Uplit and nestled among its serene gardens, the St. Joan of Arc Chapel is captivating at night. But its gravity pulls a little more on Tuesday nights, as students fill its space for a tradition that started long before they were born: 10 p.m. Mass.
In the early 1970s, the beloved Rev. John Naus, S.J., started the Mass. Known for his effervescent personality and rainbow suspenders, the “Clown priest” brought a different energy to the service, which was often attended by students who didn’t ordinarily frequent Mass.
“I think to a certain extent he made Mass fun and made life around him fun,” says Andrew Mountin, Arts ’12, Grad ’15, assistant director for Campus Ministry. “I certainly think that was part of the draw-in for people who weren’t regular Mass-goers to try out Tuesday Night Mass. He was this goofy, funny, approachable guy and kids would get involved because they knew he was in it.”
Rev. Nathaniel Romano, S.J., Arts ’03, came to Marquette in 1999 as an undergraduate, and Tuesday Night Mass immediately became his place to celebrate Mass thanks to the overwhelming community feeling.
“It felt like our place to celebrate Mass,” Father Romano says. “The questions and tensions that come up in religion didn’t have to be litigated. We didn’t argue about all the nuances that exist. Instead, we would come together in St. Joan of Arc Chapel, pray with one another and have a home for worship.”
Mountin was the Mass’ student leader during his senior year and through his graduate studies, working with Father Naus before his retirement in 2012. Naus passed away in September 2013 at 89.
Most remember Father Naus for his kindness, attentiveness and making the people he met feel important.
“It spills into what the Tuesday night tradition was and how it lasted past him,” Mountin says. “It instilled in the community this love of having new people involved and welcoming them in to give them a place of belonging. That’s an ethos that outlasted him, but he was a core part of why that Mass became so popular.”
An ever-changing tradition
Each year, a new class of students has its own opportunity to make new traditions or revive old ones — Tuesday Night Mass is no different.
“Regardless of whether it was the same experience, Tuesday Night Mass has provided a meaningful experience from the ’70s until today,” Mountin says.
He adds that students have taken the lead on making Tuesday Night Mass into what they need it to be.
“These students want to do good work and learn the Mass for its intricacies,” Mountin says. “We may not get it perfect, but there’s always been a real desire among students to create something meaningful, and I believe that is the biggest tradition of the Tuesday Mass.”
Claire Schomogyi, a senior in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, first heard about Tuesday Night Mass on her campus tour. She quickly added it to her list of must-dos when she arrived as a freshman.
“Tuesday Night Mass is special for me because I have made so many friends who are rooted in their faith, and these friends have accompanied me on my journey at Marquette,” Schomogyi says. “The church is not just four walls, but rather, an interior disposition that seeks to build community, and this Tuesday Night Mass group does just that.”
Tuesday Night Mass is not unique at its core — other universities have evening Masses or weeknight vigils for reflection or prayer. What is special at Marquette, Father Romano says, is the intimacy of the Mass and how attendees are intentional about deepening their connection with one another either through friendship and faith.
“One of the great and beautiful things about Mass is there’s only one Mass ever offered; it is the sacrifice of Christ that we are participating in,” Father Romano says. “We can have a small group celebrating Mass in a small chapel in the middle of Milwaukee, and it serves the affective and spiritual needs of that community — but it’s connected to this 2,000-year-old tradition that will extend until the end of time.
“That’s what makes it special. We’re able to be a part of the universal experience of Christ, while also being particular in who we are and where we’re doing it without losing that particularity.”
St. Joan of Arc Chapel has seen plenty of Schomogyi’s emotions. She says it’s a place where she has celebrated her life’s joys and been comforted amid sorrow. Between tears and laughs, she says the most beautiful part of St. Joan of Arc Chapel and Tuesday Night Mass is its rich history and the shared experience of all who’ve entered the sacred space over the past 50 years.
“There are few things that are as good as ending your Tuesday in a spirit of gratitude and community,” she says. “Going to this worship service is life-nurturing. It provides a space for you to debrief life and ground yourself in something greater than you, in God. It provides perspective, community, and support like no other.”
Tuesday Night Mass at St. Joan of Arc Chapel is held every Tuesday during the academic year at 10 p.m. All students, faculty and staff are welcome, and no registration is required. Get there early – space fills up quickly!