People requesting a Mass to be said for some intention at their local parish might face a long wait. There may be a long line of others already wanting to donate for a Mass intention. In some parishes people might have to book a Mass as much as a year or more in advance. But places exist where the individual Masses can be fulfilled sooner. Let’s take a look at a few of the major ones.
Seraphic Mass Association (Pittsburgh)
Let’s begin with the Seraphic Mass Association. Blessed Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest, always recommended to people seeking healing or help that they enroll themselves, or their loved ones, in the Seraphic Mass Association, encouraging them to “thank God ahead of time” for the favors they were requesting.
When he would enroll someone in the association, “amazing results and even complete cures began to happen,” we learn in his short biography. His provincial had him keep a notebook of favors that eventually numbered into the thousands. Solanus believed people would also become more devoted to the holy Mass, they would be remembered in the Masses and prayers of the Capuchins around the world and the donations would bring much needed help and support for these missionaries in foreign lands.
“Solanus had a great affinity a great love for the missions,” explains Capuchin Father John Pfannenstiel, director of the Seraphic Mass Association in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That continues today with the Mass donations, also called stipends.
“We have a really wonderful network of priests in the missions who fulfill the Mass requests,” Father Pfannenstiel says. Each morning he works to distribute close to 1,700 Masses throughout the world. “We try to get Masses out as quickly as they come in,” he says, referring to requests for individual Masses.
“People can even request a particular or special date for the Mass as long as the request is at least five days ahead of time. In terms of fulfilling them, people can either schedule a Mass after five days for any time over the next 18 months, and those Masses go out as requested by date.”
Bedsides individual Masses, people can also request a Novena of Masses or Gregorian Masses which Father Pfannenstiel calls “a big draw for a number of people.” Gregorian Masses, a series of Masses offered for 30 consecutive days for a departed soul, comes from Pope St. Gregory the Great, who popularized the practice after he said a series of 30 Masses for a monk who then appeared to tell him he had gained entry into heaven on completion of the final Mass. The Holy See declared it an approved pious practice.
The Christmas Novena of Masses is the most popular of the novenas. This novena of 900 Masses begins on Christmas Eve with 100 priests celebrating the Masses for each of nine days. The Padre Pio Novena is also gaining momentum.
The association was started in the mid-1880s in Switzerland by a woman who wanted to find a way to support the missions. People would donate and the grateful missionaries would remember them in prayer.
In 1929 the Seraphic Mass Association started in Pittsburgh about the time the Capuchins began missions in China, Puerto Rico and Papua New Guinea. While the name might not indicate the support for mission work, it designates a Franciscan origination because St. Francis was called the “Seraphic Saint,” explains Father Pfannenstiel.
The stipends for the Masses and donations for the enrollments are extremely important for the missions and Capuchins. Priests depend on these stipends for so much we take for granted.
Father Pfannenstiel shares specific examples:
In Kenya, the Mass offerings are pooled for all the friars to provide medical care, especially for long-term care (dialysis, chemotherapy, etc.) There is no health insurance in many developing countries, and health care is pay-upfront. For Kenya, Mass offerings are used exclusively for medical care for the friars. In Zimbabwe, Mass offerings are used at each parish to provide catechetical and liturgical necessities — catechisms, Bibles, candles, altar linens, hosts and also food for the Capuchin pastoral staff. In Tanzania, Mass offerings are pooled primarily for the formation of seminarians. Although higher education is dramatically less expensive than here, it is still quite costly for the friars in a poor nation. Tanzania has 121 seminarians. Mass offerings are a major contribution to priestly and Capuchin formation. They really fulfill what the Church intended for Mass stipends — to further the work of the Church. Over there it makes a profound difference.
He adds that donations for enrollments “allows us to use the free will donation as well for mission projects.”
Solanus Mission Association (Detroit)
Other congregations have similar spiritual societies.
The Seraphic Mass Association in the St. Joseph Province in Detroit, where Blessed Solanus spent 21 years, will change its name in January to the Solanus Mission Association.
Capuchin Brother Nick explains that because there is only one Mass per day there, the province sends the requests to their different missionaries, such as provinces in India and Ethiopia. Usually they are working six months out. Since this Detroit province does not have the capability for fulfilling Gregorian Masses, it refers those requests to the Pittsburgh or New Jersey Capuchin provinces.
Brother Nick says that people also request his province’s enrollment cards as spiritual gifts and remembrances for both the living and deceased. They get a certificate when enrolled in the general Mass association where they are remembered in the Masses and prayer of the Capuchin friars. Historically, there are two types of enrollments — perpetual, in a hardcover folder, and annual enrollments. The new cards without details are considered one-year unless people specify “perpetual.” These are for free-will offerings.
Pious Union of St. Joseph (Grass Lake, Michigan)
In Grass Lake, Michigan, the Pious Union of St. Joseph offers individual Masses, a Novena of Masses, a Triduum of Masses (three consecutive Masses offered for your intentions) and Gregorian Masses. The average lead time for the Mass fulfillments is about three months. Most are said by the congregation’s missionary priests in India and Africa. The Gregorian Masses are offered by their Servants of Charity priests in India. The stipends are used for their ordinary living expenses and also help the priests to do their work with the poor and to meet regular liturgical expenses. The Pious Union says:
A great avenue to have Masses offered is through the missions. These priests depend on your Masses as their lifeline,” reminds the Pious Union of St. Joseph. “By offering your Masses through the missions you are providing bread and wine for the Eucharist for a priest in mission countries. … Today, many are discovering how the Eucharist for the deceased also heals the living as they come into deeper relationship with Jesus. The Council of Trent tells us, ‘The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Perpetual Sacrifice, is the greatest of all suffrages for the Holy Souls.’
Marians of the Immaculate Conception (Stockbridge, Massachusetts)
At the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the home of the National Shrine of Divine Mercy, the number of Mass stipends have gone up over the last five years. Because it’s increasingly difficult for people to request Masses in their parishes, they are looking to religious orders, explains Ellen Miller, the director for special gifts.
The Marians offer both individual Masses and the popular enrollments. The offerings for Masses, which are said by Marian missionaries, support these priests and their missions throughout the world — such as in Poland and Rwanda, where the Marian Fathers have a mission in Kibeho where our Blessed Mother appeared beginning in 1981.
Miller clarifies that the Masses are not said at the shrine but that all requests are transferred “to the treasurer of the worldwide community in Rome, and he distributes them to Marians throughout the world. That means we generally don’t know where or when the Masses are being celebrated. We can accept requests for a specific data and Mass but the person has to call us (800-462-7426).”
Marian enrollments for various occasions and remembrances, such as in the usual categories, are also popular and bring many spiritual benefits.
“Our association is a spiritual benefit society approved by the Holy See,” explains Marian Father Chris Alar, director of the Association of Marian Helpers, in a short video. “This means that members of the laity are able to participate and share in our Marian charism and most importantly to receive all the graces of our Masses, Rosaries, prayers and penances, just like you were a Miriam priest or brother.”
He details how Jesus revealed to St. Faustina about the creation of an association of laypeople to deal with spreading Divine Mercy. As a member of the association “you can be assured that all of our Marian priests and brothers will be praying for you and your loved ones.”
The Marians offer many enrollments “that will allow you to pray and let others know that you’re praying for them,” he says. You’re “the hands and feet of Jesus through your support of our Divine Mercy ministry around the world.”
Aid to the Church in Need (New York)
Aid to the Church in Need, based in New York, also offers individual Masses as well as Triduums, Novenas and Gregorian Masses. According to a spokesperson, the lead time for their fulfillment is up to three months. Poor priests around the world, in places like Sudan and Ukraine, Brazil and Indonesia, fulfill the requested Masses and receive the Mass stipends. For many, these stipends are their only source of income to carry on their work and support themselves. Aid to the Church in Need sends the Mass offerings to bishops and religious superiors in the countries the organization serves. From there the offerings are distributed to local priests in keeping with their need and availability.
National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians (Hubertus, Wisconsin)
The Discalced Carmelite Community at the Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill in Hubertus, Wisconsin, offer One Year Mass Remembrance Cards and Perpetual Mass Remembrance Cards for a whole list of occasions and reasons, including for the deceased, birthday, sympathy, health and healing, get well, new baby, wedding, anniversary, military service and Christmas. The recipients will be remembered for one year in daily Masses by the Carmelites at the Holy Hill shrine. There are also lifetime enrollments for the living. People have to call the shrine to arrange for a public Mass there.
Miraculous Medal Shrine (Philadelphia)
The Miraculous Medal Shrine in Philadelphia focuses on enrollments of various familiar kinds of intentions and categories. Some carry the message that the recipient has “been enrolled for one year of Holy Masses at the Central Association of the Immaculate Medal.” The Masses are celebrated at the shrine by the Vincentian Priests of the Eastern Province. Some types of enrollments in the Central Association state that “a member shares in 2,500 Masses offered each year and in the pious works of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.”
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