Feb 25, 2007

St. Mark's Church -- Independence, MO

[This is the second post in a series to describe Masses celebrated in Catholic churches in Kansas City (both dioceses). The purpose is to assess the state of the Church in a variety of parishes with respect to the liturgy as it will be revised in the early 21st century. I will hold most of my comments until a later post.]

The facilities of St. Mark's Catholic Church are new and the semi-circular church is attached to a long hallway with very nice and spacious meeting rooms. In the front of the church, a large crucifix is mounted on the stone wall behind a white covered table. The tabernacle is located to the right against another wall, and the microphones for the musicians are located to the left side of the Church. The ceiling is a mixture of high cross beams at various angles, and perhaps distracted me from noticing whether there were any religious statues or pictures. Along the rear wall were small stations of the cross.

I estimated the church to be about 60 percent full at the 8:00 a.m. Sunday Mass, with about 350 people in attendance. The parish consists of 2,200 families and is served by a single priest who celebrates four weekend Masses. The attendees were virtually all white at the Mass I attended, with over half the people over 50 years old. Less than 20 children (14 and under) were present, and no babies in arms (< 18 months) were seen. A single large family with five children was observed in a front pew, but was the exception because other families had only one or two children. Most women wore pants and two women were observed to wear head coverings. Among those who were less than 50, blue jeans were common.

The 8:00 a.m. Sunday Mass began with an elderly woman in a medium pink pant suit leading the singing of a song with multiple refrains of "Mercy" to piano accompaniment. Her fine voice was also to lead other parts of the sung liturgy. An elderly man read the Scriptures during Mass.

The older priest (I was later told he was a visitor) was assisted by two altar boys dressed in white cassocks, who sat to the right side of the white covered table but seemed to have few responsibilities. When the Mass began, the priest in his own words continued the call for mercy, but without saying the words "sin" or "God." The typical opening prayers appeared to be truncated, followed quickly by the prayer, "Lord, have mercy."

The devil's three temptations of Christ was the Gospel reading. The priest's homily began with a small joke, then quickly referred to temptation, sin, grace, and especially the need for repentance. The penances required by the old Church were mentioned, and were said not to get to the real meaning of Lent. The priest emphasized that it was REpentance that was needed. Except for necessary Catholic practices of becoming more generous and kind ("Ask your spouse what changes are needed!"), specific Catholic truths were not taught in the homily.

At the consecration of the wine into the Blood of Jesus, the priest used the words "for all," as the new revision to "for many" has yet to be implemented (to correspond with all extant translations of the Gospel). A very large circular white host was consecrated by the priest. A number of gold bowl-shaped vessels and chalices were on the table during the consecration, and were used by the lay distributors of communion.

People moved to shake hands with each other after the consecration, followed by nine people advancing to near the white covered table. These were the distributors of communion--six older women in pantsuits and three elderly men. After receiving communion from the priest, each lay distributor went to a planned station to distribute communion in the hand to the parishioners. Then a quiet time of about three minutes was provided to sit and meditate.

Following the meditation period, the pastor arrived in a black suit to make a significant number of announcements from the podium, including a request for new nominations to the parish council and to recruit more lectors and communion servers. New members of the parish council were asked to be "open-minded" and "listening" persons. The pastor was very personable and told a number of jokes during his announcements, including a story of having BBQ on the prior Friday during Lent (which made a fair number of parishioners gasp). The pastor continued and said he had been taught by another priest to bless the meat and convert it to fish. He ended by saying his meal was the best "fish" he had ever eaten (but the priest did not clarify whether this was a joke or not).

After Mass, almost all the people quickly left the church after Mass, but a few stayed to talk with each other, even though the outside hallway is very spacious. Two people appeared to stay to pray. The 8-page bulletin reveals that St. Mark's Catholic Church received contributions of $128K during the month of January 2007, with expenditures of $133K. These large collections indicate the older people in the parish are very generous. But when these people die, it appears collections will decline precipitously because there are so few children and young people who attend Sunday Mass.


cranky said...

Reading this makes me feel like I've been there. Good post

Anonymous said...

You have a keen eye and a sharp pen. I am enjoying this series.


Augusta said...

Wow...good detail...Interested to hear more...

Anonymous said...

Used to attend St. Mark's and I cannot really recommend it but the count of children given at the 8 am mass is misleading. There are a large number of families that are members and the confirmation class every year is quite large, perhaps around 80. They mostly attend the two later Saturday evening masses.

How many of those will remain as practicing Catholics in a few years is of course only known to God.

Lynne said...

Wow! Our church, with 2000+ families/households, only get about 36k each month in offerings. We're north of Boston.

Anonymous said...

This is my church, and I LOVE it! I have been away for several years, only attending on religious holidays, but since the death of my husband, I find solice in attending again. Father Jim Taranto is such a 'modern' pastor - he smiles and tells a joke once in a while - so different than when I was growing up. Father LaBonte wouldn't smile if someone was tickling him! Pastor Jim is loved by every one of our attendees, and I would highly recommend you 'try' our church - I think you will love it, too!

Anonymous said...


The information about the church is very good.

The micro digital voice recorder are also installed in the church and also in the other holly places where the people crowd is more.