August 26, 2011

DREs, principals and youth ministers preparing for Mass changes

Father Patrick Beidelman, left, director of liturgy in the archdiocese’s Office of Worship, speaks on Aug. 2 to directors of religious education, principals and youth ministers from across the archdiocese at the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind., about Masses with children. The workshop took place during the annual administrators’ conference sponsored by the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Father Patrick Beidelman, left, director of liturgy in the archdiocese’s Office of Worship, speaks on Aug. 2 to directors of religious education, principals and youth ministers from across the archdiocese at the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind., about Masses with children. The workshop took place during the annual administrators’ conference sponsored by the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

FRENCH LICK—The words we speak at Mass will change soon, and directors of religious education (DREs), principals and youth ministers from across central and southern Indiana are preparing for those changes.

Part of the preparation for many of them included attending Aug. 2 workshops at the French Lick Resort on planning for Masses with children in light of the new translation of the Mass set to be implemented on the weekend of Nov. 26-27, the first Sunday of Advent.

Father Patrick Beidelman, archdiocesan director of liturgy, led the two workshops, which attracted standing-room only crowds.

The breakout sessions took place during the annual administrators’ conference sponsored by the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education.

On the first day of the conference, Father Beidelman gave a keynote address to attendees.

In that presentation, he emphasized that, as DREs, principals and youth ministers make plans to prepare the children, youths and adults they serve to be ready for the new translation, they should emphasize on helping their audience gain a deeper understanding of and love for the Mass—not simply to help them adjust to specific changes in texts.

The next day, Father Beidelman discussed the Directory for Masses with Children with attendees. It is a document issued by the Vatican in 1973 to incorporate the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council into such Masses, and will remain in force after the upcoming implementation of the third edition of the Roman Missal.

He also encouraged the DREs, principals and youth ministers who filled the conference room to see this time of change as an opportunity to look anew at liturgies with young people that they are involved in.

“Kids have a sense of the sacred,” Father Beidelman said. “They find the ritual approachable enough to give expression to the prayer of their hearts, the song of their lives, particularly through some cultural expressions.

“I think that sense of the sacred that can be communicated is exactly what is behind the Church’s challenge to us all to be especially attentive to the needs of children in our liturgical celebrations and, most especially, in the Mass.”

Benedictine Sister Mary Emma Jochum has ministered for 19 years as director of religious education at St. Paul Parish in Tell City. Despite this long record of forming children in the faith, she felt that it was important to attend Father Beidelman’s workshop.

She was glad to hear that the special eucharistic prayers for children that are included in the Directory for Masses with Children will continue to be available once the new Mass translation is implemented later this year.

“Those prayers are just so down to their level,” Sister Mary Emma said. “And they really understand because the words that they hear in their eucharistic prayers are words that they see and hear in their religion texts at the second- and third-grade levels.”

Like Sister Mary Emma, Rita Parsons has spent years teaching children about the way the Church prays in its liturgies. She is currently principal of Holy Spirit School, and previously served as principal of St. Matthew the Apostle School, both in Indianapolis.

Even though she is a veteran in helping children pray at Mass, Parsons thought that she had something to learn from Father Beidelman.

“I just think it’s an exciting time to develop their faith and to focus on it,” she said. “I wanted to make sure that, through this translation, we are fully engaging the children so that they can be participants during the liturgies.”

Parsons also wants to follow Father Beidelman’s advice and help her students grow in their understanding of the Mass itself, not just the texts that will be changing.

“What I’m looking for is for them to understand why they do what they do,” Parsons said. “Because when you explain why you do it, they begin to internalize and understand that this really has a meaning. We’re not just saying words. It really means something.”

Internalizing the meaning of the words and actions of the Mass, Father Beidelman suggested, can be fostered by gaining a broader understanding of what active ­participation in the Mass means.

“It’s something not only that we do externally, perhaps through our postures, our gestures, our words, our presence in the assembly,” he said, “but it is also an internal participation, a faithful attentiveness.

“The best way that I describe the internal participation is it’s putting our whole heart into it.”

In a related topic, Father Beidelman also suggested that times for silence at Mass are important.

“The documents specifically say that that is a time for individual quiet prayer and silence,” he said. “And we move through things so frequently and we try to compress the liturgy that that one very specific individual moment is actually robbed from folks.”

Father Beidelman also suggested that a short time of silent prayer after Mass can be a good way to help children and youths come to see the distinctiveness of the Eucharist.

“I wouldn’t overemphasize it, but I like it when there is, after the closing song, a moment where everybody just sits in quiet and makes a prayer of thanksgiving for the Mass,” he said. “It’s simple, but, boy, it just jars us out of our normal way of functioning. We would never do that at a sporting event. We would never do that at another gathering of the human family. It’s very liturgical. So I would encourage that.”

Opening the hearts and minds of young people to the profound meaning of the Mass during this time of change is something that Janis Dopp, director or religious education at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington, thinks is not only possible, she believes that children can teach adults a few things about the beauty of the Eucharist.

“I sometimes feel that we have done a disservice to our children in thinking that they can’t understand as much as they can,” Dopp said. “I think children are better at drawing together our humanity with mystery than anybody else in the ­congregation because their imaginations are so expansive that they’re able to grasp that.”

(For more information about the new Mass translation and what parishes can do to prepare for it, log on to www.archindy.org/worship or www.usccb.org/romanmissal.)

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