Church caters to its flock on busy Easter Sunday

April 12, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

The Rev. Jude Winkler decided to cut the Easter liturgy short at a few minutes before 8 a.m. yesterday.

The 500 early risers before him were among 8,000 who attended one of the 10 Easter Masses planned by the St. Louis Catholic Church in Clarksville. He would skip the meditation segment, he told the crowd, because the next group of parishioners was "already breaking the door down."

So it went yesterday as the 141-year-old parish juggled its complicated Easter schedule to accommodate its congregation of 3,200 families.

Between 6:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m., parishioners flocked to attend.

Father Winkler, on loan from the Franciscan Friary on Folly Quarter Road, helped three priests from St. Louis.

Unlike those waiting to get into the 8 a.m. Mass, Ron Haluorson, 46, of Owen Brown, had a little elbow room in the early service instead of the crowding expected at his regular 11 a.m. Mass.

"Easter Masses are very crowded, so I wanted to come to an early Mass," he said as he left the church.

But something beyond the control of church schedulers also lured him out of bed on Easter morning.

"I wanted to experience the sunrise on a beautiful day," he said, gesturing to the perfect blue sky overhead.

Normally, the church has five services on Sunday and a sixth in a chapel at Doughoregan Manor. On Easter, it adds two Masses for children in the church school auditorium and two traditional Masses in its 1889 chapel.

Outside, Brian Vanisko, 23, hustled from one part of the parking lot to another, pointing this way and that while shouting orders to his orange-vested crew.

Although he had organized parking at Christmas services for six years, Mr. Vanisko said it was the first Easter he had been asked to organize parking for his church.

"It's normally been a disaster, its been a free-for-all," he said as his crew directed cars to overflow spaces on grass behind the church lot.

But by mid-morning, the Rev. Jeffrey S. Dauses noted all was going well.

"The day itself goes very smoothly because there's an immense amount of planning that goes into it," Father Dauses said.

He said that is due in large part to people like Mr. Vanisko and Maryanne Johnson, one of the organizers of the children's Mass.

Thanks to three months of planning, it was not to be another homily that children heard at the 9:15 service in the auditorium.

No playing with bulletins or pushing the limits of patience or decibels here.

Instead, Father Dauses narrated a pantomime play about a search for the Easter Bunny.

"All the children of Clarksville were looking forward to Easter and the surprises it would bring," he began.

Two children awaken early to see the Easter Bunny, but fail. One of them sees a beautiful sunrise and concludes that Easter is God's signal of a new beginning.

"It's not like the strict church that I remember as a child," said Joette Waters, 42, who brought her two children, Nicholas, 5, and Lisa, 4, to the 9:15 a.m. children's Mass.

"They do things to get the kids excited," she said.

Indeed, Lisa lighted up with glee when Father Dauses descended the stage with "Roger," one of two rabbits drafted for petting after the Mass.

Dancing and clapping in her pink sweater and white straw hat, she sang the closing hymn, "Thank you, Lord," unprompted.

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