When Father Robert Webster (pictured in the middle), pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Clermont, established the Egeria Award in 2001 he never thought he would one day be one of its recipients.The award is given during the Orlando Liturgical Conference to a person who has made a significant and enduring contribution to the Diocese of Orlando through the ministry of liturgy and/or music.
“Many of the recipients of the award are really foundational people in the fields of liturgy and music and have had significant impact on the lives of musicians and liturgists in the diocese,” said Father Webster. “I’m humbled to join their ranks.”
Serving as diocesan director of liturgy for 23 years under four bishops, Father Webster oversaw many liturgical changes including the implementation of the Roman Missal, but he believes his greatest contribution was promoting the importance of the liturgy in the lives of the faithful.
“The celebration of liturgy should be done with great care and great dignity,” explained Father Webster. “When we come together to pray it should be a vision of the eternal banquet to come. I hope that through my ministry in the Church in Orlando I helped people to pray well and better together.”
The Egeria award is named for the fourth-century Spanish pilgrim who kept a diary of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Her love for ceremonies celebrated there and her belief that good ritual transforms lives, inspires readers, even today, and gives the earliest intimate account of Christian worship.
Father Webster also believes in the power of liturgy to transform lives. He said that in his early years the beautiful liturgies at his home parish were an inspiration to him, describing large stained glass windows and a pipe organ.
“This was the experience I had growing up: careful, beautiful, visionary liturgy that was transformative,” Father Webster remembered. “I never realized that not every church had that.”
Through seminary and in his time as a priest, he has continued to have a great love of the liturgy and to share that with others. He has served on the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions Board of Directors from 1997 until 2014 and was the chair of the National Pastoral Musician Council’s Section for Clergy for six years.
Perhaps one of the most enduring marks he has made in the Diocese of Orlando is the role he played in the establishment of our two minor basilicas—The Basilica of St. Paul in Daytona Beach where he previously served as proto-rector and the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Queen of the Universe in Orlando.
“Father Bob has provided guidance and leadership as a liturgist, visionary and friend to the liturgical ministers of this diocese and we honor his many years of service in promoting the Sacred Liturgy as ‘Source and Summit,’” said Bruce Croteau, director of liturgy, Diocese of Orlando.