Today is a sad day for the faithful at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, as our beloved rector, Father Karl W. Lenhardt, is being called to a new position. Fr. Lenhardt announced at Mass today that the Vicar General of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, Monsignor Michael Schmitz, would announce the specifics next Sunday. As of yet, therefore, Father's new assignment is not publicly known.
While we suspect this move will benefit the worldwide Institute, it is a sore blow for all those in St. Louis who have benefited from Father's wisdom, knowledge, patience and his pastoral care. It seems that there is a trend among clergy in this city-- success in St. Louis leads to promotion to better things, and what is St. Louis' loss is the universal Church's gain.
It is very difficult to express in a short space all of the good Fr. Lenhardt has accomplished since he has been assigned to be Rector of the Oratory, and Vice-Provincial of the Institute for the United States. I get the feeling that much of his work was not the sort that made immediate news, but which will bear fruit in the future. However, a sampling:
- Put in charge of the (then) "indult" Latin Mass Community of St. Louis, he skillfully managed the transition from St. Agatha Church to St. Francis de Sales Oratory, a transition from one Sunday Mass in the traditional rite to an entire, Archdiocesan-wide "parish", with all of the Sacraments in the traditional forms, a minimum of eight Masses a week, and a new parish community in the Salesian tradition of spirituality.
- Under his leadership, the size of the Oratory membership increased dramatically, with Sunday Masses now averaging more than 1,000 souls.
- Through his assistance, the Institute of Christ the King, still growing, established several additional apostolates in the United States, and attracts an ever-growing number of American seminarians and candidates.
- St. Francis de Sales priests hear more confessions than are heard in any other Church in the Archdiocese-- the practice of frequent confession being held up as the surest path to spiritual growth for the faithful.
- The restoration of the spiritual and architectural jewel that is St. Francis de Sales has progressed under his direction, while funds for further restoration and the stabilization of the steeple continue.
- Under his leadership, a very successful homeschool co-op was established at the Oratory; this co-op is expanding in the upcoming year to include high school as well as elementary courses.
- His leadership in integrating the Traditional forms of the Sacraments back into the life of the local Church in St. Louis has led to great progress. At the direction of Archbishop Burke, he was named the Archiepiscopal Delegate for the Implementation of Summorum Pontificum in the Archdiocese. Through his efforts, St. Louis seminarians and priests are being well-trained in the Extraordinary Form of Mass and the other Sacraments. Many priests and faithful have benefited from the work of Fr. Lenhardt and other priests of the Institute and the Archdiocese.
- He celebrated the first public Traditional Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis in over 35 years on March 7, 2007, the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the patrons of the Institute. This Mass was the precursor to the glorious ordinations in the traditional rite celebrated later that year by Archbishop Burke.
- Most of all, he is the spiritual father to many people at St. Francis de Sales, who are grateful, and who will miss him.
The task Father will now undertake will undoubtedly be an important one, and it is safe to say that we faithful will benefit from it in the future. This knowledge is of some solace today. Also of comfort is the fact that the Oratory will continue to be in good hands with the Institute and the successor rector.
Also announced today is that our beloved Father William Avis is also to receive a new assignment. We will provide more information as this becomes public, likely next Sunday as well. Fr. Avis is also a wonderful confessor, spiritual director, and teacher. His work in catechesis at the co-op will be greatly missed by the children and their parents. He also was the principal vicar at the Holy Family Log Church in Cahokia, another apostolate administered by the Institute.
When it rains, it pours.
God bless you, Father Lenhardt and Father Avis. You will be missed.