A 72-year old Catholic priest who had been pastor  at the same church for 17 years has been asked to resign because changes he made in the Eucharistic prayer of the Mass. Rev. William Rowe of St Mary's parish in Mount Carmel,  in the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois was removed by Bishop Edward Braxton. Rev. Rowe admitted making minor modifications to the words of the Eucharistic prayer in order to tie it in to the daily Gospel reading and his homily. When the bishop talked to him in October 2011 following complaints by parishioners, Rev. Rowe indicated that he did not plan on making any changes.

Rev. Rowe subsequently sent a letter to Bishop Braxton stating that "from our most recent discussion, I realize that you can no longer allow me to celebrate the Eucharist as has been my custom” and he offered to resign. He received a response this month.

On January 29, instead of reading the collect from the Roman Missal ('Lord our God that we may honor you with all our mind and love everyone in truth of heart'), Rev. Rowe substituted his own prayer, "We thank you, God, for giving us Jesus who helped us to be healed in mind and heart and proclaim his love to others." Three days later, he received a letter from the bishop accepting his resignation, which will take effect in June.

Rev. Rowe said that over the years Bishop Braxton made it clear to priests in his diocese that "no priest may deviate from any wording in the official Missal."  In late 2011, and immediately prior to the introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal, the bishop informed Rev. Rowe that he could no longer allow him to improvise.

Rev. William Rowe

Some members of the congregation have objected to the removal. For example, Alice Worth, the principal at St Mary's School, said they are "devastated" and described Rev. Rowe as "the backbone of our parish." "The ways Father changed the Mass ritual with his words have only made it more meaningful to us as opposed to distancing us from the Church," she said. "Everything he does is based on our faith, it's not just a whim. There's a reason for every word he prays." Parishioners are exploring various ways to get their beloved pastor back, including a petition to the bishop.

Comments left at the website of the Belleville-Napier Democrat daily were a sampling of support for the embattled priest: 

We lose another servant of the gospel over minutia...so it goes. 
Posted on Feb 04, 2012 by: sjh25

This is such a shame. Fr.Rowe is the most genuine priest that has ever been ordained. Along with Fr.McKevly, Belleville was blessed to have him as a champion for humbly interpreting the acts of Jesus. This resignation just exemplifies Fr. Rowe's true virtue. I applaud and admire him more than I ever have!

Posted on Feb 04, 2012 by marygrahamstiehl.    marygrah  mary

For his part, Rev. Rowe said he will neither resign or retire from active ministry. He has said that  if he cannot continue to work as a priest, he might set up a soup kitchen. In solidarity with Rev. Rowe, Rev. James Bruester of Germantown, Illinois, resigned his post as head of the north central deanery of the diocese.
Rev. John Foley, director of the Center for Liturgy at St Louis University, said:  “Since December when the new translation came out, no one has said what would happen to you if you changed stuff. I find it hard to believe a priest in Illinois would be forced to resign because he wasn’t using the exact words from the translation. It’s not a strong enough offense for that.” Rev. Rowe explains his ad-libbing of the Mass here.

Source: Iglesia Descalza





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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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