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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Students started giving thanks a little bit early on Tuesday.

Despite the cold, damp air and wet grass, about 100 people gathered on the Plaza of the Americas at noon for Mass on the Grass.

Father John Gillespie from St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center led a full-length Mass for students, faculty and passers-by.

A white tent covered the altar, and students sat and knelt on their jackets or book bags while they listened to Scripture readings, sang hymns and prayed together.

Debby Cherwak, director of student programs for St. Augustine Church, said although Mass on the Grass has been held several times before, this was the first time it took place on the Plaza of the Americas since she attended UF in the 1970s.

“I think it’s a first for all the students who are currently going to school,” she said.

Cherwak said the Mass had been held on the Reitz Union North Lawn in previous semesters, and there will probably be another Mass on the Grass in January.

Gillespie said more students attended the Mass when he was a UF student 40 years ago, and it included a canned food drive for Thanksgiving.

“We’d like to return to doing this as a regular Thanksgiving thing,” Gillespie said.

After the Mass, participants lined up for hamburgers and hot dogs provided by the Newman Club, which also provides dinner for churchgoers after Mass on Tuesday nights.

UF senior Mary McDermott, who works as an intern with Cherwak, said she was impressed with the turnout despite the wet, muddy ground.

McDermott said people of all faiths were welcome to attend the Mass. It was held to give thanks, which she said was the point this week.

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“Even if you’re not Catholic, it’s just a way to get to know God better,” she said.

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