Weekly worship, centered around Holy Communion, is deeply nourishing to Lorraine Vassallo. She is a member of Church of St. John the Evangelist (also called St. John's) in Rochester.
Vassallo and her husband, Robert, moved to Med City from the country of Malta in the mid-1990s for Robert's medical residency. Many of their earliest connections in southeastern Minnesota came through relationships formed at St. John's.
"Our faith is very important to us. The first thing we did when we moved here was find a church. We loved it. We really felt welcome here … and that was 22 years ago this June."
The deep connections they formed within the congregation have ended up providing a second family to the Vassallos and their son, Tim, who now is in college in California: "We really have two families. Family here and family back home."
St. John's is located in downtown Rochester and was founded in 1863. It is the city's oldest Catholic church. The congregation is built around its core identity as a "welcoming community of believers." Vassallo says the congregation is committed to living out a ministry of hospitality to all who enter the building.
Before and after every worship service, specially trained hospitality ministers are available to help visitors get acclimated to the building and the services. Members gather frequently for a variety of small groups, newcomer classes and learning opportunities.
Intentional hospitality is one of the aspects of congregational life that Vassallo values most. She also finds a lot of meaning in serving as a eucharistic minister and hearing the homilies of the pastors, the Rev. Msgr. Gerald Mahon and the Rev. John Lasuba.
The Eucharist, which is another name for Holy Communion, is central to Vassallo's life of faith. She finds the entire worship service every week to be centering and life-giving. Of receiving the eucharist and serving as a eucharistic minister, she shares, "I get strength from it. … I get nourished. … I really look forward to Mass on Sunday."
It is the mass each week that propels and strengthens Vassallo for the rest of life. She is in a time of vocational transition and continuing to hold tight to some wisdom she once received from a professor, "A good teacher must always be a good learner, and I took that advice literally. I'm always trying to track something down to study."
In Malta, Vassallo was a high school biology and chemistry teacher. After her son was born, she took time to be at home with him. Then, when he started school, she completed lay minister training through the Diocese of Winona. After that, she got her undergraduate degree in modern languages.
Vassallo most recently completed her graduate degree in English as a second language. She is working as a substitute teacher in Rochester's public and Catholic schools. About what the future might hold, Vassallo says with a peaceful smile, "We'll see."
Vassallo radiates the same peaceful humility when she speaks to her congregation. While she loves St. John's, she also expresses a keen awareness that St. John's, similar to any other worship community, is not without difficulties and challenges. "We are a church that is made of people. We do our best, but we aren't perfect. … For me, this church helped me find a home. St. John's is not just the building. It is the community. We are all St. John's. I am one part of the whole and one member of the body. It takes every part to make the whole."
A variety of worship services and educational opportunities are part of the rhythms every weekend at St. John's. For service details and additional information about the congregation, visit http://sj.org.