Last week, I headed about as far west as I'm inclined to go (at least for now), so as I often do, I pointed myself in the opposite direction today and headed far to the east, landing in a popular summer resort area of the diocese. Even though it is after Labor Day, traffic was still noticeably heavy, and crowds were in evidence in the downtown areas. Today's parish, another Polish parish, was not really packed, though; nor was the other parish in that village from what I could see.
The church, a simple rectangle, is very plain on the outside, with white aluminum or vinyl siding. I looked for a cornerstone but none was evident. My guess is that it is a pre-1950 building. The inside is structurally plain, with a peaked ceiling of white acoustical tile and beige walls, but it has many decorations that draw attention away from the plainness. The Stations of the Cross are painted sculptures attached to the walls between the traditional, arched, stained-glass windows. Among the statues are a figure of Jesus, highlighting His Sacred Heart, at the left side altar, and at least two statues of Our Lady at the right. A traditional crucifix hangs on the side wall at the front left; the only other crucifix is the gold one over the tabernacle, at the center of the arched, sanctuary niche. A freestanding wooden altar supplements the original altar, and a large, square, wooden ambo with a green banner hanging over the front is at the left. A smaller cantor's lectern is at the right. I don't recall seeing an altar rail, but to be honest, I didn't think to look for one, either. The wooden pews are conventional, split in two sections by a center aisle and flanked by side aisles; each pew can hold about eight people. Racks in the pews hold copies of Polish hymnals as well as Paluch's We Celebrate hymnal/missalette pair.
I arrived at about 11:15 AM for the 11:30 AM Mass and took a seat near the center of a pew about two-thirds of the way back. By the start of the Mass, the church was about half-full. Before Mass, the reader spent several minutes reading announcements of all sorts from the cantor's lectern. She then announced the opening hymn, "We Gather Together," which was then led by the cantor. Three servers, two lay ministers of Holy Communion, a deacon, and the priest participated in the entrance procession through the center aisle. After the opening sign of the cross, the deacon led the invocations of Form C of the penitential rite; we recited the Gloria.
The reader went to the ambo and gave the first reading as it appears in the missalette. She also led the recitation of the psalm for the day before giving the second reading. The cantor led the Alleluia and verse before the Gospel as the deacon stopped briefly at the center of the sanctuary to hold the Book of Gospels high above his head. After the deacon proclaimed the Gospel, a missionary priest immediately appeared to give a talk on a mission in Kazakhstan. It is the size of Pennsylvania but has only one parish; a second is planned. Religious persecution is apparently still a problem there. The bulletin helpfully notes that additional information is available at http://www.rc.net/kazakhstan for those who are interested. After the missioner's talk, he almost was able to leave quietly, but one person decided that he needed applause, so most others joined him.
We recited the Creed. Before the Prayer of the Faithful, the reader (at the cantor's lectern) noted that a parishioner had died just minutes ago and that we should pray for her, and she also gave the time of the wake and Mass of Christian Burial. She then led the usual intentions. The offertory hymn was "Here I Am, Lord;" it was found on photocopied sheets (from a supplement to the Paluch hymnal) inserted in the racks in the pews. Two collections were taken, one immediately after the other, using long-handled wicker baskets. The second collection was for the mission in Kazakhstan. The chalice, paten, and ciborium were of metal.
The Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen were from a setting familiar to me but the identity of which is unknown to me. The priest offered the second Eucharistic Prayer more or less as it appears in the Sacramentary. At the Our Father, I saw no evidence of hand-holding, although most people were close enough to attempt it if they really wanted to do it. The Agnus Dei was sung in Latin to a setting I know from my own parish.
At Holy Communion, distribution was very conventional: two stations for each form for each section of pews. The servers held patens to catch any falling particles, which I always take as an encouragement to receive on the tongue. The Communion hymn was "Amazing Grace."
After Communion, the priest offered the Prayer after Communion and imparted a simple blessing. The missionary priest, who did not assist in the distribution of Communion, and already changed from an alb and stole into his Roman collar, black shirt and pants, joined in the procession through the center aisle with the servers, lay ministers, deacon and celebrant. The closing hymn was "How Great Thou Art." We sang one verse; almost everyone remained until its conclusion, although I got the feeling that had the cantor attempted a second verse, most folks would have left anyway.
Afterward, I collected more bulletins; I may have made it way into the background of someone's wedding video as I quickly went inside while they were getting ready to head inside. Then I went to a parish where the church has been fenced off for over two years now because it is in need of repair. (Mass has been held in the school basement.) I hope it doesn't meet the fate of the church I saw last week, which I learned simply collapsed from neglect (after the diocese closed it and sold it, however). They should either repair it or replace it and get it done already. I've put off attending this parish hoping that something would be done, but we're getting near the point at which all the other parishes will have their check marks. Finally, on the way back, I passed the church with the wedding; the happy couple was now outside, presumably married. I could not help but pray for them even as I made a wish for myself.