Priests, parishioners adapting to changes in Mass prayers

By: By Jennifer Willems

Presiders and parishioners have always been partners in the praying of the Mass but it has never been more evident than in the last two weeks, as they’ve leaned on each other to welcome the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

“God bless the people. They know it’s a new translation and they know it’s a change. We get up and we go again,” said Msgr. Tim Nolan, pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish in Pekin.

“If they feel like we’re all in this together we can journey together and that’s a good thing,” he told The Catholic Post.

“The priests were more nervous than the congregation,” according to Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, director and head chaplain of St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois.

In the Newman setting, however, there are fewer distractions, he said, so the chaplains and the students are able to connect in a different way.

“I found them to be engaged and excited,” he said. “We started the Mass by saying, ‘OK, here we are. Break out the worship aids.'”

Msgr. Ketcham said the students told him they appreciated how descriptive the new translations of the Eucharistic Prayers are and how vivid the imagery is.

“Because it’s very beautiful it leads them into the sacred and reverence is the response to that,” he said.

One of his favorite images comes from Eucharistic Prayer II, where it asks that those who have died be welcomed into the light of God’s face.
“We don’t often think of God’s face — being face to face with God,” said Msgr. Ketcham. “That really resonated with my heart.”

Father Geoffrey Horton, pastor at St. Anthony’s in Hoopeston and chaplain at Schlarman Academy in Danville, said phrases like “grant us, we pray” and “we humbly beseech you” put more solemnity into the relationship between God and his people.

“We remember that the God who is so generous in giving himself to us, what a great gift that is,” he explained. “That’s not to be taken casually.”

Father Horton said he prepared St. Anthony parishioners through a series of talks over the summer for anyone who was interested and they started using the “Mass of Wisdom” for the service music as soon as permission was granted in September. At the parish and at Schlarman he showed “Encounter: Our New and Ancient Mass,” the film produced by the Diocese of Peoria.

“Preparing to teach everyone about it taught me,” he said.

As a former teacher, Father John Thieryoung went through the missal and highlighted a few sections that he thought might be confusing at first. He also read the text out loud several times so he could get comfortable with the flow of the words.

“I immediately see a much richer depth to the prayers,” he told The Post. “In the long run I think people are starting to see it, too.”
For now, the pastor of St. Catherine’s in Aledo, St. Anthony’s in Matherville, St. John’s in Viola and St. Mary’s in Keithsburg has jotted down references to the missalettes — the parishes use two different versions — so he can help the parishioners find their place.

Father Eugene Radosevich, pastor of St. Luke’s in Eureka and chaplain at Salve Regina Newman Foundation at Eureka College, said he put his own reference guide together for the people and tries to maintain a sense of humor while they all make the transition together.

“If they give me the wrong response I say something like ‘Not quite’ and we repeat the phrase,” he said with a laugh.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say it was challenging,” Father Radosevich acknowledged. “It’s coming.”

What is disconcerting for the priests is that, for now, they must focus on the written word more than they’re used to.

“Even as often as I practiced — and I had three Masses on Sunday and five Masses during the week — it isn’t prayer yet. That’s what bothers me,” said Msgr. Richard Pricco, pastor of St. Paul’s in Macomb. “It’s getting the words right. I’m hoping it becomes prayer soon.”

“We have a unique opportunity as a church, as a monastic community and as presiders, because it’s impossible to celebrate Mass on autopilot anymore,” said Father Dominic Garramone, OSB, choir master of St. Bede Abbey in Peru. “‘Full, active conscious participation’ isn’t just an ideal, it’s a necessity now, especially with regard to the Eucharistic Prayers.”

He said he has to work harder to make the text meaningful and prepare more thoroughly to lead the congregation.

“In some ways it’s like being a newly ordained priest again, and that’s a good thing,” Father Dominic said.

After all the anticipation, Msgr. Ketcham said, “We have a lot of time to absorb this and bring it to prayer and see what effect it has on us.”

“Overall I’m finding it very much a renewal of my appreciation of the priesthood, a renewal of being a presider and a renewal of the prayer that can come from the liturgy,” he said.

Father Ric Schneider, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s in Bloomington, said he finds people are patient as they persevere.

“They seem to be getting along. We’ll catch on eventually,” he said.

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