As our Parish prepares to move into its first permanent building this weekend, my thoughts are drawn to those special conversations with my children that happened because we've attended Mass in a sports complex/workout facility for the last few years.
While visiting another Catholic parish recently, my Birdie turned to me and asked, “Where is the workout equipment?" As I laughed and tried to explain that this is what a normal church building looks like, she remained puzzled. Her only memories of Mass are of sitting in folding chairs on a basketball court surrounded by treadmills and other workout equipment.
We spotted our parish priest on the sidewalk outside the dry cleaners about 2 years ago. As the kids and I approached Father John to say “Hi”, my then 4-year-old son appeared very confused. When I discreetly reminded Daniel this was Father John from Mass, Daniel exclaimed, “But he’s not wearing his uniform!"
After another minute, my son wanted to know why Fr. John was outside the dry cleaners and not at his “house”. Father John laughed and asked him to read the name above us on the strip center, which read, “St. Angela Merici Catholic Church.”
That just seemed to confuse Daniel even more. This wasn’t the church! Our church met on the basketball court with workout equipment! This building held a dry cleaners and nail salon. Father John patiently explained the difference between where we celebrate Mass and the parish office.
This summer, while my son was proudly wearing his new summer soccer camp T-shirt our youngest pointed at the back of his shirt and said, “That’s the church.” Various camp sponsors logos were printed on the back of the shirt, but when I glanced at the shirt I didn’t see a logo for St. Angela Merici. I assumed my three-year old just got confused. Later, while doing the laundry I took another look at the back of his T-shirt. Birdie hadn’t been pointing to a logo for our parish, but the logo for the gym where we celebrate Mass.
As excited as I am for our parish to move into the newly built Parish Life Center, a part of me will miss sitting in our folding chairs on the basketball court every Sunday. Worshipping in a nontraditional space serves as a powerful reminder that “… where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
As we take this large step forward into a more permanent worship space, I pray God will continue to Bless Father John, our Parish staff, and our joyful community of St. Angela Merici.