... the power of the Holy Week liturgies brings those who are not with us each week back to church. This is the high point of the liturgical life of the Church and parishes pay great attention to every detail in their preparation.
In his Lenten message Pope Francis said, "Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each communities and every believer. Above all it is a 'time of grace' (2 Cor 6:2)." The Archdiocese of Boston, echoes this, "Lent provides an opportunity to renew faithfulness, and for those who have been away from the regular practice of the faith this initiative offers a chance to begin again." The initiative referred to is The Light is On For You, now a tradition in Advent and Lent to make the sacrament of reconciliation more available at parishes and chapels in the archdiocese. And for many wanting to begin again, the first step is confession.
The Phase II collaborative of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Sharon, and St. Mary and Blessed Sacrament Parishes, Walpole used some creative -- and what some might call old-fashioned --methods to encourage people to take advantage of the sacrament of reconciliation. As they did at Advent, they sent a post card -- yes, a postcard, paper, hand delivered to a physical, not virtual, -- mailbox, by a Postal Service letter carrier -- to people in all three parishes for whom they had an active address. It wasn't sent randomly to all town residents, "Occupant, 123 Main St. Walpole / Sharon," but they cast their net wide, going beyond the regular weekly Mass-goers. As Domenico Bettinelli, communications director at the collaborative explains, "We're not waiting for people to come to us, we want to be present to people." The language was welcoming and the message simple. Domenico said that they wanted to tell people, "If you've lost touch with us, we just want to make it known, this is what's going on here." The card contained the Lenten and Easter schedules for all three parishes. Because there has been some change in Mass times, the collaborative team knew that it was important to get the information out early. Collaborative pastor, Father Chip Hines wrote about the Light is On For You and the sacrament of reconciliation frequently in his weekly column. Participation was light the first few weeks, prompting a clever video that sadly pointed out the lack of crowds coming to confession, but things turned around, and in recent weeks, 15-20 people have come on Wednesday nights. The parish has received positive feedback -- hopefully it has inspired some who have been away from the sacrament for a while to take the time to come. God's grace works through many channels, perhaps even through a postcard.
Palm Sunday begins the most solemn week of the year. Just as infrequent churchgoers are drawn to Christmas Mass, so too, the power of the Holy Week liturgies brings those who are not with us each week back to church. This is the high point of the liturgical life of the Church and parishes pay great attention to every detail in their preparation.
The Phase II Holy Mothers collaborative of St. Mary of the Sacred Heart Parish, Hanover and St. Helen Parish, Norwell were collaborating before their partnership became official in June 2014. They will continue a practice begun last year in Advent and Lent, of inviting parishioners to join choir members from both parishes to form a festival choir to lead the music at the triduum and Easter morning. This opens the beautiful and important ministry of liturgical music to those who would love to be part of the choir but cannot make a year-long commitment. Ellen McDonough, pastoral associate and music director for the collaborative, recounts that the liturgies last year were "packed and people were singing!" (Disproving the myth that Catholics don't sing.) This year, liturgical ministers from both parishes will serve together at triduum liturgies which will alternate between the two parishes. The unique traditions of each parish continue as St. Helen Parish will again offer their "Fill the Bus" food drive during Holy Week. A bus will be parked on church property for the week and parishioners of both parishes are encouraged to donate food to be distributed to local food pantries.
The archdiocesan pastoral plan Disciples in Mission is focused on inviting people into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ especially through the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. These two collaboratives have found creative ways to bring people to these sacraments of God's mercy and love.
SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.
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