How Many Churches Do You Drive By on the Way to Mass?

How Many Churches Do You Drive By on the Way to Mass?
St. Therese Chinese Catholic Church

And no, the question isn't a joke.

We drive by at least four (that I can see from the expressway).  Our old parish is one block from our house.  It was the church of my husband's grandparents, his parents and us for the first ten years of our marriage.  And then it all fell apart.

One of the neighborhood parishes (just blocks from ours) was closing for good.  It was in the paper on a Wednesday and by Saturday night's Mass our pastor was announcing a "consolidation" between the two.

It didn't go well.  We spent hours at meetings going over financials, building status and what have you.  The writing on the wall still said the other parish was closing, but our parish had to change it's name.  Huh?  A one hundred year old parish had to change it's name?  Made no sense.  And it got worse.

My husband was on the naming committee and when they counted the ballots there seemed to be a clear winner, but when the name was announced at the meeting, a different name was chosen.  When my husband pointed out the discrepancy, the bishop (yes, there was a bishop there), nun and other "outsiders" on the committee were adamant that no, there was no mistake.  My husband got up and left.  And it got worse.

My husband and a friend of ours showed up to play the music at Mass.  A stranger was there insisting he had been hired to play at the 5 PM Mass from then on and he had a contract.  I was on the Liturgy committee and had no knowledge of this.

So I called everyone on the committee and asked if maybe I missed a meeting and what happened.  Everyone assured me that no meeting had taken place and no decision had been made to replace my husband and our friend.  Yep, it gets worse.

I called the pastor.  He insisted there was a Liturgy meeting and that the decision had been made to replace my husband and our friend.  I was so shaken, I nearly swore at him!  He insisted on coming over the next day to talk it over.

Just a little side note:  I was six months pregnant.  The whole experience was emotional enough without adding hormones to the mix.

The pastor comes over and basically lies to our face in our own living room.  I told him that I had called everyone on the Liturgy committee and they told me that there had been no meeting.  He still insisted there was.  It was a nightmare.  He sent me flowers later and I tossed them in the garbage.

We did stay, but the politics trickled down to the school and by that time, my daughter was old enough to start kindergarten.  I was going to let the boys finish school at our parish, but I had no intentions of ever sending my daughter there.

There were several "last straws."  I arranged for another school and parish and the day after the final day of school, I had all the records transferred.  We never looked back.

And we weren't the only ones who suffered.  Most of the parishioners from the parish that closed went to another church.  They were heartbroken and felt they had been misled.  Other parishioners as well as the neighborhood took quite a beating.  The church was no longer the focal point for gatherings of all the neighbors as people left for other parishes.  It's still there but a mere shell of it's former self.

When my daughter graduated high school, we left that parish.  Another story for another time, but both experiences taught me a lot.  In either case, it was never a matter of being angry with the Church and deciding I was never going to attend Mass again.  My first thought was always, "Where do we go now?"

Would we like to attend Mass a block from our house?  Of course, but the disconnect from that community is too deep.  In our travels to other churches, we have learned about community and what it's like to be welcomed ... and sometimes not so welcomed.  We've also learned about pastors who are true leaders of the flock and follow God's plan, not their own.

But most of all, we've been incredibly blessed.  Blessed to have a music ministry, blessed to have it taken away.  We were blessed to just find a church where we could sit in the pew and be parishioners.  We were blessed to have opportunities to sing at other parishes.

And then we got a phone call.  An old friend came out of nowhere.  "St. Therese (Chinese Catholic Church) needs a choir at the 5 PM Mass.  Go talk to the administrator."  Seriously?  Chinatown?

We were concerned about travel time.  What should be a fifteen minute trip can easily turn into an hour depending on the time we leave our house.  But we told the administrator that we would try it for 30 days.  If the people didn't like us, or we were having problems getting there ... well, no hard feelings.

That was last September.  We've been there ever since.  Fr. Francis Li (who was the administrator at the time) was installed as pastor June 10.  It was a real blessing and privilege to see him "sign the papers."

What we've experienced there has been extraordinary.  We were made to feel welcome right from the beginning.  Our music is appreciated and we feel that we are contributing to the Mass in a very positive way.

I will attend church where my soul is fed, whether it's a block away or miles away.  God, in His infinite wisdom, found us a home.

 

 

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