By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service
BALTIMORE — On a recent weekday, Tina Tekirian of Frederick slipped out of her laboratory at the University of Maryland’s School of Medicine in downtown Baltimore, walked the few blocks to the Shrine of St. Jude and settled into a pew shortly before the noon Mass was set to begin.
With a workplace identification card dangling in front of her warm purple sweater, the neuroscientist and parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in Frederick was deep in prayer as the priest made his way to the altar.
Taking her lunch break to attend the noon Mass is a weekday ritual for Tekirian, who says it’s no sacrifice to skip the meal and eat while she works later in the afternoon.
“This is the most important part of my day,” the 34-year-old research associate told The Catholic Review, newspaper of the Baltimore Archdiocese. “Prayer is the very center of my life. It’s the part of my rhythm that allows me to focus the rest of the day.”
A hearty helping of lunchtime spirituality fuels Tekirian’s productive energy and keeps her vital when she returns to her job.
Downtown parishes attract scores of other faithful Catholics who are happy to forgo a long lunch in lieu of a 30- to 40-minute Mass.
“Probably most of our congregation during the 12:10 p.m. Mass are working somewhere in the downtown area,” said Deacon Hugh Mills of the Shrine of St. Alphonsus. “We see a lot of the same people during the week, but the groups tend to change from day to day. Mondays we get a certain group. Then another group comes in on Tuesdays. It’s the same for the rest of the week.”
Though Albert Calvin is a parishioner of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Glen Burnie, he finds peace and solitude at St. Alphonsus at least three times a week, taking advantage of its close proximity to his office.
“Receiving the Eucharist is a big thing for me,” the married father of five said after the weekday Mass. “It refreshes my day and keeps me going.”
Calvin usually stops along the way back to his job at Alabanza Corp., a Web hosting firm, to pick up his lunch and still has enough time to eat.
He has the blessing of the company’s CEO, Thomas V. Cunningham, to attend Mass during the workday, because he also attends the service several times a week.
“There are a lot of people who are not satisfied with attending Mass once a week on Sunday,” said Father Louis Micca, pastoral director at St. Jude Shine. “It’s not unusual for us to get 30 people a day attending our noon Mass.”
Workers from Social Security, the University of Maryland at Baltimore and the Shock Trauma Center are among the daily worshippers, as are people who shop at nearby Lexington Market, Father Micca said.
Throughout the Mass, people wandered into the Catholic shrine for a quick prayer and to light a candle near the statue of Mary.
Van Mai of Columbia discovered the noon service at St. Jude’s a few years ago when she was temporarily assigned to M&T Bank’s Baltimore branch office for training.
The parishioner at St. John the Evangelist in Columbia said she felt such a strong sense of peace that she often ventures downtown to attend the lunchtime Mass on her days off.
“It’s such a nice, quiet Mass, you know,” Mai said. “It gives me a boost.”