Celebrations of the Word and Communion can be seen as a way of building spirituality in parish communities in addition to being a means of responding to the shortage of priests, a Sheffield North Deanery workshop heard.
Around 30 people from parishes across South Yorkshire attended the morning workshop organised by the Sheffield North Deanery Liturgy and Spirituality Group and held at St Vincent’s Church, Crookes.
Fr Peter McGuire (left) told attendees that not only were there likely to be fewer priests in the future; there might also be fewer deacons. There was arguably a need for more parish catechesis, so that people understood more about celebrations in the absence of a priest, but parishes also needed to consider whether a Celebration of the Word and Communion was always the answer.
The Church was encouraging its whole family to participate in the Prayer of the Church and there was no need to have a priest present to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours. Parishes could also organise Celebrations of the Word, without Communion.
“It is wonderful to have the Eucharist, but we need to realise that we are fed by the Word as well,” said Fr Peter, adding, “Services of the Word can be a very welcoming thing for people who cannot take Communion and could result in more people being drawn into the Church.”
Fr Peter urged parishes that identify a need for Celebrations of the Word and Communion to gather a team to carry out the various duties, leading, reading, reflecting on the Word and distributing communion.
But he had words of comfort for potential Celebration leaders who might be put off by the thought of having to prepare and deliver a reflection on their own.
“The Word always needs to be ‘broken.’ We must try to get the Word into our lives – and that could be through a period of silence, shared reflection or led by one person,” he said.
Attendees heard from parishioners who had both been “thrown in at the deep end,” when a priest had fallen ill or was absent for a period and from parishes that had introduced Celebrations as an additional feature of parish life.
St William of York, Ecclesall Road is one parish that organises a weekly Celebration.
Lesley Biggins, from St William’s, said, “It keeps the community together. It provides continuity and it enables Communion to be taken to the housebound on that day.
“It has helped people take on a responsibility for the prayer life of the community. People have risen to that responsibility and the Service is always led with great care and reverence.
“I think there is a feeling amongst those attending of a greater sense of togetherness and doing something for the community. Having regular arrangements certainly builds the confidence of people attending and it was a palpable demonstration of trust in the people by the priest, which encourages the people.”
Elaine Coefield (left) from Corpus Christi Parish in Hoyland and Teresa Greensmith, from St Patrick’s, Sheffield Lane Top, both spoke of the difficulties of suddenly having to become involved in organising Celebrations of the Word and Communion.
Attendees agreed that more training at parish level would help to ensure that lay people would be more comfortable if they were put in a similar position. More information about Celebrations of the Word and Communion can be found at: http://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/CWC/index.shtml.
Photographs: Margaret O’Malley