SAGINAW, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Laity in Saginaw, Michigan are praying the Rosary outside diocesan headquarters to call for better treatment of tradition-minded priests.
As Church Militant has reported, Fr. Edwin Dwyer was axed in February from his post as pastoral administrator at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Bay City after a vocal minority of parishioners complained about his liturgical changes. Father Dwyer was restoring traditional liturgical practices like candles, bells and incense, but a loud, small group of parishioners, mostly older, called up the chancery to complain.
Bishop Walter Hurley, apostolic administrator of the Saginaw diocese, forced Fr. Dwyer into a leave of absence, claiming his approach to the liturgy was creating "division." Shortly before that, Hurley had removed Dwyer from a chaplaincy role at Saginaw Valley State University.
To show support for traditional priests like Fr. Dwyer, laity in the diocese are praying the Rosary outside diocesan offices during Bp. Hurley's priest personnel meetings.
Two Rosary gatherings have taken place so far — one on March 7 and one on March 21.
The gatherings were first announced in a February Facebook post from a Saginaw-area Catholic: "We, the people of the diocese of Saginaw, wish to pray the Rosary on behalf of the faithful of this diocese who desire a more reverent and faithful leadership."
Another part stated, "We will not only pray the Rosary, but we will [also] discuss future events in which we can make a statement."
"Together we can turn this diocese around," it continued, "and bring back and keep our faithful priest!"
This week's Rosary protest had much lower attendance, and it's believed the lower turnout stems from the diocese's threats to withdraw support from the Catholic Men's Fellowship, which had originally supported the Rosary gatherings. Earlier this month, the diocese instructed the men's lay group to revoke its support for the gatherings — or risk losing support for the Catholic Men's Fellowship Conference this April.
Photos from the latest Rosary gathering show only about a dozen people taking part.
Some participants in the Rosary carried protest signs. One sign read, "Embrace Tradition." Another stated, "Modernism is Destroying the Church."
One man held a handmade sign with a quote from St. Catherine of Siena: "We've had enough of exhortations to be silent. Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues. I see that the world is rotten because of silence."
The back of that handwritten sign exhorted, "Embrace Our Good Priests. Do the Will of God, NOT the Work of the Devil!" In small letters on that sign was a reference to Ezekiel 34:2, saying "Should not shepherds pasture the sheep?"
Several priests walked into the offices for the personnel meeting, while a few diocesan staffers exited the building.
Diocesan employees would not allow the group to use the restrooms inside the building, so one woman had to be driven down the street to a gas station.
Father Dwyer gave a homily in Advent of 2018 in which he made the case that a return to tradition will help draw young people into the Church. This homily was spread around the Catholic internet, with many praising Fr. Dwyer's hopeful message.
During the homily, Fr. Dwyer noted the hemmoraging numbers of Mass attendance in the diocese of Saginaw. He argued that a return to tradition can help bring people to the Church: "Believe it or not, tradition works. So-called 'old ways' are quite popular among younger Catholics. Smells, bells, classic hymns, chant, prolonged silence, and, hold on for this one, LATIN are all largely embraced by the younger generations of the Church."
"Furthermore," he added, "when younger non-Catholics experience these traditions they are struck by how different they are from everything else they experience in a noisy, secular culture. These 'old ways' are beautiful to them, and beauty is a great place to introduce young folks to Jesus Christ."