Liturgical ministry formation and training recognizes charism of roles

As liturgical ministers, one can often forget we serve as part of something greater— the body of Christ. The Diocese of Orlando offers liturgical ministry formation, mornings of reflection and guidance to deepen ministers’ faith and understanding. Father Stephen Ogonwa, parochial administrator at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Candler, recently invited the diocesan director of liturgy, Bruce Croteau, to share insight with the faithful.

“The liturgical training that Bruce presented to our parish was very useful and effective, from beginning to end,” said Father Ogonwa. “It helped each member of the different ministries understand what others do to make the liturgy good for worship.”

“I believe that the liturgy has an organic nature to it. It has to,” said Croteau. “St. Paul tells us that we’re the body of Christ and that when the Church gathers, we manifest the body of Christ – the head and the members. When you start looking at the complementarity of ministries, you cannot help but recall St. Paul’s words, “the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Cor. 12:15-26).

The bishop speaks of the importance of entering into relationship. “When we gather our friends or family for a meal in our homes, there are many roles to be fulfilled so that the ease of community is experienced around the table,” said Bishop Noonan. “It is the same when we make preparations for the Eucharistic meal. All the action helps us to be nurtured by the Eucharist. Because each participant shares the sanctity of ministry, we are better able to act as Jesus did, and give of ourselves to others.”

The key is reliance on the Holy Spirit. One must avoid being single-minded about the tasks required and recognize the communal context of the liturgy. “We’re not there to get a bunch of jobs done,” reminds Croteau. “The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy is very clear that when you have a role in the liturgy, you are to perform all that role requires, but only what that role requires (28)—which means you don’t serve as a lector and then as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC).” In other words, if we are serving and living out the heart of our ministry, in church and outside its walls, that keeps us quite busy.

As an example, he cited the EMHCs at St. James Cathedral in Orlando. “They have a combination of reverence for the Eucharist and service to others in the liturgy. They put hands and eyes on the face of Jesus. They reflect Jesus… There is an exchange that is happening. It is a member of the body of Christ, giving the body of Christ to another member of the body of Christ.” Many of them also go out and actually feed the poor, filling that physical need as well.

Croteau also spoke of the lectors and how well they must hone their skills. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (55), says, “Their [lectors] preparation must above all be spiritual, but what may be called a technical preparation is also needed.” He explained, “We must have faith that God is calling them to something. Our job as facilitators of discernment is to figure out what it is in dialogue and relationship… Are we putting enough time into discernment of liturgical ministry or are we just asking for volunteers? Training and formation need to start first with spirituality.”

Rick Mills has been a lector at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish for 15 years. He spends time in prayer with the readings throughout the week, giving him insight and deeper understanding. “It’s not about us. We shouldn’t be up there displaying ourselves. We should be up there sharing the Word of God,” he said.

“The principal role of everyone is first as members of the assembly,” explained Croteau. “Even the priest comes from the assembly, called forth to be the presider and to act in persona Christi.” Urging us to think organically about the Mass and its ministers, Croteau added, “Are we constantly looking, hearing, tasting, smelling? No. There is prominence whenever you step into your role, but then you fade back into the body of Christ and into the assembly.” Mills agrees and appreciates the emphasis on community. “We all fit in together,” he said. “It takes all of us.”

Paul Ryan also attends Immaculate Heart of Mary in Candler and is the chairman of the Pastoral Council. Although he is not currently a liturgical minister, he was at his former parish. “I think folks came away with a better understanding of what their role is,” he said. “All those roles are important and they make the Mass more enjoyable when they understand where they fit in.” For others like Susan Kaplan, the workshop affirmed a vocation to become an EMHC. “The workshop was very informative and very inspiring,” she shared.

Father Ogonwa agreed, saying the opportunity provided clarity within the roles of each ministry to serve Christ and His people gathered in worship during the celebration of Mass. “My parishioners left thanking me for making it possible,” he said. “It brings complementarity in worship.”

Liturgical training and guidance is available through the Office of Liturgy, 407-246-4861. The Office of Liturgy is funded by Our Catholic Appeal.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – February 20, 2019