I dropped by the Church of St. Stephen in south Minneapolis this morning for the 11:15 Mass. What a pleasant surprise! That parish used to be one of the most rebellious in the archdiocese and its Masses only slightly resembled those required by the General Instructions of the Roman Missal.
Several major changes were apparent. Firstly, and most importantly, the tabernacle has been taken out of hiding and placed right behind the altar where it belongs. Secondly, two young altar boys, one carrying a processional crucifix, led the deacon and the pastor up to the altar. Father Joseph Williams celebrated the Mass, assisted by his Deacon. It was hard to tell who celebrated it in the bad old times since laypeople were almost at or near the altar, saying the prayers of the Mass And, surprisiingly, only about 15 or 20% of the congregation were geezers like myself, the vast majority being probably in their 40s or younger, many with children. To top it off, the sanctuary was nicely decorated already for Christmas.
Last Spring, after having been given a new pastor, and after having been told that they no longer would get to make up their own religion, most of the members of St. Stephen's opted for their own beliefs and left the parish and began holding their religious services in a building a few blocks away. These folks apparently don't believe in much that the Church teaches so they chose to join up with the 35,000 protestant denominations that exist in the world today and pretend that there is no absolute truth with respect to God and what He has told us..
One would guess that the vast majority of these former Catholics were senior citizens who developed their beliefs and ethics during the anti-authoritarian 60s and 70s when the "Spirit of Vatican II", the anti-war movement and the Great Society's social welfare programs were the causes that many young people gathered around. These people did make St. Stephen's social justice programs some of the most effective probably in the country. Many of the others who left are homosexuals who prefer not to abide by the Church's commandments.
The downside of all these people having left the parish is, firstly, the danger to their immortal souls. Please pray for them.
Secondly, the size of the parish is probably but a fraction of what it once was. Of course cold weather and snow this morning may have keep many away from Mass. Please pray for Father Williams and the parish. They could use parishioners, volunteers, and donors. The parish owns a residence building for the homeless next door and I would imagine that getting volunteers to help with that and the other social justice programs is a difficult task for them.
If you know of people who live in South Minneapolis who are looking for a parish, let them know that St. Stephen's is once again compliant with the Church's teaching and requirements. The parish is on Clinton Avenue, a couple blocks south of Franklin, just a bit west of 35W. Mass in English is 4:00 p.m. Saturday and 11:15 a.m. Sundays. 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Sundays in Spanish.