"Our Holy Father has asked that respect be shown for the feelings of those who are attached to the Latin Liturgical Tradition. I want to assure the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter that it will have my wholehearted support and encouragement as it carries out its important apostolate in our diocese in accordance with the constitution of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Diocese of Scranton."
These words of welcome by Bishop James C. Timlin, Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1992 set the stage for the amazing growth of the Fraternity in North America. To fully appreciate this growth it is needful to understand the foundation of the Fraternity itself in 1988.
In that year, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II canonically established the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter as a society of apostolic life and approved its constitutions. World wide the Fraternity would have as its apostolate the training of men for service as Catholic priests and the pastoral care of souls. The specific charism of the Fraternity continues to be the celebration of Mass and the administration of the sacraments according to the traditional Roman Rite.
By 1991 the North American District was in beginning formation. Its first members, Father Arnaud Devillers and Father Michael Irwin, had received the invitation to service in North America from Bishop Charles V. Grahmann, Bishop of Dallas Texas.
In 1992 an exciting offer was presented by Bishop Timlin. Not only had he invited the Fraternity into the diocese, but the diocese would provide a former retreat center in Elmhurst for use by the North American District. Following extensive renovations under the direction of Father Karl Pikus the building opened in the fall of 1993. The facility became a triad, housing North American District Headquarters, a newly created spiritual formation program for men interested in Fraternity priesthood and St. Gregory’s Academy, a boarding school for boys.
In 1994, with the permission of Bishop Timlin, Father Josef Bisig announced the establishment of Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary at Elmhurst. It was soon apparent that the growing number of seminarians mandated a separate building. In 1998, at the invitation of Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, a decision was made to construct a seminary in Denton and in the fall of 2000 the new seminary opened.
Since its formation the North American District has experienced a continuing increase in the establishment of parishes and apostolates. Under Father Devillers, first North American District Superior, and continuing under Father Paul Carr, present District
Superior, parishes and apostolates have been established in seventeen dioceses in the United States. In addition to the aforementioned dioceses they include, the Archdiocese of Denver, Colorado and the Dioceses of Rapid City (South Dakota), Little Rock (Arkansas), Lincoln and Omaha (Nebraska), Youngstown(Ohio), Paterson(New Jersey), Kanasa City (Kansas), Atlanta (Georgia), Tulsa and Oklahoma City (Oklahoma), Corpus Christi and Dallas (Texas), Colorado Springs (Colorado), Indianapolis (Indiana), Sacramento (California) and Boise City (Idaho).
In 1995 the pastoral work of the District truly became “North American” with the invitation to the Fraternity by His Grace, Archbishop Marcel Gervais, Archbishop of Ottawa (Ontario), to minister in Canada. With the invitation of other members of the Canadian hierarchy the Fraternity has established parishes and apostolates in Ottawa and St. Catharines (Ontario), Calgary (Alberta) and Vancouver (British Columbia).
Through its first decade the number of District priests has also increased tremendously. From its original two members the District now has forty priests engaged in pastoral or seminary work. This number continues to grow each year through ordinations.
In addition to its pastoral work the District provides the faithful and those interested in the Fraternity with a variety of experiences. A number of retreats for men and women are held each summer. Summer camps for boys, under the direction of a Fraternity chaplain and seminary counselors, take place at several locations in North America and District priests have served as chaplains for pilgrimages to Rome, France, Germany and Portugal.
Last year the North American District consecrated itself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, imploring her patronage and protection upon its work. On the day of consecration Father Carr expressed the hope that “This day of consecration will bring many graces down from heaven to those who are united to the Fraternity, blessing and strengthening us as one great spiritual family”.