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The congregation at Santa Rosa's St. Eugene's Cathedral at Sunday's evening Mass were greeted with the welcome they've heard every week for decades.

"The Lord be with you," the Rev. Fergal McGuinness said.

The parishioners' response was a garbled mush.

"Let's try that again," said McGuinness, associate pastor of the Montgomery Drive church.

Priests across the world Sunday introduced the new English translation. The change is a decades-long effort to bring the Mass language closer to the Latin prayers recited for centuries.

So it was understandable that Sunday's worshippers were confused. Instead of "And also with you," the new 2012 missals instructed parishioners to say, "And with your spirit."

"I caught myself saying the old words," said Katherine Sheldon of Santa Rosa, who has been attending Mass at St. Eugene since 1975. "But the lady next to me did it too."

The new translation was published in October and sent out to congregations. Priests since have been scrambling to study and memorize the new text.

McGuinness said the new language is in some instances more accurate and uses words and phrases that have deep historical context.

"It will take some time to get used to," he said. "People can get used to something different."

Priests recited the Mass in Latin until 1974 after a decision among church leaders at the Second Vatican Council that priests could hold services in local languages.

The goal at the time was to make the church more accessible to a broader range of people.

Priests also were allowed to face the congregation instead of holding Mass with their backs turned.

Translators that worked to create an English-language Mass opted for interpretations aimed at making it easy for people to understand the concepts introduced at Mass.

But liturgical scholars complained that the translation took some phrases too far from the original Latin words.

The new translation opts for more formal words.

Most of the Creed, the central profession of faith, now starts with "I believe in one God" instead of "We believe in one God," Jesus is now "consubstantial with the Father" rather than "one in being with the Father." Communion begins with the words, "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" instead of "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you."

"I'm a Ph.D. and I had to look the word (consubstantial) up, but it works," said Frank Siroky of Santa Rosa, who has been attending St. Eugene's since 1964. "There's nothing wrong with the mass being instructional."

Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa encouraged Catholics to accept the changes, Writing in the diocese's November newsletter, he said the updated translation "tells us our liturgical worship is not an ordinary, common, routine event."

Yvette Fallandy, 84, of Santa Rosa sat through Vasa's early Sunday Mass and enjoyed some of the new language that reminded her of the Latin Masses she attended as a child.

Although she likes some of the new language, she said she's concerned the formal language could make some people feel more distant from God.

"I believe that the Catholic Church should be as inclusive as they possibly can. I'm a Vatican II woman," said Fallandy, referring to the 1960s council decisions that aimed to broaden the church's reach.

After Mass, people filed out of the church, including Joe Foppoli, 34, who runs Benevolo Wines in Napa and lives in Santa Rosa.

"It's going to get some time to get used to it, the words have been second nature," Foppoli said. "But the message is the same, it's just a technicality."

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com.