Monday, July 2, 2012

St. Mary's (Temporary) Homecoming

St. Mary's after the tornado

Sunday I attended Mass at the new St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Joplin.  Yes, it is a bit unusual to attend a Catholic Mass in a refurbished hardware store at the end of a strip mall instead of inside a beautiful, historic, architectural wonder.  Rows of folding chairs sit in lieu of the traditional pews, and while there are currently no kneelers in place, forcing us to stand during the consecration of the bread and wine (which, on Sunday, was a little more taxing than normal since I chose to wear my brand new 3-inch high platform pumps to church instead of flats – hey, at least I looked good), it is nonetheless just as respectful and reverent as Mass in a traditional sanctuary.  However, as I sat quietly contemplating my thankfulness for finally having a place for our parish to meet on a regular basis, I realized, once again, that it is not the physical plant that defines a church but the body – A.K.A. the members of the congregation – who make it home to the parishioners who choose to attend.

It has been thirteen months and eight days since the St. Mary’s family last met in our own facility and I must confess that I held back tears of joy as I looked around me at the many familiar, smiling faces of my friends who sat patiently waiting for Mass to begin. One of my favorite cantors, Mark Timpe (he has the most beautiful voice!) led the congregation as we joyously sang hymns of thanksgiving and praise to God.  My friends Mary Plunkett and Chris Perrey spoke beautifully as they read to us from the Scriptures.  All was as it should be.

St. Mary's new, temporary location

When Father Justin approached the altar and began the blessing I detected a collective sigh of contentment from the congregation as together we embarked on a new journey of the rebuilding of our church in both spirit and bricks and mortar.  It was a good feeling.

While we are thankful to the parishioners and staff of St. Peter’s Catholic Church here in Joplin for welcoming us in their tradition of worship, I must admit, as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz said, “There’s no place like home.”  Granted, this is only a temporary home, but it is one that we can all feel a sense of ownership and belonging for, and that, my friends, is a step in the right direction. 

There are two years of hard work (well, not for me, of course) ahead as the Bishop, Father Justin, architects, and construction crews endeavor to build a church that will, hopefully, serve Catholics for generations to come.  Personally, I look forward to attending Mass in that brand new building.  But I will also continue to enjoy these next two years worshipping God with my friends and church family in a humble building on 7th Street.  After all, the term “church” stands for the people of God, not necessarily the elaborate and ornamental furnishings that surround us during our communion.  St. Mary’s Church is, indeed, living proof of this fact.

How about you?  Is your church family important to you?  What is the most unusual, non-traditional  venue where you have attended church?


  1. Great post and view on life. I just blogged about slow and steady winning the race. It'll be worth the wait, and the congregation will be closer as a result of this time together.

    1. I agree, Jenn. I think we have all realized what is most important to us through this experience, and are so thankful for all that we have.

  2. Truly, truly, Church is where we gather to worship. I love your attitude about the temporary church, and can also understand why you're looking forward to attending Mass in the new one!

    1. Thank you, El! I was so happy and thankful to be there and am so grateful for the reminder of what is important to me. Thanks for stopping by!