Ship of Fools
  Bulletin Boards
  Mystery Worshipper
  Caption Competition
  Gadgets for God
  The Fruitcake Zone
  Signs & Blunders
  Born Twice
  About Ship of Fools
  Support us!
  Contact us!
664: St Mary's Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Other reports | Comment on this report
St. Mary's Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Mystery Worshipper: The Acolyte.
The church: St Mary's Cathedral, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Denomination: Roman Catholic.
The building: The cathedral was built in the early 20th century, in the Romanesque style. It has seen interior renovations in the last decade or so, and it is much brighter than it was originally.
The church: It is the cathedral church of the archdiocese of Winnipeg, one of two Roman Catholic cathedrals in Winnipeg, the other (St Boniface Basilica of the archdiocese of St. Boniface) being across the Red River in Winnipeg's French Quarter. The location of the cathedral is such that any regular parishioners likely commute in from other areas of the city.
The neighbourhood: The cathedral sits in Winnipeg's downtown business district. Across the street is a modern multi-storey hotel. The city's convention centre is about a block away. The school in the picture above has long since disappeared.
The cast: No names were given, but a monsignor was celebrant, and a guest preacher (he was introduced, but I could not catch the name) from St Edward's parish gave the homily.
What was the name of the service?
Mass in honour of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

How full was the building?
The church was packed, with people sitting up in the side galleries in the triforia.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
A sidesperson smiled at me. Special leaflets for the event were on a table near the entrance.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews are standard wooden ones and were quite comfortable. The fold-down kneelers were fairly standard and comfortable enough.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
I arrived much earlier than necessary, as I thought the mass was beginning half an hour earlier than it actually was. It would be best described as having an air of expectancy about it, as the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux were to be present for the mass. People visited quietly, and I became acquainted with two of my pew mates, who had travelled in from another town for this event. The choir also was warming up for a while prior to the mass. Interestingly, I was approached separately by two different sidespeople and asked if I would like to take the oblations to the front of the cathedral at the offertory. I politely declined both times, as I am Anglican, and since I could not make my communion, I thought it would be too ironic if I brought the elements to the altar, but then was not allowed to partake of them.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"Good evening and please join me in singing hymn number..."

What books did the congregation use during the service?
A special leaflet, produced for St Thérèse's visit to Canada, as well as a hymnal and missal. (I forgot to note the exact titles of the books.)

What musical instruments were played?
Grand piano (miked up).

Did anything distract you?
My feet were freezing! It was a chilly fall evening, but due to the large crowd, the doors were open, and since I was seated on the aisle, the draft swept right over my feet. Also, one of the clergy (who seemed to be acting as a sort of MC), stood at the side of the sanctuary with each hand tucked up into the opposite sleeve of his alb. It gave him a very casual and nonchalant appearance, but maybe the draft was making his hands cold.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
I would describe it as modern Roman Catholic. Not happy-clappy, but not very formal, either. The ceremonial was very minimal considering the event. I had hoped to see a large procession, with banners, lots of smoke, etc., but any processions and recessions were done very quickly and without a great deal of dignity. During the Our Father, we all had to hold hands as seems to be the custom in Roman churches (around here at least)...

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Around 8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
5 – Content was good, delivery was in an almost monotone voice, with an accent that I had some difficulty understanding.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon was about St Thérèse and how she followed God, and that we should look to her as an example.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Being in the presence of the relics of St Thérèse (the reliquary was wheeled in during the Gloria by several members of the Knights of Columbus – preceded by a barefoot dancing young girl carrying a bowl of incense over her head – and positioned in front of the altar for the rest of the mass and into the next day) somehow made the communion of saints seem more real than usual.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The service started off with a young choir (quite good, I might add) singing Bruckner's "Locus Iste". The opening hymn was "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones." From there it went downhill musically. The choir was positioned in the front of the cathedral, off to the side, which greatly reduced their effectiveness. The church has wonderful acoustics and a choir gallery and pipe organ in the rear, but unfortunately they elected not to use these facilities, but miked up the choir and grand piano instead.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
Immediately after the mass ended, people started rushing forward to venerate the relics. There was no such thing as waiting your turn – it was everyone for themselves. I visited with my new acquaintances from my pew, while we made our way up the aisle to the front of the church to venerate the relics.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
Coffee was available in styrofoam cups in the cathedral's gymnasium/parish hall, which, like the church was crowded with people. I got to the coffee just as the last cup was being poured. No one seemed to be in charge of the coffee, so I made my way over to a booth where religious objects, including holy cards of St Thérèse were for sale. I purchased a few and returned to the church and touched them to the reliquary.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
4 – I am not Roman Catholic, but if I were, I might consider it. The music director of the cathedral is young and talented and I would venture to guess that there may be some masses with more traditional organ and choral music.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Frozen feet and other distractions notwithstanding, it was an impressive feeling to be in the presence of the mortal remains of one of the Church Triumphant.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The barefoot thurifer (my feet were freezing – I can't imagine how hers felt).
The Mystery Worshipper is sponsored by, the internet service provider from Christian Aid. By offering email services, special offers with companies such as and, surefish raises more than £300,000 a year for Christian Aid's work around the world.

Click here to find out how to become a Mystery Worshipper. And click here if you would like to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Top | Other Reports | Become a Mystery Worshipper!

© Ship of Fools 2003
Surefish logo