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Bishop removes faculties of two Covington priests; Our Lady of Lourdes parish moved to St. Ann mission

By Patricia A. Scheyer
NKyTribune reporter

Over six hundred faithful parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Park Hills were shocked when they suddenly found out that they can no longer celebrate Mass at their own church.

Their parish priests, Father Shannon Collins, pastor, and Father Sean Kopczynski, assistant pastor, could not believe what they were hearing when they were summoned to Bishop John Iffert’s office at the Diocese of Covington on January 17 to be told that they could no longer perform their duties of public ministry as priests at Our Lady of Lourdes.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Park Hills (Photo provided)

“Wherever we go, we reverence the bishops, considering them our fathers and our masters,” the priests said in an official statement. “With this in mind, we (Father Shannon and Father Sean) accept the limitations placed on our ministry and pray that a swift resolution to this difficulty may be found so the Missionaries and their community in formation may continue to serve faithfully the Church and minister to the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes.”

The diocese wrote two letters to the parishioners at Our Lady of Lourdes, the first one on January 17 giving the reason that the bishop felt he had to take such draconian steps.

“I take this action after becoming aware that Fr Collins had preached in the parish that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, as celebrated in the current Roman Catholic liturgy, is ‘irrelevant,’ preserves ‘literally nothing of the old,’ and that the reform of the liturgy was motivated by hatred towards traditional Catholics and the ancient liturgies of Rome.”

The bishop went on to say that both priests ‘maintain these errors and refuse the opportunity to renounce them.’ Apparently that disqualifies them from publicly celebrating the sacraments using the 1962 Missale Romanum, which means the older Latin liturgy, and from leading a personal parish like Our Lady of Lourdes.

“I did not take this action lightly,” said Bishop Iffert. “I consulted with the Vicar General, the Deans, the Judicial Vicar, and brother bishops before determining the action I must take in this situation.”

In the second letter, the bishop also said that he intends to provide for the pastoral and liturgical care of the parish, and wants to continue the ministry in the Diocese of Covington.

To this end the bishop said he will have two masses at St Ann Mission in West Covington on Sunday, January 28; one at 7 a.m. and one at 9 a.m., that will be the Latin liturgy, celebrated by Father Matthew Cushing. The bishop said that he would come to the masses to ‘join you for dialogue about the future of the parish’ at 8 a.m., and he would stay for the 9 a.m. mass.

Bishop John C. Iffert (Photo provided)

In his first letter, Bishop Iffert stated that the board of the Missionaries of St John the Baptist owns the actual church building, and they refused to let the diocese or the parish use the church building. This is why they settled on St Ann Mission for the Latin masses.

However, in the statement issued by the two priests of the Missionaries of St John the Baptist, they offered the church to Bishop Iffert several times as a home for the Latin masses and sacraments for the people of the parish.

“The Missionaries’ doors are – and will always remain – open to those good Catholics who have made Our Lady of Lourdes Church their spiritual home over the past seven years,” the priests wrote in their statement.

The parishioners are predictably devastated by the event, and although they did not want to be identified, some indicated that the issue at the center of the dispute is the difference in thought for Latin masses, as evidenced in two different papal documents, one issued by Pope Benedict approving the Latin masses in 2007, and the other by Pope Francis disapproving the Latin liturgy in 2021.

They also believe that the words in question from Father Collins’ homily were taken out of context.

One parishioner said what immediately came to mind was Isaiah 32:17, which states, the work of justice is peace.

“You can’t have peace without justice,” the parishioner said, “and this isn’t just.”

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One Comment

  1. Geoffrey Thomas Ficke says:

    I am a grad of CovCath and lived most of my life in NKY. Now living in Dallas (grandkids). When in NKY (often) I went daily to Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes. Fr. Shannon and Fr. Sean are the 2 best speakers on Catholic Dogma I have heard since the 1960’s. The Mass they say was so powerful, devout and beautiful that we were considering a permanent return to the area just of make OLL our home. What this Bishop has done is what has torn apart the Chruch I grew up in. I pray that someone in authority with true Faith will set this right. I hope this paper keeps us up to date on what happens to these wonderful Priests and their devout parishioners.

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