IN OUR SECOND LENT TALK on 8 March I alluded to an initiative Pope Francis took two years ago at the beginning of 2021. To cut a long story short, he opened up to laymen and women the ‘ministries’ of Reader and Acolyte which up to that point had been in most places reserved to men in formation to become deacon or priest; later in the year he upgraded the ministry of Catechist. Since then on the Sunday of the Word of God each year he has instituted men and women for these ministries at a Mass in St Peter’s, shown here. This move is very important but it will take some time for the new system to be set up in this country; it has been the case for about fifty years that laypeople are encouraged to take on these roles anyway. It is good to stress this now because since Covid we have become short of volunteers across the board and we do need new people, especially in the run-up to Easter. I know we need volunteers for lots of roles, but I want to concentrate on these three functions here. In all cases we would particularly like people who are, to coin a phrase, ‘the right side of forty’ (I chose that age at random, but you know what I mean) but we welcome older people as well.
Some years back the task of preparing children, young people and adults for the sacraments (particularly First Confession, First Holy Communion and Confirmation) would usually have been done by priests, nuns and teachers in Catholic schools. This hasn’t been possible for many years and like most parishes we need committed laypeople to be catechists in our various groups, along with the adult formation programme known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Don’t be alarmed by the idea – you don’t need prior experience or theological training, and good formation is provided by the diocese. We have dedicated teams but we need more people – if you want to know more please contact the organisers of groups shown on the parish website.
In the Mass we believe that we encounter the presence of Jesus in various ways, and one of these is through the reading of the Bible. The ministry of reading at Mass is really important, and has become more important in the last few years because of the increased numbers of people joining in Mass through livestream, who are more dependent on being able to hear what is read properly. It is an important part of how all people at Mass are able now to participate actively in the celebration – it’s not just for the priest and the others on the sanctuary. Of course it’s easier with a PA system than it would otherwise be, but we do offer training in how to use it properly when we read (it is very easy to read far too quickly). If you are able to help please contact the clergy or those who organise the various readers’ rotas. Holy Week is not far off when we need more readers for special Masses, and particularly the Easter Vigil.
Acolyte / Special Minister
Here I am talking both about altar servers and Special Ministers of Holy Communion. Our teams of servers who are children and young people are being gradually rebuilt after the disruption of the pandemic – traditionally here we have had a lot of servers. We desperately need more adults, male and female, to take responsibility and supervise those who are younger; do contact us if you are interested. You will need, naturally, to undergo safeguarding checks but the process for this is much simpler than in the past. Linked to this Special Ministers of Holy Communion fulfil a very important role, not only by assisting in the distribution of Holy Communion at Mass and also, where possible, being available to take Holy Communion to those who are housebound. Rebuilding all this has taken time, and again checks are necessary, but it is a really important form of lay ministry which has a long history in this parish, which I think pioneered it in the 70s and 80s. Two things make this even more important – first, we are being made more aware all the time of more people who are housebound in the parish; and secondly, our Archbishop and most of the bishops in the country have indicated that from Maundy Thursday we can restore the giving of Holy Communion from the chalice to the Faithful at Mass: this is in line with the official teaching of the Bishops Conference in this country and the traditions of this parish. We hope gradually to reintroduce this.
I hope this has helpfully outlined what our needs are as a parish as we renew our life together, guided by the pope’s teaching. Do contact the clergy if you are interested.