It’s Sunday afternoon, and you haven’t yet managed to get to weekend Mass. Fortunately, If you live in the Elmira area, it’s still not too late to fulfill your obligation.
The late-day option comes in the form of a regional 5 p.m. Mass, held every Sunday at St. Patrick’s Church, Clinton Street at Park Place, Elmira. The liturgy has been a welcome addition since it was begun in May 2002. According to Father Walter Wainwright, pastor of the St. Anthony/St. Patrick cluster, attendance has risen steadily — from perhaps 100 worshipers in its early weeks to the present range of anywhere from 225 to 300.
“It’s a good smattering of people from all the parishes,” Father Wainwright said. “It’s been working very well.”
“All in all, it has been received very well by the people and is well attended. That alone speaks of the need,” added Father Rick Farrell, pastor of St. Mary’s Southside.
Priests from area churches take regular turns celebrating the Mass, and parishioners also rotate such liturgical roles as lectors, ushers, musicians and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
One volunteer, Yvonne Nadler of the St. Casimir/St. Charles Borromeo cluster, began as a one-time lector and now assists regularly whenever her parish administrator, Father Eugene Dobosz, celebrates the Mass. On those days she also coordinates liturgical volunteers, often going out into the congregation to line up help before Mass begins.
“You sort of see familiar faces. There are a lot of people from all the different parishes, and everyone seems quite willing to help,” Nadler said.
Envelopes placed in the collection during Mass are returned to their respective parishes, and loose change goes toward a regional expense treasury as well as any expenses incurred by St. Patrick’s. The same site is used each week to avoid confusion, and Father Wainwright noted that St. Patrick’s availability of air conditioning certainly hasn’t hurt during the summer months.
The late-day liturgy has resulted from considerable discussion by area priests. “I tried for a long time to make the Sunday-evening Mass a reality here in Elmira,” Father Farrell said. “I could see a real need, especially in light of the fact that all the parishes reduced their weekend schedules by one Mass and all the Sunday-morning Mass times were virtually the same at each parish. So the Sunday-evening Mass gave folks a real alternative.”
Father Wainwright agreed that the previous Mass schedule “didn’t leave an awful lot for people’s work schedules and travel the way it is nowadays.” He also observed that at the 5 p.m. Sunday Mass, “especially during the soccer and hockey seasons we’ll pick up a lot of young people.”
“The regional Mass acknowledges that there are times when people just can’t make a Saturday vigil or Sunday-morning Mass due to work, travel and sports, usually beyond their control to change. There are also emergencies that come up from time to time,” added Father Patrick Connor, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Elmira.
Nadler said she occasionally attends the Mass even when she’s not involved as a volunteer. “It depends on my schedule. There are times when I’m out of town, or sometimes I can’t come to Mass in the morning,” she said.
Father Farrell said he advertises the Mass in his parish bulletin each week. “Many people from St. Mary’s attend. It also is nice for the people to be exposed to all the priests in the region. It offers them some variety of presiding ministers,” he said.
“A lot of people have commented on how nice it is to have different priests. You hear a different type of homily,” Nadler said.
Father Farrell gave special credit to Father Wainwright for “coordinating the schedule for all the priests, cantors and organists” each week. Meanwhile, Father Connor said the Mass “also shows the strong spirit of support among the pastors and parishes of this area. It’s a real blessing.”