SSPX in the USA: 25 years ago

June 20, 2013
Source: District of the USA

Take a quaint trip down memory lane about the SSPX's status here in America 25 years ago—and how the USA District was nearly shut down, but eventually stabilized and prospered greatly.

Pastor's Corner for Sunday, June 23

For our younger families, it is difficult to imagine what the state of Tradition was a generation ago. In the 1980’s there was still a good number of independent priests, most of whom had endured mental hellish torments from their diocese for holding on to the old values, the Mass, the catechism, the discipline. Some names come to mind: Fr. Pulvermacher, Fr. Stark, Fr. Byman, Msgr. Hodgson and so many others I forgot. By then, the Society had been working in the field for over ten years, at the initiation of Fr. Post. St. Mary’s had been acquired and was already turning into a round-up location for families. The seminary, started in Michigan, was continued in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and was already contemplating enlargement in the early 80’s.

The Devil tries to wreck things

So much good work could not go unimpaired. The trickster had to upset this well-oiled machinery of Tradition. That is when some of the earlier “founding fathers” decided that they knew better how to save souls than Archbishop Lefebvre and thought he was getting old and did not understand the American mentality. Their defection left a huge vacuum which would not be filled up before many years. It was at this juncture that Fr. Schmidberger, then Superior General of the Society, wondered whether it was not worth throwing the towel and forget about the American district altogether!

The SSPX-USA gets back on its feet

It was only by 1988 that things starting looking positive again. St. Mary’s was in Fr. De la Tour’s firm hands and more prosperous with faith and devotion than with finances. Fr. Laisney was manning the district with his good mind and wisdom to make sure that the community life was restored to the fullest: in accomplishing this he even boasted that, by the end of his tenure, he had closed one SSPX house.

If many chapels had defected to the independentists and the sedevacantists, many other young sprouts were calling onto the SSPX to provide them with the sacraments. Fr. Williamson was the rector of a seminary which again was bursting to the seams and ready to migrate to Winona with the joyous anticipation of integrating a proper religious house of studies. The Carmelite and SSPX sisters had established their own houses of formation and were attracting American vocations. Most of all, in that year of 1988, Archbishop Lefebvre had taken the momentous decision to go ahead and consecrate bishops for the survival of Tradition.

The seminary had been slowly bringing forth its fruit, after a harsh winter of heavy pruning. The 80’s vintage was sparse and yet had given some wonderful leaders for the future decades in the US. Just think of such names as Frs. Ward and Brandler, the brothers Haynos. For the next years, 1987 and 1988, the candidates had to travel overseas as the Archbishop would not cross the oceans anymore. Fr. Cooper and then Fr. Doran were ordained at Econe together with the Australian born, Fr. Peter Scott, who would be helping the seminary and the district for a good many years to come. As the seminary settled in Winona and chapels in the district continued to flourish, it became evident to all that spring was around the corner for Tradition: this big family of Tradition would again reap a full harvest for the coming decade: priests, brothers and sisters would foment the vocations and schools or priories or retreat centers and steady family values.

Forget not the trials and sufferings

Let this 1988 Jubilee year make us not forget those who suffered through the difficult 80’s and allowed for the resurrection of the US district. Without them, our traditional family would not be what it is today.