Archbishop Gregory Aymond urged liturgical ministers to use the upcoming liturgical “Year of Renewal: Offering a Worthy Sacrifice of Praise” in the Archdiocese of New Orleans to deepen their “understanding of and appreciation for the Eucharist” and also to reach out to Catholics, especially young parents, who have drifted away from the practice of their faith.
At a special archdiocesan Mass Dec. 3 at St. Francis Xavier Church that launched the archdiocesan Year of Renewal – which is scheduled to run through Advent 2012 – Archbishop Aymond offered a special commissioning for the upcoming year to various ordained and lay ministers: priests and deacons, and lay ministers who serve as readers, ushers, musicians, sacristans, decorators and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion.
“Whatever we do at this table of the word or the table of the Eucharist, we must become that word and that Eucharist that goes forth,” Archbishop Aymond said to the assembly of about 600 people from across the archdiocese.
The archbishop said for many people, the busyness of life has relegated God and religious practice to the background. He said only 25 to 30 percent of those who belong to a Christian denomination in the U.S., including the Catholic Church, attend Mass or church services every Sunday.
Spotty church attendance
“This is not just in the Catholic Church – this is in all denominations,” Archbishop Aymond said. “We have somehow nudged God out of our lives and our busy schedules. Sometimes, we as the people of God do not always hear and understand that call from God as given in the Ten Commandments to keep holy the Lord’s day.”
During the commissioning service, liturgical ministers stood briefly according to their roles, and Archbishop Aymond offered a prayer that they would use their service as a way of leading others to Christ. He was particularly mindful of those who have been away from the church.
“I do ask us in this Year of the Eucharist to pray for and invite those who are away from the church to come back to our table,” Archbishop Aymond said. There are many who do not understand their responsibility, particularly as parents, to educate and to form their children in the ways of faith. We can offer a gentle, loving and compassionate invitation, reminding them of that responsibility.”
Sometimes all it might take is an invitation to a person to come to Mass.
“For those who have been away from the church or who have been hurt by the church, it’s not for us to judge,” Archbishop Aymond said. “God is just not seen as that first place of importance. We can be that invitation.”
The archdiocesan Office of Worship will coordinate various educational workshops throughout the year. One that has special importance to Archbishop Aymond is an opportunity for every parish to gather four times during Lent 2012 to discuss the book, “The Mass Explained,” by Msgr. James P. Moroney.
“It is our hope that in every parish there will be small groups of people gathering in their homes to read and talk about this book so that together they can come to a deeper appreciation for the Mass,” the archbishop said.
“What an excellent initiative, especially with the changes in the Roman Missal,” added Marlene Wilson, a director of religious education, coordinator of youth ministry and lector at St. Raymond-St. Leo. “This is going to make people more aware of what’s happening in Mass and hopefully bring them into a closer relationship with our God.”
Mary Robert, a musician at St. Anthony in Luling and St. Mark in Ama, said she hopes the focus will bring back Catholics who are away from the church.
“I love it because it takes people who are on the fringes and brings them into an understanding of what it’s all about,” Robert said. “I’ve only been a Catholic for 35 years. I wasn’t born into the religion. This will help us all understand the whys and hows.”
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.