The Latin-language Mass returned regularly to one Catholic altar Sunday, and more than 300 Western New Yorkers said "amen."
They flocked to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Main Street and Eastwood Place, to take part as the Rev. Dennis W. Mende offered the Tridentine Mass in a version last said regularly here in 1962.
"This is just like saying another First Mass," noted Father Mende, director of the Office of Worship for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. He was ordained in 1983 and, therefore, educated solely in the "new" English rite of recent years, he said.
Bishop Edward D. Head gave permission Nov. 21 for the one weekly Latin Mass on Sunday, in addition to one Latin Mass each Holy Day. The bishop said he hoped thiswould help Catholics who want "to worship the Lord in a manner that is comfortable for them."
For most of those Catholics, Sunday marked the first time they had been to a Latin Mass in more than 20 years. For others, like the five small children of Paul and Paulette Likoudis of Williamsville, it was a first.
Peter, Gabriel, Katie, Genny and Irene Likoudis, ages 10 years to 8 months, watched Father Mende celebrate the High Mass -- facing the altar, not the people.
They saw the worshipers receive Communion kneeling, something the people hadn't done in years. They heard some stumbling over words as a handful of the worshipers tried the Latin responses themselves.
Maud Kearns had come from Lockport for the rite -- and called the regular offering in Buffalo "just about as convenient as it could be." She is a member of Una Voce-Buffalo (One Voice), the local branch of a 30-year-old organization founded in Switzerland to preserve the Tridentine Mass.
"We've gone to Syracuse and to Erie and we've taken buses to Bemus Point," Miss Kearns said of the group's search for the Mass in Latin.
Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-Town of Tonawanda, was revisiting the Mass of his youth -- as were Erie County Judge John V. Rogowski and Buffalo Common Council Majority Leader Eugene M. Fahey.
Many of the worshipers were carrying their old Roman Missals. For those who didn't have one, there were Latin Mass booklets -- donated by Monsignor Edwin J. Fagowski, pastor of St. Augustine's Catholic Church, Depew, who died Saturday.
Monsignor Fagowski, who was included in Sunday's prayers at St. Vincent's, had a deep interest in seeing a Latin Mass reinstated on a regular basis and had celebrated one as often as allowed in his church at 425 Penora St. in Depew.
"Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work," said Una Voce-Buffalo President Albert D. Huntz.
Sunday's was a sung Mass with Mary Jane Kersten at the organ. She, her husband, Bob, Martin Juszczak and Bob Curry comprised the choir, with Father Mende. Afterward, several worshipers said they were interested in joining a newly forming Latin-language choir.
The Rev. Valentine F. Welker, administrator and the assistant pastor of St. Vincent's, shook hands with newcomers to his church. Dr. Paul V. Hale and his wife, Helena, who have been attending an English-language Mass elsewhere in the city, said they plan to attend St. Vincent's Latin Mass instead.
"I am so sick of hearing people ad-lib the Mass," Mrs. Hale said. "This Mass is just beautiful."
The Latin Mass at St. Vincent's will be said at 9 a.m. Sundays at least for the next six months. Saturday, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Latin Mass also will be said at 10:30 a.m. All other Masses at St. Vincent's will continue to be offered in English, at the usual times.