What Do You Want from Your Parish? Worship

Friends, as some of you know, my partner-in-geekdom Sarah Reinhard and I will be speaking at the upcoming Religious Education Congress for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. For one of our two talks, we need your input. I thought I would break our “needs” down into a weeklong series of blog posts and invite your conversation on each of the five topics.

One of the goals of this talk is to share with the participants specific feedback from the faithful in the pews on ways in which Catholic parishes can support and sustain families in their Domestic Churches. We are going to look at five specific areas:

  1. Worship (Mass, the Eucharist, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament)
  2. Sacramental Preparation
  3. Religious Education (not specifically related to sacrament prep, but rather broader education, including things like preschool, whole family catechesis, bible study, etc.)
  4. Ministries (within and outside of the parish)
  5. “Miscellaneous” including social, administrative and communications initiatives

Today, we will launch the conversation with the all-important topic of Worship. I am going to throw open the comments and really BEG you to tell me what you would ask of your pastor if he asked you, “What do you want from your parish in the arena of worship? How can we serve your family and draw you into a more fruitful relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church?

Please include your comments below or feel free to email me at lisahendey@gmail.com. And if you’d really like my unending gratitude, record a one minute video answering this question and email it to me. In order for our talk to be a good resource for those attending, your feedback is essential and greatly appreciated!

About Lisa M. Hendey

Lisa Hendey is the founder and webmaster of CatholicMom.com and the author of The Grace of YesA Book of Saints for Catholic Moms and The Handbook for Catholic Moms. Lisa writes for several online and print publications, enjoys speaking around the country and is a frequent television and radio guest and host. Visit her at LisaHendey.com.

  • Tania Zuniga

    I would like to experience more reverence towards the Blessed Sacrament during the Liturgy. Altar servers do whatever they want and not even genuflect when Jesus is right in front of them, or seeing people receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ like it’s just a cookie (why not receive Jesus kneeling down), and the type of music played sometimes does not help meditate, and it’s unacceptable how some people try to take away the privilege from the priest to distribute communion. They overuse Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

    • lisahendey

      Thanks for this important comment Tania!

  • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

    Uh-oh. My parish is terrific with respect to Mass, the Eucharist, Adoration & Benediction, Rosary, Stations, and Vespers. All done as well as I’ve seen anywhere.

    • Lisa Hendey

      Christian could you please share the name and location of your parish? Thanks!

    • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

      Lisa, St. Mary’s Greenville S.C. Looking at the other comments, I’ll add that we have reverent and competent altar boys, kneeling/ genuflecting to receive, singable traditional hymns, no EMs, no chatting before Mass. It’s rare that after Mass my wife and I don’t feel like the door to heaven was cracked open for a few minutes.

      • katieokeefe

        Ha! I’ve met your pastor, Christian. Good man! Great parish!

  • Deanna Bartalini

    Liturgy and prayer should be the primary focus in a parish. Time, money and training resources should be allocated accordingly. Liturgical ministers need to understand their roles and be knowledgeable about what and why they are doing what they are doing. Without a proper focus on liturgy, prayer and worship how is a parish different from other social and/or charitable organizations?

    • lisahendey

      Thanks Deanna. I’m curious, are you involved in any liturgical ministries at your parish? How was your training conducted? Thanks!

      • Deanna Bartalini

        At my previous parish I was responsible for liturgical ministry training and scheduling. I didn’t do it all the training on my own but with our deacons. One problem was that there was reluctance on the administration’s part to make training mandatory, too speak to the liturgical ministers who acted and/or dressed inappropriately and I was not permitted to do so either. In the parish where I work now, training is minimal and again, few standards or norms are held to or expected. It is not about calling attention to yourself or being special, it’s the opposite. You should be almost invisible in your role: liturgy is to be a foretaste of heaven not Broadway.

        • lisahendey

          Deanna, sorry but that made me laugh out loud (just the bit about Broadway…). Thanks – I hear what you are saying.

  • Danielle M.

    I agree with Tania, maybe we live in the same area. We are actually prohibited by our pastor from genuflecting before receiving the Eucharist, the alter is a swarm of people, not very reverent. Also, most homilies include jokes, most often something derogatory about marriage or parenthood. Not really what I would like my children to hear. I just wish the Mass, where I attend, would be more serious, and feel more special, as I believe it should be. This isn’t a late night talk show, and the priest should not be looking for the laughs from the congregation.

    • lisahendey

      Thank you for your emphasis on reverence before the Eucharist Danielle. So important.

  • katieokeefe

    I can’t say that I have anything to add to the previous comments. 1) Adoration changes parishes. Every. Time. And *always* for the better. Time in front of the Blessed Sacrament is essential for spiritual growth in a parish. 2) Lots of options for Confession. My parish offers 12 hours of Confession per week (now, of course, that’s spread over four priests). But half an hour on Saturday afternoon isn’t going to cut it. If you offer it and preach it, they will come. 3) I also highly recommend adult continuing education classes. So many of us who grew up Catholic still have so much to learn!

    • lisahendey

      Katie – 12 hours of confession. that is great. What is the name and location of the parish? Do folks take advantage of that?

      • katieokeefe

        St. Patrick Church, Columbus, OH. We have lines for the confessional every single day. The Dominican Friars hear confessions daily from 12:15 (following the 11:45 Mass) until all confessions are heard – often they are in the confessional until 2 pm. Then, on weekends, they have confessions for half an hour before each Mass the lines are so long that they often have to turn people away until after Mass.

        • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

          We have robust Confession lines as well. Nothing beats getting in line and seeing one of my catechism-class kids ahead of me.

  • http://sfomom.blogspot.com/ Barb S

    I would like to see more opportunity for Confession, definitely. That would be HUGE for me.
    I would also like to see more reverence being taught at church. I’m guilty of this too–before and after Mass, the church is like a social hall. That doesn’t help people pray and it also makes it very easy to be less reverent during Mass as well.
    One other change is something that might be particular to my parish. We have Faith Formation on Sundays and it involves Mass. That’s good, but it’s held at the local Catholic high school instead of at one of our TWO parish churches. On FF weekends, the churches are much emptier and there are hardly any families with kids there. It separates the families with school-age kids from the rest of the parish. For some children, the only place they attend Mass is a high-school auditorium. You might think this answer applies more to the “religious education” topic but I am talking about it in a worship sense.

    • lisahendey

      Confession and reverence seem to be two recurring themes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Julie F (@jfount)

    What I want from my parish is worship that is really about worship – worship that is really prayer. Masses that express the amazing reality of the Eucharist. Small things like quiet in the church and cards with prayers of thanksgiving in the pew, and bigger things like not having the choir in the front of the church. Opportunities to learn about prayer and encouragement to practice it. Novenas, adoration, rosaries, prayer groups, praise nights, retreats, lectures/presentations about deepening one’s own prayer life: a living interest in promoting prayer requires, I think, trying a lot of things, and I like to see that in a parish.

    Sometimes when we talk about this kind of thing it gets to be about more social or community goals because that’s easier to talk about: “we’re the progressive parish for thinking Catholics” or “we’re the traditionalist parish for people who appreciate these things” or “this is how we’ve always done things” or “what can we do to get the most buns in the pews?” This is kind of quixotic, but what I would hope is that my parish approaches liturgy not from these kind of worldly perspectives but out of a genuine desire to worship God, and the humility to follow the guidelines of the universal church. To my mind, when the focus really is on worship and prayer, that makes everything genuinely welcoming, and genuinely universal.

    I split my time between two cities, and the parish I am part of in each does well at these things (I guess that’s why I go there ;) ). One is quite “trad” and the other is a little more “mainstream” but both seem “alive” in that they always seem to have different kinds of programming and devotions going on.

    • lisahendey

      Julie I wanted to thank you for your comments!!

  • Mary

    My opinion is a bit different than the other ones that have been voiced… I want a worship setting that is warm and hospitable to everyone – especially visitors, even if it isn’t perfectly quiet.

    1) I work for a group of four parishes, but live in another community an hour away. One of our churches is very much the “totally quiet” setting, and the other ones are places where people quietly talk to each other before Mass begins. When I first was hired, the quiet parish was so quiet and “prayerful” that people wouldn’t even look up move from their aisle seat when I came down in looking for a place to sit. (Is it really too much to ask for people to slide in so that other people can easily share the pew with them? I know that a few people need to be able to get out for liturgical roles, or due to illness, etc… but that’s not the majority.)

    Another of our parishes has an atmosphere where people actually smile to one another and share a brief greeting when others arrive. We don’t yell or laugh out loud, but we try to actually recognize and welcome the Body of Christ in each other. We also serve coffee and doughnuts after Mass – without a money basket on the table!

    2) While I want people to be free to make some respectful noise prior to Mass, I want some silence/reflection time during Mass. It’s ok to pause for a few seconds between the readings, after the homily and communion.

    3) Certainly I like singing songs that I know, but I appreciate the efforts of our music director who works very hard to make sure that we sing the psalm of the day and don’t fall back on common psalms repetitively sung each week. Our songs are thoughtfully selected to match the lectionary cycle.

    4) I want the priest/deacon to get whatever training is necessary to prepare and deliver good homilies. While the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and is the most important part of the Mass, it is the homily that has to give us the impetus to go out and live the gospel message.

    5) In addition to the Mass, I want to have the opportunity to experience other types of liturgies and private devotions. We have an Adoration Chapel, two of our churches pray the Rosary each week prior to Sunday Mass, one parish prays the Divine Mercy Chaplet, we offer Evening Prayer a few times a year, and Stations of the Cross during Lent.

    • lisahendey

      Mary, honestly thank you for all of the time that you spent on writing this! So much good feedback. I lol’d about the whole “my seat” in the pew syndrome. And I would love to know how big the Church with the free donuts is. My parish would incur the national debt if they did that… but it’s so warm and welcoming!

      • Mary

        Lisa, We’re in rural Minnesota, so even our largest parishes probably aren’t comparable to yours. The “free doughnut” parish has about 1500 families.

        But… that made me think of one more item for my wish list: NO FUNDRAISERS! Don’t nickel-and-dime people who come to worship. Our pastor has instituted a policy that a group can only do one fundraiser per year in our gathering space, and that has to be approved by the Administrative Council. People are finally learning that they should be giving freely through the collection plate, and they won’t be hit up to empty their pockets when they are leaving Mass. Supporting a parish should not be an a-la-carte choice. Everyone wants to donate to the religious ed program, or to fund the food shelf, or to buy pagan babies, but nobody wants to pay to keep the lights on or to have the parking lot plowed.

        • lisahendey

          This is one others have mentioned too Mary. I’m curious about what you’ve mentioned on the stewardship end… has the policy been fiscally beneficial for your parish in keeping things running smoothly? And just curious what you mean by “buy pagan babies…”… thanks!

          • Ruth Curcuru

            Lisa, you are too young! Back in the day, the Holy Childhood mission society hit up Catholic school kids for funds, and one of the things they did was raise money to buy (support) pagan (non-Christian/Catholic) babies in orphanages.

          • lisahendey

            LOL bless you for calling me young!! I’m not. But I’m going to ask my mom tonight on the phone if I ever donated for a pagan baby… Wow.

          • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

            I think I remember this…was it a Louisiana thing? IIRC it cost X to “buy” a baby, and Sr. Celine would fire us up to reach our goal. “Class y’all clap for Christian, he just gave up his candy nickel for our little pagan baby.” Oh man I’d do anything to please Sr. Celine. Except pay attention. I planned to marry her. Am I digressing?

          • Mary

            Lisa, Here is a link to a Catholic News Service article about pagan babies that provides a little more info than Ruth said, http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1202140.htm.
            People in our pews really do appreciate the no fundraising rule; it enables them to stop and visit in the gathering space without feeling guilty for not buying raffle tickets, candy bars, calendars, cookie dough, or other items that groups are selling; however, what I think has been the best decision for our parish was made in the 1970s when the pastor and the Finance Council decided to tithe 10% of our Sunday (and Christmas/Easter) contributions. I’m told there were times that the cash flow was so tight that they had to borrow money to meet payroll, but they never stopped tithing. That has continued through several different pastors, trustees, and parish leaders.

        • http://platytera.blogspot.com Christian LeBlanc

          Our pastor keeps a tight lid on shilling. I think it’s limited to Boy Scout popcorn, Girl Scout cookies, Souper Bowl Sunday, and ProLife baby bottles twice a year.

  • TapestryGarden

    We had a priest who was the most WONDERFUL homilist, had musical talent and had such a heart for Christ. It was so apparent he LOVED being a priest and it was his joy as well as his vocation. Let’s just say not all priests are the same. I think someone below mentioned the homily as well. It’s so important to teach and to inspire the people. We’ve always been blessed with wonderful music. It’s really important the the music reflect the Liturgical year and build toward Easter.

    • Mary

      I definitely agree!


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