PARK HILLS -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington has a new, fledgling parish in Park Hills called Our Lady of Lourdes, and there, what’s old is new again.
At Our Lady, noon worship service is probably very similar to what Mass looked like when your grandfather was a child.
Most of what the priest says is in Latin, except when he leads congregational prayers and preaches his homily.
Worshippers kneel frequently. They come to the altar for communion and receive only the bread, not the wine.
Female worshippers wear lacy head coverings, which are provided at the door. There are several admonitions on the parish website about the need for men and women alike to dress modestly.
“Clearly we come to Sunday Mass to adore the hallowed FLESH of the Savior," the website says. "On the other hand, people do not come to Mass to see our flesh.”
The priest celebrating Mass wears on his head a black, peaked cap called a biretta, and over his shoulders a white garment, called a chasuble, that hangs nearly to his knees.
When he faces the altar, as he frequently does during Mass, the audience sees a gold cross embroidered on the chasuble. At the center of the cross is a lamb with a red halo.
The priest works in front of a large wooden backdrop called a reredos, which covers the wall behind the altar. This one holds small statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints.
On this particular Friday, there are about 20 worshippers, including Park Hills real estate attorney Dean Spoor, one of the volunteers who have helped get the parish up and running.
At the parish’s initial Mass on July 16, there were about 100 worshippers, he said.
Like some other parishioners, he previously attended the Latin Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Cincinnati. He likes the Latin because it emphasizes the mystery and transcendence of the Mass.
“I find that it is much easier to pray,” he said.
Another former Sacred Heart parishioner, Vivian Turton, 73, now attends Our Lady of Lourdes. It’s a bit closer to her home in Cold Spring.
“I just appreciate going back to the Mass as I was raised as a child,” she said. “I felt a great deal of reverence towards God and towards the clergy. I think we have lost that with the English-speaking Mass.”
About 100 people have signed up as parishioners, and that will probably rise to more than 200, said Father Sean Kopczynski, who founded the parish with Father Shannon Collins.
Some of them live as far south as Lexington and as far north as Hamilton, he said. They’re willing to come from a long distance because Latin Masses are sometimes hard to come by.
In a decree published in June, Covington Bishop Roger Foys designated Our Lady of Lourdes as a quasi-parish, meaning a parish in formation. In the decree, he noted that the people who celebrate the Latin Mass in the diocese wanted a more stable structure for their community.
The quasi-parish is available to any Catholics in the diocese who prefer the “extraordinary form of the Roman rite,” the Mass celebrated as it was before the reforms of 1970, with the chief difference being the use of Latin rather than the common tongue.
Our Lady of Lourdes has its origins among the Fathers of Mercy in Bowling Green, Kentucky, a religious order in which Kopczynski and Collins were ordained in 2000.
Because they felt called to celebrate Mass in Latin, Kopczynski said, the Fathers of Mercy encouraged them to form their own order. So they founded the Missionarii Sancti Joannis Baptistae, or Missionaries of St. John the Baptist.
The Fathers of Mercy also encouraged them to find a bishop who would support their mission, and in 2011, they found a home in the diocese of Covington, with Foys inviting them to celebrate Mass in Latin at 7:30 a.m. Sundays at St. Bernard parish in Dayton.
Earlier this year, the Missionaries purchased the former Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church at 1101 Amsterdam Road in Park Hills for $400,000 down and $80,000 in debt, Kopczynski said.
The priests have been celebrating Mass in the former fellowship hall in the basement, which they have decorated as a chapel, until the main sanctuary can be renovated.
A friend of the ministry has purchased the building across the parking lot from the church, and the missionaries plan to rent that building to own for use as their living quarters, or rectory.
The missionaries also plan to have a 20-foot grotto, featuring a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, built on the hill above the church, where people can pray day and night.
Our Lady of Lourdes is the Virgin Mary depicted as she miraculously appeared to people in Lourdes, France, in 1858.
It will cost about $500,000 to do all the renovations, pay off the debt on the church and buy the rectory building, Kopczynski said.
“We need more benefactors,” he added. “But people have been good to us.”
Having their own parish, or parish in formation, means more pastoral duties than before, Kopczynski said, but they are all rewarding.
“It’s something we have worked on for a long time, and it’s coming to fruition,” he added. “I almost can’t believe it.”