Parishioners shouldn’t expect change in Sunday experience, except more chances to share worship with neighboring parishes
Editor's note: This is the fifth in a six-part monthly series focusing on ministry and mission within the Archdiocese of Detroit's new parish governance model, called Families of Parishes. Learn more at www.familiesofparishes.org.
DETROIT — The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith, the point of contact where the faithful meet the divine.
For that reason alone, there is perhaps no more important question in Catholic communities than the way in which worship is conducted. Often, the style and setting of the Mass is a primary reason the faithful choose a particular parish community.
Under Families of Parishes, the new pastoral model instituted in the Archdiocese of Detroit that organizes parishes into groups to share resources and collaborate in order to better evangelize, family worship directors are tasked with ensuring such worship glorifies God and engages the faithful.
In particular, worship directors oversee and coordinate those who play a role in the liturgy, including music ministers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, funeral volunteers, lectors for readings and other aspects of day-to-day worship at the parish.
It can be a delicate task, said Sr. Esther Mary Nickel, RSM, but done correctly, it can help each parish in the family enhance its worship within the Roman rite, while experiencing the culture and styles of neighboring parishes.
“The director of worship has the responsibility not to make everything look the same or sound the same, but to take what we’re given from the Roman rite of the missal and to say, 'This is how we’re working together,'” Sr. Nickel, associate director of worship for the Archdiocese of Detroit, told Detroit Catholic.
While the Sunday experience at four or five different parishes might be coordinated by the same person, it would be a mistake to assume that means all Masses within one Family of Parishes will have the same music or worship styles.
"We're not all clones or all the same," Sr. Nickel said. "When people suggest (that Families of Parishes will be the same), my response is, 'Do you have siblings?' I have six siblings: three brothers and three sisters. If we know the differences in our families, we know we have differences in relationships. We're not going to say, ‘OK, everyone has to be exactly like St. Mary’s or exactly like St. Aloysius.' We are working together to unleash the Gospel, with God’s help, but we are maintaining our parish identities.”
Deacon Daniel Darga is director of worship for South Oakland Family 5, which includes Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Ferndale and Oak Park, Our Lady of La Salette in Berkley, the Church of the Transfiguration in Southfield, and Divine Providence Lithuanian in Southfield.
Each parish within the family, which is set to adopt the family name, "Sent on Mission," is accustomed to using its own Mass settings within the Roman Missal, Deacon Darga said, from more traditional hymns and devotions to contemporary settings.
The goal isn’t to make all the parishes sound and feel the same, but to give each parish and its staff more support and priests more help in carrying out the mission of each parish.
“Even though we’re all part of one larger Church, we have pretty different styles of worship,” said Deacon Darga, who was ordained as a permanent deacon in 1993 and is assigned to Our Lady of La Salette in that role. “My role is certainly not to come in and tell the parishes how to do things. Rather, it’s to listen, observe, and look at what’s happening along the way, helping as much as I can to do a better job.”
Deacon Darga spends most of his time the Berkley parish, but has taken time to visit with other parishes in the family, praying with them, learning from them and seeing how the new organizational format can enhance the work worship coordinators, music ministers, lectors and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion are already doing in their parishes.
One of the initial tasks for worship directors in each family has been forming intercessory prayer teams with members of each parish.
The team meets to ask for assistance from the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in coming together as one family with many different charisms to offer to the community, said Anna Romano, director of worship for the Resurget Cineribus Family of Parishes, which includes the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady of the Rosary, St. Aloysius and Old St. Mary’s in Detroit.
“With the intercessory prayer teams, we give God thanks for the many gifts and dedicated people who provide spiritual support to the family,” Romano said. “They also provide many graces in following the Lord. Our intercessory prayer teams are family-wide, each one praying that we come together as one community through our many different forms of prayer.”
Resurget Cinerbus (taken from Detroit’s city motto, “We hope for better things; it will rise from the ashes," coined by Fr. Gabriel Richard) features Masses celebrated with Gospel-style music at the predominately Black cathedral parish, to more contemporary hymns at Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Aloysius, which serve college students and young professionals who have moved to downtown Detroit, along with more traditional-minded Catholics at Old St. Mary’s.
That variety of styles isn’t a hinderance, but a benefit to the family, Romano said.
“The Church has always called the faithful to worship with music that is proper in the liturgy,” Romano said. “We have many great resources with our hymnals, our cantors and choirs within our parish, all with many experiences with sacred music from Gregorian chant to contemporary choral music."
Sr. Nickel said the goal is to create environments in which individuals can share their unique charisms with the wider community.
“We need to be able to say, if you have a particular style of music, as long as it is within the tradition and culture and as long as it’s within the correct doctrine of our faith, then those things are alright,” Sr. Nickel said. “We are coming together as one family, celebrating our faith in the various ways we encounter within our family.”
One area where family worship coordinators can help is at the logistical level, working with individual music and liturgy coordinators to understand Mass schedules, lector and ministerial needs at each parish, and coordinating a system for substitutes and extra ministers whenever a parish might need help.
“You need to get to know the people, the individual ministers, because they bring with them a faith and a spirituality and a connection to the Lord, and worship is a way of expressing that,” Deacon Darga said. “We have five priests in our family, and as they move around between the individual parishes, they have been very careful to respect the individual parishes’ styles.
"We all have a
preferred way of praying, but that doesn’t mean someone else’s prayer is any
less," Deacon Darga said. "We are getting used to each other, listening to each other, sharing with
Deacon Darga said the "Sent on Mission" Family of Parishes is planning events such as outdoor Masses in the summer or family-wide confirmation liturgies in which different parishes can share their own charisms and worship settings.
But for the day-to-day and week-to-week Sunday experiences, Catholics shouldn’t expect to see too much of a difference, Romano said.
“The only difference in worship is there should be more opportunities to gather and pray in both traditional forms and more contemporary forms one would find in their Family of Parishes,” Romano said. “For example, the liturgical music written in previous centuries requires much larger choirs, so with more parishes, we might be able to incorporate more Mass settings at Family of Parishes gatherings. Underneath this new structure, I think there will be more involvement of people at the parishes, and people will see the benefits.”