NEW YORK (AP) _ About 1,000 people crowded into a church Monday night to pay tribute to Lucille Ball in one of three memorial Masses scheduled across the nation at an hour when Americans ''were used to being with Lucy.''

''This is really not a requiem Mass,'' the Rev. James Fox told those gathered for the Roman Catholic Mass at St. Ignatius Loyola. ''It's a Mass of thanksgiving, of gratitude for a life that was full and brought joy to millions.''

A memorial Mass was also held in Chicago, and another began in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica. All three Masses were set to begin at 8 p.m. local time.

The 77-year-old star of ''I Love Lucy'' died April 26, eight days after heart surgery.

''We all grew up with her,'' the Rev. John Cusack, assistant pastor at Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago, said before the service celebrated by the Rev. Jack Wall. More than 200 fans, young and old, came to say goodbye to the actress known for her red hair and whacky humor.

Broadcaster Diane Sawyer, invited to speak by Miss Ball's family, said in New York that Miss Ball ''united us in the redeeming act of laughter.''

''I can't remember a thing about my real life compared to what I remember about the Ricardos. I can remember where every stick of furniture was in their apartment,'' Miss Sawyer said.

Elizabeth Varanda, a 33-year-old fan of Miss Ball, said she was ''crazy about Lucy.''

''I liked her so much. I felt like I lost a personal friend,'' she said.

''Monday night was the time when most of the nation was used to being with Lucy,'' Miss Ball's family said in a statement announcing the services.

Two of the three long-running comedy shows in which Miss Ball starred, ''The Lucy Show'' and ''Here's Lucy,'' aired Monday nights, while ''I Love Lucy'' had starting times on Monday and other days as well.

Fox said Miss Ball's family ''wanted to have an opportunity for Lucille's fans to express their gratitude for Lucy. They wanted to do it with a spiritual concept.''

In Santa Monica, fans began lining up four hours before services at St. Monica's Catholic Church were to begin and the more than 900 seats in the church were filled an hour before.

Electricians wired speakers for those unable to get inside the church, and florists delivered flower arrangements, including a 3-foot-square red carnation heart with the words ''I Love Lucy'' written across.

''My children grew up watching her,'' said Lucie Nye, 69, of Santa Monica, a fan and church parishioner. ''I thought of how people really love her ... People are trying to say, well, she gave us something, she's a part of everyone's life.''