Father Andy Gonzalo, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Washington, D.C., did not expect to schedule a Sunday evening Mass on the last weekend of October. But then again, participants – both regular parishioners and visitors – really did not expect to be attending the World Series featuring the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros directly following the liturgy. “The team has played incredibly great,” Father Gonzalo said of the hometown Nationals. “Yes, this is our year,” he added after the special 6:30 p.m. edition of #NatsMass, a Sunday tradition since 2014 at the parish one block away from Nationals Park, home of the 2019 National League champions.

Usually held at noon before the Sunday 1:35 p.m. regular season games, #NatsMass is an opportunity to “go first to church, break bread, then go to the game,” Father Gonzalo said. “As Catholic Christians, as church, -- this is what we’re hoping for, all people coming together in jubilant things.”

Father Andy Gonzalo, the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, gives Communion to a man attending the Oct. 27 Mass before the World Series game at nearby Nationals Park. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Excited baseball fans decked out in their favorite players’ jerseys and wearing their team colors of red, white and blue filled the streets around St. Vincent’s as music blared from neighborhood bars and the Nationals brought the fall classic back to D.C. for the first time since 1933. “It’s unbelievable,” said James Marafino, a member of the Knights of Columbus who was helping to cook hot dogs for those parishioners who wanted dinner before the 8 p.m. game. “It’s amazing,” said Marafino, who was able to attend Game 4 the previous night.

Marafino and other members of the Knights of Columbus prepared the food and set up the usual chairs in the parking lot for the specially scheduled Mass. Additionally for the World Series, all parishioners were invited to take home a reusable cloth bag branded with #NatsMass and a stress ball and plastic clip in the shape of a baseball sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington.

A woman wearing a Washington Nationals shirt prays during the Oct. 27 #NatsMass at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Washington, D.C. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Mike and Nevada Sprung of Alexandria, Virginia,  brought their two older sons to the Mass and to take in some of the excitement around Nationals Park. The family members, all fans of the home team which before Sunday evening’s game was tied 2-2 in the series, were hoping “our prayers work here,” Nevada Sprung said. Her husband Mike’s position at the nearby U.S. Department of Transportation affords the opportunity to attend daily Mass at St. Vincent’s with several co-workers. “We don’t even have tickets tonight,” Mike Sprung noted. “We came for the atmosphere and to help Father Andy pray for a win.” 

Madonna McGovern, a season ticket holder and St. Vincent’s parishioner, flew her brother, Seann McGovern from Duluth, Minnesota to the District to attend the World Series. Both were planning on going to Game 5. “She’s a great sister,” said Seann McGovern. “I think it’s a wonderful ministry,” he added noting the church’s location just outside of the centerfield gates offered a special chance to reach out to baseball fans in the area who would like to also attend Mass. 

“Baseball – it really is a family thing,” Father Gonzalo added. “So the Church is also evangelizing. As eager as we are to go to the games, we should also be eager to have Christ.”

Even though she did not have tickets to the World Series, D.C. resident Denise Key saw the advertisements for the #NatsMass and thought she would attend the liturgy and see some of the festivities around the ballpark. “The energy down here is fantastic,” said Key who was outside taking photos of the banner advertising the regular season NatsMass. “I’m a little nervous for tonight’s game,” Key said. “But this is something that united our city for something fun – and we really need it.” Key said. “It’s been so exciting for the city, and I hope we win,” she added.

Inside, Father Gonzalo began Mass and asked the congregation “Are you ready?” Regardless of the outcome of the game, the participants focused on Mass and prayed together. “God answers prayers,” Father Gonzalo said. “We pray for the game tonight, for the safety of all the players and all the fans, that our team will play their best, and whatever the outcome may we all go home with a joyful heart.”

Massgoers wearing Washington Nationals gear pray during the Oct. 27 #NatsMass at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, which offered a special Mass before game 5 of the World Series for fans and others. During the baseball season, the church hosts a Mass before Sunday afternoon home games at nearby Nationals Park. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)