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Pete, head of liturgy committee
Retired school principal

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist
Age 35

Father Bob, associate pastor
Age 35

Deacon John
Age 55

Deb, director of religious education (DRE)
Age 45

Mark, music director
Age 65, part-time, agnostic protestant, also plays piano in the lounge at the Hilton

Julie, youth minister
Age 25

Betty Frompewthree
Widow, age 70, occasional acolyte, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, choir member, president of the Ladies Altar Society and parish secretary

Joe Pewdweller
Age 55, former military, Knight of Columbus, usher and collection counter

SETTING conference room at local parish

Father Bob, associate pastor: (finishing opening prayer) …through Christ our Lord…

All: Amen.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Good morning, everyone. Before we start, I’d like to introduce Jeff, our diocesan liturgy specialist. He’s here to observe, listen and, uh, see if he has any suggestions.

(Introductions follow)

Everyone: Hi, Jeff.

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Thanks for having me. Uh, don’t mind me. Just proceed as you normally do, and I’ll jump in here and there. But… excuse me, where is the pastor?

Father Bob, associate pastor: annoyed) Well excuuuse me, but he doesn’t attend these meetings. I’m here as his representative. Do you have a problem with that?

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: No, no, I’m just observing at this point. (writes in his notebook)

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Alright, we have a lot to cover today, so let’s get started. First off, general liturgy. Father Bob, how is that homily joke book coming?

Father Bob, associate pastor: Coming along. So, I’m writing this book because priests need to grab the congregation with a joke at the beginning of the homily, so they’re ready to listen to the rest of it. I’ve been collecting jokes from all the priests in the diocese. Wait till you hear the one I have lined up for this coming Sunday!

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: And have you noticed that more people pay attention during the homily?

Father Bob, associate pastor: Well, I almost always get a chuckle, and then I’m just so busy reading my homily that I don’t have time to look up.

Joe Pewdweller: When you read your homily, it’s a real snore, Father, so I’m glad you open with a joke.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Ok, Father Bob, but you’re not reading the prayers with your head down in the Sacramentary, are you?

Father Bob, associate pastor: Oh no! (proudly) I kind of let the Spirit move me and I pray accordingly.

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: So… No one can follow along, right? How do the people know that they’re getting the actual prayers and liturgy of the day?

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Right. Moving on… Joe! How are the collections coming?

Joe Pewdweller: Well we’re down to about half of what we had before COVID, but I’m sure that will improve as people return.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: And are people returning?

Joe Pewdweller: Well, not on the last count.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Right. Moving right along, Deacon John, how many baptisms did we have last month?

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Excuse me. Do we know why people aren’t returning or donating?

Everyone: (silently looking at their notebooks)

Deacon John: Three baptisms! Those kids were so sweet. I’m trying to figure out what will entice the parents to actually attend Mass now.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: And Deb, how does enrollment look for our K-8 catechesis classes? And how many are signed up for RCIA?

Deb, DRE: Well, it’s down 35 percent from last year, but I’m sure that has to do with COVID. For RCIA, let me see… We have 5 people signed up. I know that sounds low, but again… COVID?

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Right. And Julie, what are we doing for the youth?

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Are we SURE it’s COVID? I mean that’s pretty much over. Where are they going?

Betty Frompewthree: I know some are going to the big box evangelical churches now, and some are going to the Latin Mass. But if they’re unhappy here, let them go, I say. We don’t need that kind of negativity.

Joe Pewdweller: I know a lot of people are just staying home.

Mark, music director: Yeah. Some have told me that the liturgies they find online are more beautiful, so just stay home and watch Mass online.

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Don’t they know that watching Mass online or on TV doesn’t fulfill their Sunday obligation? They can’t receive Holy Communion in their living rooms. Where’s the catechesis?

Deb, DRE: We don’t actually talk about that much in the religious ed classes. Too many parents who don’t attend Mass get angry when we do.

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: (Looking defeated)

Julie, youth minister: Well, back to the youth group… We also have lower enrollment than usual, but we’re planning a pizza party next Friday and I’m sure that will draw them out. We’re also trying to start a youth rock band, but having a hard time getting actual youths.

Mark, music director: Yeah, maybe that’s just not what they’re interested in. But I have some older adults who would like to help out in the band. They’re retired, so they’ll have time.

Julie, youth minister: (rolls her eyes)

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Mark, are we doing everything we can to get the people to sing?

Mark, music director: Sure. We have the rock band on Saturdays, the cantors on Sunday at the 9:00, and then the adult choir at the 11:00. And we’re doing all the cool new music.

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: How many people actually pick up the book to sing?

Mark, music director: I don’t know, I’m too busy playing piano, so I can’t hear them or see them.

Betty Frompewthree: Maybe one in fifteen will pick up the book. Maybe we need more upbeat songs. There’s a Mass that sounds like the theme to “My Little Pony” and it’s just beautiful. Can we introduce that?

Joe Pewdweller: I’m not gonna sing any music that sounds like that.

Julie, youth minister: We need to get the younger people involved in the music. There’s no one under the age of 50 in the choir, the rock band, or who’s serving as cantor. What will draw them?

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Well, I’ve noticed that everywhere when the priest chants the dialogues, almost everyone chants. Maybe we should sing more parts of the Mass? Maybe chant them? I’ve seen parishes where everyone learns to chant the Ordinary in three or four weeks.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: We have to move on. Father Bob, is there any way we can speed up communion?

Father bob, associate pastor: Sure, we can plant EMHCS half-way down the nave.

Mark, music director: That kind of screws up the meaning when we sing about coming to the “table of the lord.”

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Actually, it’s an altar. The representation of the “table” used to be the altar rail. Why the hurry to get through Holy Communion? I mean when you’re invited to a dinner with an important host do you just try to get through it as fast as possible? For crying out loud, it looks like people are lined up at an ice cream truck!

Everyone: (aghast at Jeff’s audacity)

Bety Frompewthree: Would you have us all kneel at the altar rail like they did in the middle ages? We’re trying to work in the “spirit of Vatican II” here. Sheesh!

Everyone: Really!

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Wait. What do you mean by “spirit of Vatican II?”

Everyone: (silently looking at their notebooks)

Father Bob, associate pastor: Look, we have to get people out of the parking lot before the next Mass, or on Saturdays, the next event. I’ll just put a note in the bulletin asking for more volunteers.

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Is there any other place we can shave some time instead of communion?

Father Bob, associate pastor: What? You’re thinking my homily, aren’t you? No. That’s important. How about cutting that post-communion hymn, Mark?

Mark, music director: No, that’s the choir’s time to shine. They wouldn’t have it. If we need to get people out of the parking lot, how about losing the donuts and coffee after Mass?

Deb, DRE: Don’t be ridiculous. That’s the main reason a lot of the kids come to Mass and they drag their parents along. Without donuts and coffee, we’d lose another 20 percent of the congregation. No. Full stop. No.

Father Bob, associate pastor: I’ll just put a note in the bulletin asking for more volunteers.

Julie, youth minister: I’ll ask some of the youth. Maybe they’d like to be lectors too!

Deb, DRE: Who would train them? What we really need is a kid’s Mass. And maybe a teen Mass, you know, where we reach them where they’re at!

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: Who’s training the lectors?

Joe Pewdweller: No one, I think. One reads as if it’s story time in pre-school. So many just don’t prepare. They have no idea what they’re reading, what the reading is about, and they mispronounce things all the time. Sometimes, I have no idea what they’re saying. 

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: So, no one is training the lectors?

Everyone: (silently looking at their notebooks)

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Well, it’s almost noon. I see that the sandwiches have been dropped off. Father Bob, would you please lead us in a closing prayer and grace?

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: That’s it? All this discussion and no real plan to fix anything? Can we first hear what plans might be in place to improve things?

Pete, head of liturgy committee: (rolling eyes and winking at Betty Frompewthree)

Betty Frompewthree: Hey Jeff, we’re mostly volunteers here. We’re doing our best. There’s only so much we can do.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Alright, Jeff’s come all this way. Let’s go down the list: Father Bob, plans for homilies?

Father Bob, associate pastor: Stay the course.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Deacon John, plans to bring in more families and increase baptisms?

Deacon John: Stay the course.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Deb.  Plans to catechize about the liturgy?

Deb, DRE: (looking at her watch) Stay the course.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Ok, Mark, plans for music? Maybe add some chant? Attract younger people?

Mark, music director: Stay the course. You know how people hate change. No one would get that Medieval music. It’s too hard, no one can read the square notes and it sounds like a funeral. We’d lose all the RCIA folks.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: You’re right. Julie? Plans to attract more young people?

Julie, youth minister: (through her teeth) stay the course.

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Betty and joe? Anything to add?

Betty Frompewthree: We’re just volunteers. I do a lot here already, and I don’t have time to add anything to my duties.

Joe Pewdweller: Yeah, me too. Well, maybe we could plan more frequent pancake breakfasts…

Pete, head of liturgy committee: Ok, I guess that’s it. Jeff, uh, those sandwiches aren’t going to eat themselves, but did you want to uh, give us any advice?

Jeff, diocesan liturgy specialist: (veins popping on his neck, face turning red, he gathers composure and starts speaking quietly through his teeth, speech growing in volume until he’s standing and shouting) Look at your notes, everyone! Nothing you’re doing is working. You’re not evangelizing! You’re not helping people pray! People are bored, they’re insulted by the music, they’re not donating, and they’re leaving! The pastor doesn’t even care enough to show up, and you all think the solution is to stay the course?

Everyone: (silently looking at their notebooks)

Father Bob, associate pastor: (gives Jeff a dirty look, then makes the sign of the cross, and everyone does the same.) In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Lord, we thank you for bringing us together to discuss these things. Bless us, O Lord, and these, thy gifts…