Miracle for Savannah’s Traditionalists

Miracle for Savannah Traditionalists[The following report from Mr.  Fitzgerald of Una Voce Savannah, Georgia details the events surrounding an attempt to have a private Tridentine Latin Mass celebrated in the diocese of Savannah.   Permission from the bishop is not required for the celebration of the Tridentine Mass with a private group, but as this story shows, there is sometimes the request for a traditional Latin Mass gives rise to an irrational response in opposition.]

Dear Friends,

Are you ready for a miracle?…. You better sit down for this one.. Our Lord takes obstacles and defeat and turns them into His victory…

Our group has been denied permission for the public celebration of the Tridentine Latin Mass in Savannah. In spite of this, we had hoped to have a “private” Mass offered for our Una Voce members.

We went first to the military base chapel at Hunter Army Airfield. The last time we had Mass at the Base Chapel, we had the approval of Fr. Livingston who was Chaplain for Hunter Army Airfield. Although a “N.O.” priest, …he showed sympathy to those who wished the Latin Mass, and felt he should support us in our effort to have access to the Old Mass since this support was at the wishes of the Holy Father.

However, since Fr. Livingston was temporarily transferred to Hungry last November, I approached the Hunter Catholic Community Council. They were not very receptive and forwarded the request to the Ft. Stewart chief chaplain. Ft. Stewart refused me on a technicality that our organization (UnaVoce Savannah) was not a military group.. (oh well… we were then off to look for other locations)..

We received a great reception from Fox & Weeks,. a local Funeral Home. But then, a few days later they canceled without any explanation.

A week later Dr. Maher got a firm commitment from Sipple Mortuary for the use of their chapel.. After a week and one-half of stonewalling us, they too canceled without any explanation. (We found out later that the Chancery Office was calling these people & pressuring them to cancel us).

Now time was running out and we needed a firm commitment so that we could send out newsletter notification to our members..

I finally reached Baker Funeral Home, and after explaining the situation of cancellations from others, I was told “Don’t worry,.. the owner is not Catholic,.. and he will not be intimidated by the Chancery Office.”

One of the reasons I believed it was solid was because the secretary, upon learning of our group, asked to sign the petition and join UnaVoce Savannah. She was a convert from Lutheranism, and claimed that everything that attracted her to the Roman Catholic Church years ago was now gone! She was excited about the prospect of celebrating a Mass with reverence and respect of the old Mass.. It was she who convinced the director to give us support..

By this time, it was too late to send out mailings. We had to contact everyone by phone on the Thursday before Sunday Mass. I called Father D. on his cell phone. He was in route from the monastery, and would arrive in time for Mass on Sunday at 2PM at the Funeral Home, after a few stops along the way in N.C.

Later that Thursday evening Fr. D. called me back to say that he received a disturbing call on his cellphone from the monastery, and that the Diocese of Savannah had called the monastery saying they were going to file a complaint against Fr. D’s religious order for sending him down to Savannah to say the Latin Mass which was not allowed anywhere in the diocese! Father said he was very disappointed that the diocese would go to such length to stop us, but that he would come anyway and say Mass for us in the house, and perhaps a rosary at the Funeral Home.

Thursday night I could not sleep. I was so upset by the vehement opposition that the Diocese of Savannah had demonstrated against us celebrating the Latin Mass. I prayed and begged that Our Lord would PLEASE give me direction, or some kind of understanding to deal with it.

On Friday, my daughter took me out to get a hair cut. I had broken my leg the previous week while doing an inspection at the Central Energy Plant at the base. This did not help the situation as it limited my mobility to get things done that involved any footwork.

When I got home from the haircut, there was a message for me to call Colonel Gary Servold immediately! Gary is Commander of the 23rd Aviation Battalion at Hunter AAF. He is also Roman Catholic and member of the Hunter AAF Roman Catholic Community. Though not especially interested in attending the Mass, he showed sympathy to our petition.

I had told Gary about Ecclesia Dei, the situation about Ft. Bragg that was written up on the news, about how the Chief Chaplain helped a Wiccan high priestess in her rights to practice witchcraft but denied the Latin Mass. Col. Servold was shocked by such happenings. After hearing our story, he said that he would make a few calls. I did not expect much of a result since the Ft. Stewart Chaplains were of a “liberal leaning”, but he somehow managed to get us the base chapel at Hunter Army Airfield for that Sunday at 3PM ! At the last minute they changed their mind !!! And they did not merely offer the tiny chapel, but the main chapel. Truly this was a miracle that came at the last minute! They not only had the chapel ready, but also had personnel standing by to assist us with anything we wanted!

I do believe that since the story of Ft. Bragg had just recently made the headlines,.. that the Colonel had more than likely reminded them of this,.and I’m sure that they did not want any further embarrassment.. I have not had a chance to speak with him since,.. because he is “out in the field” with his troops on some exercise..

This has taught me a lesson that Our Lord works in His own time frame, not ours.. All we can do is our best, and then leave the rest to Him.. And, that our obstacles and failures may eventually bring about a greater good for His sake. He will turn them into victories. Deo Gratias.

I imagine that if we were a Protestant group, looking to utilize the Cathedral, we would probably be welcomed with “open arms”. since the Diocesen advertisement on local television states: “Open Wide,.. the Doors of the Church”..

They left out one part.. “To anyone but traditional minded Roman Catholics who are in union with the Vatican”..

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah, Georgia has been given to Protestant denominations (in the spirit of ecumenism) to celebrate their liturgies when their facilities proved to be too small to accommodate an anticipated crowd for an ordination of their bishop or other special event.

They claim: ” The mission of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Savannah, is hearing and proclaiming the good news of Jesus, both to our believing community and to those not of our faith; celebrating and living the Eucharist which transforms us in joyful hope; expressing our love of God by a richer sacramental and prayer life to bring about the fullness of God’s Kingdom of justice and peace in compassionate service to our neighbors in their spiritual and material needs.”

Yes.. This morning I witnessed first hand,.. their:.. “justice and peace in compassionate service to our neighbors in their spiritual and material needs”

They continue:

“The mission of this community of believers is to all the people of South Georgia, to the worldwide Church in communion with the Bishop of Rome and to the whole human family.”

Please Note: Ninety-Eight percent of the members of UnaVoce Savannah are registered parishioners of the Diocese of Savannah, and attend Mass at their respective parishes each and every Sunday.. They have respectfully petitioned the Bishop of Savannah for the Mass of the Old Roman Rite, that has come to be known by many as the “Tridentine Mass”.. Their petitions have been continuously rejected.

Perhaps we are not considered part of “the human family”…

The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has been given to the Savannah Symphony to utilize for special concerts! But the Cathedral (or any other church of the diocese) is denied to the very people whose ancestors built these churches specifically for the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass according to the Old Roman Rite. It is denied to the traditional minded Roman Catholics of the diocese..

Yes, In obedience to those who reach out to us with “love, ..compassion and understanding..” we did cancel the Private Mass at the Funeral Home on Sunday.. And we had planned to come together on Sunday as scheduled, NOT to celebrate Mass, but to pray for Our Lord to give us understanding of their actions against us, and we will continue to pray for them, because they “may” have no idea how divisive and hurtful their actions have been. Our Lord seen fit to turn things around so that we would not be disobedient to our bishop and arranged to grant us a Mass NOT in the Diocese of Savannah, but in the Military Ordinate (on Federal property) which is under the direction of Archbishop O’Brien who is sympathetic towards those who wish the Mass.

On Sunday, we had someone posted at the Funeral Home to redirect people 5 minutes down the road to the Hunter AAF Chapel.. But I was told later that many people had called prior to this, and were told the Mass was canceled. At the Mass, we had approximately 40 people. An organist, choir director and choir.. I’m sure there would have been many more, but word had spread fast that it had been canceled, and the director of the funeral home told me that the Chancery Office had called them to voice their objections, and that upon Fr. D’s arrival, he would not be saying Mass..

Prior to Mass, Father D heard confessions.. The Mass was beautiful, and upon watching many with tears in their eyes upon receiving Communion,. all the aggravation, stress, and loss of sleep was worth it. I made sure to have two collections so that we may give a nice donation to the Ft. Stewart Chaplains Fund. Even the Protestant military personnel who were assigned to duty at the chapel were impressed with the Mass.

Father D. was terrific! When he first arrived, my wife commented, “He’s not a priest,.. he’s a movie star!” An extremely good looking young man of 34 years (looking more like 24) in perfect physical shape, resembling actor Christopher Reeves, but with his Irish/German heritage shining through to prove him even better looking. Highly educated, wonderful fun-loving sense of humor, and at the same time a humble and pious man devoted to Christ and His Church. He jokes that “coming from a family of 15 children, you have to have a sense of humor”. I laughed when all the ladies stood in line to meet him after Mass.. One elderly woman in her eighties told me, “Wow, he’s a living doll ! You have to introduce me to him!”

He celebrated Mass at our home every day he was here, and spent hours in prayer as well. I would have loved to invite the whole community to these Masses, but Father felt we’d had better keep it “low key”. He might possibly already have enough “bad will” from the diocese for saying Mass at the base, even though it was not on diocesan property. He also had a fellow with him to help with the driving.. “Esteban Dufourq” who just recently arrived (1 week) from Argentina.. Esteban is the son of Felix Dufourq, the president of Una Voce Argentina.. He came to stay with the priests to help translate all their documents into Spanish, and is planning on staying his 3 year visa.. He also served Mass for Father while here..


Each evening after Mass,.. we sat down to a good meal,.. a few Guinness (Stout), or Irish Coffee,.. and Esteban took out his guitar to play the music of his homeland.. They even convinced me to take out an accordion (that I hadn’t played in years), to have a sing-a-long.. My daughter Eileen with her two children (1- six months and the other 3 years old) arrived unexpectedly from Boston when hearing about my accident.. Adding more confusion to an otherwise planned week of peace, quite and prayer.. But I do believe that Father D. had more fun crawling around the floor with the babies than he did with us! The children loved him and were sorry to see him leave (as were we all).

I was delighted when we received a call the day after Mass from a very wealthy gentleman, who was so impressed by Father D, that he requested to meet with him for lunch.. Father D expressed his delight that not only did this gentleman give a sizable donation,.. but also gave him names and telephone numbers of contacts in the U.S. and Europe.. Learning of this,.. I was overjoyed to know that his visit was fruitful. Even though one of our aims was to provide the Mass of the Old Roman Rite to those who were not exposed to it in this diocese,.. the most important goal was to impress upon the people that unless we support these young priests in their efforts to bring the Mass to us,.. we may never see it again.. Without our support,.. they can not flourish and provide training for the many on the waiting lists to enter their already over crowded seminaries..


Yes,.. in spite of the efforts of the Diocese of Savannah to suppress the Latin Mass,.. God took our obstacles and defeat,.. and turned it into victory.. The very fact that the diocese went to such extremes to prevent the Mass has brought them out of the shadows to expose a “mean spirit”, and not that of Vatican II..



For three years,.. we have “walked on eggs” for fear of causing the Church any embarrassment or doing anything that would give them an excuse to continuously reject our petition.. This time,.. “they had the ball”,.. “they ran with it”,.. and they embarrassed themselves in the eyes of the world..

May God Bless him,… Fr. . is a man that could “make it big” in the secular world without any effort.. Yet, he has decided to give his life to God.. We need to continuously give these wonderful traditional priests our love, prayers, and encouragement to offset the loneliness that at times can be a heavy cross to carry.. Especially when they see priests in the N.O., leaving the priesthood in droves for the comfort and companionship of marriage.

If you get the chance,.. please send him a little note of encouragement

Father Dan is now up in Atlanta, then heading for Jacksonville, Sarasota, and Miami.. If all goes well,.. he plans to make another stop in Savannah to give a conference on his return trip to PA. The tentative date is a week from this coming Saturday.. March 11th

I hope and pray that we will soon again be able to welcome the Society of St. John, the Fraternity of St. Peter or another traditional society to Savannah to say Mass once again. And above all,.. I pray that it will take place in the glorious Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with the blessings of our bishop..

Until then,.. we will keep you all in our prayers….

Keep the Faith ! Spread the Faith! And remember to support the Traditional Latin Mass and the societies of priests who say it..

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,

Tom Fitzgerald, Una Voce Savannah