* Easter Thank You
Thank you to all who helped to make our Triduum and Easter celebrations so lively and beautiful. On Holy Thursday we had almost as many people as we typically had in the past. Good Friday was down in numbers from prior years but still better than other liturgies during the pandemic. The Easter Masses were more like typical pre-pandemic Sunday Masses and so there was a huge sense of life. I noticed it most in the singing. It filled the church! Thank you to all who participated or helped in any way. I know we still have to be careful with the new variants and the current surge in coronavirus cases, and we will be, but Easter gave me—and I hope others—a sense that we can recover and move forward.
One question I want advice on from our Worship Commission (and anyone else who wants to offer it) is to look at the timing of our biggest celebrations. Holy Thursday evening 7 p.m. seems to work just fine, but Good Friday and the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil do not seem to be conducive to the community. One thought would be to celebrate the main Good Friday liturgy at 12 noon rather than 1 p.m. We have more people come at noon for the Stations of the Cross (which are technically an add on and certainly not part of the Church’s official liturgy) than come to the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. Should we look at an evening celebration so that anyone who works can participate? As to the Easter Vigil, technically it is not supposed to be done until after sunset (which is near 9 p.m. at this time of the year), so that the ceremony of blessing and enthroning the new Easter Candle begins in darkness. Given its length, that would mean people might not get home until almost midnight, and so it is not great timing for families with children. We experimentally moved it to 7 p.m. the last three years but that has not significantly increased participation. I really wish I could know ahead of time if changing the time would have any affect on participation. If it is simply that people do not want to be part of a two plus hour celebration (which is beautiful and so worth it, by the way), then timing makes no difference. On the other hand, if I knew that we would fill the church for this most important celebration of the year by moving it to Saturday 4 or 4:30 p.m., I would risk the wrath of the powers that be in the diocesan Worship office and gladly do it at that earlier time. What do you think?
* Family-Centered First Holy Eucharists Begin
We begin our season of family-centered First Eucharists this weekend. Over the next few weeks at various Masses several children at a time will be celebrating their First Eucharist. Even though the children study and learn about this sacrament in their school religion or after school or online faith formation classes, First Eucharist is not a school or faith formation program event. It is a sacrament of the Church. Let us help make it special for them.
At those Masses we will reserve the first open pews in as many sections of the church as needed. There will still be plenty of room for the usual Sunday participants, so do not change your Mass-going habits because of these celebrations. The children will process in with the priest and servers at the beginning; be part of the sprinkling rite at the baptismal font; and be prayed for during the prayers of the faithful. By focusing on each individual First Eucharist child in this way, we hope to make these celebrations more memorable for them and the whole family.
* 2021 Catholic Services Appeal
Our annual Catholic Services Appeal will begin in a couple of weeks with a mailing home to each parish household. The theme this year is “Fueling the Mission.” The Catholic Services Appeal is not just another collection. It is the way we Catholics of the Archdiocese support the wider outreach of Catholic campus ministry, jail ministry, ministry to immigrants, support for parish life, seminary formation, and many other ways—over 100 different ministries in all. Every parish is given a mandated target. It is our share in the responsibility for all these wider ministries. If we do not reach it, we still pay that amount out of operating costs. But when we do reach it (and we exceed our target by a significant amount each year), all the money over the target comes back for parish use “tax-free.” This means that 100% of your C.S.A. donation helps the parish directly. Because of that, many of you use the C.S.A. time as a way to give significant gifts to the parish. Thank you for doing that. We build our budget counting on such generosity each year.
Even this past year, with an out-of-sequence C.S.A. due to the pandemic, most of you were able to continue to support the C.S.A. as you have in the past. Each year we need to evaluate our resources, I know, but if most of us, myself included, can continue to give at the level we have in the past, and a few more people can simply give whatever generous gift they can (about 40 % of our parish currently gives), we will do just fine. Thank you.
May the risen Jesus encourage, enliven and inspire each of us!