The Parish Liturgical Committee: The Ministry of Formation and the Work of Assessment
Throughout the twentieth century, the Holy See has consistently called for the organization of commissions to assist the bishop in his oversight of the liturgical life of his diocese. The Second Vatican Council, in particular, asked that these commissions should also promote and regulate sacred music and art under the direction of the bishop (Sacrosanctum concilium, 44-46). Following the Council, many parishes erected analogous committees to oversee the various aspects of the liturgical life of the parish under the guidance of the pastor.
It has been noted in recent years that many parishes no longer have liturgical committees. Many commentators have suggested that this phenomenon is perhaps due to the lack of a clearly defined mission for these groups. At the same time, it has been recognized that parish liturgy committees can be very helpful to pastors in providing feedback, ongoing support, and a well-informed assessment as to how the liturgical life of the parish can be enhanced. With this in mind, pastors and pastoral staff members may wish to consider and discuss the many benefits which a liturgical committee can provide to a parish community, particularly if this group is not currently active or already a part of the parish structure.
If a parish does not currently have a liturgy committee, the first question which may arise is, who should be invited to participate in this group? Certainly, the pastor, assisting clergy, parish music director, RCIA coordinator, Director of Religious Education, sacristan, and the coordinators of the various liturgical ministries (e.g., lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers) are persons who might initially be asked to be part of the parish liturgy committee. As well, other interested parishioners who are well-versed in the Church’s liturgy may be invited to serve. Although the population of the liturgy committee will be different for each parish depending on need, it would be important for committee members to recognize the distinction between their role and the ministries of those who regularly prepare liturgies, especially the priest-celebrant and the parish music director. That is, experience has shown that parish liturgy committees work best when they understand their role as assisting the pastor in assessing the needs of the worshipping community, while leaving the actual preparing and execution of liturgies to those who are entrusted with doing so by virtue of their particular role within the parish. Relatedly, parish liturgy committee members should understand that the liturgy of the Church is, in most respects, already planned and described in detail by the Church’s official liturgical books.
When beginning or reinitiating a parish liturgy committee, pastors may discover that some of the group’s members need additional formation in the theology of the liturgy and the Church’s liturgical documents. To that end, committee members could be invited to engage in a joint study of resources, such as the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Introduction to the Lectionary, Redemptionis Sacramentum, the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar, and Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. Following this study, the group may then be in a position to assess the current liturgical life of the parish in light of the principles outlined in these documents. This process of assessment could include a study and discussion of:
- the celebration of Sunday Mass;
- preparation for the various liturgical seasons;
- the liturgical environment;
- the training of liturgical ministers;
- the celebration of the RCIA;
- school liturgies;
- the celebration of baptisms, first communions, confirmations, funerals, and weddings;
- the music program; and,
- the ministry of hospitality and welcome.
To assist parishes in this work of assessment, the Office of Liturgy has recently published an online, comprehensive tool which covers many of the aforementioned areas. Pastors may wish to use this tool as is or adapt it depending on the needs of their particular parish. As well, the Liturgy Office has in its library a number of practical resources for parishes interested in starting liturgy committees. Pastors are invited to contact the Office for additional information.
As announced last year, when the optional rite of foot-washing is celebrated within the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, those whose feet are washed should be representative of the variety of persons and groups within the parish community. Those to have their feet washed need not be twelve in number.
The archdiocesan Chrism Mass will be celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on Tuesday, April 11, at 4:00pm. Holy oils will be distributed after the Mass in prepackaged six-ounce containers, as in previous years. Oils will also be distributed at Saint Joseph’s Seminary on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday of Holy Week. Old holy oils may be disposed of at Saint Joseph’s Seminary throughout the year.
The Solemnity of Saint Joseph has been transferred to Monday, March 20 this year to allow for the celebration of the Third Sunday of Lent on Sunday, March 19.
The Cardinal’s Office has announced a dispensation from abstaining from meat on the Solemnity of Saint Patrick this year, inasmuch as this feast day falls on a Friday in Lent in 2017.
The Office of Liturgy is offering two conferences during the Lenten season. “Celebrating the Sacred Triduum” will be presented at Saint Rita’s Parish on Staten Island on Friday, March 10, from 7:30-8:30pm. Additionally, a seminar on “The Liturgy of Good Friday” will be given at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers on Friday, March 24, from 7:00-8:30pm.
Both talks will be given by Father Matthew Ernest, director of the Liturgy Office. These seminars are ideal for anyone who wishes to have a greater appreciation and understanding of the Church’s liturgical year in preparation for the celebration of the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum. Registration for both events is free of charge and may be accessed on the Liturgy Office website.
On March 25, from 10:00am-3:00pm, at Marymount Convent in Tarrytown, music directors, adult choir members, instrumentalists, and others involved in parish music ministry are invited to join Father Richard Marrano, priest of the Archdiocese of New York, for a day of prayer, reflection, and music-making with fellow parish musicians from around the archdiocese. The day will include the celebration of Solemn Morning
Prayer, conferences given by Father Marrano, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and time for fellowship. The registration fee (to defray the cost of lunch) is $10. Attendees are invited to register at the Liturgy Office website.
The Congregation for Divine Worship’s
1988 Circular Letter “Concerning the
Preparation and Celebration of the Easter
Feasts,” recommends the communal
celebration of the Office of Readings and
Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy
Saturday, bearing in mind that this Office
(formerly known as Tenebrae) holds a
special place in the devotional lives of the
faithful. Many parishes in the
Archdiocese of New York continue the
tradition of praying the Liturgy of the Hours in common on these days as a way of meditating on the passion, death, and burial of the Lord while awaiting the celebration of His resurrection.
The Liturgy Office frequently receives requests for booklets which can be used by parishes for the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours during the Triduum. The ebreviary service has recently made these resources available, free of charge, on its website. The booklets may be downloaded directly from the ebreviary website and reproduced as needed by parishes.
Liturgical guidelines for the celebration of funerals have been published by the Office of Liturgy. These guidelines are intended to serve as a pastoral aid to clergy and others who are involved in the planning and celebration of the funeral rites within the Archdiocese of New York. Topics covered include: ministry to families at a time of loss, times when the celebration of a funeral Liturgy Outside Mass is appropriate, cremation, words of remembrance, and memorial Masses. This document may be accessed and downloaded from the Liturgy Office website.
The USCCB’s Divine Worship Secretariat has announced that the third edition of the Misal Romano for use in the (arch)dioceses of the United States has received recognitio from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. This book has been long awaited by many pastors and others in the Archdiocese who serve Spanish-speaking congregations. The revised Misal is currently being reviewed for grammar and punctuation consistencies, and it is anticipated that publication and implementation dates will be announced in the forthcoming months. The Liturgy Office plans to sponsor a workshop on the revised Misal at the time of its publication.
As indicated in the December 2016 edition of the Liturgy Update, the Secretariat for Divine Worship has also recently given notice of the forthcoming publication of the L ectionary for M ass S upplement. The following editions of the Supplement will become available on April 1, 2017, and may be used as of this same date:
• Catholic Book Publishing Company Hardcover, 8 1⁄2” × 11”, $21.95
• Liturgical Press
Classic edition: hardcover, 8 1⁄2” × 11”, $39.95 Chapel edition: hardcover, 7” × 9”, $34.95
• Liturgy Training Publications Softcover, 9 3⁄4” × 12”, $29.95
All of the above editions may be ordered through ICS at a discounted price. Ordering information and additional details may be found on the ICS website.