Church #42, Mother Theresa’s

Date: 9/22/13

Church name/type: Mother Theresa’s Catholic Community, Roman Catholic mission community and halfway house

Pastor: Father Peter Young

Style of worship: A short Catholic mass with very few formalities

Overall Impression: This is a great place

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this place. Being unable to find a website I had no idea which group was in the building. I was surprised to discover that it was another Catholic mass I was attending. Catholic formulas are fairly unmistakeable so I was sure I wasn’t wrong. I briefly wondered if it was some kind of breakaway independent group.

After a short mass I got to talk with Father Young. He confirmed that the building used to be Our Lady Help of Christians church but that closed down. Sometime after he/his group obtained the building as a halfway house and he began giving mass at 4pm Sunday afternoons, followed by dinner. He said everyone just calls this place Mother Theresa’s. It is not listed on the diocese website because it isn’t a church as such which I suppose would be subject to the need for a certain volume in order to remain open. He is an ordained priest who pretty much does mass because he wants to.

I also got to talk extensively with another Catholic priest named Simon Udemgba. He told me stories about Nigeria and the formation of the country (by Britain) out of two large neighboring areas of different ethnicities. As it was explained to m, because it was around the Niger River it was called Niger-Area (Nig-eria! get it?). For a long time a king in the North ran the country- with Britain’s approval of course. Now that they have been experiencing independence and democracy for a while rulers have generally come from the North. Currently there is a ruler from the East and that is very exciting.

So now that I’ve sidetracked you for a history lesson, I’ll get back to how I liked this church. My first thoughts were not encouraging. The sanctuary has kind of a worn out look to it. There were barely 30 people in attendance at mass. Once I got past these details I noticed things. Like the fact that everyone was dressed very casual and they all seemed pretty happy to be there. A portion of the mass involved all of us moving to the center aisle and holding hands. It’s something that just can’t be done at a large church. It’s a very visceral feeling that now you are connected directly with each if these people. And there was taking during mass. I mean a comfortable easy talking. Listen, there are churches where any message to be conveyed is whispered quickly so as not to disturb the stuck up lady with the perfect hairdo. And there are churches where teens who don’t give a care giggle throughout service while moms look at their watches. This church was neither of those. The people here seemed relaxed friendly and open. And by outward appearance all different from one another. Outfits, hair, skin color, and accent were all varied. Yet there was fully a sense of community. Even more than this was a sense of belonging and being ok.

I think sometimes there are certain expectations surrounding words like ‘halfway house’ and in the visual of an old looking church building or worn looking clothing. I think these ideas invade us from society and culture. Places, people and traits get lumped together and when you see an old building with houses around that have no lawns, you immediately make decisions about what sort of people you will find. They are in trouble, desperate, sad, you tell yourself. They are so needy, you reason, someone has to feed them dinner once a week. But this is all conjecture and you realize you have no idea what any of their lives are actually like. You realize calling them ‘the needy’ is ridiculous simply because they need things. Everyone does. And I am just as needy as a person who struggles financially. My church this morning said to look into their eyes. But this means they will also look into yours. I need too, and some of what I need is spending time others who are genuine. This is how the people at this church struck me. Without even knowing me or what I might need, they fed me dinner and conversation. And I still don’t know much about them. Except that maybe I need more of whatever they have.

Facebook!: Look for Mother Theresa Catholic Community – spelled like that with an h in Theresa.

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