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CSS: Crowded Sanctuary Syndrome, and St. Mary’s Downtown

February 4th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The following is from the most recent St. Mary’s downtown bulletin:

“Of course, young children do not have the same attention span as older folks, so we offer a Children’s Liturgy of the Word at the Sunday 9am Mass. This enables the children to go out during the Liturgy of the Word and to hear and discuss the readings on their own level. This will help them to sit more quietly during the Liturgy of the Eucharist [Huh?] when they join the assembly again, during which they are invited to gather around the altar table during the Eucharistic prayer [!!!].”

In image form:

Did I read that right? Do they invite children to sit in the sanctuary around the altar? A reader believes this may just be a colorful way of saying the children come back to sit in the pews after the LotW. If anyone knows for certain, please send us a note.

Update: We have received word from St. Mary parishioners that this is indeed true, and so much more.

St. Mary’s downtown has long been a den of progressive Catholicism in this diocese (what other parish can boast having Ms. DeRycke, Sr. Sobala, Fr. Lawlor, and a married priest in the same building, all at one time?). In fact, St. Mary’s bragged about their progressivism in an early 2000s parish profile: “In the past 20 years, St. Mary’s has become more liberal, slowly evolving from a conservative to a centrists progressive parish, in the spirit of Vatican II.” Today, the parish is notorious for such things as lay preaching, an alb-wearing lay administrator, projector slide shows on the walls, liturgical dance, and a transgendered “crucifix” standing in the back center of the sanctuary (see 30 years of Bishop Clark post for the last one).

So, how popular is St. Mary’s brand of progressive Catholicism to the masses in this modern day? The following were their annual attendance numbers from 2000-2003: 810, 823, and 843. Ok, not terrible. Here are their attendance figures for 2010 so far: 421, 492, 581, 511, and 494. Hmm… I guess the people have voted with their feet.

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5 Responses to “CSS: Crowded Sanctuary Syndrome, and St. Mary’s Downtown”

  1. avatar Jonathan says:

    I didn't read "gather around the altar table" the same way you did.

    I thought it was just an expression. We all "gather around the table" during the liturgy of the Eucharist.

    Not to say that you're not right … I just didn't reach the same conclusion.

    Nothing would surprise me though …

  2. avatar Dr. K says:

    You make a good point.

    What makes me think, however, that this is referring to literally sitting around the altar is that the article says "during the Eucharistic prayer" rather than during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, or for the rest of the Mass. This sounds like they are invited to sit around the altar for this particular part of the Mass.

    If someone knows for certain what is done there, please share.

    ~Dr. K

  3. avatar Bernie says:

    Well, don't know about St. Mary's, but the children were called up to stand around the altar in Masses at Good Shepherd in Henrietta many years ago. There was quite a crowd of youngsters. At Communion kids passed the Body of Christ over the heads of those behind them to their friends and siblings in the back! That was the last Mass we attended at Good Shepherd.

    I suspect that the children at St. Mary's literally sit around the altar.

    I've never been much of a fan of children liturgies. Youngsters aren't stupid, they will participate to the extent of their maturity. I'm not even in favor of kids having their own liturgy of the Word. You would think that with all this attention to making the Mass interesting and relevant to kids that our churches would now, as a pay-off, be bursting at the seams with overflowing numbers of young people (under 40). Oh yeah, this has worked.

  4. avatar Mike says:

    Dr. K.,

    Those attendance numbers point to an average loss of about 8% per year, roughly twice DOR's overall rate.

    As you said, they're voting with their feet.

  5. avatar Rob says:

    I read it the same way. I think they literally mean to gather around the altar.

    It's quite pleasing to see that their attendance numbers have fallen so much. Might it be that St. Mary Church has become too progressive for the progressives?

    I think there must also be something at play here that we're not aware of right now. Hopefully a parish insider can fill us in, should any of them read an orthodox blog.


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