College mass

Our Lady of Wisdom

Vince Fallon prepares for a student group meeting by reading the gospel.

Vince Fallon prepares for a student group meeting by reading the gospel.

Photo By David Robert

Our Lady of Wisdom, 1101 N. Virginia, 322-4336. Services are held on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. and at 6:30 p.m.

Our Lady of Wisdom

1101 N. Virginia
Reno, NV 89503

(775) 322-4336

Our Lady of Wisdom is a Catholic church at 1101 N. Virginia St., directly across from the University of Nevada, Reno’s old student union building. With the exception of a plaque near the entrance, the church (formerly St. Albert the Great Church) is indistinguishable from the surrounding edifices, and parking is as difficult to find as anywhere else on campus, though here it’s free to all.

Stepping into the glass foyer of the church, the sounds of passing cars and people are instantly muted. The sanctuary is nearly as tall as it is long, and its unearthly quiet is intensified with a palpable religious atmosphere. Chandeliers hang from the broad and high ceiling above the two rows of pews that lead up to the stage. A tall slender crucifix hangs at the center of the church with a pale depiction of Christ.

The choir practices quietly at the front of the church, and candles are lit on a small altar on the opposite side of the chancel as parishioners gradually filter in for the 6:30 p.m. mass. The chandeliers are all brought to light, revealing plain white walls and the Stations of the Cross.

Father Vince Fallon walks among the aisles before the service in a long white robe and shakes hands with many of the early arrivals. The priest has only led this church for six weeks, though he already seems to know many of the people by first name, and he greets them all warmly with a mild Irish accent.

The room gradually fills with a diverse group of young and old people. Each genuflects and crosses his or herself before sitting. Many kneel again after taking a seat and bow their heads in prayer. As 6:30 p.m. approaches, there is a substantial crowd, and all 23 pews are filled as a murmur of voices echo through the room.

Mass begins with the choir forming again at the front of the church as the sanctuary falls silent. As one, the congregation rises as the priest speaks. The parishioners respond to the priest’s words. There is no obvious written display prompting action, although there is a young woman translating what the priest is saying into sign language. The choir sings a slow song of mercy, and again the congregation sings the chorus without a single hymnal opened, the ceremony having been memorized by everyone.

A church member reads a passage of Genesis. When the section is completed, the speaker says, “The Word of the Lord,” and the room responds together with “Thanks be to God.” Again and again, the congregation sings or speaks in a uniquely human, though mystically charged, harmony.

Father Fallon speaks of the temptation and the humanity of Christ and even slips in an Oscar Wilde quote regarding the hardships of life. He warns the congregation to live healthfully and not to be too hard on themselves for past mistakes because “temptation is part of the human condition.”

Communion is held while the choir sings, and each member of the church receives a piece of bread and drinks from the chalice before returning to their seat. The choir sings a final time as the collection plate is passed, and a lone tenor saxophone tolls over the voices before the priest says, “Mass is ended, may the Lord be with you,” and the churchgoers respond, “And also with you.”