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  • Writer's pictureFr. Vili Lehtoranta

Gratitude to Clergy

Dear friends of the Oblate Sisters,

I wish you a blessed season of Christmas. The four Sundays of Advent refer to the four thousand years, which was the interval of time in which mankind had to wait for its Redeemer, the time from Adam to the birth of Christ. Though it is, of course, good to see people remember the Christ Child once again in this holy season, it is the mission of Holy Mother Church to preach Him during the whole year of 2024, so that they will not forget Him when the season ends.

Besides the great festivities of the season, we are eagerly expecting the ordination of two more priests, Rev. Mr. Benjamin Ikhiaemoh and Rev. Mr. Jonathan Okafor. Bishop Bede Nkamuke will ordain them to the priesthood on the feast of Epiphany, January 6, 2024.

St. Gertrude the Great Roman Catholic Church has one seminarian of her own. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, he was vested with the cassock at Holy Redeemer Chapel in Burien, Washington. Holy Redeemer Chapel is under the charge of Fathers Carlos Ercoli and Héctor Romero, and they also run the Seminary. Father Ercoli, who is from Argentina, was ordained by Bishop Dolan at Verrua Savoia in October 12, 1998. Father was then studying at Saint Peter Martyr Seminary of the Institute of the Mother of Good Counsel (IMBC), and later moved to the United States. Father Romero is also from Argentina and was ordained at the SSPX’s Seminary of Our Lady Co-Redemptrix, but later started to work with Bishop Dolan and Father Ercoli. Besides our Seminarian, our Seattle Seminary has three other students, one from California, one from Puerto Rico, and one from Cuba.

On December 2, the First Saturday of December, Bishop Clarence Kelly died, at the age of 82. He was one of the original members of “The Nine” who left the Society of St. Pius X in 1983, and then worked together with Bishop Dolan, Bishop Sanborn, and Father Cekada. Bishop Kelly’s parents were born in Ireland, and it was mainly thanks to the example of his strong and devout mother Claire Kelly that he kept the true Catholic Faith throughout his life. Clarence Kelly attended St. Matthew’s grammar school in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated in 1956. He joined the Air Force when he was 17 and served there for four years. In 1969 he graduated from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. with a degree in philosophy, and then started his studies for the priesthood in the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, NY. After meeting Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, he entered the se-minary of the Society of St. Pius X in Ecône, Switzerland, and was ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre on April 14, 1973. Father Kelly then returned to the USA, where he started to offer Mass in Long Island, New York, and also opened chapels in New York and Pennsylvania, and established St. Pius V school in 1974. He was later the SSPX Northeast District Superior, headquartered in Oyster Bay Cove, New York, and continued to found numerous missions throughout the country.

In 1983 Father Kelly and eight other priests left the Society of St. Pius X, for the reasons explained by Father Cekada in his article The Nine vs. Lefebvre: We Resist You to Your Face. The nine priests then formed the Society of St. Pius V to continue their apostolate and to protect the faithful from doubtful sacraments and phony annulments. Father Kelly also founded the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Our Savior, and St. Pius V School in Wantagh, NY. He was consecrated to the episcopacy on October 19, 1993, by Bishop Alfredo Méndez-Gonzalez, who was the diocesan Bishop of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, in 1960-1974. In 1996 Bishop Kelly established the Congregation of St. Pius V and Immaculate Heart Seminary in Round Top. He consecrated Bishop Joseph Santay on February 28, 2007, who in his turn consecrated Bishop James Carroll on December 27, 2018.

As Father Cekada wrote in his article, the personal histories of him, Bishop Kelly, Bishop Sanborn, and Bishop Dolan were remarkably similar. They had all witnessed up close the disastrous effects of the Vatican II changes. They were all fighters who repeatedly battled with the modernists within their respective seminaries and religious orders before finally ending up with Archbishop Lefebvre at his seminary in Ecône. When Bishop Kelly was a seminarian at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, his professor of Sacred Scripture was a modernist who always tried to find a “deeper” and “symbolical” meaning of the text, rather than the literal message. One day in class the professor asked the seminarians: “When the evangelist writes that there was an angel sitting on the tomb, what do you think he wanted to say?” Clarence Kelly raised his hand, and answered: “Maybe he wanted to say that there was an angel sitting on the tomb.” The professor was enraged with this answer.

Though Father Kelly always appreciated and respected Archbishop Lefebvre enormously, he had to later on fight against many problems within the Society of St. Pius X, which eventually led to his and the other priests’ departure. The decisive conflict was when Archbishop Lefebvre demanded the American priests to recognize the marriage annulments of the Vatican II church as valid, so as not to endanger his negotiations to reconcile the SSPX with John Paul II. On March 25, 1983, Fathers Kelly, Sanborn, Dolan, Cekada, and others signed and sent the famous “Letter of the Nine” where they proposed practical resolutions for SSPX to solve the problems. On the day of the signing, the atmosphere was tense, because they all knew what the consequences would be. But to lighten things up, Father Kelly half-jokingly quoted Benjamin Franklin, who at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, according to the historian Jared Sparks, remarked: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Many of our parishioners at St. Gertrude the Great, as well as our priests and Sisters, have family and friends who have been faithfully attended and shepherded for years and decades by Bishop Kelly and his priests. During this time of sorrow, we express our condolences to the Bishop’s family, his clergy, and his faithful. We remember with gratitude the work of fifty years which he did for the souls of Traditional Catholics, and we will keep him in our prayers and Masses.

The Oblate Sisters and I wish a blessed Christmas to all our friends and benefactors. This year was the first full year of operation of the Oblates of the Holy Face, and the first in which Magnet of Souls appeared every month. Your support of our fundraiser is much appreciated and we count on your prayers and support to keep our little apostolate going. We thank you for all the prayers and support you gave us in 2023 and wish you a happy new year of 2024. “He shall come down like rain upon the fleece; and as showers falling gently upon the earth. In his days shall justice spring up, and abundance of peace, till the moon be taken away.” (Psalms 71:6-7)

Yours in the Charity of Christ and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart,

Fr. Vili Lehtoranta


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