Duke Catholic Center holds outdoor Mass

DURHAM - Lawn chairs, blankets and music might describe a picnic setting, but on a fall Sunday, during a pandemic, these are the makings of Mass.

While parishes begin to have in-person Masses inside church buildings, the Duke Catholic Center community has compromised, but only on location.

Each Sunday at 11 a.m., congregants -- many of whom are students and professors -- meet on the 4th floor of a parking garage. Before the pandemic, the community held Mass in an on-campus chapel. The outdoor location is part of Duke University’s phased transition toward allowing students back on campus.

As Mass begins Sept. 27, Father Michael Martin, O.F.M. Conv., director of the Duke Catholic Center, invites those gathered to greet their masked, socially-distanced neighbors with a wave or a nod.

He introduces Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama and thanks him for his easy-going nature. Bishop Luis assures him he can leave the mitre (a tall hat worn by bishops) and crosier (a hooked staff carried by bishops) in the U-Haul van to keep it simple.

Bishop called the Mass “a beautiful eucharistic picnic,” noting that it gave students time to have music and friendship.

“At a picnic, you have … conversation. And when it is time to eat, you open your basket and share the food. That is the Eucharist,” he said.

In his homily, the bishop added that we are to listen to what the Lord is saying and how he is challenging us.

“The challenge has to transform our hearts, when we listen, we open ourselves to the table,” said Bishop Luis. “The Lord is ready to feed us with the best banquet of all, the banquet of the Eucharist, and then we are transformed, in the same way this place is transformed.”