Holy Name candlelight service is popular

Father David Sánchez prayed during a recent Sunday evening candlelight Mass at Holy Name Church on Third Street. The Mass, which is held at 10 p.m. each Sunday, is drawing students from the University of Louisville and from Bellarmine University, as well as others from the local community. (Photo Special to The Record by Sheryl Edelen)

By SHERYL EDELEN
Special to the Record

Less is more at Holy Name Church in Louisville.

For the past five years, the church’s pastor, Father David Sánchez, has pared away the bread-and-butter of many Sunday services — music and daylight — to provide a simple, 10 p.m. candlelight Mass that’s winning over Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Father Sánchez, 44, was ordained in the archdiocese in 2002. He said it was while in Berkley, Calif., a year earlier that he experienced a similar late-night service. He became pastor of St. Joseph Church, 1406 E. Washington St., in 2006 and decided to try a late-night mass at Holy Name, 2914 S. Third St., when he was named pastor there in 2007.

The Mass’ popularity remains steady. Each week, Sánchez said 100 to 150 people attend Holy Names’ late evening service. It is one of three offered at the Churchill Downs-area church and primarily attracts students from the nearby universities, such as the University of Louisville and Bellarmine University. People from throughout the Kentuckiana area, including southern Indiana and Bullitt County, also attend, Father Sánchez said.

Over the years, Father Sánchez said former students now living in other parts of town have remained loyal to the service. One recent weekend, attendance even inexplicably spiked — 300 people showed up for the liturgy.

“I was scared,” he quipped. “I asked, ‘Where did all these people come from?’ ”

The service is great for those who work on Sunday, he said. For others, however, the primitive-style Mass of candlelight and chanting can fill an important niche.

“Light can be a distraction, the sun through the stained glass windows, noticing how people are dressed, who’s there,” Sánchez said. “Many times people come to listen, searching for something.”

During the 10 p.m. Mass, only lighted candles atop the altar and a small book light at the ambo illuminate the sanctuary.

“There are no lights, except for reading the Scripture during the liturgy and the Eucharist on the altar,” he said. “Without light, we become present to these two things.”

Bellarmine University student and lifelong Catholic Joey Ward loves what he’s found at Holy Name. Not only does the late Mass time accommodate his full-time class load and job as a nurses’ aide at Baptist
East Hospital, it also provides a unique worship experience.

That was a goal when the 23-year-old Newport, Wash., native arrived in Louisville as a freshman in 2009.

“Where I’m from … there’s only one parish and only one time for Sunday service. If you don’t show up at 11 a.m. you’re going to miss it,” Ward said. At Holy Name “it’s nice that if you got stuff going on, you can still make Mass and not have to worry … (and) kind of cool to have a bare-bones Mass.”

In the light of day, Sánchez said the late-night Mass plays an important role in helping the 287-family parish stay afloat and within its $88,000 yearly budget. In addition to the weekly collection, Holy Name also charges for parking during U of L home athletic games and holds dances in its basement to raise operational funds.

“We’re still open. I don’t know how,” Sánchez said. “The Mass is helping meet the needs of the parish community.”

Iroquois Park area resident John Dickman is retired now, but has been attending the 10 p.m. Mass since nearly the beginning. He began attending after working the Sunday shift at Kroger, and just kept coming.

“You know, I like it. It’s peaceful, and you don’t have that human distraction you usually have watching people do stuff, because you can’t see it,” he said. “It’s winding down time, and easy to pray.”
University of Louisville freshman Maria Kues agreed.

Since hearing about the Mass a couple of months ago from a friend, Kues and a group of fellow students have become somewhat regular attendees.

“It was kind of surreal at first … Kind of dark and simple. Back at my church, music is a big part of things, too,” said the Ft. Thomas native. “It helps you be more peaceful and mindful of what’s going on. It’s a quiet place to collect yourself.”

For Mark Skaggs, the liturgy provides a safe environment to learn more about the Catholic faith.

Skaggs, who photographs horse race finishes during fall and spring meets at Churchill Downs, discovered Holy Name Church during an internet search for local Mass times. While working in Louisville, the New Orleans resident said he enjoys attending Holy Name.

“I’m not even Catholic. I’m working on it,” said the 48-year-old. “I like the candlelight. Not being Catholic and not totally familiar with the Mass, it’s made me feel more comfortable. The darkness creates a reverent atmosphere.”

Church attendees say the environment isn’t the only thing that makes Holy Name special. They say Sánchez, who often reaches out to the students through his homilies, is also a draw.

“He likes to give little hints of how to go about life, little tips. I can see that,” Kues said.

Dickman agreed, saying he’s also come away from Sánchez’s homilies with a lesson or two.

“I really like Father Dave,” said Dickman. “He gives a lot of good sermons.”

Ward appreciates Sánchez’s approachability. A member of ROTC, he added that he thinks Sánchez’s experience in the military also helps.

“I feel like, he’s a priest, but if I would meet (him) on the street in a social occasion, he would also be a regular guy. I think in some ways, he can really relate to people.” Ward said.

A Puerto Rico native, Sánchez celebrates both English and Spanish-language Masses at both Holy Name and St. Joseph each week. Sharing many of his parishoner’s reasons, he readily claims the 10 p.m. Mass as his favorite.

“I recollect all that’s happened during the day, throughout all of the weekend Masses. There’s no stress in this Mass,” Sánchez said. “I can focus in on the word and the Eucharist.”

After years of attending services there, Dickman said, the Holy Name 10 p.m. Mass can quickly become a habit.

“I’ve always gone to church, but I’ll tell you it’s a hard thing to do when you’re relaxed on Sunday at 10 p.m. I like it so much, though, that I get up and go. It really is quite peaceful,” he added. “And one thing about it, there’s always a parking space.”

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