Sunday, May 19, 2002

1st Mass On Pentecost & Why Churches Should Be In Neighborhoods Not Parking Lots

As I noted in an earlier post, Cardinal George ordained twelve men to the priesthood this Saturday. Karl of Summa Contra Mundum had the pleasure of attending the ordination.

As it turns out, one of the newly ordained priests, Fr. Woznicki, belongs to my parish and celebrated his first Mass at the 11:30 a.m. Mass. Very fitting, I think, for new priests to be celebrating their first Mass on this feast day honoring the birth of the Church. May they be part of the rebirth. I knew that there was a seminarian in the parish, but had never met Fr. Woznicki before and didn't realize he would be ordained this year. (I was home last weekend for Mother's Day so I didn't have the parish bulletin to alert me in advance.) During his homily, he shared a bit about his journey back to the Church and ultimately to the priesthood. As it turned out, he lived close by and frequently encountered the priests of the Parish (one who is now a Bishop) on the street, saw people entering the parish for Mass, and heard the sounds of the parish's bell tower flood his condo. Today, he now serves the Church as a priest.

I was struck by how much the proximity to the parish and its role in the neighborhood played in his journey. Where I grew up churches were set off from the community, usually on large acres of land and surrounded by vast parking lots for all of the commuters. I wonder how much we lose because of that, where the Church itself isn't there to stand as a witness to God's work in the midst of the community.

This was the second time I have had the opportunity of attending a new priest's first Mass. The last time was during law school when two members of a new religious community there, the Brotherhood of Hope, were ordained by Cardinal Law. It was an exciting time for the brothers on two levels: these were the first two priests to be ordained as members of the community, the only other priest being the founder. Also, Cardinal Law granted the brothers their wish and assigned one of the new priest-brothers to the campus ministry at Boston University. They had done campus ministry in Florida and New Jersey and came to Boston at Cardinal Law's request with the hope of being able to continue that work in Boston.

If you ever get the opportunity of attending a first Mass, do so. It is a wonderful chance to encourage a new priest as he starts his ministry and, in all likelihood, you will be treated to a Mass celebrated with great care and attention.

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