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3279: Catholic Outreach Ash Wednesday Service, Glendale Community College, Glendale, Arizona, USA
Ash Wednesday, Glendale Community College
Mystery Worshipper: Amanda B. Reckondwythe.
The church: Catholic Outreach Ash Wednesday Service, Glendale Community College, Glendale, Arizona, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic, Diocese of Phoenix. The service was conducted by a priest of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit.
The building: Like many government campuses, Glendale Community College is a collection of functional but drab buildings. Today’s service took place in the student union building, a nondescript concrete rectangular structure, in one of the meeting rooms. The student union also houses a lounge, coffee bar, cafeteria, computer lab (alas, all Apples, no "real" PCs) and game room. The meeting room was plain but adequate for the occasion. A table had been set up to function as an altar.
The church: The Catholic Outreach Club (quoting from their website) “aims to encourage members to develop and create new friendships, to help each other overcome daily obstacles, to grow in their faith and happiness, and to collectively gain a more in-depth understanding of the teachings of the Catholic Church.” Setting the split infinitive aside, how successfully they fulfilled this purpose based on today’s service will be discussed shortly.
The neighborhood: Glendale is the first suburb one comes to as one crosses the Phoenix city line in a northwesterly direction. The college campus is located at 59th Avenue and Olive Avenue, an area dominated by strip malls and working-class apartment complexes. Despite its unremarkable architecture, the campus itself is pleasant, with lots of green shady groves outfitted with benches and tables for relaxation and study. As of July 1, 2012, the college declared itself to be tobacco-free, and it is really quite a joy to sit outdoors without having to worry about cigarette smoke or discarded butts. Students seem to adhere to the ban voluntarily for the most part, although campus security does from time to time have to deal with the occasional scofflaw.
The cast: The Revd Ignatius Mazanowski, F.H.S., was the celebrant. He was assisted by a server whose name was not given. Father Mazanowski was vested in amice, alb, purple stole and purple chasuble over his Franciscan habit. The server wore an impeccably laundered, pressed and fitted surplice over a cassock that was about an inch too long for him.
The date & time: Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 3.00pm.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.

What was the name of the service?
Ash Wednesday Mass.

How full was the building?
About 70 chairs had been set out. I counted 24 people present at the start of mass, but when I turned around during the exchange of peace I was surprised to see that the room was about seven-eighths full. A mixture of faculty and students.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A gentleman who introduced himself as Frank was working the room. He shook my hand and said, “Hello and welcome.” I learned later that he was Frank Rivera, faculty moderator of the Catholic Outreach Club. No greeters were stationed at the door, and no one else spoke to me.

Was your pew comfortable?
Plastic meeting room chair – comfortable enough. There were no kneelers – that’s all right, it’s Lent after all – but Miss Amanda is no spring chicken, and kneeling on the floor during the eucharistic prayer gave her a leg cramp, she’s afraid.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Some people, who I assumed to be members of the Catholic Outreach Club, were chatting amongst themselves and with the priest, but they didn’t mingle with the rest of the congregation. The priest and server vested and then walked to the back of the room for the entrance procession.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
“Well, before we get started – I’m Father Ignatius Mazanowski, of the Franciscans of the Holy Spirit.”

What books did the congregation use during the service?
There was a handout with the readings for the day that had been placed on each chair. Words to hymns were projected via PowerPoint. The handout included the creed, which was of course not read, it being a weekday. I was surprised to see it there.

What musical instruments were played?
None. We sang unaccompanied.

Did anything distract you?
The principal distraction was the makeshift nature of some of the tat – see below.

Ash Wednesday, Glendale Community Gollege (Interior)

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
A typical Catholic low mass with the sort of ad-libbing that some priests like to include. There was no Confiteor or Kyrie. The opening hymn was “Amazing Grace;” some of the others were unfamiliar – I was wishing that music has been included on the PowerPoint slides. The ashes were blessed and imposed immediately after the homily; the words of imposition were “Repent and believe in the gospel.” The server did not assist the priest in making the chalice or performing ablutions, nor was there an offertory procession – the priest fetched water, wine and hosts himself from a side table. There were no bells – but never mind; someone’s cell phone rang at the moment of consecration. (Roll eyes.) We chanted the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, the former in English, the latter in Latin. The priest ministered the bread at communion, but two members of the Catholic Outreach Club ministered the chalice.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
9 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 – I liked Father’s content but he spoke looking down at the lectern most of the time, making very little eye contact with the congregation.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Lent brings out three kinds of people: (1) Lovers of Lent – those who can’t wait to make the sacrifices called for; (2) Haters of Lent – those who dread giving up meat and other things; and (3) “Tweeners” – those eager to beef up their spiritual life. Forty days seems like a long time, but forty is a sacred number: Moses on Sinai for 40 days, the Israelites in the desert for 40 years; Jesus likewise in the desert for 40 days. Lent is an opportunity for us to draw closer to God, to experience the Holy Spirit more fully in our lives, to invite Jesus in to heal us. Giving up things means that we create more room for God – it’s a means to the end. But we mustn’t go to extremes or show off, as the gospel reading reminds us. Lent is a time for prayer, almsgiving, sacrifice. It’s really not as long a time as it may seem – and the glory of Easter is just around the corner!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The fact that a religious service was taking place on the campus of a public college was heavenly enough.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
But let’s talk about the makeshift tat, shall we? There was no missal stand – the priest propped up the missal on the leather cover of his mass kit. He used holy water from a plastic bottle to bless the ashes, and he made his chalice with water and wine likewise from plastic bottles – there were no cruets. Neither was there a lavabo bowl – the priest performed his ablutions from the plastic water bottle. A moment of pre-planning on the part of the Catholic Outreach Club could have remedied all of that. Surely they could have borrowed a book stand from the library, and a set of cruets and a glass bowl from the cafeteria. And why did the server not bring the water and wine to the priest when he made his chalice, and pour water over his fingers for him at the lavabo? Truth be told, he did little else than hold the missal while the priest read the collect and blessed the ashes.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
There had been no collection, so I left my Mystery Worship calling card tucked underneath the handout on the chair next to me, which had remained vacant, and beat a hasty exit before they started collecting the handouts and discovered the calling card while I was still there.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was none.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – I’m flipping all the cards because I really like the idea of religious ceremonies conducted in public buildings, even though I had reservations about some of the aspects of this particular service. I would gladly attend another such event. I do think, however, that the Catholic Outreach Club missed an opportunity “to develop and create new friendships,” as their website states. I learned about today's service only through a brief announcement made on a closed circuit TV system that the college has set up for that purpose. There was no sign or poster outside the meeting room door advertising what was taking place inside, and there was no other publicity so far as I know.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The closing hymn, “Lord Jesus, Think On Me,” was very beautiful and moving. I found myself humming it in the Amandamobile on the way home.
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