A traditional Mass that once had an important influence on Fr Antony Sumich, FSSP, drew him back to New Zealand for a week or so last month.
Fr Sumich belongs to the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter. The fraternity follows the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass, liturgies and rites.
Although Fr Sumich was born and educated in New Zealand, graduating as a civil engineer, he worked for some years in Europe, as an international rugby coach and playing cricket for Croatia.
But being in Croatia after the fall of communism meant he was surrounded by strong models of Catholic faith.
He rediscovered his faith and, on returning to Auckland, found liturgies here very different from Croatia — until he was introduced to the Tridentine Mass celebrated at Titirangi by Fr Denzil Meuli. That experience led him to the order he now belongs to.
Now, though, Fr Meuli is no longer strong enough to continue the Tridentine Mass at Titirangi. Marist priest Fr Peter Janssen has been holding the fort in the meantime.
So last month, Fr Sumich and a fellow priest from Australia came to Auckland to talk to the Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, about the Titirangi Latin Mass need.
They discussed with the bishop the possibilities of filling in the gap where Fr Denzil Meuli was, Fr Sumich said.
“It’s a big pastoral concern, in that it’s because Fr Peter Janssen is a religious and his permanence is not necessarily to the diocese… And so the bishop has been looking and already meeting about that.”
Fr Sumich explained that that the Priestly Fraternity is founded for the sanctification of priests — which means, by extension, for the sanctification of the laity.
“We are a society of apostolic life, so there’s going to be a common life … there must be fraternal life. If there’s no fraternal life, priests become extremely susceptible to the wiles and snares of the devil.” They pray together, eat together, socialise together.
At the same time, he has found, he said, that wherever in the world they are, they join with the diocesan priests in the same ways, “always having them to come around and have dinner, play sports, sing the Divine Office”.
“When I walk into a community [anywhere in the world], and we are speaking the same language. There’s a simplicity to it in a way,” he said.