Vancouver Traditional Mass Society

Issue #2 Part I The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (F.S.S.P.)

Dear members and friends of the VTMS/UVC chapters and associated organizations,

In Part I I would like to discuss the Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) presenting some background information then we will look at both their seminaries.

In Part II which will be issued later this week we will look at  Canadian FSSP priests and seminarians and briefly touch on one of our most important obligations and charitable works which is fundraising for and funding seminarians. In this coming publication we have also included some video clips from interviews with a couple of our Canadian seminarians (Just click on the picture to go to the link). These were produced by Mr. Clayton Richard-Long (an extensive bio can be viewed at the linked site) a VTMS/UVC member and a member of the Holy Family personal parish in Vancouver.

All information relating to the FSSP’s website is used with their kind permission.

Table of Contents
1. The Priestly Fraernity of Saint Peter Origin of the Fraternity
2. Priestly Formation in the Fraternity
3. Pastoral Mission of Fraternity Priests
4. Brief History
5. History of the North American District
6. Members Today
7. Increase and Ordinations
8. Priestly Ordinations in the FSSP over the last 12 years
9. Seminaries
9a. The Seminary of Wigratzbad (Germany)
9b. The Seminary of Denton (USA)
10. Next e-loop Publication
11. Back Issues

The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter
1. Origin of the Fraternity

The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is a Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical right, that is, a community of Roman Catholic priests who do not take religious vows, but who work together for a common mission in the world.  The mission of the Fraternity is two-fold:  first, the formation and sanctification of priests in the cadre of the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite, and secondly, the pastoral deployment of the priests in the service of the Church.The Fraternity was founded on July 18, 1988 at the Abbey of Hauterive (Switzerland) by a dozen priests and a score of seminarians.  Shortly after the Fraternity’s foundation and following upon a request by Cardinal Ratzinger, Bishop Joseph Stimpfle of Augsburg, Germany granted the Fraternity a home in Wigratzbad, a Marian shrine in Bavaria that now lodges the Fraternity’s European seminary. In the same month of October there arrived a handful of priests and some thirty seminarians ready to start “from scratch”.  There are currently almost 200 priests and 110 seminarians in the Fraternity.2Priestly Formation in the Fraternity
The Fraternity of St. Peter currently operates two international houses of formation: the original formation house in Wigratzbad, Germany (diocese of Augsburg), and the other in Denton, Nebraska, U.S.A. (diocese of Lincoln).  The Fraternity has organized its seminary training in accordance with the Church’s norms on priestly formation, including a year of more intense spiritual preparation before entering the cycles of philosophy and theology.  By fostering a balanced life of prayer, study, community life, and personal discipline, care is taken to foster human maturity and to acquire the spirit of the Gospel, in close union with Christ.  The spiritual life in the houses is centered on the sacrifice of the Mass.  Special attention is paid to the faithful observance of the “liturgical and spiritual traditions” according to the dispositions of the Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta of July 2, 1988, which is at the origin of the Fraternity’s foundation (Constitutions, Art. 8).3Pastoral Mission of Fraternity Priests
Once the formation progamme has been completed, the Fraternity’s priests serve the faithful – under the direction of their bishop and within the terms of the Fraternity’s own constitutions – in its various apostolates in France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the USA, Australia, Canada, Great Britain and Nigeria.  In the world, the priests of the Fraternity live in small communities and work to spread the Gospel by means of preaching, catechesis, youth education (scout troops, schools), and organizing pilgrimages and retreats, etc.  With the full approval of the Holy See and the permission of local bishops, the priests provide a full sacramental life for the faithful, administered according to the liturgical books of 1962.4Brief history

  • 18 July 1988: Founded as a clerical society of apostolic life
  • Liturgical books used: Roman Missal, Ritual, Pontifical, Martyrology and Breviary in force in 1962
  • July 1988: Private audiences with Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger
  • 18 October 1988: Erected as an institute of pontifical right by the Holy See
  • Easter 1990: Cardinal Ratzinger visits the motherhouse (in Wigratzbad, Bavaria) and offers Mass in the Traditional rite
  • 1995: first personal parish entrusted to the FSSP
  • 12 September 1999: Pope John Paul II blesses the corner stones and crucifixes for the two new FSSP seminaries in Europe and in America
  • 8 October 199920 October 2001: the Superior General delivers an address at the Synods of Bishops in Rome
  • December 2000June 2002June 2005May 2008: Cardinal Castrillon-Hoyos, President of the Ecclesia Dei Commission and Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, comes to bless the new Saint Peter Seminary and to ordain FSSP priests
  • 29 June 2003: Definitive approval of the Constitutions by the Holy See
  • 22 February 2007: Foundation of the Confraternity of Saint Peter, a society which gathers those who are attached to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and who wish to support its charism through prayers and sacrifices
  • March 2008: The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is granted a personal parish in Rome
  • 6 July 2009: Private audiences with Pope Benedict XVI


5History of the North American District
“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 established. Its first members, Father Arnaud Devillers and Father Michael Irwin, had received an invitation to serve in North America from Bishop Charles V. Grahmann, Bishop of Dallas Texas.

In 1992 an exciting offer was presented by Bishop James Timlin.  Not only had he invited the Fraternity into his 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, the 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 his successors, Frs. Paul Carr and George Gabet (the current 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), Kansas 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 75 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.

District Headquarters publishes an annual ordo, a comprehensive monthly newsletter on activities within the District and maintains a Communications Office to issue press releases, news articles and provide information to the media.  The District’s Fraternity Publications Service offers a variety of Catholic traditional and orthodox materials


6Members today

  • Total: 397 (incl. 232 incardinated)
  • Priests: 236
  • 221 incardinated
  • 9 incorporated ad annum
  • 4 associated
  • 2 postulants
  • Deacons: 11
  • Non-deacons seminarians (including postulants): 150
  • Average age of members: 37 years
  • Deceased members: 5


7Increase and Ordinations

  • Number of members (as of Jan. 1 each year)










8Priestly ordinations in the FSSP over the last 12 years




9aThe Seminary of Wigratzbad (Germany) – Seminarium Internationale Sancti Petri –

The International Seminary of St. Peter in Wigratzbad, Germany, was the first seminary founded by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, its first house established canonically and the site of its General House. It is situated on the ancient frontier of Bavaria and Swabia, a short distance from Germany’s borders with neighbouring Austria and Switzerland. It is less than twenty kilometers from the renowned island city of Lindau on Lake Constance at the foot of the Alps.The little hamlet of Wigratzbad in the township of Opfenbach had already gained a name for itself as a pilgrimage centre decades before the arrival of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Pilgrims flocked here from the surrounding district as well as from other regions in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France. Particular honour is paid here to the Mother of God under her title “Immaculate Conception, Mother of Victory”. The pilgrimage site finds its origin in the extraordinary life of Miss Antonie Rädler, beginning in the 1930s and developing over the years into a centre of prayer and reparation to the Immaculate and Sacred Hearts. Antonie Rädler and the former director of the pilgrimage centre, Fr. Johannes Schmid of the Passionist Congregation, had discussed the idea of an international seminary in Wigratzbad many years before the Fraternity of St. Peter was founded.After the foundation of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in the fall of 1988, the founders began to seek a suitable site for a house of priestly formation. As early as August, 1988, Bishop Josef Stimpfle of Augsburg announced that he would accept a canonical establishment in Wigratzbad. In November thirty-one seminarians commenced their studies. Father Josef Bisig became both the Superior General of the fledgling institute and the rector of its new house of formation. From the beginning the studies were divided into two language groups, French and German. Seminarians from countries speaking other languages chose to study in one of the two groups.9bThe Seminary of Denton (USA) – Seminarium BMV de Guadalupe
The building is Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, one of two major seminaries of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.  The history of the seminary begins nearly a decade ago.
In 1994 Bishop James C. Timlin of the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania approved the establishment of a seminary in a former retreat center in Elmhurst.  That fall the first seminarians began their studies at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary.It was soon apparent that with the increasing number of applicants it had become necessary to look for a new seminary site.  In 1998, after an extensive search, Father Arnaud Devillers, F.S.S.P., then North American District Superior, announced publicly, “The new seminary will be located in the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska where we have been welcomed by Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz”.In October 1998 ground was broken for the seminary.  Bishop Bruskewitz’s words expressed his faith in the Fraternity’s undertakling, ” I look forward to the completion of this seminary in the year 2000.  I pray that Christ and His Blessed Mother may look upon this enterprise which is undertaken for the glory of God and the good of His Holy Church”.Under the direction of Dr Thomas Gordon Smith, dean emeritus of the school of architecture of the University of Notre Dame and Father Charles Van Vliet, F.S.S.P., Vice-Rector, construction was begun.  By the spring of 1999 the seminary had assumed its structural form.  Much of the success of the ongoing construction, and the reality of a traditional seminary in North American, was attributed to the never-ending prayers and the never-ceasing generosity of the Fraternity’s benefactors.On October 16, 1999, amid Gregorian chant, venerable Latin prayers, brocade vestments, incense and in the presence of several hundred priests, seminarians and laity Bishop Bruskewitz blessed the seminary’s cornerstone.  Pope John Paul II had previously blessed a crucifix which now hangs above the seminary’s main entrance.Throughout another Nebraska winter, through spring and summer months construction continued.  In the fall of 2000 Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary, under the rectorship of Father James Jackson, F.S.S.P., welcomed nearly fifty seminarians.Under the direction of its Rector, Vice-Rector and a faculty of over a dozen clerical and lay teachers seminarians, numbering sixty, move through a year of spirituality and seven years of philosophy and theology studies, steps leading them as Fraternity priests to pastoral service in the Church.


10Next e-loop Publication

  • Issue #3: Part II F.S.S.P. Canadian Priests, Seminarians & Fund-raising

Issues can and will be changed in the future depending on priorities.

11Back Issues


The “Memorare”
Remember, O  most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, and sought thine intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To Thee do I come, before thee do I stand, sinful and  sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen