VALPARAISO – The song “Lift up your hearts” filled the William E. Urschel Pavilion in downtown Valparaiso Aug. 27, as the 11 a.m. outdoor Mass began. The sun shone and a soft breeze blew for the more than 500 attendees of the Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert J. McClory.
“We love this place, and the outdoor Mass is super fun,” said long-time Valparaiso resident Raynelle Howlett, who attended with her family. “We’ve been coming to these for about seven years,” she said. “St. Teresa (of Avila) is our home parish. We love this. The music is fantastic, the bishop is here and we’re outside. You can’t beat that!”
During his homily, Bishop McClory, who recently returned from pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, shared some history of apostolic succession beginning with St. Peter, who “got it right” in the day’s Gospel, Mt 16:13-20. “Peter’s heart is always in the right place” even when he did not always do the right thing. Because he “got it right when he told Jesus, you are Christ, the son of the living God … he became the rock on which Jesus built his church. The legacy continues to this very day.”
Dressed in the “episcopal swag” he wore when he concelebrated Mass with Pope Francis on Aug. 7, Bishop McClory’s chasuble and mitre were embellished with a road referencing the Blessed Virgin Mary’s haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth before the birth of Jesus. He said the middle path represents the Holy Spirit.
“Whether people accept or reject him, Jesus has revealed to us that he is the son of the living God. One with the Trinity, he is God,” Bishop McClory said.
Father Jacob McDaniel, chaplain of the Catholic Student Center at St. Teresa of Avila since July 2022, said it was a blessing to have Bishop McClory say Mass. “This is such a special time for us,” he said. “It is a great joy to be here with the Bishop, the people, and all the families gathered together. To be part of this visible, living faith is a fantastic experience with so much fellowship. We are able to bring it out to the community and lift it to the world.”
Liz Owens agreed. She is the director of youth ministry for St. Teresa and her husband Elijah is the director of collegiate outreach. “This celebration of faith is awesome,” she said. “Seeing everyone together in fellowship, listening to the great music and worshiping out in the world is the best. We are excited to praise God for others to see.”
Bishop McClory said he was glad to be able to celebrate the Mass. He shared the pope’s message in his homily that we are all called to be people of love and mercy, that Jesus wants us to receive his love and mercy and to share it with the world. “We are all called to imitate him and forgive others. We are called to serve others, to love others and to bring compassion to the world.”
Following Mass, the event included activities and games for children, including a bouncy house. Food offerings included pulled pork, frozen custard, burgers, hotdogs, cotton candy and more.
Malia Howlett, 15, said she was glad to be at Mass with her family. “I enjoy the Mass and gathering afterwards. We have so much fun each time. I remember doing this for years.”
Caption: Raynelle Howlett (left) attend St. Teresa of Avila's outdoor Mass in downtown Valparaiso on Aug. 27, with her daughter Malia Howlett, 15, son Ryan Howlett, 10, and father Ray Brown. Chairs were set up at the William E. Urshel Pavilion for the 11 a.m. Mass, which was attended by more than 500 people. (Lynda J. Hemmerling photo)