I was told a parish near me offered a 6pm Mass on Sundays. Given I typically travel over an hour to get to my normal 8pm Mass in Philly, I was excited by the prospect of an evening Mass closer to home.
St. John's at Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood, NJ fit the bill!
This parish reminded me a lot of St. Teresa's @ Holy Child Parish in Runnemede. Architecturally, they are very similar. Both are smaller churches with beautiful wooden baldachiums. Both have similarly styled stained glass windows. Both parishes also present themselves in a simple, down-to-earth way making newcomers like myself feel right at home.
Everything was very clean and the smell of fresh flowers was evident. They kept their marble altar railings (which I loved). A very talented organist was providing soft music from the altar of St. Joseph from about 20 minutes before Mass began.
When I entered the building, I noticed the priest was within the congregation, shaking hands and greeting parishioners. Obviously he was well known and well liked by his flock. I took him to be the pastor given his evident "ownership" of the church. He walked around in an alb and a stole. His chasuble was draped over a seat in the sanctuary.
I took a seat and waited for Mass to begin. A beautiful family of 7 soon took their seats in front of me. I couldn't withhold my smile. A beautiful little girl and two adorable little boys bustled into the pew. They were followed by their glowing (and pregnant) mother who was followed by her husband. On her husband's shoulder was a sleepy boy a shade younger than Vincent.
My heart melted into my shoes every time I took the sight of them in. I admit that several times during Mass I lost track of prayers because I was joyfully repeating to God "Oh bless them, bless them, bless them!"
I'd then look at each one in turn with what must've been the dopiest grin on my face and I'd silently ask God to bring them each boundless joy for being such beautiful witnesses to love and life.
Anyway, Mass soon began and I noticed that Father did not put on his chasuble. In fact, he said the entire Liturgy of the Word without it. When it didn't go on right away, I figured he'd don it for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and I believe he put it on at the Offertory.
In fact, something interesting happened at the Offertory.
Father snuck into the sanctuary and turned off all the lights. The only light remaining was coming from votive candles in front of Our Lady and Blessed Teresa and the lighting within the baldachium. I actually snuck a photo of it because I was so surprised. I really liked that such focus was being placed on the altar in anticipation of Consecration.
The lights didn't go on again until after the Eucharist was placed back into the tabernacle.
Homily was nice. Announcements were put smack into the middle of the Mass. You folks know that bothers me, but I can understand why some parishes do it. It just completely pulls the rug out from under your prayerful meditation of the Mass. Ay. I really wish parishes would either do them before the Mass or after Mass. Heck, I don't even mind hearing them before the final blessing - just don't go from prayerful reflection on the Homily / Intentions into "Oh, BTW, can you make sure you register your kid for classes? Oh, and we've got a food drive, and next week's bingo is up to $5,000, and we're already looking for Christmas volunteers, etc, etc, etc."
It drives me bonkers.
That aside, everything else was really nice. Their cantor sang beautifully and their altar servers were very attentive. The congregation was pretty amazing, too.
I'll likely be back again to get a better feel for their way of doing things, but upon first glance, that was my impression!