Editor’s Note: This commentary is submitted by a Traditional Latin Mass Catholic who has often driven from his home at the Lake of the Ozarks to attend the TLM celebrated by Father Hager at St. Barnabas in O’Fallon. A much beloved priest and pastor, Father Hager is responsible for bringing the Latin Mass to St. Charles County and renovating St. Barnabas’ interior with a beautiful, traditional altar. While the archdiocese states unequivocally that St. Barnabas will remain open, Mr. Lovelace argues why he believes closure is the ultimate goal.
Please sign the Petition to Reinstate Fr. Hager to St. Barnabas. You will be asked to make a free will donation to help promote the petition. This is not necessary to sign the petition, and all donations go to Change.org, not to Father Hager.
By all appearances, the Archdiocese of St. Louis will be eventually closing the parish of St. Barnabas in O’Fallon, MO. This parish has the misfortune of being located on a corner piece of property at the intersection of N. Main Street and Pieper Road and of being on at least four acres of valuable property.
Their rationale for this closing is that the pastor, Fr. Raymond Hager, did not follow the “directives” of the archbishop. However, they have as yet to provide any specific details of which “directives” were not followed. And, they will not admit to actually wanting to close this parish. However, it appears to me that their actions will result in the eventual dissolution of one of the most traditional and vibrant parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
These actions are as follows:
- In the middle of March, Fr. Hager was told that, due to his actions, he would have to be transferred. However, the transfer would not allow him to continue to care for his 94-year-old mother who currently resides on the parish grounds. So while there is a serious priest shortage in our church, this priest will be forced to retire leaving one less shepherd to care for the flock of Our Lord. This makes absolutely no sense to me unless, with Fr. Hager remaining as pastor, the parish would remain open.
- The parish will be allowed to have only one Mass on Sunday with a rotating schedule of priests performing the Mass. There will not be a permanent priest at this parish, and therefore no normal parish functions such as confession or daily Mass will be forthcoming at St. Barnabas parish.
In a letter to the parish that was meant to soften and excuse the actions of the archbishop, Auxiliary Bishop Rivituso stated that the parish will remain open and maintain normal parish activities. He apparently doesn’t understand that confessions and daily Mass are “normal” parish functions. Remember, a parish that refuses to provide these “grace providing activities” to the faithful will soon be a parish that has no faithful to provide them to.
As a side note, during his time as pastor, Fr. Hager increased both the Mass attendance and the donations from the parish faithful. St. Barnabas is now a very a thriving parish which Fr. Hager has developed by his reverence at Mass and his availability to provide many church services designed to increase the faith of all parish members. The average attendance at Father Hager’s Traditional Latin Mass has increased from 99 in 2017 to 165 in 2021. The attendance at the other Masses has also increased. The average daily Mass attendance is normally over 40 people.
Donations have also increased accordingly. In 2018, the General Fund revenue was $301,495. In 2020, ( with the virus reducing attendance) the General Fund revenue was up to $335,768. And, finally the revenue for this March was $34,688, and this would provide a yearly revenue of $416,256; more than enough to sustain this parish.
If this parish were a business, it would be hugely successful.
What reason could there be to eventually close this thriving parish community? I can only think of two. First, Fr. Hager and this parish have become too conservative and, therefore, they need to be eliminated. Second, the parish ground is valuable property, and therefore could better serve the archdiocese if it were sold. Need I say more?
Unless Fr. Hager’s actions included felonies, they should not have required his almost immediate removal. This is not about Fr. Hager. Please understand that Fr. Hager’s actions regarding parish directives are not the reason this parish will soon close: They are simply the excuse.
Last year faithful Catholics across our country were effectively told that church attendance was “nonessential”. And this is the same message that is now being given to the faithful at St. Barnabas parish as their daily Mass is taken away. Of course, the archdiocese could prove me wrong by allowing Fr. Hager to remain as pastor until a replacement has been installed. But I’m not holding my breath…
In closing, I leave you with the words of the Prophet Jeremiah:
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. JEREMIAH 23:1
A look at the inside of St. Barnabas before the renovation.
St. Barnabas’ high altar today.