What to Expect at Mass

Planning to visit St. Joseph Catholic Church in Wauwatosa? Here’s what you’ll encounter in our church facility and in our celebration of the Mass:

Our Buildings and Grounds

Entrances: The main entrance to St. Joseph Church is on Center Street between 122nd Street and Park Drive. There are also entrances to the church from the parking lots on the east and west sides of the school building. Those side entrances will take you into the front of the church, while the main entrance takes you into the back of the church – the “narthex.”

Handicap Access: Handicapped parking is available in the front driveway loop. There is room for wheelchairs in the front left section of the church. The Center Street entrance is wheelchair accessible and has a door that automatically opens.

Seating: Pews are laid out in a semi circle around the altar. You are welcome to sit anywhere. Pews in the front left (west) section have an audio loop for people with hearing aids. There are a number of chairs in the left and center pew sections for people who have difficulty sitting in a pew.

Pews also are available in the balcony. The balcony is popular for families with babies and young children.

Lavatories: Restrooms are located on either side in the rear (narthex) of the church. Both restrooms are “family” restrooms and can be used by males or females.

Fussy Babies: Babies and children of all ages are welcome. If your baby is crying excessively, please take him or her to the rear of the church – the “narthex” or into the “bride’s room” on the west side of the narthex.

Kneeling: Our pews contain kneelers; we kneel during traditional kneeling times of the Mass; members of other religions and people with health problems may sit during the kneeling times. We believe kneeling is a sign of respect to God, and note the scriptural call that "At the name of Jesus, every knee should bend."

What to Wear: We encourage respectful dress for Mass and other liturgies and services, but you will find people attired in shorts and t-shirts to suits and ties.

Keep Your Cool: The church is air conditioned.

Have Questions? Want to Join? If you have a question about our parish or would like information on registering as a parishioner, volunteers in the Welcome Center in the rear of church can assist you after Mass every second weekend of the month. Or ask an usher or the presiding priest at any Mass.

Our Celebration of the Mass

Our Sunday services are the celebration of the Mass and include prayers, songs, readings from the Bible and a discussion of those readings.

The Mass is very biblical; all its elements can be found in Scriptures. The form of the Mass can be traced back to the earliest years of the church.

One-Hour Service: The celebration of Mass at St. Joseph lasts from 55 to 75 minutes. While wish all could stay until the end of our celebration, some people do leave Mass early. You are encouraged to stay until the priest and other ministers process out of church.

Who’s Up There? The priest is the principle celebrant of the Mass. He is assisted by male and female “acolytes,” and a deacon and, occasionally, the sacristan. Those people will be on the altar area of the church during the entire Mass. Selected members of the congregation will go to the altar area to proclaim those readings. The cantor will do the same for certain songs and sung prayers. Communion distributors will gather around the altar before taking their distribution stations.

Sing Along: We are a singing parish, with some traditional and some newer songs, along with some that could be termed in the “praise” genre. A cantor leads the congregation in song, as well as sung prayers, and a choir sings during certain times of the year. Accompanying instruments include piano, organ, drums, guitar, trumpet, bells and violin.

If you are not familiar with the order of Mass, the books in the pew racks can guide you.

Spontaneous: Don’t be surprised if, moved by the Spirit, people start clapping during some point of the Mass.

Catholics-to-Be: In the months before Easter, a group of people studying to become Roman Catholic will leave Mass mid-point to reflect on the Word of God as proclaimed during the first half of Mass.

Children’s Readings: During the school year, young people will leave during the readings so they can participate in a youth-oriented segment of the Mass.

Youth Mass: During the school year, youth from our parish participate in a special way at the 10:30 a.m. Mass once a month, serving as lectors, ushers and greeters. More contemporary music is part of that Mass.

Baptisms: Occasionally we’ll have a baptism within Mass, a special blessing, such as for students, teachers, or those preparing for the sacraments.

Collection: Collection baskets are passed person-to-person down each pew. The collection is used to support the various ministries and operations of the church, including charitable outreach. Once a month we collect food and money for food pantries. Occasionally, a second collection will be taken for a missionary or some other need.

Hand-shaking: After praying the Lord’s Prayer – the Our Father, we exchange a sign of peace – usually a handshake or, between couples and families, a kiss. If you are not comfortable with this gesture or have a bad cold, don’t feel obligated to participate or simply offer a nod and a wave.

Communion: Roman Catholics not in a state of serious sin, and members of various other Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches are welcome to join us in Communion. We use real wine, and — as Scriptures teach — believe the bread and wine to be totally transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

If you will not receive Communion, you are encouraged to join the Communion line with your arms crossed across your chest; the distributor will give you a blessing.

At Communion time, ministers will bring the Body and Blood of Christ to various stations in the front of both levels of the church. We process from the pews to the distributor, and follow the practice of gently bowing before receiving the Sacrament. The Body of Christ may be received in the hand or can be placed directly into your mouth. The Blood of Christ is distributed in common cups; the distributor wipes the cup clean after each recipient’s sip. It is not appropriate to take a host and dip it into the cup. If not enough ministers are available, some stations will only have the Body of Christ.

Have a Question? We often have someone in the welcome center to answer questions after Mass. Before Mass, welcome ministers at church entrances can answer your questions. If you have a need during Mass, including a need for medical attention, ushers in each section can assist you.