By Fr. Michel Mulloy, Vicar General
In the month of September, everyone in the Diocese of Rapid City is asked to complete a questionnaire regarding each person’s personal experience at the celebration of Mass in their own parishes.
Why the questionnaire? What is its purpose? It is part of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan published last year and further explained in Bishop Robert Gruss’s pastoral letter, Through Him, With Him and In Him.
The Diocesan Pastoral Plan is a wonderful guide for our diocese and all its many ministries. It provides direction and energy for continuing to fulfill our sacred mission, that is, to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.
The Diocesan Pastoral Plan has three Pastoral Priorities: Reconcile, Make Disciples and Fund the Mission. The Plan also defined the Foundational Ministries of the diocese, those ministries that are essential to our fulfilling our sacred mission. Each of the five Foundational Ministries have goals to be achieved. These goals tie back to the three Pastoral Priorities, specifying how we can continue to grow as a diocese, responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It goes without saying that sacraments and worship are a key Foundational Ministry in our Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
As the Director of the Office of Worship, the goals created for the Foundational Ministry of Sacraments and Worship became my responsibility. One of those goals was to create a Liturgy Commission and the other was to measure parishioners’ personal experience in the celebration of Mass. The Liturgy Commission was created late last year. It consists of two priests and 12 lay leaders from throughout the diocese. The purpose of the Liturgical Commission is to renew the liturgical life of the Diocese of Rapid City. The liturgy of the diocese includes all the ways we, the people of the diocese, pray and worship God together. In addition to the celebration of sacraments, Eucharistic adoration and the Liturgy of the Hours are considered liturgy in the fullest sense of that term.
Certainly the most important aspect of the fuller liturgical life of the diocese is the Eucharist. In order for the Liturgy Commission to facilitate the renewal of our celebration of the Mass, we first need to understand the current experience of the faithful in the celebration of the Mass. That brings us to the questionnaire.
The second goal of the Diocesan Pastoral Plan for the Foundational Ministry of Sacraments and Worship was to implement an evaluation process to measure each parishioner’s personal experience of the Mass in their parish. Simply stated, we encounter Jesus Christ in each celebration of the Mass. The Liturgy Commission wants to understand to what degree this experience of the Risen Lord is happening for parishioners.
To accomplish this goal the Liturgy Commission studied the General Instruction of the Roman Missal also called the GIRM. This is the document that governs how we celebrate Mass. Throughout the GIRM are statements about what is supposed to be happening to the faithful at various moments in the celebration of the Mass. These statements became the foundation of the questionnaire created by the commission. The commission hopes to determine whether what the church envisions as the purpose of the Mass is in fact what parishioners are experiencing.
This questionnaire is a positive tool that can be filled out easily in a few minutes. It will help parishioners reflect on their own experience of Mass, understand the church’s vision of the celebration of the Mass and how Mass is designed to allow us to encounter Jesus Christ. In addition to the demographic information requested to help with analysis, the questions about the Mass allow for a range of responses. The questionnaire takes into account the fact that our experience of Mass varies from day to day. This questionnaire is not designed to be critical of the pastor, musicians or others who have ministerial roles in the Mass. The focus is rather on the experience of each of us as priests, deacons and lay persons.
The questionnaire is available August 15 at http://rapidcitydiocese.org/. Following this article are a few sample questions. Hard copies will also be available at your parish in the month of September. Please take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire between now and the end of September. To complete this survey go to the link and answer the questionnaire. Through the month of October the Liturgy Commission will compile and analyze responses. A report of the findings will be made available to the parishes and the whole diocese in the month of November.
Thank you for taking the time to reflect on your experience of liturgy and complete the questionnaire. Your input will guide the work of the Liturgy Commission and each parish Through these efforts, we will grow in full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy so that we may encounter Jesus Christ and be transformed by what we celebrate to become more fully the body of Christ, the church* and the intentional disciples we are called to be.
*Through Him, With Him and In Him: A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan, by Bishop Robert Gruss, p. 108