First FSSP Apostolate in North America
The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) was founded in 1988 by Pope John Paul II. Its first apostolate in North America was established in Dallas, Texas, in June of 1991. This apostolate became the Mater Dei Latin Mass Community and eventually the Mater Dei Parish. Over the course of 18 years the Mater Dei Latin Mass Community was able to provide the traditional Mass in Dallas through the generosity of various benefactors within the Dallas diocese, especially the Discalced Carmelite Nuns at the Monastery of the Infant Jesus of Prague and St. Joseph, Christ the King Parish, St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and St. Jude’s Chapel. In late 2009 the community was able to move to a church of its own, and on Easter Sunday, 2010, Bishop Kevin Farrell established the Mater Dei Parish in its new church in Irving, Texas.
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Dallas
Almost from its beginning Mater Dei has had a very special relationship with the Discalced Carmelite nuns of Dallas. When Sunday Mass scheduling conflicts came up at St. Jude’s Chapel in early 1992, it became clear that an alternate location would have to be found for the community’s traditional Mass. As Providence would have it, Mother Celine and Mother Anne Christine of the Carmelite Monastery of the Infant Jesus of Prague and St. Joseph heard of the little community’s need. In concert with their own love of the traditional “Tridentine” Mass, they contacted Bishop Grahmann and offered to make their own chapel at their monastery available for the community’s Sunday Mass. Both Mothers strongly believed the traditional Latin Mass should be available to those who desired it. Bishop Grahmann accepted their offer, and on Palm Sunday, April 12, 1992, the Latin Mass apostolate offered its first Mass at the Carmelite Chapel on Flowers Avenue.
Fr. Irwin and Fr. Buckley of the FSSP, the first priests to serve the Dallas apostolate, were very happy with the arrangement, and they planned to keep the Mass at the Carmelite Chapel for possibly a year or two. That “year or two” plan turned into 17 fruitful years of close friendship and cooperation. The nuns graciously and generously allowed the Mater Dei Community to use their chapel for Holy Mass, their parlor as the confessional, and even their garage during the time renovations were being made to the chapel. They provided the candles, the flowers and most of the Mass accoutrements each Sunday. Many Mater Dei First Holy Communions were also celebrated at the chapel. The grounds surrounding the Carmel were used for liturgical processions and for social gatherings after Mass. Up until its demolition in 2006 there was a guest house at the entrance of the Carmel which was used for Mater Dei Men’s Club meetings and for socializing, where the community was able to have donuts and coffee after Mass.
The community, for its part, collected funds and gifts for the Carmelite Sisters regularly, with bake sales often at the center of attraction. It helped out with projects to outfit the chapel, like the chapel organ and by providing a sound system to accommodate Mass attendees outside the chapel in dealing with attendance overflow. Some members of the community were able to purchase special items for the chapel renovation project. Through the Sisters’ mediation, the community collected funds to cover the adoption costs for a local family. Funds were raised by the community to help with the costs of a plumbing repair needed at the chapel. And when the monastery heating system broke down, community members embarked on a campaign to provide immediate heaters and fuel for the Sisters, and then to raise a fund to help pay for system renovation.
The last Mass at Carmel before moving into the new church in Irving was on December 6, 2009. It is not a simply task for five hundred people to engage in a farewell exchange and celebration with a cloister of nuns, but such was accomplished that day. At the conclusion of the first Mass, the community sang a chosen Marian hymn together with the Sisters, and Father Longua presented the Sisters with a bouquet of the largest long-stem red and white roses anyone had ever seen. At the conclusion of the second Mass, the community joined in praying the Rosary led by the Sisters, and Father Longua presented the Sisters with the community’s Spiritual Bouquet for them. Accompanied by a tear, all hearts pledged to maintain this joyful friendship.
And such is the case, as we, the Sisters’ “trads,” continue with gifts, collections, celebrations and correspondences with our beloved Carmelite Sisters. We will forever be grateful to the Carmelite nuns for their generosity and love toward those attending the Latin Mass.