Part III of Church Visits
The first Sunday morning Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Shawnee showed small signs of the restoration of the Church in the 21st century. The modern round church structure is somewhat similar to St. Mark's in Independence, MO which was described in an earlier post, but without the intricate crossbeam ceiling of St. Mark's. The vestibule of the Church is quite large and has a beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The front of Sacred Heart Church features stained glass windows of the four evangelists, but quite a few windows remain of clear glass--as if awaiting special donations of the parishioners. The altar table was draped in purple cloths. The purple of Lent also covered the podiums/lecterns used by the priest, readers, and choir members who stood off the right side and were accompanied by piano. The tabernacle is not centered but is to the immediate right of the altar table on which Mass is offered. A circular stained glass window of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is above the altar table and a large crucifix is immediately below. Frescoes of saints are embedded in the rear wall on each side. Above the altar-table on the ceiling is a mosaic with a dove in a blue sky--representing the Holy Spirit.
Along the curved back wall of the church are stands of candles by two statues, plus a small shrine to the Infant Jesus of Prague. One of the two statues was of our Lady and the baby Jesus. The back of the church also had other stained glass windows, including the one pictured. Stations of the Cross are placed on the outside wall.
At the 8:00 am Mass, I did not expect to see many children, but I did more than a few. I listened to the wonderful noise of about a dozen babies in arms (this is a new parish built in the middle of many new houses). Most families at the early Mass appeared to have only one or two children. [The second Sunday Mass quickly followed and there were many more children than at the 8:00 am Mass.]
The priest processed into church with altar girls and an altar boy in white surplices, together with four or five others including the person who carried the book of readings. Everyone was asked to greet his neighbor before Mass started, and I was delighted that the welcoming period had been moved forward (so I thought) from between the Consecration and the Communion.
The average age of parishioners in attendance at the 8:00 a.m. Sunday Mass seemed to be mid- to late 30's. A few Latinos were observed, with the rest of the parishioners white. Almost no teenagers were seen (although as noted in the post comment on St. Mark's, this age group may attend other Masses). A couple of women appeared pregnant out of several hundred parishioners in attendance. Both men and women wore pants, and most of those under 45 years wore jeans. Women did not wear head coverings.
I was quite surprised that parishioners knelt for the introductory prayers confessing our sins. Heaven, hell, and the need for repentence were noted by the priest. The Latin hymn, Kyrie Eleison, was led by a young choir director whose masculine voice was a clear asset to the music in the Mass. The music was unfamiliar to me as it seemed relatively new. [I consider 'new' to be within the past 40 years!]
Before the readings began, about ten little children (4 to 6 years old) came to the front of the church to hear a very short talk by the priest. The children left the church in a procession carrying two wooden crosses, to eventually return to their parents after the homily. I assume there was special Catholic instruction in the adjacent school for pre-First Communion age children.
The first reader at the podium was a woman, followed by the responsorial psalm led by the male choir director. The next reader was also a woman. More women than men were also apparent in the lay distributors of Communion.
The homily given by the priest who had descended to the level of the people started out by touching on the Gospel where the Apostles saw a glimpse of God's glory. He noted God doesn't make junk; we make junk and the junk is called SIN. The priest then mentioned the religions of Abraham--Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, but I failed to note the context. The priest continued with "putting aside our junk" (sins) and keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus in His Body and Blood that gives us the unity that Christ wishes for all of us. Embrace our passion, our sufferings, our cross...
The gifts were brought to the priest by several youth and young adults, with the priest being accompanied by the altar servers as he accepted the gifts. Most of the time, the altar servers sat in chairs at the front of church, and seemed to have little to do.
The main part of the Mass won't be described here, except for those parts that caught my eye, including the re-shaking of hands that had already occurred at the beginning of Mass. The Agnus Dei hymm was sung in Latin and was followed by ten lay distributors of communion advancing to the high platform where they were given the Sacred Species to distribute to the parishioners. The majority of lay distributors were women in pants. Some of the distributors bowed toward the Eucharist before receiving it themselves.
While the priest purified the holy vessels after communion, the entire congregation knelt in thanksgiving. Parish announcements were then made by ladies who ascended to the speaker's podium, including noting the time of weekly Stations of the Cross. After extensive announcements, everyone left to depart the church. I did not see anyone stay to pray in the pews, although one young man was observed to be kneeling in front of the Infant Jesus of Prague statue in the rear of the church, and other people lit candles by two other statues.