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237: St Lucy, Newark, New Jersey, USA
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St Lucy, Newark, New Jersey, USA
Mystery Worshipper: Newman's Own.
The church: St Lucy, Newark, New Jersey, USA.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: Attractive, tasteful tribute to the labour of 1920s Italian immigrants, who did not necessarily find a welcome elsewhere at the time the church was constructed. The event was mainly outdoors – stands with fun foods such as zeppole and calzone, vendors, the elderly on mini-pilgrimages (largely calling out to their baby boomer kids whose names all seemed to be Jerry/Gerri), music, and, above all, the procession surrounded the surprisingly well-maintained church, school, and community centre
The neighbourhood: Previously a tenement neighbourhood, the area is obviously involved in "urban renewal" and new town houses are evident. Newark has the distinction of being the city with the highest crime rate in the country, and one would not have reason to believe that the area surrounding St Lucy's is exempt.
The cast: Monsignor Joseph Granato and two companions.
What was the name of the service?
Feast of St Gerard. St Lucy's is the national shrine for devotion to this saint, who is a patron saint of expectant mothers and of the unjustly accused. Apparently, an expectant mother, once upon a time, unjustly accused him of fathering her child.

How full was the building?
This was an indoor/outdoor event. The surrounding area was happily crowded and convivial. The inside of the church was a little noisy (Latins, pleasantly, see the church as their Father's house, and do not conceive of how children should be seen and not heard), with a devotional atmosphere nonetheless.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
Everyone seemed to be welcoming everyone – whether they knew the individual or thought he looked like someone they used to know. The crowd was primarily Italian, Spanish, and gypsy – not reserved sorts. They even kissed the statues, and some maintained the custom of kissing the priest's hands.

Was your pew comfortable?
Cannot say... do you honestly think that one in the earlier part of middle age would sit when that would have meant someone old would possibly stand? For shame! Anyway, I wanted an Italian ice...

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Not applicable – this was an ongoing event.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
Also not applicable, though I did stop in for a moment at Benediction, it was an event rather than a service per se.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Everyone had copies of the Novena to St Gerard – wonderful prayer, horrid photo of the statue.

What musical instruments were played?
St Lucy's always had a good fife, drum and bugle corps.

Did anything distract you?
For all my respect for folk religion, I was a bit uneasy with having the dollars donated pinned on the statue of Gerard. When I stopped in at Benediction, the silence was inadvertantly broken by the stage whisper of an old man, who spotted an old (quite overweight) friend and informed his own wife that said friend "Got like a mountain!"

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon – I had not attended mass.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Seeing the warm, childlike, fervent faith of those in attendance.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
I had mixed feelings: fully aware both of the loving faith of those who see the saints as an extended family (and take very good care of their own extended families as a Christian commitment, even if not all are the most ardent churchgoers); but sad, knowing the arduous labour that was the main part of life for those in this area, always very poor.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Not applicable – I was lost in a crowd.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was enough food to feed a regiment – try the zeppole.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – there is a marvellous community spirit and great reverence, but my tastes are a little different.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, indeed. There was evidence of faith, care, and family commitment (subsidiarity home grown) that was about as Christian as it gets.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The trust worshippers have in their patron saint.
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