When Father Gregory Mastey was assigned to three rural parishes in Central Minnesota, he observed that parishioners were just not getting to know each other like they used to. He decided he wanted to do something to bring them together and build community.
“In the old days you would go to your one church and know everyone in the pews and most everyone in the community,” he said. “As we combine churches and share priests and people are more mobile, we have to find ways to connect at a deeper level.”
After many prayers, an idea came to him in the middle of the night, in what he calls a Holy Spirit moment. He got up and quickly wrote it down — “On the Road” Mass.
Being an avid outdoorsman, Father Mastey’s idea was to hold outdoor Masses at the farms and homes of his parishioners in Holdingford, St. Anna and St. Wendel. Held weekly, usually on Tuesday evenings as weather permits, the “On the Road” Mass began nearly eight years ago and has become a tradition in the area.
Parishioners sign up to host the Mass at their homes or farms and an announcement is included in the bulletin with directions to the property.
“We all dearly love our churches and sacred spaces, and not without justification, but we must remember buildings are temporal things of the world; it is the Holy Mass, our greatest prayer as Catholics that has infinite value, and I can’t overstate how astonishing it is to have the Eucharist blessed at your home,” said Jeff Johnson, who hosted a recent “On the Road” Mass with his wife Jessie at their home near Avon.
It is Minnesota in the summer, so in addition to lawn chairs and blankets, sunscreen and bug spray are must-haves.
As everyone gets settled in before the Mass starts, Father Mastey invites the hosts to introduce themselves, talk about their family, their jobs and hobbies, and give a short history of their property.
“Most importantly, they get to proclaim as many intentions as they want for the Mass, and family is mentioned every single time,” Johnson said.
The Mass always concludes with “Holy Ground,” a favorite Gospel song.
“After Mass they are instructed to look around, and if there is anyone there whose name they don’t know, they need to go and introduce themselves,” Father Mastey told The Central Minnesota Catholic, St. Cloud’s diocesan magazine. “And finally, we turn, raise our hands and bless the house together as the people of God.”
God isn’t just found at or in a church building, he said. “He is alive and well at our farms, homes and in our lives.”
Father Mastey wants his parishioners to take time to slow down and get to know their neighbors, so we truly can become the body of Christ in and out of Sunday liturgy, he said.
“We have to put ourselves and our senses back in touch with the simplicity of images of creation as God originally made it,” he said. “There’s something the people enjoy about sitting in lawn chairs and taking in the beauty of nature during liturgy.”