Apr 28, 2007

St. Louis Church, Kansas City, MO

I visited St. Louis Church for a Saturday afternoon Mass. It is a fairly small church with predominantly black Catholic parishioners and is located on one of Kansas City's wide boulevards. St Louis parish seems to be a keystone of Catholic life in the local community with its Senior Center, Food Pantry, and Social Services and assistance office.

Only clear windows are seen from the exterior of the church, but inside there are six very large and beautiful pictures of saints that appear to be large stained glass windows. The sanctuary includes a large, wall-mounted crucifix at the back of the sanctuary. On a high platform (formerly high altar?) beneath the crucifix, chairs were occupied by the priest and deacon during much of the early part of Mass. An Easter candle was lit in the front of the sanctuary.

During the Mass, a choir of four older men and women who sat in the front left of the sanctuary sung several songs from "Lead Me, Guide Me," identified as an "African American Catholic Hymnal" from G.I.A. Publications. One song seemed quite appropriate for Mass: "Let us praise God together on our knees. Lord, have mercy on me." The refrain, "on our knees," was repeated many times.

The accompaniment was provided by an older gentleman who played the piano as well as anyone I've heard recently. Even though the style of music was very expressive and could not be considered as "Roman reverent," my personal judgment (take it for what it is worth!) was that God was pleased with the music in the Mass.

The priest, deacon, an altar girl, and others processed down the main aisle toward the sanctuary at the beginning of Mass. The deacon held the book of prayers raised high, with its bright colors on the cover. As the priest entered the sanctuary, he moved to the right and genuflected deeply to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in a tabernacle on the right side altar. The opening prayers included prayers for both Pope Benedict and Bishop Finn and these were repeated in the Eucharistic Prayer.

The priest spoke with a Spanish accent, yet I did not see any other Latinos at this Mass. Almost all of the 40 to 50 people at the Saturday afternoon Mass seemed older than 55 years old, with minor exceptions including two young black men in their 30s. Many of the people wore suits and dresses, as distinguished from casual clothes such as jeans, and a few black women wore hats.

Lay women read the scriptures and led the music. The deacon read the Gospel and the priest gave the homily that preached on death as a reality, the conquering of death by Christ, God's mercy, and the need for faith beyond the apostle, Thomas, who wanted a sign of Christ's resurrection. The priest reminded his listeners that "people who go to heaven will pray for us."

After the homily, the petitions were requested, with additional ones added from the parishioners. The prayers preceding and during the Preface were sung by the priest. It appeared that the sacred liturgy was precisely and reverently performed by the priest and deacon. A large beige circular host was used by the priest during the consecration. No bells were rung to remind the people of the consecration. Gold vessels were used for the Blessed Sacrament. The Great Amen reminded me of a reverent Negro spiritual.

Both species of the Eucharist were distributed to the parishioners. The priest and deacon distributed the Body of Christ, and lay persons distributed the Blood. Almost everyone in the church received Holy Communion. One old white woman knelt, but most people received communion standing and in the hand. The deacon cleansed the holy vessels after the distribution of Communion.

The meditation time after reception of Holy Communion was followed by several announcements by laypersons, including an announcement of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibition in Kansas City, and a 'thank you' from the altar girl for a relatively small amount of money contributed by parishioners to help her in a contest. The priest then announced that another Catholic community would begin joining them every Sunday. Daily Mass would be started, and monthly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament would be on First Fridays.


wolftracker said...

Well done, Dusty. I truly enjoyed reading this and felt as if I had been there. I will keep this parish in my prayers, something I would have had no reason to do had I not read your post. They sound like a sincere and reverent parish, from what you wrote.

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Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your article. I was baptized at St. Louis church sometime between 1935-1940. In the summer of 1940 our family moved to St. Vincents parish at 31st Flora.

Freddi Parker said...

I still attend Mass at St. Louis....I love this church.