Return to St. Mary and St. Joseph, Newton Falls, OH

Awhile back, I did a very negative review of St. Mary and St. Joseph Church, 131 W. Quarry St. in Newton Falls, which became one of my most popular and controversial posts, and an occasion, I regret to say, for all kinds of calumny and gossip about the then-pastor. I thought it was only fair to check back in a year later, to see how the place had changed.

11 AM Mass, O 20, 8/19/12
Pastor: Fr. Thomas Ungashick
Organist: ?? (Not named in bulletin-why?)
Worship aids: WLP Seasonal Missalette, Glory and Praise (not used), pew cards with new translation
Prelude: an unknown hymn which was either evangelical Protestant or E. European folkie-Catholic, and Hillert Festival Canticle (“This is the feast of victory for our God”)
Hymns: Rendez a Dieu, Jesus Christ Bread of Life (Dvorak 9th Symphony/II), I received the living God, Love divine all loves excelling
Ordinary: Penitential C (spoken), the usual suspects (I’ve sung some of these, I know, but if I haven’t had the music in front of me, I have no idea what they’re called or who was responsible.)

The hymns were all good ones, and the priest sang along. The organist was not highly skilled; I heard a fair bit of Alberti-pattern left-hand comping going on. But he was more tasteful than last year’s organist, and adequately skilled, with few if any wrong notes. Everything was on organ except for the Psalm and Gospel Acclamation, which pretty much had to be up front on piano, because the organist was the cantor. He sang on pitch, but can use some work with vowels and dipthongs. This is probably a summer thing, because choir rehearsal resumes on 8/22, with 45 minutes of cantor practice scheduled.

There was a little bit of jolly talk announcement stuff before the Mass which had me worried. And then the homily began with talk about “legalism”, and I assumed he was going to talk about “don’t sweat the little stuff.”  Boy, was I wrong! This was some of the solidest preaching I have heard in an OF church.Fr. Ungashick described legalism as the thing before the sex abuse scandals that was most injurious to the church, and gave several examples, ending with the legalist notion that Jesus was only inside you for a short time (15 minutes, say) after the Eucharist (so you only had to be good for that long.)…and BOOM, we were off to the races. During the Mass not only is the bread and wine consecrated (and he hit the True Presence hard) but also the congregation is consecrated as the Body of Christ.  The bread can’t choose not to be consecrated, but we can. So why is it that Catholics don’t stick out like a sore thumb? How come there are just as many Catholic divorces and as many Catholic crimes as in the general population , and how come (Hats in the air!) Catholics vote for pro-abortion politicians in number similar to the general population? There’s a sermon! Church history? Check. Catechesis? Check. Exhortation? Check. Afflicting the comfortable/not being afraid to piss off the congregation? double check. What more could one want? Anointing of the sick after Mass? We got it.

And there were no liturgy abuses! Yeah, there was the old 4-hymn sammich and EMHCs, but the legalists say that’s OK.😉 Musically, there’s room for improvement, but that’s a question of resources rather than will, and I believe it will happen. (and given that I haven’t volunteered to cantor, I can scarcely complain). The one suggestion I would make is for Father to at least sing the Mysterium fidei and  “through him” , if not the other prayers, given that he’s demonstrated he CAN sing. (and keep on singing those hymns; it encourages the congregants.)

I suspect the healing process is still ongoing here. I had a pew to myself, and there were empties. I heard somebody outside complain about being unappreciated.  But you guys have the real deal here. (Yeah, I know, they’re all the real deal; it’s not like I can confect the Eucharist. But some priests are more gifted and/or committed to church teaching than others.) Support him. And I’ll be back…let’s see how attendance is at 8, or at the “vigil” mass.

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