: MeganC
As much as she agonized over her move, Mate says she’s found peace at Mass. “I don’t have to be afraid of what I’m going to hear in sermons, what I’m going to be told about politics, about how I’m supposed to vote.”

Amazing. Every time I hear a sermon on politics, voting & the like, I make it a point to thank the priest or deacon for telling it like it is!!

19 posted on 08/27/2012 4:26:28 PM PDT by workerbee (June 28, 2012 -- 9/11 From Within)
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To: NYer
The final straw came early this year: the church’s decision to reinstate the original 1963 English translation of the Mass.

I don't know if the journalist or the schismatics are being clueless, since the the new translation is a new translation of Pope Paul Vi's 1969 missal, not a return to any "1963 translatioon".

20 posted on 08/27/2012 4:43:50 PM PDT by Unam Sanctam
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To: NYer

Three blind men, three blind men
See how they run, see how they run
They all ran away from the Faith, my friend
They distanced themselves from God in the end
Is there anywhere that Jesus might send
These three blind men?

21 posted on 08/27/2012 5:14:53 PM PDT by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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To: NYer
Sanford, after a month of cramming, performed his first public mass in 28 years. Thirteen worshippers attended.

Exactly enough for a coven.

22 posted on 08/27/2012 5:16:39 PM PDT by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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To: MarkBsnr

lol

Truly though this is very sad. I am a convert to the Church and I love the new and improved translation.

Going back to the basics is not a bad thing unless of course you hate the idea of having a basic to start with.

These people sound like Nancy Pelosi Catholics. Don’t bother me with the facts of our faith, I have already made up my mind on what I will follow.


23 posted on 08/27/2012 6:35:29 PM PDT by Not gonna take it anymore (If Obama were twice as smart as he is, he would be a wit)
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To: NYer

Why, Father, ladies and gentlemen, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world...but for “And also with you”?


24 posted on 08/27/2012 6:56:41 PM PDT by RichInOC (Jesus is coming back soon...and man, is He ticked off. (I'm trying to keep it clean.))
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To: Not gonna take it anymore
lol Truly though this is very sad. I am a convert to the Church and I love the new and improved translation.

Welcome to the Faith, my friend. May you be a better Catholic than I (probably not too difficult).

Very very sad; and the translation, although still needing substantial restoration, is very much improved. English is not a language of the Church, although the Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy in the vulgar - the language of the people (hence the name Vulgate). Latin is the second. Greek is the first.

These people sound like Nancy Pelosi Catholics. Don’t bother me with the facts of our faith, I have already made up my mind on what I will follow.

Correct. The god in the mirror will tell you what to believe...

25 posted on 08/27/2012 7:01:01 PM PDT by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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To: Tax-chick
The Rev. Ed Sheridan, who led St. Aloysius on two occasions, says he regrets Sanford’s move. But he says he shares Sanford’s opinion about recent church changes. “We’re coming up on the anniversary of Vatican II, and it seems like we’re taking all these wonderful things and moving them backwards, rather than building on them,” he says.

Quote does not surprise me coming from Fr. Sheridan.

Heard him give a talk at Theology on Tap once; for a hopey changey priest he was very uncomfortable talking to 20- and 30-somethings and became severely uncomfortable when conversation veered toward Christ's Truth.

26 posted on 08/27/2012 7:28:24 PM PDT by Skulllspitter
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To: NYer

Oh isn’t that cute! They are playing “mass”. We used to do the same thing when we were kids. One of the boys would put on his mom’s cobbler apron and we all received white Necco wafers. *eyeroll*

Well Pope Benedict said that he wanted a leaner, stronger church. I wish them the best in their heresy.


27 posted on 08/27/2012 8:03:59 PM PDT by netmilsmom (Romney scares me. Obama is the freaking nightmare that is so bad you are afraid to go back to sleep)
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To: NYer

“When he walks down the aisle to “We Gather Together,” three worshippers stand and sing along.”

There’s a Reformation Church a few blocks from where I live and “We Gather Together” is the hi-light on the board along with the theme that it’s a whole new church service adventure.


28 posted on 08/27/2012 11:04:44 PM PDT by bronxville ( "My mother used to call me Ghandi"" - Obama 2004)
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To: Skulllspitter

Bishop Jugis has relocated many of the battier old hippies out to the sticks. Hopefully we’ll get enough good new priests to take their places when they have to retire.


29 posted on 08/28/2012 4:54:07 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Now a hit television series starring Judi Dench!)
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To: Venturer

One man’s apostate is another man’s hero. Small c catholic is indeed what they are IMO.


30 posted on 08/28/2012 7:39:25 AM PDT by Past Your Eyes (You knew the job was dangerous when you took it.)
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