Last Sunday, Ryan Spaulding, Marist junior, went to the Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel for noon mass, but was confused when not a single person was inside the chapel. Spaulding usually attends mass at 7 p.m. on Sundays, but went earlier since he had group meetings later in the day.
Since Father LaMorte’s retirement last spring, the Marist brothers have struggled to find priests to say mass at Marist, forcing the brothers to have only one mass each week.
“Although it is a struggle for us internally, in the department, I think it’s a blessing for the students to have a variety of voices,” said Brother Frank.
Brother Frank said that local priests have been “tremendously generous” and the feedback from students regarding the visiting priests has been very great thus far.
“A few weeks ago we had a priest that walked around and really engaged with us [students]. He had us all laughing,” said Spaulding. “Father LaMorte was great, but it’s nice to have some change.”
Father LaMorte served the Marist community for 15 years and “he was the only voice that the students heard,” said Brother Frank. “Now students get to hear a variety of styles of homilies and celebrations.”
“All the priests that we have had this year have been so different, which makes mass very interesting and unique,” said senior Jennifer Galiani.
For many years, the mass schedule at the chapel was weekdays at 12:05 p.m. and Sundays at noon. and 7 p.m. A sign with these mass times located outside of the chapel doors has since been covered with tape to make students aware that the only mass time is now 7 p.m. on Sundays.
Brother Frank said that the brothers chose the 7 p.m. mass time because it was generally three times more crowded than the noon masses were. He also said that only a handful of people came to the noon masses or masses during the week.
“I have regularly gone to mass at noon every year, but not many other people did,” said senior Brett Blank. “Getting rid of the noon mass doesn’t really affect many people, so it is understandable why they chose 7 p.m. for the only mass time.”
In addition to choosing a time that best suited the Marist community, Brother Frank also emphasized that the brothers must rely on local priests who have their own responsibilities.
“It is difficult to find a priest any time other than Sunday night, because they [local priests] have masses at their own parishes on Saturday nights and Sundays,” said Brother Frank.
Since last May, the brothers have been in conversation with the Diocesan Personnel Board and various religious orders about how to reconfigure the campus ministry assignments. The brothers are looking to have a Catholic priest on staff at least part-time; however, the number of priests in the Catholic community is decreasing making the process extremely difficult.
Brother Frank hopes that Marist will have a new priest on staff by next September, but, until then, 7 p.m. will remain the only mass time. Students that wish to go to mass at other times may visit local parishes, the chapel across the street at the MidHudson Regional Hospital or the chapel at Vassar College.