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3202: Holy Family, Syracuse, New York, USA
Holy Family, Syracuse, NY (Exterior)
Mystery Worshipper: Kat.
The church: Holy Family, Syracuse, New York, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Syracuse.
The building: The parish was formed as a mission church in 1935 and its first mass was celebrated in the dining room of a local hotel. Their first church building dated from 1940 and was fondly known as "Cathedral West." The present building dates from 1996 and is octagonal in shape, with a tall steeple. Upon climbing a short flight of steps, one enters to find modern seats, stations of the cross, and stained glass depicting various saints. On the grounds is a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, made from stones gathered by parishioners and built to resemble the grotto at Lourdes, France.
The church: They pride themselves on ministries for people of all ages, from cradle to grave – far too numerous to mention here but all well described on their website. Quoting from their website: "Church of the Holy Family strives to be a place where people can truly see and experience the goodness of the Holy Family of Nazareth." Their school, serving the elementary grades, (again quoting from their website) "provides the foundation for each child to grow spiritually and intellectually in wisdom, faith and integrity to meet the challenges of today’s world." In addition to the Saturday evening vigil mass, there are four Sunday morning masses and one in the afternoon. There is one mass each weekday.
The neighborhood: Syracuse, a city in central New York State, has the dubious honor of receiving on average more snow in the winter than any other metropolitan area in the United States. Holy Family Church is in the Fairmount suburb of Syracuse – suburbia – next to a mall with big box stores and a small miniature golf course.
The cast: The service was led by the pastor, the Revd John Manno.
The date & time: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Vigil), Saturday, July 15, 2017, 5.00pm.

What was the name of the service?

How full was the building?
Pretty full. Almost every seat was taken. What I find special is the volume of people who attend mass at this church of the "Loving Family."

Did anyone welcome you personally?
There were no personal welcomers. We did, however, shake hands during the "handshake of peace" portion of the mass.

Was your pew comfortable?
My pew was very comfortable, as there were cushions on the pew seats and the kneelers were padded.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Pretty noisy, as most people were chatting amongst themselves. Everyone seemed to know each other.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening and welcome to Holy Family."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Today's Missal and Today's Songbook were used, both paperback.

What musical instruments were played?
Grand piano and a second instrument – not sure if an organ or another piano.

Did anything distract you?
The fact that the songs were mostly new and unfamiliar to me. Even the old standbys that I did recognize were played in a way that was new to me and so very distracting. Well done, though. At my regular church we sing the old hymns the traditional way.

Holy Family, Syracuse, NY (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I found the service uplifting but not too happy clappy (thank God). Very fast moving, which I appreciated. Their website states that they pride themselves on beautiful liturgies.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
10 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – This pastor held my attention and I actually listened to his whole sermon instead of dozing off mentally, which is sometimes my style. He seemed very down-to-earth and connected with people. I totally enjoyed his sermon.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Seeds. Planting of seeds. He described how he used to help his grandfather with garden chores. This segued into Jesus' parable of the seeds that fall on fallow ground vs seeds that fall on rich soil.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I enjoyed the music very much, as the cantor and the music were very good. Even so ...

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
... I found not knowing the music to be sort of disturbing, as I am a singer and couldn't follow what they were singing.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Everyone made a beeline for the door. The pastor as well as another priest, a young man, were both shaking hands.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Not applicable.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
8 – I am middle aged and currently sing in the choir at my regular church. But even though their website states that they are "blessed to have a gifted music ministry program that welcomes people of all ages and musical abilities," I saw no evidence of a choir. If I were to join this church, I would have to study their various organizations carefully to see which ones I could join. Certainly people must be looking for stuff to do and church is a good way to meet other people.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Absolutely. I felt wonderful after mass.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
I will remember the music and how much I enjoyed it even though it was unfamiliar to me.
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