Breakfast club: Decades-long ritual for St. Veronica Massgoers
(Photo by Valerie Schmalz/Catholic San Francisco) St. Veronica 8:30 a.m. Mass breakfast club members gathered recently for a group photo
The morning Mass group is a staple at most parishes – a group of devoted daily Mass attendees who bond each morning before and after Mass, as they share faith and time despite whatever differences the rest of their lives hold.
At St. Veronica Parish in South San Francisco, the camaraderie spills over after the 8:30 a.m. Mass into coffee and maybe an Egg McMuffin or oatmeal at the McDonald’s a few blocks away on El Camino Real – and it’s been that way for nearly 30 years.
The group is such a staple of life at McDonald’s that the parishioners use a special meeting room, although often so many come they extend into the tables in the main part of the restaurant. For the group, all of whom are retired, this is a way to give a little structure to the day, and check in with friends who are supportive and share the same time of life.
“That’s how you start the day is going to Mass,” said Mira McTiernan, who attends Mass with her husband Jim. Before retirement she was a regular at 6:30 a.m. Mass and her husband, who retired five years earlier, went to the 8:30 a.m. Mass. Now they go together.
“It nourishes you,” said June Heise of morning Mass. “It’s hard to imagine starting your day without it. Especially when you are older, you are thinking about eternity.”
The Mass-breakfast group’s “faith, friendships, joy, and service are an inspiration – and a precious gift to the parish community,” said St. Veronica pastor Father Charles Puthota.
“Their practice underlines the fact that we need support from each other both at prayer and social gatherings and enjoy the human connectedness,” said Father Puthota, noting many in the group date their involvement in the parish to its founding in 1951 and are generous supporters of the parish “ministries and mission.”
“I’d been going to daily Mass and so had my husband. After my husband passed away six years ago I was invited to come and join the group,” said Mary Fabian. “It has been really wonderful for me, especially with the loss of my husband. It’s been a very healing experience.”
Though, she said with a laugh and nod of the head toward Emanuele Damonte, one of the founding members of the McDonald’s group, “Sometimes they aggravate me. They torture me; they love to get me started.”
“Lots of room in this inn,” joked Damonte, in a play on his namesake. “I only speak the truth.”
“It’s a wonderful way to start the day,” said Damonte, who attends with his wife Carolyn. “Any of them would go out of their way for you.”
“I like the camaraderie,” said Dave McCann, who calls himself ‘a Lenten guy’ who attends daily Mass and comes for coffee during the penitential season.
At first the 8:30 Mass friends would congregate after Mass for a coffee and donut at the donut shop but at McDonald’s they have the meeting room each morning, Monday-Saturday.
The friendship at Mass and afterward is wonderful, said Heise. “And you know, when you’re old, everyone has aches and pains. You can stay home and feel sorry for yourself or you can get out and get over it.”
From March 28, 2014 issue of Catholic San Francisco