After Hours, Open Door

I have few regrets in my current assignment. Certainly not being in a new parish. We’re still small compared to the surrounding suburban megachurches (Catholic and evangelical). That remains a big plus; we’re more nimble. We have fewer Issues. Newcomers don’t have a default to Lost.

I do wish we were in a commercial zone rather than in a neighborhood of warehouses. Drop-ins are very rare. Even Catholic visitors and new-to-the-town folks have to look us up on GPS. Drive-by traffic is all about our neighbors.

A storefront in a shopping center would have been optimal pre-“real” church. Oh well.

My friend John Donaghy linked this helpful essay on an open door at church. I think the image is also his–my friend’s, not the author. It would be nice to experience this after Terence Sweeney does after his morning Mass:

I turn off most of the lights, snuff out the candles, lock the sacristy, and leave our half-crumbling, half-sublime church wide open. In the winter, we hang out a sign to say that the doors are unlocked. I come back midday … and ring the noon Angelus and then I am back at 6 p.m. to ring the evening Angelus. Only then do the big old doors get closed and locked. I leave and wish Jesus a good night.

All kinds pass through the building; most of them I never see. They leave clues that they were there, often in the form of the three-hour candles lit before various shrines. We have the normal ones: Mary, Joseph, and our patron St. Francis de Sales. The most popular candle station surrounds a pillar, which is strange. I call it the shrine of the unknown God. I wonder what people think when they light those candles and say their prayers.

I can’t criticize decisions made twelve years ago to move from a school auditorium to a warehouse. If I could, I’m not sure I would. It’s just a wish.

Ramsey MN has a “main street” that’s more undeveloped fields than buildings. Too bad we couldn’t trade our suburban neighborhood land for a few acres on a half-vacant street. I was told the city fathers and mothers didn’t want a church on the main drag. Meh. They don’t realize that a big community gathering place means business for restaurants, coffee shops, and bars.

Mr Sweeney’s experience doesn’t really get repeated in the burbs as it does in the downtown of a place like Philadelphia. I’ve been in all sorts of places. City parish when I was in grad school. City outskirts in a new parish worshiping in an old train depot. The biggest numbers of drop-ins were in my two campus ministry assignments. The contrast? Those lonely suburban churches surrounded by parking lots.

Final thought? I wish I had an open door people were walking through.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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