On May 28, 2020, via Facebook, I received the following “invitation” from a friend and Mercy parishioner: “Carolyn, you don’t want to be in the OLOM parking lot congregation for daily and/or Sunday Mass? We have a regular little congregation and an extraordinary minister who brings us communion in the covered walkway.”
That invitation was the encouragement I needed to start attending the daily weekday Noon Mass in the Mercy parking lot. My first such experience was on June 1, 2020. It had been 76 days since I had last attended Mass at Mercy. So on that June day, it felt so wonderful, so joyful, to once again be physically on the Mercy campus and to be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
Since that time, my sister and I have often attended the daily weekday Noon Mass at Mercy, sitting in the car and watching the live streaming of the Mass either on the Mercy FB page, or on the Mercy website, or if, neither is available for some reason, listening to the broadcast of the Mass on Catholic Community Radio or the local Mercy campus FM station.
It is so good to be back at Mercy on a regular basis. When I first joined the “parking lot congregation,” it consisted of about four people who were there on a daily basis. But over time, the “parking lot congregation” – a congregation within the normal Mercy congregation – has grown, and at most daily weekday Noon Masses now, there are at least a dozen or more people who attend.
What blessings have I received from this “new and different form” of worship? The most important blessing, of course, is the ability to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Beyond that, I have experienced a sense of community and friendship and concern for each other.
It is a joy to once again see so many familiar Mercy parishioners. Even with our masks on, we manage to smile at each other and greet each other with a friendly wave, both at the sign of peace and on the return to our cars after receiving Holy Communion. We sense a feeling of community with each other, and that feeling of community is so important during these times when we cannot be with each other as we normally would be.
There is also joy in the friendships experienced in the “parking lot congregation.” Once after missing a few Noon day Masses in a row, one of the members of the “parking lot congregation” mentioned that he was concerned that he had not seen my sister and me at Mass and was thinking about calling to check up on us. That gesture of friendship and concern was much appreciated. I miss visiting with others after Mass. Every so often, friends will come up to the car to visit – and we do so, socially distant, of course. Through such visits, we learn about the joys and sorrows other Mercy parishioners are facing – and we pray for each other.
At first, we attended only the weekday Noon Mass. Later, we started attending the 10:30 am Sunday Mass in the parking lot. At that Mass, the number of communicants is much larger, and again, it is a joy to see so many familiar faces.
I am grateful to my Mercy friend who shared her “parking lot Mass” experience with me and reached out to me to join her. I am also especially grateful to Father Cleo and all the Mercy staff for offering those of us who do not yet feel comfortable in the physical Church setting a way to “be present” at Mass and especially, to receive Holy Communion.