Changing of the guard in USA

Source: District of the USA

Ever wondered when and why priests are transferred in the Society of St. Pius X? Have you "met" our new District Superior, Fr. Wegner?

Image above: Fr. Jurgen Wegner (left) and Fr. Arnaud Rostand (right) at the Regina Coeli House.

An annual event for religious congregations is the publication of assignments (or transfers) of its members to the various works of its apostolate. This usually takes place in the summer months and is no exception for the priests and brothers[1] of the Society of St. Pius X.

The needs of our international priestly society are many and continue to grow. Fortunately the continued addition of new priests allows the SSPX to further develop its apostolates and even establish new ones. Each year, the Superior General (Bishop Bernard Fellay) in consultation with his two Assistants (Frs. Alain Nely and Nicholas Pfluger), and the various superiors (e.g., of the districts, seminaries, priors, etc.) must decide where best to situate the various talents that Providence has put at his disposal. However, these decisions are not made merely for practical needs, but also (and more importantly) for the personal sanctification of the priests and brothers and the souls they will serve.

Sometimes the faithful wonder why they cannot "keep" their pastor for many years as perhaps occurred in olden times in a diocesan parish. The fact is, religious congregations[2] typically move their members about, not only to employ them where they will be most useful, but even to prevent undue natural attachments—for as wholesome as they may be, these nevertheless can become barriers to spiritual perfection.

For the priest and religious, this frequent "moving about" also beautifully contrasts with the example of their Divine Master, Who "had no place to lay His head", while underlining they are earthly pilgrims and this life is a transitory one. When transfers are viewed in this supernatural light, the hand of Divine Providence exercised through human superiors becomes clearly recognizable, and so too the docile and willing acceptance of these decisions obtains many merits and graces.

Once the SSPX's assignments have been decided upon, the General House in Menzingen, Switzerland (located in the German-speaking Swiss canton of Zug and called Priorat Mariae Verkundigung—Priory of the Annunciation of Mary) announces them through its international internal bulletin, Cor Unum.

The effects of each year's list of assignments differ: some priests and brothers remain where they are, new ones are given their first post, while others are transferred to a new stage in their life of service to Holy Mother Church as members of the Society of St. Pius X. For the most part, those being transferred should be at their new post by August 15th. There are also positions within the SSPX that have "length of terms", such as the Superior General who is elected to a 12-year term, while district superiors received a 6-year term.

Amongst the various transfers that occurred here in the United States on August 15th, Fr. Arnaud Rostand's 6-year term as District Superior expired and that of Fr. Jurgen Wegner began. Thus starts a new chapter in the SSPX's mission in our country. However, due to the unique challenges presented by the large and burgeoning USA District, Fr. Rostand will actually remain at the Regina Coeli House a little longer to assist with the "changing of the guard".

After this short transition period, Fr. Rostand will take up his newly-established position of the SSPX's Communications Director at the General House. In this important role, he will work to improve communications and collaboration within the Society itself, as well as helping to make the SSPX's work better understood and appreciated by the general public.

Meanwhile back here in the States, Fr. Wegner will continue the faithful work of his predecessor assisted by his District Office team of dedicated priests, brothers and lay staff. As a way of introducing our new District Superior, we offer below an interview of Fr. Wegner extracted from the July-August Regina Coeli Report.

Please keep both of these priests in your prayers, as they strive in their new positions to work for the salvation of souls, and thus the good of the Mystical Body of Christ through the Priestly Society of St. Pius X.

Who are you, Fr. Wegner?

Father, please tell us a little about your family!

I am the second oldest out of 7 children. We lived in a very small village in the Black Forest in the southwest corner of Germany. We all attended primary school there and then went to high school in Gengenbach. We each learned to play an instrument, rehearsing every day. During our free time on weekends and for vacation, we worked at our grandfather’s farm, feeding the cattle, picking cherries or apples. We also helped our father with his work sometimes.

What about your studies?

Without any exception we all liked mathematics, science, physics, biology, chemistry. I especially liked to play the flute and planned to study chamber music. For my graduation, I studied music and chemistry.

When did you discover the call of God?

After graduation, I got in contact with the SSPX youth movement in Germany. I participated in the meetings and activities, visited the seminary and began to wonder about a vocation. The contact with Tradition changed the plans I had made for my life. I was no longer sure about studying music. Not knowing what to do, I entered the army to fulfill the obligatory military service, and joined the German Air Force Band. These 15 months helped me to get a clear idea of the future. I applied and entered the SSPX seminary in Germany.

Do you have a personal memory of Archbishop Lefebvre?

After 3 years in Germany, I was sent to study in Econe. There we lived under one roof with the archbishop. He offered Mass every morning and we assisted whenever we did not have classes. On feast days, His Excellency celebrated High Mass and delivered the sermon. Even though I was struggled to understand French in my classes, the archbishop spoke clearly and distinctively. He was the first one I could really understand! Whenever we met him, whenever we sat with him at the same table during vacation time, he always showed interest and never passed by without addressing a little word to us.

Where have you been assigned so far?

The first place the superiors sent me was the Netherlands. The work was difficult: many of the new ideas within the Church came from this country, and even before Pope John XXIII had opened the Council, changes had taken place. Then I spent 6 years at St. John Bosco School in Germany, went again to the Netherlands and Belgium as District Superior and eventually to Canada in replacement of Fr. Rostand!

What is your vision of the District Superior's function in the U.S.?

I have known and collaborated with Fr. Rostand for 6 years. I dare to say that I just want to continue what he did: taking special care of our priests including those showing interest for Tradition, and improving the education of children. In addition to this, I would like find ways to help parents in their difficult task.

Being well aware of the big responsibility coming with this new assignment, I ask all the priests and faithful to please help me to carry this burden by your faithful prayers and your generous assistance. By our united efforts may Tradition stay alive in our families and revive in your country!

  • [1]The SSPX sisters assignments are handled by the Mother Superior and Superior General.
  • [2]As opposed to a religious order (such as the Benedictines) where the members often remain in the same community for life.