Mass Appeal: Celebrating the Liturgy—But Not in Church

Last month, I posted the unusual story about Mass being celebrated in a Manila shopping mall.

Turns out, that’s not the only non-sacred place people can attend Mass in the Philippines:

Every Sunday at the upscale Power Plant Mall in metro Manila, the establishment tucked between a Japanese chocolate confectioner and a modern Italian furniture store has an overflowing crowd. It’s not a shop, and it’s not a restaurant. It’s a Catholic chapel that seats 700 and remains overcrowded on weekends.

On a recent Sunday, the spillover crowd stood in the corridor next to the escalators, some with their heads turned to an overhead video monitor. On the screen, the large wooden crucifix inside the chapel was a prominent backdrop for the priest praying at the altar; sound was piped to the spillover crowd through a loudspeaker. Some attendees were reading and sending text messages, while shoppers strolled past.

Liam McGeonn stared intently at the screen. The 32-year-old from Ireland recently moved to Manila for his job, and this was the second mall he had been to for Mass.

In the Philippines is “the first time I’ve ever seen it … so it’s unusual. But if you go to Mass, it doesn’t really matter where it is, for me it’s just Mass,” McGeonn told Catholic News Service afterward.

Father Estelito Villegas, mall chaplain, said in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, having Mass literally anywhere is not uncommon because “in the Filipino consciousness, spiritual life is very important.”

Combine that feeling with a desire for convenience and that finds Mass being celebrated in places such as shopping malls, he said.

“They attend Mass as a family,” the priest explained. “So it would mean fulfilling their Sunday obligation. Then they have their family day. So they eat together, maybe they shop, they recreate. … That’s it. A one-stop shop, maybe.”

But it’s not just malls that draw the crowds. Makati Medical Center has regular Sunday Mass-goers. Franciscan Father Jesus Galindo, chaplain, said some prefer the hospital to a nearby parish, which gets overcrowded. The Mass is celebrated in the hospital’s multipurpose room across the hall from a pharmacy, next to the chapel. Father Galindo said the chapel can only handle about 60 people, while the big room can accommodate 300 or more.

And not everyone who goes is a hospital staffer or patient. Pong Salud lives in the neighborhood and is a parishioner at the nearby parish, but he has been attending Mass at Makati Medical for more than a year.

“It’s more (about) the proximity and the facilities, not too crowded. It’s air-conditioned and the priest handles the Mass well. His homilies are good,” he said.

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