Vatican II, Holy Week, and parish collaboratives

The Second Vatican Council produced 16 documents: four constitutions, three declarations and nine decrees. The very first, the "Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy" ("Sacroscanctum Concilium"), passed overwhelmingly with a 2147 to 4 vote. Today, 50 years later, this seminal document reminds all Catholics: "Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people (1 Peter 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism" (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14). This directive is operative in parishes in different ways -- yet another example of one size doesn't fit all.

What does full, active, and conscious participation look like in the liturgies of Holy Week, the most solemn week in our calendar? How will it be realized in a newly formed collaborative? In the Archdiocese of Boston, 12 collaboratives made up of 28 parishes were inaugurated in June, 2013 as part of the pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission. This is a plan for growth. It is a plan to make our parishes vibrant, stable, effective and intentional centers of evangelization. Our familiar, sacred, story never changes; but this year, the context is new, as these 28 parishes mark their first Holy Week and Easter as collaboratives.

The Belmont Collaborative, St. Joseph and St. Luke Parishes, has been preparing for this week with a renewed understanding of full, conscious, and active participation, and with a new spirit of unity. Evangelization is a focus. Beginning on Ash Wednesday they posed one question for consideration during Lent: "What's your next step?" On the path of discipleship, what's your next step? In this season of new life, what's your next step? Parishioners young and old were encouraged to think about their response to this question. At every Sunday liturgy in Lent, two parishioners, one in each parish, gave a brief witness talk about the importance of their faith. Evangelization in action. St. Luke and St. Joseph enter Holy Week as two parishes in one collaborative, united in faith. A new way of being Church.

This is what Holy Week will look like in Belmont. St. Luke Parish will offer Morning Prayer at 9:00 a.m. each day of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday). The Mass of the Lord's Supper will be celebrated on Holy Thursday evening at St. Joseph Church; the altar of repose for the Blessed Sacrament will be at St. Luke. Following Mass there will be a eucharistic procession from St. Joseph to St. Luke. Parishioners are invited to park at St. Luke and a bus will be available to transport them to St. Joseph. They can be part of the walking procession to St. Luke after Mass, and their cars will be at St. Luke when they are ready to go home following adoration. Of course people can drive directly to Mass and then drive to St. Luke for adoration which will conclude with Night Prayer at 10:00 p.m.

On Good Friday, there will be living Stations of the Cross at 3 p.m. at St. Joseph, and the celebration of the Lord's Passion at 7:00 p.m. at St. Luke. The Easter Vigil will take place at St. Joseph, parishioners will gather in the parish hall by 7:50 p.m.

In all of this, the focus is on the faith that unites us. Throughout the Triduum, liturgical ministers -- greeters, servers, extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, and lectors -- will be drawn from both parishes. None of the great celebrations of the Triduum will be replicated -- there will be one Mass of the Lord's Supper, one celebration of the Lord's Passion, and one Easter Vigil. Masses on Easter Sunday will follow the usual Sunday schedule. Parishioners and staff will welcome those who are new and those who have been away with warm hospitality.

We are all asked to enter into the beautiful liturgies of Holy Week and Triduum fully, actively, and consciously. Truly, the Lord is risen, "Surrexit Dominus vere." Alleluia! And as disciples of the Risen Lord we are all asked to consider: What's my next step?

Susan Abbott is coordinator of parish outreach for the Office of Pastoral Planning of the Archdiocese of Boston.