Pastor says he will continue Latin Mass while in Berryville

Father Thomas Arackal, pastor of St. Anne Church in Berryville, distributes Communion to two altar servers during a Tridentine Rite Mass Aug. 10. The pastor added the weekly Mass in March.
Father Thomas Arackal, pastor of St. Anne Church in Berryville, distributes Communion to two altar servers during a Tridentine Rite Mass Aug. 10. The pastor added the weekly Mass in March.

FAYETTEVILLE — The traditional Latin Mass, absent from the Church for decades, is now regularly drawing worshippers from as far away as Kansas City, Mo., to St. Anne Church in Berryville, where Father Thomas Arackal says the Tridentine Mass weekly.
“The people are appreciating it,” Father Arackal said of the Latin Mass. “There’s no way I’ll hold it back.”
Pope Benedict XVII cleared the way for celebration of the Latin Mass on July 7, 2007, when he released the apostolic letter “Summorum Pontificum,” which allows parish priests to use the Latin rite without first having to receive permission from their bishops. If parishioners request the Latin Mass, the parish is obliged to offer it, Father Arackal said.
He had hoped 25 to 30 people would attend the Latin Mass but attendance has been closer to 35 to 50 people. “A number” of the regular worshippers are not from St. Anne Parish but come from other areas, including Fayetteville, Springdale and even Kansas City, Mo., Father Arackal said.
The weekly Sunday evening Mass at St. Anne is the closest regularly scheduled Latin Mass to northwest Arkansas, but St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville has also offered the traditional Mass at least twice in recent months. Visiting priests said the Mass on each occasion.
Noel Nieto of Fayetteville attended the two Latin Masses at St. Joseph and liked the increased ceremonial portions of the Mass.
“There was the ceremonial aspect of it that was very appealing. I like the reverence you get from the priest being turned toward the altar instead of the people. It adds a reverential feel you don’t get with the regular Mass,” he said.
Seminarians are no longer trained in the Latin Mass, either the ceremony itself or even the language, said Scott Smith, a former seminarian at Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas who now works as an accountant in Springdale. He’s part of a group of northwest Arkansas residents Smith estimates includes as many as 200 people who have signed up for e-mail notification whenever the Latin rite is celebrated locally. Those in the informal group would like to see it celebrated locally more often, he said.
Father Arackal studied videos as part of his preparation to say the Latin Mass. Originally from India, he was ordained 25 years ago and had celebrated Mass in four languages: English, Spanish, Hindi and Malayalam, the language of his native tongue. He didn’t know Latin, though, nor did he know the Tridentine Rite.
Father Arackal lives in Eureka Springs where he is the pastor of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church, but he is also assigned to St. Anne in Berryville.
Saying the Latin Mass is not easy for the priest. The Mass is long compared to the usual English Mass American Catholics are now accustomed to and the requirements of the priest can be physically strenuous.
Father Arackal knows the Latin Mass remains controversial to some people and confusing to others.
“Some people say they don’t understand” the Mass in Latin. To those people, he suggests they remember the celebration of every Mass is a mystery. “We don’t have to comprehend” every word but we should “be open to the spirit of God to move you.”
Father Arackal has warned those worshippers enjoying the weekly Latin Masses that he will not be assigned to the parish forever. Already he’s been at St. Anne and St. Elizabeth for eight years — longer than virtually any other priest ever assigned to the parishes.
He’s loved the beautiful hills of north Arkansas but must obey his superiors if he is asked to move. “If they ask, I am ready to go even tomorrow.”

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