We knew they were visitors because A) this is a small town, B) they were standing in the back before mass began, looking unsure of what to do or where to go and C) they didn't look like us.
Before you think I'm awful, let me explain -- most of the women in the congregation have pulled out their colorful spring/summer wardrobe -- cute little jackets, dresses and shirts in pinks, bright greens and blues.
But this mom and her two daughters wore heavy, felted sweaters, straight wool skirts and clunky shoes, looking not just like they were from another season, but from another generation -- the mom's thin, gaunt face reminded me of the dust bowl travelers of The Grapes of Wrath.
I said hello as I passed them on my way up front; the girls both smiled sweetly and the mom nodded her head and said "God bless you."
I didn't notice where they sat, or if they even stayed for mass; I was fighting hard to stay focused on the music, as I was still a little foggy from staying up until 4 AM at the after prom that morning. And, I knew that Father Dan was going to make the announcement as to whether or not he will be staying at St. A (he is, and the church erupted into applause and a few tears. A very happy moment).
So it took me completely by surprise, when, near the end of the petitions, the mother spoke out; there was an uncomfortable little shuffle in the pews -- while this is a common and lovely practice in many churches, it's not a very Catholic thing to do. I could barely make out what she said, but caught the words "homeless" and "children." Dave the lector was cool; when she was finished, he simply added, "We pray to the Lord," and we responded in kind. Father quickly and quietly swept down to her pew, had a word with her and came back to continue mass.
Afterward, I was putting away the music, closing up the keyboard and talking with a few people when I noticed the crowd around the woman and her daughters; by the time I got there, Father had his arm around her, she had two handfuls of money, accommodations for the night and we knew her story -- she and her husband (who had waited in the car because he didn't think he was clean enough for church), were jobless, homeless and on their way to Oregon with their kids.
That is a long, long way from here.
When I went out to my car, I watched as the girls went skipping down the sidewalk, hand in hand. Mom followed them smiling. Good stuff.
I don't know how they found St. A or how they knew there was church at 5 on Saturday evening.
But I do know that they came to the right place.