Although Latin America as a whole is described as a ‘Catholic continent,’ Uruguay, the second smallest country in Latin America, actually has a long secular history behind it. In the 19th century, all public expression of religion was banned, banished to the private sphere, and the secularist government of the day engaged in numerous deliberate provocations against the Catholic Church.
Few people have summarized the importance of the priesthood more trenchantly than Saint Jean Marie Vianney, the famous Curé of Ars: “Without the sacrament of ordination, we would not have the Lord. Who placed him in the Tabernacle? The priest!”
The commitment to teaching and formation also means these priests do not have any other opportunities of earning an income in order to support themselves, such as by working in a parish. As a result, they are very much dependent on Mass stipends.
Having a Holy Mass celebrated for a particular intention is a long and venerable tradition. The gift, or “stipend,” given to the priest by the person concerned is in no sense a “payment” but rather a gesture of love and gratitude and also of financial support for the individual priest.