Priests affirmed, challenged, and honored at Spring Convocation

FRAMINGHAM -- The priests of the archdiocese received a refresher course in liturgical celebration during their annual Spring Convocation, which was held at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel on May 16.

The keynote speaker for the event was Father Paul Turner, pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City, Missouri, director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and author of "Ars Celebrandi: Celebrating and Concelebrating Mass."

In his talk, Father Turner expounded on the liturgical instructions for celebrating the Mass, and gave recommendations for what he has found to be the best practices.

Although much of his presentation focused on the role of the priest, Father Turner also emphasized that the Mass requires the participation of the laity.

"We are not the only ones celebrating this Mass. It's our duty to invite the faithful into a full conscious act of celebration as well," he said.

His presentation included frequent references, and even entire passages, of three documents: the General Instruction of the Roman Missal; "Sacrosanctum Concilium," the Catholic Constitution on the Liturgy; and Pope Francis' 2022 apostolic letter "Desiderio Desideravi."

Father Turner recommended "Desiderio Desideravi" to the priests for spiritual reading. The title comes from Jesus' words to his apostles before the Last Supper, usually translated as "I have eagerly desired" (Luke 22:15). Father Turner explained that it actually means, "With desire I have desired," a Latin idiom.

In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis makes the point that even before the faithful respond, Jesus has a desire for the faithful. The Holy Father also warns against "a heightened personalism" in priests' styles of celebrating the Mass, which can manifest in many different and even seemingly opposite ways. He also says that while every rubric for the Mass must be observed, even if all the details were correct, "that would not be enough to make our participation full," because it also involves the heart and mind.

"I think he's identified some things that call us all to some reflection," Father Turner said.

With great attention to detail, he provided both broad principles and advice on specific aspects of the Mass. He offered two general rules that he returns to: "Do what the rubric says, and don't do what it doesn't say."

One of his principles for celebrating the Mass is intentionality, which underlies many of his other principles. Another is giving meaning to the scripted words of the liturgy, praying them as if they were one's own prayer. He also encouraged carrying out only one task at a time -- for example, pausing to find the right page.

After his presentation, Father Turner moderated a panel discussion with Father Jonathan Gaspar, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Brookline, and Father Wellington Oliveira, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Revere. They talked about their favorite moments in the Mass and shared their memories of priests that have significantly influenced their lives.

Father Gaspar, who is the archdiocesan master of ceremonies, said Father Turner's talk both "affirmed" and "challenged" him, "in a good sense."

"We don't create the liturgy, it's a gift that we receive, and as stewards and priests, we're called to respect the liturgy we receive," Father Gaspar said.

He said one of his favorite parts of the Mass is after the preparation of the gifts, when the priest invites the assembly to pray that "my sacrifice and yours will be acceptable."

"It's making the point that the sacrifice of the priest here at the altar is united to all of the sacrifices that these people in the church are coming to Mass with, the sacrifice of their lives, whatever burdens they're carrying," Father Gaspar said.

Father Oliveira recalled his relationship with a priest whom he had initially disliked, who ended up being present for his family when they experienced several simultaneous crises. One day in 2014, his mother had a heart attack, his father had a stroke, and his three-year-old cousin and godson was hit by a truck and killed. The priest was the only person Father Oliveira could think of to call for help, and he dropped everything to visit the grieving family members.

"I would never be able to pay him back. I said to myself, that's the sort of priest that I want to be. When people (are in) need, I want to be there for them," Father Oliveira said.

Other speakers at the convocation included Catholic Community Fund President Gavan Mooney, Vicar General Bishop Mark O'Connell, and Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.

As is their custom, the clergy took the opportunity to honor three priests chosen by their peers. This year's honorees were Father Robert Deehan, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Duxbury; Father Edmund Ugwoegbu, an extern priest and administrator of the Woburn Catholic Collaborative; and Father Paul Helferich, a chaplain at Northeastern University and member of the Brotherhood of Hope.

The clergy also acknowledged and thanked Jean Hayward, who organized the event and was performing her last day of work, retiring after 13 years as special assistant to Father Bob Blaney, the secretary for ministerial personnel.