April 27: Sixth Sunday of Easter
Parish: Saint Anne's Catholic Church
9091 Prairie Ridge Blvd.
Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158
Oh, my God. Where to begin?
The church building itself was built in 2004, although from the ladder resting on the roof and the landscaping equipment on the property, I guess they're still working on it. The front wall is a 20-foot tall floor-to-ceiling window with a wrought-iron cross. There are overhangs, niches, and porticoes galore. Driving around, I couldn't tell where the front door was.
Once I got inside, though, that under-construction look was reinforced by exposed ductwork and girders. If there was any doubt about the incomplete nature of this church, that doubt was removed as soon as I walked into the nave. If I wasn't there with my boss and another coworker, I would have turned right around and ran out screaming.
No carpet, no tile, just a sealed cement floor. Put down a few painted lines, hammer some hoops on the rafters, and you could use it as a basketball court. No pews, no kneelers, just three sections of folding chairs. The holy water font was a ceramic urn the size of a 55-gallon oil drum. The alter table and the light fixtures looked like something from Crate and Barrel or Restoration Hardware; not what they sell, but the wood-and-iron table where they stack the dishes.
Worst of all, no front or back. As I stood in the front row of the chairs on the west side, the altar was along the north wall (the one with the window), the pulpit was clear across the room along the south wall, and I was staring across as another three sets of folding chairs. There were ramps along the north and south walls leading to the chairs, so if this place fails as a church, it could always be used as an indoor skateboard park.
My ranking: 1 out of 5.
No choir. Two women cantors singing more or less together, accompanied by a grand piano. There was a drum set and bandstand in the northeast corner, but thankfully, it sat silent. The atrocious architecture did nothing for the acoustics.
The hymn were pretty modern, nothing that I recognized. I couldn't tell you much more about them; there were no hymnals in the church, so the parishioners did not sing along. The quality of the cantors were not bad, but without the participation of congregation, like everything else, it felt makeshift and incomplete.
My ranking: 2 of 5.
Father Don looked to be in his 40s or early 50s, a simple man in Hush Puppies trying to lead a growing congregation. Soft-spoken, pastoral, but not what I would call a good priest.
His homily, memorable only because he told you what it was going to be before the Mass even started, was a ramble about learning to ride a bike, not at all inspirational. When the lectors were reading, he sat down in the front row across from us, looking exactly like someone's uncle at a school recital. He took liberties with the rubrics, actually leaving out some prayers after the Our Father. Worst, the constant walking back and forth between the altar, the pulpit, and the cement runway in between took the focus away from the message of the Gospel and the Communion prayers.
I know he tried, and I'm sure he meant well, but he just wasn't well-equipped to be a Catholic priest. Now if the Presbyterian church down the road wanted a new minister, I could recommend him quite readily.
My ranking: 1.5 of 5.
Instead of trying to recall what was right about it, all I can think of is what was wrong with it. An inadequate priest, a barely-there music ministry, a congregation that is so small that the priest literally had to tell everyone to move forward and to the center section, in one of the genuinely most appalling excuses for a building, let alone a church.
I think the first lector was the priest's brother (there was a strong family resemblance), a man in his 50s with a half-dozen silver earrings in his left ear and Chuck Taylor sneakers with peace signs, and a speaking voice that made him sound as gay as Harvey Fierstein. If my eyes rolled any more, they would have fallen out of their sockets and rolled around like a couple of marbles.
Even all of this I could accept. I could even handle the collection of the offering; instead of passing the plate or having ushers extend a basket into the congregation, they put four wicker hampers at the end of the aisles and people could come forward and make a "free-will" offering.
It was when they brought forward the bread and wine that my (admittedly limited) tolerance for liturgical diversity hit it's limits. The Body of Christ was not small circular wafers, It was not broken pieces of a large wafer...It was 1-inch by 1-inch cubes of bread.
In other words, Communion croutons!
I did not receive Communion, because frankly, if I tried to receive on the tongue (the only way I ever have, or ever will), I think this priest wouldn't know what to do. That, and I had some serious doubts as to whether this species of Communion really was valid.
My ranking: 0.5 of 5. That half a point is only in recognition that, strictly speaking, this was a valid and licit Mass, but just barely.
When we first walked in, one of the lay ministers (easily identifiable by the nametag on a lanyard) asked if I would like to bring the gifts to the alter. I politely declined, but inside I was screaming "Bullshit, Klaus!"
During the Lord's Prayer, everyone in the church joined hands. Even the priest stepped down from the altar and joined hands with the ELMs. I was waiting for someone to start singing "Kum-Bay-Yah". Everyone joined hands, that is, except for me and my two coworkers.
My overall ranking: 1 of 5.
Would I return: not even in peril of mortal sin.
Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, that I detest about the modern Catholic Mass and the church experience was embodied in this Mass. Instead of receiving Communion, I spent that time asking God's forgiveness for the feelings of contempt and ridicule I felt towards this church, and to ask him to give me a charitable heart towards them. I don't think it was entirely successful.
Just before the final blessing, the priest gave the congregation an update on their finances. Put simply, they cannot afford to run a school, can't adequately subsidize the tuition for their parishioners who send their kids to other Catholic schools, and are about 40% behind on their estimated operating budget. What a sad state of affairs that they spent so much on this overblown building that they can't even support their families' needs.
This is a terrible thing for me to say, but I sincerely believe that the best thing that could happen to this parish is for their church to burn to the ground. They should take it as a warning from God, and when they rebuild, return to a traditional architecture (sanctuary, altar and pulpit in the front, with real pews) and closer adherence to the rubrics of the Mass.
Either that, or sell the whole kit and kaboodle to the Baptists.