Our parish school‘s administration and faculty have opted for a weekly practice of these in the coming school year. I already have my first draft of the liturgy schedule and homeroom assignments for preparation.
Through this past year, it had been judged our church was too small for the student body, regular 8:15 Massgoers, and parents all together. It still is. But it’s not totally unmanageable. The parishioners complain when we have a “surprise” all-school Mass, as we recently celebrated on Easter Friday. On holy days, we’ll still go with a later morning Mass for students.
In the past, except for a monthly all-school Mass (holy days and other events such as May Crowning or Catholic Schools Week) we’ve split up the student body on the 5th/6th grade divide. The older kids celebrate Mass on Wednesdays; the younger on Thursdays. Over the past few years, that younger group has progressively crept younger to include first graders for most Masses. Believe it or not, under the pastor who hired me, second graders were not regular attendees of school Masses.
I agree with the virtue of having the whole student body at Mass together. Younger kids have older role models. Older kids know to be on their best behavior. I’ve also been given the green light to target important liturgical feasts and because of the new six-day cycle on the school schedule, I need not feel wedded to mid-week.
One of the aspects of the sanctoral cycle I want to emphasize is the patronal feasts of our nearby parishes and schools. Kids need to know that Saint Elizabeth and Saint Sabina are not just teams over which we require athletic triumphs. These are important saints who are important to nearby Catholics and who should be celebrated.
The new schedule impacts my direct participation: now I have one Mass instead of the usual two to prepare for and to play at. I’d like to intensify the preparation process a bit more in the coming school year. It seems as if we’ll be getting an associate pastor for next year, so it looks as if I might lasso a regular priest’s presence with each class as they work on their assigned liturgy.
Ideally, I’m looking at a two-week process. Fourteen days or so before the Mass, I contact the homeroom teacher with readings and we start the scheduling of meetings. The week before Mass we get into important details: music planning, writing of prayers, assigning roles. We rehearse every child with a speaking part the day before.
The one challenge I have is with the upper grades, who each have specialized religion teachers. The previous complaint is that while I cycle liturgy planning through homerooms in turn, the religion teachers of the 5th and 6th grade get triple duty. And for every lower elementary teacher who has one Mass, the religion teacher for the junior high gets six. Each homeroom will get only two Masses, not three or four, in the coming schedule.
There’s not a lot of time built into junior high religion classes for preparation–not nearly as much as I’d like for kids who can begin to understand that “their” Mass is about more than their favorite songs or the intercession-of-the-week.
For the first time in years, we won’t be doing a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit for the first week of school. This summer, it lands on August 15th, a holy day.
Any thoughts on your experiences of school Masses?