January 20, 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Parish: SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi
5901 Olive Branch Road
Greenwood, IN 46143
Number of families: 863
Church capacity: 813
This is a one of the youngest parishes in the archdiocese. The church building is only 15 years old, and looks it. The exterior looks like it could be a public library or police station. In fact, I had to look twice to tell which building was the church and which was the school (The big cross on the front was a hint).
The interior is pretty much what you would expect from early-1990s architecture. Not much in the way of ornamentation, just a big rectangular room. The ceiling was the same sort of blondwood that is so common in modern churches, but it had a sunbleached look about it. The sanctuary was just a raised dais at the front of the room, with rows of pews radiating out, and the alter looked like exactly what it was: a large wooden table in the center of the platform.
If I had to use one word to describe it, the word would be sterile. The paint looked as fresh as it probably did on the day it was built, all eggshell white and sandy brown. The large stained glass window didn't even look like real glass, more like colored plastic. The space had no character, no warmth.
My ranking: 2.5 out of 5. There wasn't anything specific to like or dislike about it. It was just a gathering place.
In a church that is only in it's teens, you wouldn't expect to hear grand hymns and celestial voices...and you would be right. Not a single hymn they sang was more than 35 years old, all products of Vatican II. That's not to say they were totally terrible, they were just kind of...well...there. They were non-denominational, non-offensive, and frankly, non-inspirational. They would have been equally proper at a Protestant service, or for that matter, in a Jewish synagogue.
The choir was equally vanilla. An assortment of voices, some good, some bad, sometimes accompanied by a piano or a digital organ, sometimes not. They were positioned to the left of the sanctuary, but because of the way the pews are arranged, you really couldn't tell who was in the choir and who just happened to be sitting in the front row. Overall, they were merely satisfactory.
My ranking: 2.5 of 5
About a year before I joined the Church, my ex-wife and I went to a Mass in Michigan. At this Mass was a priest whom we nicknamed "Father Randy, the Game Show Host". He frequently came down from the sanctuary during Mass, would walk up the center aisle and well into the congregation, and wanted to be "a priest of the people".
Father Vincent could give Randy a run for his money. He looks to be in his mid-40s, and is obviously comfortable with himself, his parish, and the job he does as priest. He stuck to the proper of the Mass pretty well, with only one ad-lib during the Communion, as he invited people to come receive the Body and Blood of Christ. However, during the homily, he was enthralling us with a monologue, walking halfway up the aisle, joking just so he could laugh at his own jokes, and taking a good start (exploring why we say what we do at Mass) and muddling it up by the end (I sort of stopped listening). During the Sign of Peace, he was out working the crowd again, looking like Dr. Phil in a green poncho.
My ranking: 2 of 5. Not really a bad priest, but he needs to stay in, or at least near, the sanctuary.
I know I keep saying it, but it was adequate, and not much more. The first lector was good, but the second was somewhat dispassionate. You could tell that she was reading the words without thinking about the meaning of what she was saying. The Gloria was sung in that way which I guess has become the de facto method in most churches; using the opening sentence "Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on Earth" as a repeated refrain, and breaking the rest of it up into four verses. All the words are there, it's just that you tend to focus more on your singing that on what is being sung.
The "Holy Holy Holy" and "Lamb of God" were also sung, but this was more annoying. The choir insisted on having half of them start one stanza, then the other half came in halfway through and overlapped. (If someone knows musical terminology, please tell me what that is called, so I know what it is I'm railing against). The "Lamb of God" also was an increasingly common variant: "Jesus, Lamb of God,....Jesus, Bread of Life,....Jesus, Prince of Peace,....Jesus, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, Grant us peace." Again, I'm sure it's perfectly valid, but when you are used to three verses, you start to kneel while others are still singing, and you have to catch yourself or wind up dropping the kneeler on someone's foot.
My ranking: 2 of 5.
Four alter boys, plus a deacon (at least I think he was a deacon).
The priest eschewed the usual lapel mike for a mini-headset. It wasn't until I went up for Communion that I realized what it was. From where I was sitting, it looked like he had an ear-to-lip thin scar.
A LOT of Eucharistic ministers. I counted twelve in all, plus the priest and the deacon.
They had not one, but two off-duty cops directing traffic. I felt genuinely sorry for them having to stand in the cold. I hope they at least had some hot coffee in their car.
My overall ranking: 2.5 of 5.
Would I return: I don't think so.
I've been to good Masses and bad Masses, beautiful churches and ugly ones, and I've seen excellent priests, awful priests, and the whole spectrum in between. Even at the worst of them, I usually had some sort of emotional response to the Mass: like, dislike, adore, loathe. This is the one of those times that I didn't feel anything one way or the other. I came, I met my Sunday obligation, I took Communion, and I left. I wasn't offended, and I wasn't enraptured. I was just there.
Next week, there will be a double entry. I am going to the Abbey of Gethsemani on Saturday, and weather permitting, I will take a road trip to southeast or southwest Indiana.