Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Mark F. Fischer, August 9, 2019

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Introduction--Early life and entering the priesthood

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Partial Transcript: Welcome. Uh, this interview is part of the oral history project at the Scott County Public Library in Georgetown, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Mike Key introduces the interview and its narrator, Father Mark Fischer, who leads the Regina Pacis Traditional Latin Mass community in the Lexington diocese. Fischer talks about his early life and entry into the priesthood, saying that he was born in Pittsburgh's suburbs and is the oldest of six kids. He says he went to music school in Cincinnati, then went to learn musical instrument repair in Iowa before taking a job in that field in California's Bay Area. Fischer stayed there for seven years, fixing horns by day and playing music by night, until he says he heard God tell him to come to him, which he eventually did, despite some resistance. He talks about going to discuss his calling with his priest, a man named Vladimir Pozina. He says Pozina told him that he would not be a good candidate for normal diocesan seminary because of his conservatism. Since Fischer already had an interest in Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), he applied to the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and was accepted in 1995.

Keywords: Cincinnati (Ohio); Communists; Diocesan seminaries; Fr. Vladimir Pozina; Germany; Iowa; Latin masses; Lexington (Ky.); Lexington Diocese; Music schools; Musical instrument repair schools; Nazis; Newcastle (Pa.); Oakland (Calif.); Regina Pacis; Regina Pacis Latin Mass Community; Saint Margaret Mary Catholic Church; Slovakia; Slovenia; St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church; The Wanderer; Traditional Latin Mass (TLM)

Subjects: Catholic Church--United States.; Catholic children; Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter; Priests.

00:04:19 - Bringing Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) to Lexington, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: You began your priesthood with the Latin mass?

Segment Synopsis: Fischer describes how he came to Kentucky with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) and Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) and why some people enjoy TLM. He says he was in seminary with TLM for six years before being assigned to a parish in Youngstown, Ohio, which only lasted for five months. After that, Fischer says he was sent to Atlanta, Georgia, at a church which was called St. Francis de Sales, as his current appointment is as well. He talks about bouncing around from there to Pequannock, New Jersey; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and another town in Ohio, before finally landing at St. Peter Catholic Church in 2013. Fischer says he lived in Lexington at first on St. Ann's Drive. He talks about how TLM was brought to Lexington and the other clergy who were involved. Fischer says he enjoys TLM for some of the same reasons that other people do: the emphasis on sacrifice, beauty, Gregorian chanting, ceremony, silence, and reverence, among other reasons. He says the elderly are not the only people who like TLM and that there is not one typical kind of TLM parishioner. He disagrees with people who criticize the priest having his back to the congregation, as he says he sees it as the priest leading the people to the East, where Christ ascended and where he will return. Fischer says he thinks TLM is growing worldwide, but especially in France, where there are relatively few new ordinations but most of them are TLM.

Keywords: Ad orientem; Atlanta (Ga.); Bishop Ronald William Gainer; Bishops; Catholic rites; Father Valentine Young; France; Gregorian chants; Novus ordo; Novus ordo mass; Ohio; Pequannock (N.J.); Regina Pacis; Regina Pacis Latin Mass Community; SS. Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); Saint Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Saint Peter Catholic Church (Lexington, Ky.); Saints Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); Second Vatican Council; St. Ann Drive (Lexington, Ky.); St. Francis de Sales Church; St. Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); St. Peter Catholic Church (Lexington, Ky.); Sts. Francis and John Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Traditional Latin Mass (TLM); Vatican II; Vatican Two; Youngstown (Ohio)

Subjects: Catholic Church--United States.; Lexington (Ky.); Mass.; Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter; Priests.

00:15:40 - Renovation of SS. Francis and John Church in Georgetown, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: St. Francis de Sales Church here, uh, it's a beautiful church but you recently had a renovation.

Segment Synopsis: Fischer talks about the renovation of SS. Francis and John Church that took place shortly after he arrived. He says that Bishop Gainer initially offered him the the parish temporarily while they looked to find a better location, but it became clear that SS. Francis and John was the best situation possible for them. Fischer says he called in an engineer and architect who uncovered serious structural issues with the church, which had been built in 1820. He says that some parts of the church were "scary" and infested with termites and rat snakes. He talks about selling off some of the accompanying lands around the church to pay for the renovations. Parishioners, according to Fischer, did not have to do much of the restoration work themselves, aside from the altar, which they restored to its original condition based on an old photograph they found. SS. Francis and John was reopened during Holy Week, before Easter, but not fully. Fischer talks about some issues they had with building codes, and says they do not have any plans to renovate further or add onto the building as they want to keep it as historically accurate as possible.

Keywords: Altars; Bell towers; Bishop Ronald William Gainer; Building codes; Building inspectors; Crockets; Croquets; Easter; Historic building exemptions; Holy Week; Marbled wood; Marbling wood; Parishioners; Rat snakes; Renovations; Resin crockets; Resin croquets; SS. Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); Sacristies; Saint Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Saints Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); St. Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Sts. Francis and John Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Termites

Subjects: Catholic Church--United States.; Church architecture--Conservation and restoration.; Georgetown (Ky.); Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter; Priests.

GPS: SS. Francis and John Parish (Georgetown, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.209159, -84.550951
00:27:32 - History of SS. Francis and John Church

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Partial Transcript: What is the relationship between, uh, St. Francis de Sales and St. John?

Segment Synopsis: Fischer talks about the history of SS. Francis and John Parish and how the relationship of St. Francis de Sales Church and St. John has changed over time. He says that St. Francis de Sales and St. John in Georgetown have flip-flopped which was the official parish and which was a mission station over time. Most of his knowledge of the church's history comes from "That Troublesome Parish" by Ann Bolton Bevins. Fischer says that Fr. Stephen Theodore Badin was the first ordained priest in the United States and he tells some stories about Badin establishing the Catholic Church in Kentucky. He then says that Dominican mendicants renamed St. Francis de Sales after St. Pious, before the Bishop of Covington named it after St. Francis de Sales again. The Sisters of the Visitation, according to Fischer, then opened a school at the church, and he talks about the history of their order. The school was closed in the 1980s and the school is now run out of the Cardome Center. He discusses the historic graveyard at the church and says a few Revolutionary War veterans are buried there, along with priests, and a few parishioners from the time of the Civil War.

Keywords: Absolution; American Civil War; American Revolutionary War; Ann Bolton Bevins; Archbishop of Indianapolis; Bardstown (Ky.); Benedictines; Bishop of Covington; Cardome School; Cemeteries; Cloistering; Confession; Dancing; Dominican Order; Dominicans; Father Linh X. Nguyen; Father Stephen Theodore Badin; Graveyards; Horse racing; Novus ordo; Novus ordo mass; Nuns; Order of Saint Benedict; Rev. Linh X. Nguyen; SS. Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); Saint Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Saint Pious V Church; Saints Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); Sisters of the Visitation; St. Francis de Sales; St. Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); St. Jane Frances de Chantal; St. John's School; St. Pious V Church; Sts. Francis and John Church (Georgetown, Ky.); That Troublesome Parish (Book); Traditional Latin Mass (TLM); White Sulphur (Ky.); Widows

Subjects: Catholic Church--United States.; Church history.; Georgetown (Ky.); Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter; Priests.

GPS: SS. Francis and John Parish (Georgetown, Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.209159, -84.550951
00:37:11 - The purpose and history of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter / Opening seminaries in Germany and Nebraska

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, there was a thing you said you were going to ask that you didn't. Um, hang on here... the purpose and history of the Fraternity of Saint Peter. You didn't ask about that.

Segment Synopsis: Fischer talks about the history of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) and the group's purpose. He says that Archbishop Marcel François Marie Joseph Lefebvre started both the Society of St. Pious X in the 1970s and a seminary which taught TLM. After some of the seminarians got themselves in trouble and found that French dioceses quit accepting them, Lefebvre began doing it on his own - ordaining priests and consecrating bishops without the Church's approval. As a result, Fischer says Lefebvre and the four bishops he consecrated were excommunicated from the Church. Other seminarians wanted to continue using TLM but did not want to be excommunicated, so they got approval from Pope John Paul II in 1988 to start the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP). Fischer talks about FSSP's first official seminary in Wigratzbad, Germany, and tells a few stories about miracles he says happened in the city earlier in the century. He says that a girl named Antonie Rädler heard angels praising Mary - a miracle called hearing locutions - and on another occasion she was miraculously spared being sent to the Dachau concentration camp at the last minute. Fischer talks about another alleged miracle during the liberation of Wigratzbad from the Nazis when French artillery shells failed to explode near the city's chapel as the congregation prayed the rosary in the basement. Fischer tells a few more stories about Rädler and a man named Father Johannes Schmid's miraculous experiences and deeds in Wigratzbad before the FSSP's seminary opened. Fischer goes on to talk about the FSSP's second seminary in Denton, Nebraska for English speaking seminarians, since the one in Wigratzbad only offered courses in German and French. He also discusses the relationship between the FSSP and the Society of St. Pious X, which he says can be contentious, despite attempts to reconcile the Society's canonical schism with the Church.

Keywords: Adolph Kolping Institute; Angels; Antonie Rädler; Apostolic mandates; Archbishop Marcel François Marie Joseph Lefebvre; Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre; Artillery; Augsburg (Germany); Bishop of Sion; Congregation of the Holy Spirit; Dachau; Denton (Neb.); Diocesan seminaries; Father Johannes Schmid; French; Holy Ghost Fathers; International seminaries; Lake Constance (Germany); Locutions; Marcel Lefebvre; Nazis; Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary; Our Lady of Victory Chapel; Papal mandates; Pope John Paul II; Pope John Paul the Second; Rosary prayers; Saint Thomas Aquinas; Society of Saint Pious X; Society of St. Pious X; St. Thomas Aquinas; Teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas; Teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas; Traditional Latin Mass (TLM); Wigratzbad (Germany)

Subjects: Catholic Church.; Catholic theological seminaries.; Miracles--Anecdotes.; Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter; Priests.

00:51:44 - Closing thoughts--FSSP coming to SS. Francis and John / The life of St. Francis de Sales

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Partial Transcript: One of the things about coming to St. Francis de Sales that I was thinking about, I think I mentioned, that Father Valentine had first been offered this.

Segment Synopsis: Fischer offers a few closing thoughts on how the FSSP came to SS. Francis and John in Georgetown and he discusses the history of the life of St. Francis de Sales. He says the Fr. Valentine was initially offered the position in Georgetown as well as a few other priests and the group had strong internal disagreements before Fischer arrived and settled matters. He says that Bishop Gainer was succeeded by Bishop John Stowe, who was less enthusiastic about the FSSP's presence. Fr. Linh X. Nguyen, he says, helped change Bishop Stowe's mind, and Fischer moved to Georgetown to begin working at SS. Francis and John shortly thereafter. He goes on to talk about the life of Saint Francis de Sales, whom he says was born into a noble family and knew he wanted to go into the priesthood from a young age. Calvinism was popular at the time, and Fischer says that Calvin's teaching caused de Sales to despair over his sin and the condition of his relationship with God. St. Francis de Sales later became Bishop of Geneva in Switzerland, though he had to operate in somewhat clandestine fashion to avoid drawing the ire of Protestants. Fischer says de Sales was responsible for reforming his church in Annecy, which is now in France, and became widely known for his "Treatise on the Love of God", "Letters to Persons in the World", and "Introduction to the Devout Life". Fr. Fischer and Mike Key thank each other and sign off, ending the interview.

Keywords: "He was always more God's than yours."; "Introduction to the Devout Life"; "Letters to Persons in the World"; "Treatise on the Love of God"; Annecy (France); Bishop John Stowe; Bishop Ronald William Gainer; Bishop of Geneva; Bishops; Calvinism; Calvinists; Communion; Father Linh X. Nguyen; Father Valentine Young; Free will; Geneva (Switzerland); Penances; Predestination; Protestants; SS. Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); Saint Francis de Sales; Saint Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Saints Francis and John Catholic Parish (Georgetown, Ky.); Seminaries; St. Francis de Sales Church (Georgetown, Ky.); Sts. Francis and John Church (Georgetown, Ky.)

Subjects: Catholic Church--United States.; Christian saints.; Georgetown (Ky.); Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter; Priests.