Attending Mass, or the celebration of the Eucharist, is not only a welcome obligation but an honor and a privilege for Catholics.
In the Catholic Church, Masses are celebrated every Sunday, but many churches also have daily Masses and special Masses for holy days of obligation. Various other occasions and events, such as anniversaries, funerals and graduations, can be celebrated with a Mass.
"We have Mass to worship and to receive God's grace, to unify with him and with other worshipers through the sacrament of the Eucharist," states the website aboutcatholics.com.
It's essential and the norm for the congregation to meet in a church for Mass but under various circumstances, Masses can also be said in other places — even a private home.
Maria Tellez, of Chicago's South Deering neighborhood, finds it a rewarding experience to participate in the Mass. She regularly attends St. Kevin Church in Chicago. But Tellez has also welcomed priests, friends and community residents into her home for a variety of special Masses and prayer services.
Tellez recently opened her home for a Mass in December to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. (The feast day revolves around Mary's appearance in Mexico to a poor man named Juan Diego). Tellez said she annually celebrates that day with a Mass in her home and has been doing so for nearly two decades.
The first prayer services she hosted inspired her to inquire about celebrating the Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day with a special Mass in her home.
"Some of my friends and people from church would gather to say the rosary at my house and we would have special prayer and rosary services when (people) would bring the Our Lady of Fatima statue around," Tellez said. (The Our Lady of Fatima statue is a traveling pilgrimage statue which the devoted can host in their homes in conjunction with rosary and prayer services).
Last month's Mass in the Tellez home was celebrated by the Rev. Juan Pablo, a missionary from Mexico, who is a member of The Consecrates of the Most Holy Savior order.
Tellez said she contacted her parish to ask if a priest was available to say the Mass for the Guadalupe feast day and learned that although someone from St. Kevin Church wasn't available, another parish, not far from St. Kevin's, had a priest available. The Rev. Juan Pablo was a visiting priest at St. Francis De Sales Church in Chicago at that time.
The Rev. Martin Dobryzynski, director of the Office of Worship for the Catholic Diocese of Gary, said "home Masses are a rarity."
"It's totally up to the priest or the pastor," Dobryzynski said, adding that it's not encouraged or customary for a person to call a church about hosting a home mass.
"Generally, special home Masses are not something a person requests," he said. Dobrzyzynski said a pastor or priest from an individual church may perhaps come to celebrate a Mass for a person that has been a longtime member of the church congregation and is now homebound or for another special circumstance.
Dobryzynski said, at times, other situations may prompt a home Mass. He noted a time when a new church was being built in the diocese and there wasn't a physical place for people to gather. So, Masses were scheduled at various people's homes.
"Usually they're done for the sick or for special devotionals," he said.
Tellez's recent Mass, being a special devotional event in honor of Guadalupe, drew 12 people to her home. In the past, she's welcomed anywhere from 10 to more than 30 people for the Mass.
"I was happy to celebrate the Mass," Father Juan Pablo said, after the event in Tellez's home.
Dorothy Spencer, also a member of St. Kevin Church, said Mass is something important to her.
"It's very peaceful. And you feel really close to God," she said, about going to church.
Spencer added she's experienced home Masses a couple of times in the past and said there's a special quality about them, too.
"In a home, (being smaller), everyone is physically seated close together," she said, adding it's more of an intimate atmosphere.
Spencer said there's usually fellowship with refreshments after the home Masses, which allows for people to gather for a longer period of time and talk with one another about the experience.
After Tellez's December Mass, which was held at 10 a.m., the priest and attendees gathered around her table for an early lunch. Guests engaged in interesting conversation, learned more about Father Juan Pablo and further discussed the events surrounding the Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day and its miracles.