You have to set your alarm pretty early in order to faithfully recreate the sunrise Easter scene at Jesus’ tomb. Apparently, that’s no issue for folks at St. Benedict Church in Odessa.
The small parish produced an impressive turnout for 6 a.m. Mass on Easter Sunday, April 8. According to Tim and Jan Jaynes, who served as coordinators, 63 people attended the liturgy — including a number of children — with 45 taking part in the breakfast that followed.
With temperatures in the low 30s and darkness still blanketing the Schuyler County area, worshipers gathered around Father Paul Bonacci, pastor, as he knocked on St. Benedict’s doorway — a depiction of the pivotal moment when a handful of people arrived at Jesus’ tomb. The congregation then processed into the church to begin Mass.
"The anticipation of the Mass, that is something we treasure — coming into the church singing, seeing the altar with all the beautiful flowers. It really draws attention to what the day is about," Jan Jaynes said.
"It’s just a beautiful thing," her husband agreed.
Adding to the spiritual significance was the transformation of the church into brightness as Mass went along. "The sunlight was coming through the stained-glass windows. It was just awesome," Jan said.
St. Benedict’s early Easter Masses have been taking place for approximately 10 years. The Jayneses noted that this tradition emerged from a reduction of Masses in the Schuyler Catholic Community cluster (St. Benedict and St. Mary of the Lake, Watkins Glen), leaving St. Benedict with only a single Easter liturgy.
Although traffic is otherwise quite sparse around Odessa when the Mass begins, consistently healthy attendance speaks to how highly the St. Benedict faithful value this event.
"Everyone enjoys it and looks forward to it," Jan Jaynes said.
"It’s like the community of the church coming together," Tim agreed. "It’s just a very spirited type thing. It’s very special for us at St. Benedict to have that."
Another key component of the Easter gathering is the breakfast, which has come to be known as the Marion Roberts Easter Breakfast in recognition of the person who originated the idea to have such a meal. Marion Roberts, a St. Benedict parishioner who is now in her late 90s, has faithfully attended past Easter sunrise celebrations but was unable to make it this past April 8.
"She’s a wonderful influence on the church itself," Jan Jaynes said.
"She’s just a sweetheart," Tim added.
The breakfast is no simple eggs and toast — among the food items available this past Easter were assorted casseroles, quiche, asparagus wrapped in bacon, yogurt parfaits and granola along with such mainstream fare as brownies, cookies, juice and coffee.
Asked if Eggs Benedict has ever been served at the breakfast to honor the parish title, Jan Jaynes laughed and said the possibility has been raised but mainly in jest.