CROWN POINT – Under a pavilion a block from the city square, church-goers entered to get some shade and prepare for the liturgy. And the faithful kept coming.
At the Franciscan Health Amphitheater and Pavilion in Bulldog Park on Aug. 20, more than 800 parishioners and guests gathered for Sunday morning Mass followed by a fellowship meal with music, BINGO and children’s games.
“It’s wonderful to do something a little different; we’re getting together with a bigger group of people,” said Deacon Zachary Glick, of the first such event in recent memory. “It’s also a public witness to our faith being out at Bulldog Park.”
Deacon Glick was invited along with the diocese’s seminarians to serve at Mass in the days before they return to their college or major seminary campuses.
Bishop Robert J. McClory greeted the crowd, saying the Breaking of the Bread and reading of Sacred Scripture “shared with brothers and sisters is the same worldwide, as we come together for the celebration of the Mass.”
As the morning went on, the temperatures rose into the 80s, yet some remained seated in lawn chairs on the sunny artificial turf field.
A cooling breeze also swirled in for those seated in the cavernous pavilion. Spending time worshiping with her godson Roger Zellers and family, Carolyn Cenko of Munster was one of many guests.
“It was fantastic outside; the Lord blessed us with a nice breeze … and the (potluck) food is unbelievable,” said Cenko.
Father Kevin Huber, who concelebrated the Mass with presider Bishop McClory, called the parish team – from secretaries to ushers – who organized the Sunday in the park, “amazing.”
“I’ve not had to worry about one thing,” the St. Mary pastor said.
Stacey Hlavaty was present at the outdoor Mass with her sons Christopher Hlavaty, 11, and Benjamin Hlavaty, 5.
The younger boy provided commentary on the experience, “I like having church outside and I like the bouncy house,” Benjamin said.
In his homily, Bishop McClory introduced the story of a person he befriended as a young man while participating in “a really dynamic youth group” in a suburban Detroit parish.
“So, this is like the early 80s, he had very long hair – nothing wrong with having long hair – he had a ponytail,” said the bishop, setting the scene.
“Just by appearance and by background he looked like he had kind of lived life on a different set of terms maybe unlike what we had experienced,” Bishop McClory said of newcomer rock group vocalist.
The bishop then referenced the day’s Gospel reading, Mt 15:21-28, as evidence of Jesus’ ministry “reaching out to the periphery.” He recalled that the Good Lord answered the prayers of a Canaanite woman.
“The good news about the young man who came to (join the youth ministry) all those years ago, is not only did he embrace (the faith), but he found the love of his life, the one who he came to marry … his kids are the best singers on the planet.
Bishop McClory continued, “May we reach out to those who are on the margins and, along with them, present our prayers fervently to the Lord, who will hear and answer them when we say, ‘Lord have mercy.’”
Caption: Presider Bishop Robert J. McClory right) delivers his homily from the Franciscan Health Amphitheater in Crown Point to St. Mary faithful and guests seated mainly in the shady environs of the Bulldog Park pavilion on Aug. 20. More than 800 parishioners and guests gathered for the fellowship meal and Mass in the park just off of the city square. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)