Church of Saint Agnes in Shepherdstown, West Virginia

On April 25, 2004, I attended Mass at the Church of St. Agnes in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It was a disheartening experience to say the least. The Reverend T. Mathew Rowgh, the pastor, celebrated the Mass as he decided it should be celebrated, not as our Holy Mother Church requires it to be celebrated.

The proper parts of Mass for the Third Sunday of Easter were not used all of the time; others being used on occasion.

The Gloria was accompanied by much waving of arms by the people, very similar to what would be found in a church of a Fundamentalist Persuasion; not a Catholic Church

The lector, in the first reading, changed the wording to remove all male nouns or pronouns in order to be ‘politically correct’. The Psalm was not the one for that Sunday, but the acclamation was! Father Rowgh read the Gospel as written, with no changes.

At the Offertory, when the gifts were brought to the sanctuary, the altar server, after Father poured the wine and water into his chalice, returned them to the credence table. Following the lavabo, a Preface, with which I am totally unfamiliar, was recited with the people vocally taking part in certain sections of it.

During the Eucharistic Canon, music was played continuously in the background, in direct violation of the norm prescribed by the GIRM. During the Consecration I was kneeling, but the rest of the congregation remained standing, even though the pews all had kneelers.

There was no corporal on the altar.

I noticed that no mention was made of the right to life for the unborn children during the intercessory prayers. (Especially on a day which had been dedicated by pro-abortionists to marching for the rights of all women to an abortion if they so choose.)

Father Rough left the Sanctuary to share the sign of peace with the congregation, following the Lord’s Prayer.

At the Agnus Dei the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion entered the Sanctuary. At this time one of the ministers went to the credence table and brought back the flagon of wine which had not been consecrated, and poured it into a second chalice on the altar. The priest gave the extraordinary ministers the Body of Christ then took his Host, and they all communicated together.

The Tabernacle cannot be seen during Mass, for it is in a room off of the Sanctuary.

There are absolutely no statues or images of our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, or any other Saints in the Church. The Risen Christ is behind the altar, not a Crucifix. The altar server carried a cross in the entrance procession and placed it in a stand in the Sanctuary. It had a Corpus about seven inches in height, and was difficult to discern, even with good eyesight, from the middle of the building.

Leaving Church, after coming to the conclusion that ‘things couldn’t be worse’, I noticed that there were no religious publications or tracts in the lobby; only several publications on how to prevent HIV. Only one of the publications acknowledged the teachings of our Church that abstinence is to be maintained outside of the Sacrament of Matrimony. The other pamphlets focused on the proper use of condoms in order to prevent aids!

A “lesbian” web page listed this Church as a "Gay friendly parish"! Considering the difficulties our Church is having during these troubling times, the one thing we don’t need is a “Gay Friendly” reputation for one of the parishes of our Holy Mother Church!

I would be interested in hearing from our readers about similar problems in other parishes.

Fred Paschall, MI



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