Holy Family Parish, Dayton OH

Dayton’s Latin Mass/Extraordinary Form community, and the FSSP (Fraternity of St. Peter) priests who have mostly said Mass for it, have been based in various different parishes over the years. It’s a history I know little about but which is surely worth somebody’s chronicling. Early this summer, however, Archbishop Schnurr gave Holy Family Church (which had been glommed into a joint parish with St. Mary’s) to the FSSP for their very own.

I’ve been meaning to go over there all summer, and see how things are going and what people are doing. But it’s been a bit hard to find the time and the energy while working around my cantoring duties at my own parish — not to mention finding weather that didn’t seem likely to kill me. (Sorry, no A/C in most of Dayton’s big old churches. Too pricey.) But I finally got over there today. I won’t be doing it very often, because the bus schedule is difficult on Sundays (for me, anyway). But for a big feast like the Assumption, it was nice to go. The weather was horrendously sticky, yet not as hot as most of the summer has been.

If you do go, I should probably mention first that they apparently have a BIG POTLUCK BREAKFAST after the 10:30 Mass. The heck with just donuts — these people feed you! Also, they seem very friendly, and there’s a good spread of ages (though it’s heavily young families with kids, as you’d expect in an EF group). OTOH, part of the reason they feed you is that Holy Family isn’t in one of the super bestest parts of town. I’m not saying it’s dangerous in daylight (it better not be, since I took the bus there and back!), but it’s pretty poor. You’d definitely have to drive all the way out of the neighborhood and into another part of town to find a place big enough for all those parish people to eat.

(UPDATE: The potluck brunch is only once a month, per the comments, and the donuts and coffee Sunday is also only once a month. So the other two or three Sundays, you gotta fend for yourself.)

Anyway, the church itself is really really nice. It dates from the early 1920’s, and was designed by Murphy and Olmsted from Washington DC, along with W.L. Jaekle from Dayton. (Mr. Jaekle also did Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the previous home of the Dayton Latin Mass community.) The outside has that late medieval Italian look, with the campanile and the red tile roof.

If you don’t like barren stretches of white as decor in a church, this is the parish for you! If it’s not painted or made of stained glass, it’s colored tile or a statue. Let us count the ways:

The narthex/vestibule has the Dayton-standard three entrance doors at the top of a flight of steps, with grilled-in baptistery to the left (no longer used) and door to the stairway up to the organ loft on the right. (There are also entrances doors up front in the church to the left and right; the right hand door by the parking lot is handicap-accessible by a very nice ramp.) In the vestibule, the ceiling is a barrel vault painted with blue and gold suns and stars in a 20’s modern type of pattern. The suns have within them an encircled blue and white Chi-Ro, with an alpha on one side and an omega on the other. There is also a band of patristic art-looking painted sheep, and then the walls are painted a sort of red/purple/pink speckled color. (Which works with the other stuff, oddly enough.) There’s also a small recent statue of St. Julie Billiart, pictures of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, an original architectural drawing of the building, bulletin boards, holy water dispenser, etc.

The floor, both in the vestibule and the main church, is covered with what looks like linoleum to me, but spiffed up with bands of black and white checked material. Whatever it is, it’s in good repair everywhere, as far as I can tell. (In contrast to many of Dayton’s older churches, where the floors are solid but the tiling or wood is often getting pretty worn or cracked.)

I’m not good at getting good church pictures, and anyway, the church was being kept dark today because of the heat. So I’ll just point you toward some pictures previously posted on NLM and the parish website.

Inside the three doors leading from the vestibule into the nave, on the back wall, there are two confessionals, a large oil painting of Mary and toddler Jesus, statues of St. Jude and of St. Joseph holding baby Jesus, and the familiar Dayton Latin Mass Community library cart, still used for holding hymnals, lending missals and lending chapel veils. All the pews in this church are wood, very solid and with plenty of room to sit, stand, kneel, and walk; and they’re arranged in a standard way, not all cattycornered everywhere.

If you look up, you’ll see the choir/organ loft. Big pipe organ, decent-sized loft (though not huge). There’s a rose window behind and above the pipe organ.

The ceiling is painted in various abstract square designs to give the look of being coffered. (I think the designs are all different kinds of crosses, and I think they’re all primarily dark green and gold. But the lights weren’t on, and my eyes aren’t great.) The top of the wall has a line of various Christological symbols and clerestory windows, and then a band of designs, and then there’s an arcade of arches, and then big long stained glass windows. These windowns have 2 symbols, 2 pictures drawn from the Gospel or the lives of Mary and Joseph, then two more symbols, and then 2 more story pictures. From there to the floor, it’s more wall painted in stucco-y colors. In between many of the windows, there are large mosaic-tile Stations of the Cross built into the wall.

On the left side, there are some extra supports (probably for the tower). Where the next window could have been, there’s a statue of St. Anthony of Padua. There’s some kind of unused confessionals on both sides up front.

The left and right doors have rose windows over them, then a sort of mini clerestory of ten small stained glass windows of saints under that. Then there’s a painted picture of an angel under that, and then the doors. The left door leads to a double stairway, which can lead you to the huge sacristy and tiny restroom, the outside door, or the basement (which includes another restroom, a large eating and kitchen area, and at least one other large room). The right door has a tiny vestibule suitable for reading materials, and then a door to the outside which leads to the ramp, the parking lot stairs, and the old school. (There was a covered arcade between the school and church, which was original to the architectural design and mighty thoughtful of the architects.)

The front has a big half-dome apse for the main altar, and two little altars to left and right. The left altar has a statue of Mary and an inscription about Our Lady of the Rosary; the right altar has a statue of St. Joseph holding a book instead of his standard attributes, and an inscription about St. Joseph as Patron of the Dying. Both Mary and Joseph are done in pale colors and in a fairly fluid modern style. Next to the Joseph side altar are: the font that used to be in the baptistery (a big green thing that matches the built-in ambo on the left), a little statue of the Holy Family up high, a little statue of Jesus as the Infant of Prague down low, and a picture of Jesus as King showing the Sacred Heart. The side altars and the main altar are all enclosed in a big sanctuary rail, which I believe is original, and there’s a big original gate with some very pretty metalwork.

Painted above the apse are St. Peter on the left and St. Paul on the right. The half-dome is covered with an amazing painting of the Jesse Tree and the Holy Family, with Jesse reclining at the bottom. Then there’s another band of painting, a band of ten small stained glass windows of angels with another modern fluid statue of Mary (this one golden colored) in the middle showing Jesus in her womb, and then a band of five diamonds of Christological symbols. The high altar has a beautiful large crucifix attached to it in the middle, and the tabernacle is part of the high altar wall.

Like I say, there’s a lot to look at.


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8 responses to “Holy Family Parish, Dayton OH

  1. DM Reed

    You got a rare treat, as Holy Family celebrated a solemn high mass, since it was the Feast of the Assumption (usually the 10:30am mass is a sung high mass). We were visiting Hocking Hills, Ohio this weekend and unfortunately had to miss and go to mass at St. John the Evangelist’s Church in Logan, OH.
    As you detailed very well, the amount of artistic detail in Holy Family Church is immense; its a perfect setting for the Holy Mass.
    As a Holy Family parishioner, I can simply say we are very blessed to have His Excellency Archbishop Schnurr and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter working to save souls in Dayton, Ohio.

    • Yeah, forgot to say it was a High Mass and all, and not the normal kind, either. Argh, important details left out… there’s a reason nobody ever suggested I do journalism!

      The nice thing was not just that it was a special holiday occasion and Mass, but that there wasn’t that feeling that it was only happening by a squeak and might never happen again. There’s something very nice and normal about that. I’m happy to have that resource in your parish. I’d be happier if every parish could make either form available to those who want it, but this isn’t bad at all.

      • DM Reed

        I’d be happier if every parish could make either form available to those who want it…

        The most challenging apsect of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum is the full integration of the extraordinary form across the parish spectrum, on par and along side the ordinary form. There is an interpretation of Summorum Pontificum that the extraordinary form is only for those who request it, and that it should be seperate and sequestered for only those who desire the traditional liturgy. On the contrary, the extraordinary form is for all the faithful, and should be made available to them on a more regular and convienent basis. But then again, I’m sure there are many modernists who scream and shout, “Well if parishes [i.e. Holy Family] can exist that are strictly dedicated to the extraordinary form, why can’t we have parishes only dedicated to using the ordinary form?”
        I’m not for sure how this liturgical arrangement in the Latin Rite (ordinary/extraordinary form) is going to play out over the next 40 years. Will the ordinary/extaordinary forms share equals place across the Latin Rite? (This equal place, as you rightly pointed out, does not currently exist.) Or, will the ordinary form eventually wither away? Or, will the extraordinary form (God forbid) wither away? Or, will the ordinary/extraordinary forms have seperate, parallel existences within the Latin Rite? (i.e. traditional bishops and priests only administering to extradordinary form devotees, while the ordinary form retains their own bishops and priests, very similiar to the arrangement established in the Anglican church attempting to have traditional bishops and priests administer to conservative faithful, while the liberal, women-ordaining faithful retained their own bishops and priest/esses. This arrangement, what could be called a “compromise”, has been a major failure for the Anglican communion.) Many things to ponder as we move forward…

  2. Fr. Mark Wojdelski, FSSP

    I noticed you linked to our site while I was doing some updates. Thanks for the free advertising. You mentioned the unused baptistery. We are having a rigging company move the baptismal font back where it belongs shortly (God willing) thus restoring the church to an almost pristine state.

    Also, not to give people false expectations, the brunch after the High Mass is usually the first Sunday of the month only, with coffee and donuts on the third Sunday. The rest of the time you’re on your own. We swapped Sundays in August because of the feast day. This situation may change in time as we continue to grow.

    In case you missed it or didn’t get a handout, that other “thing” we did between the sprinkling with Holy Water and the Mass was the traditional blessing of “herbs” (fragrant plants: herbs, flowers) on the feast of the Assumption to call to mind the tradition that when Our Lady was taken up she left nothing but a sweet odor.

    I think little things like that are what the Archbishop wants to preserve and promote as part of our Catholic heritage. Please continue to pray for him and also for our future auxiliary bishop — he’s out there somewhere, just like our next pope.

  3. DM Reed

    We are having a rigging company move the baptismal font back…


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