When Father Marco Antonio Franco celebrated Mass in the middle of Spaulding Avenue on the evening of July 27, on a day when temperatures topped 90 degrees and the heat radiated off the asphalt, more than 100 people gathered to pray together, to support one another, to demonstrate their faith publicly and to bring the church out into the neighborhood. The outdoor Masses — “Misas de cuadra,” or “Mass on the block” — have become a summer tradition for St. Agnes of Bohemia Parish in Little Village. Former pastor Father Matthew Foley started them more than 20 years ago, said Jose Toledo, who has been one of the organizers for 12 years. Toledo and Benita Garcia coordinate the ministry, which schedules Masses on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in different sectors of the parish, finding volunteers on each block to provide electricity and having people visit each home on the block the day before the Mass so that everyone knows they are invited. Planning starts months before the first Masses are celebrated. “It started as a way of praying for justice and praying for peace in the neighborhood,” said Franco, who became pastor of St. Agnes July 1. “Today, more than ever, we need the peace and healing. This neighborhood has been hit by violence very hard, and we need the presence of the church and the prayers of the community.” “It brings the church out of the church,” Garcia said. On the evening of July 27, the area where the Mass was to be celebrated had round and star-shaped balloons decorating the trees and gates, and white folding chairs were set up in front of the table that served as the altar. As more people arrived, they brought their own seating, plastic lawn chairs and the kind of folding chairs most often seen at children’s sports games. People who live on the block carried dining room chairs out of their homes for Massgoers, while children sat on the curb. By participating in the Mass, Franco said, those who attended were offering an important witness to their neighbors, in a time when most people spend more time thinking about their social networks and other media and less time thinking about God, Franco said in his homily. Such opportunities for witness are more common in Mexico and other Latin American countries, Franco said. “It’s a public manifestation of faith,” he said. “For a lot of people here, this is something they remember from their hometowns.” Garcia said having Mass in the neighborhoods, on the street in front of people’s homes, can make it easier for parishioners to invite family members who do not usually go to church, and maybe get them to come back. “There are a lot of young people who don’t come to church,” she said. “This way, we bring the word of God to the streets.” The July 27 Mass was the fourth of five scheduled for this summer. Franco said that between 70 and 100 people usually attended, although many were the same people. Marisol Guzman, who came to the Mass on July 27, said she came to that Mass because it was on the block where her mother-in-law lives, and her mother-in-law invited her. “We came because we are Catholic, and we want to pray together,” she said. Arisbeth Martinez, 13, attended with her family, including her parents and sisters. They used to live in the neighborhood and came to the street Masses in the summer, but moved away. They came back, she said, because they enjoyed the community feel of the street Masses. “Everyone one is nice and everyone helps each other,” she said. The Mass concluded with a special blessing for all the children present, including Arisbeth and her younger sister. Franco also blessed water and religious images and other articles that families brought to keep in their homes, and with an invitation to come to Mass in church.