Mass Appeal

Each week hundreds of students close their books for the night and crowd into Mission Santa Clara for an informal 10 p.m. Mass. The service has drawn students and the community to church for more than 30 years.


Each Sunday, students flock to the 10 p.m. liturgy

I like to start every week with something fun to take my mind off the stress of school, work, and an uncertain future. I like to visit with friends, laugh, listen, and be comforted. Luckily, I have found the perfect place, and I am not alone. Four years of the 10 p.m. Mass in Mission Santa Clara have gotten me through college, and these nights will stay with me.

Each week about 400 students close their books for the night and crowd into the Mission for the informal Mass. The church is noticeably warm from all the bodies. I usually arrive at least 10 minutes early because sometimes it is standing room only.


The 10 p.m. Mass has been popular since its inception more than 30 years ago. After Vatican II, the Jesuits at SCU experimented with Mass times and found that most students preferred a nighttime service. In the 1970s, the Jesuits tried another experiment: They removed half of the pews and moved the priest and altar from the front of the church to the north side. Later, all of the pews were removed and carpets were rolled in for students to sit or even lie down on.

When Gregory Schultz became director of liturgical music in 1995, he saw some shortcomings with the side altar arrangement. “It was still a stage-like focus with the congregation in an audience perspective,” Schultz says. So he proposed that the altar be placed in the center of the church, with the congregation surrounding it in a circle, where everyone could face each other.

Schultz also decided to add some chairs to the 10 p.m. liturgy in the mid-90s. When he saw students coming early to Mass to get a chair, the carpet was slowly phased out. The circle configuration with chairs has been the style since 1999..


Regardless of the configuration of the seating, the energy of the students is what makes the experience unique. “One of the most profound moments for me is just before Mass starts and the lights are brought down, the prayerful quietness of the young people,” Schultz says. “Then the sign of peace is a boisterous free-for-all where no one is left out. These two opposing energies create something wonderful the profound silences and exuberant expressions of joy.”

Mario Prietto, S.J., director of Campus Ministry and frequent 10 p.m. celebrant, says he is also impressed with the student congregation. “It is such a privilege to stand up there and lead these young, energetic, talented people who are there because they want to be there and not out of obligation,” he says.

Students don’t hold back in the Mass. Without feeling uncomfortable, I have belted out songs, hugged people I barely know, and cried. “The sign of peace is great because people just walk from one end to the other of the church, hugging everyone they pass probably taking 10 or 15 minutes,” says senior Brooke Crawford.

Senior James Good now adds, “These Masses are more interesting because they’re geared toward my life. In a normal Mass the age ranges from 5 to 95, and it’s harder to relate to everyone.”

In fact, it is not unusual for the homily to include references to procrastinating on a philosophy paper, getting through finals, roommate problems, or searching for a job. “You take into account the group you’re preaching to, and go through their door,” Prietto says.


The power of this community is something you see in the faces of those you have lived with or had classes with. It’s something you hear in the 400 voices responding “Amen.” And it’s something you feel in the holy water with which the priest blesses (or splashes!) you or the squeeze your neighbor gives your hand during the “Our Father.”

The celebration of community does not end with the final blessing. In the mid-90s, Campus Ministry and a group of students living off-campus in The Peer House began inviting students over for dessert after Mass. This year, peer ministers Lexie Lasch, Karen Dazols, Jake David, Kevin Edwards, and Jimmy Carlucciall juniorsare responsible for more than just the social. Each student coordinates a different ministry including the lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and choir. But they are still known for their popular socials, which draw hundreds of people after Mass for cookies, hot chocolate, and sometimes even fondue. “Mass started as a mealit’s supposed to be about community,” David says.

In my hometown, I am sometimes tempted to leave Mass before the last song. That just doesn’t happen at the 10 p.m. Mass. Even after an hour and a half, I’m not ready to leave. And even after four years, I’m not ready to leave.

SCU senior Erin Ryan is a communication major and editorial intern for Santa Clara Magazine.

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