By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator  

As the transport bus pulled up to the church, the 12 passengers on board readied themselves to disembark, tightening their grips on purses, canes and rosaries. The ladies, all residents of Williamsburg Senior Living Community in Baton Rouge, gingerly made their way down the steps and walked right into church. Beautifully dressed with smiles and bright eyes, the women, supporting each other both physically and spiritually, made their way to their usual spots, the front two pews. They were attending their 22nd consecutive First Friday Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge.  

First Friday.tif

Father Cleo Milano distributes Holy Communion to residents of Williamsburg Senior Living Community during First Friday Mass on June 7.  Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator  


“I think we’re so lucky to be taken over to Our Lady of Mercy and it’s so nice to be able to go,” said Katherine Barron, 92. “I appreciate it very much. It uplifts your soul and makes you feel wonderful. I mean it just makes you feel at peace to go and do that.”  

Attending First Friday Mass dates to early 2017 when the group occasionally attended St. George Church in Baton Rouge and other area churches. But consistent transportation issues presented a logistical challenge, so the practice was more sporadic. Once more reliable transportation was secured, the decision was made to attend the mid-city church, which is just a few blocks from the facility.  

“We go early and there’s a couple of ladies that want to say the rosary before Mass, so we sit in there, quietly and we say the rosary before Mass if we can,” said Mo Hebert, 88. “I enjoy the Mass over there. It’s beautiful. We need to say prayers for a lot of people.”  

Monthly participation in the group averages from 10 to as many as 14 residents, depending on many variables. It’s not even unusual to see a resident’s family member or friend join them in the pew, adding an unexpected blessing to an already joyful celebration.  

“It means a great deal because you know as we get older and closer to going up, I’m counting on the Blessed Mother,” said Leea Pittenger.  

Residents admit they enjoy attending Mass at the assisted living facility but miss the sacredness of being in a church. For many, attending a parish church is no longer an option because of mobility challenges or they are no longer able to drive.  

“It is very stimulating to go to church and they have a wonderful organist and Father Cleo (Milano) is very inspirational. He always recognizes us on First Fridays which is a very nice tribute.”  

“Well that Williamsburg community is simply awesome,” said Father Cleo Milano, pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge. “And you know, they just bring sunshine and you can feel the faith and the love in all their hearts for the Lord. So they bless the whole community when everybody sees them at noon Mass on First Friday. They just bring a bright light to everybody.”  

Barring no complications, by early July the group sitting in the front row will have attended their 22nd consecutive First Mass at Mercy, living proof that indeed faith knows no age.  

First Friday 1.tif

Residents of Williamsburg Senior Living Community pray the rosary before Mass on June 7 at Our Lady of Mercy Church.