One of my favorite tasks as a liturgist is to conduct orientation for new liturgical ministers. It wasn’t always so.
At my present parish we have different procedures in place for the different ministries. Sacristans, for example, do not have a large group session, as we usually get new recruits in relatively small numbers. Six newbies this semester is a rather large contingent. They will shadow a veteran sacristan at Mass before doing a supervised role for their first scheduled appearance.
Last night my Communion ministry coordinator, Zach, our assistant Kristin, and I fielded thirteen newcomers. Plus we had two veterans returning for a brush-up.
I used to struggle with these sessions years ago. I was usually happy to let coordinators take charge. I want to offer more than a walk-through and discussion of procedures. New Communion ministers really need something more substantive than what to do, where to stand, and when to move.
In my present parish, we have something of a balance, and I’ve come to terms with starting out with a practical how-to evening. Later in the semester, we’ll offer an evening of reflection for all Communion ministers. Last time we did this, we combined those who bring the Eucharist to the hospitalized and homebound.
The student parishioners have really stepped up in terms of involvement this year. We’ve had the New Student Retreat much earlier in the semester (second weekend) than we’ve had it in the past (October). Many of these young women and men have gotten involved as catechists, in social justice, and in liturgical ministries. They also seem to be discerning, for the most part: not signing up for everything, but picking and choosing.
Out of our twenty-five new Communion ministers who have been trained, more than half are first-year undergraduates. It’s interesting that most of these people have served in this ministry in their parishes. One young person came early to orientation last night and shared that her bishop has placed a moratorium on new Communion ministers. It happened just as she was discerning her own place in that ministry, so she was glad to be moving away to college and to have the opportunity with her new parish. It showed me that ham-fisted liturgical implementation isn’t confined to either liberals or to the immediate post-conciliar years.
Next up: two orientations for new lectors, plus this week the new schedules for Fall semester will be out.