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338: St Stanislaus Kostka, Michigan City, Indiana
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St Stanislaus Kostka, Michigan City, Indiana
Mystery Worshipper: Emerson.
The church: St Stanislaus Kostka, Michigan City, Indiana.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: This is a well maintained, traditional Roman Catholic church. The church proper occupies a quarter of a block, the remaining parts of the block being a large church school, school offices and rectory. The inside is very Pre-Vatican II with much statuary, candles and side altars. The entire inside, alas, is painted two shades of green: an almost chartreuse green, accented by a much darker green. The vision of the two ministers in mismatched green vestments against those green walls was a sight to behold.
The church: St Stan's, as it is affectionately known, was built to serve the large Polish community in and around Michigan City, many who worked at the now closed plant that built Pullman railroad cars. With five Roman Catholic churches in Michigan City, this one still serves a larely Polish community. The 8.00am service is entirely in Polish.
The neighbourhood: Michigan City has lost many of its larger employers and much of downtown is closed, although there is a large outlet mall about 10 blocks from the church. St Stan's is one block off the main business street and two blocks from a moderately large hospital. It is itself surrounded by well-kept middle class homes.
The cast: Walter M. Ciesla, Priest; Daniel Bowmar, Deacon.
What was the name of the service?
14th Sunday of ordinary time.

How full was the building?
The large nave was moderately well occupied for the 10.00am eucharist. I would estimate there were about 200-225 people present, most of them sitting in the back half of the space.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one welcomed me at all. When I entered the narthex, a man and woman were seated at a large table selling tickets to something, but they were engaged in vigorous conversation among themselves. I smiled at them and nodded, but they did not even acknowledge my presence. No ushers were at the doors. I saw a missal rack and realized I should take one to the pew with me.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pew was comfortable one with kneeler.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
People were generally quiet as they came into the nave to be seated. While there was some whispering, it was not loud or significant. About half of the congregants bowed or genuflected before entering their pews. Almost no one crossed himself or herself at any time during the service. A few people came in late, some of them during the sermon, and caused some disruption by moving to their desired seat.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The propers were in a missal, available at the entrance to the nave. Although the pew had quite new hymnals (Adoremus), they were never used. Hymns of a Post-Vatican II variety were sung from the missal.

What musical instruments were played?
An organ was played in the balcony choir loft, and a somewhat thin-voiced choir sang from the same location. Whether it was the choice of the music director or the priest, all music was of the "travelling music" variety. Just enough of a hymn was sung (only 3 of 8 stanzas) to get the sanctuary party in place. There seemed to be no awareness of the fact that a hymn is a poem with a total unity.

Did anything distract you?
I was bothered, of course, by the horrible greens. And the microphone volume was way too loud.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service began with a processional that included a crucifer, two torch bearers, the deacon and priest. It moved along with very little evidence of involvement from the congregants. Almost no one around me sang or bothered to open the missal to the hymns. Easily half of the people made no response to any part of the service.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Three minutes of announcements (about money) and 9 minutes of sermon.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
3 – The priest's entire demeanor was autocratic and removed from the congregation. He never once said or did anything to recognize that there were people in front of him. His sermon was delivered in a haughty, nasal tone.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Jesus went from village to village talking with the people and being among them (this was from the Gospel reading). St Francis of Assisi took his followers into a village and spent the entire day talking with people, being among them, blessing them. At day's end, his followers asked why he had not preached. He replied, "I did preach... with my life." Thus we must all preach with our lives, by what we do daily, as we witness for Christ.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
I'm not sure anything was very heavenly. I was impressed with the profile of the congregation. Unlike many congregations today, there was a healthy mix of old and young, and it was quite clear that there were many large families worshipping together.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The priest and his detachment from everyone in the sanctuary and nave made me uncomfortable. It was clear that he was "boss" and we were there to observe and listen to him. Never once did he acknowledge visitors or welcome them. Never once did he smile at or toward the congregation. His announcements, which broke the rhythm between the Gospel and the sermon, were about money and how much the parish needed it. I certainly saw nothing at all pastoral in his presence and that made me quite uncomfortable.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
When the priest got to the back of the nave a the recessional, the organ stopped playing (hey, we had sung 3 of the 4 stanzas) and there was a clatter of books being replaced, kneelers being uprighted, and people hurriedly exiting. No one spoke to me or greeted me, although I made myself available for such a greeting on the way out.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after-service. Eveyrone hurried away.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
2 – There was a total "disconnect" between the people and the service. It was clear most of them were doing their Sunday obligation and nothing more. And I could not worship regularly with that priest.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
No. It made me feel sorry for those people who went through the motions of church without being in church in its rewarding reality. I'm sure they were very good, hard-working folk. But they need to know how the Good News serves them and they it.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
Those green walls and that arrogant priest!
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