Parishes ‘breaking in’ the ‘new’ Mass without much fuss


Staff reporter

After a year of preparation, the first Masses celebrated in the Diocese of Wilmington after the implementation of the new English translation of the Roman Missal went smoothly, according to local pastors. Use of the new Missal began with the first Sunday of Advent, the weekend of Nov. 27-28.

“Overall, I think it went wonderful,” said Father Richard Smith, pastor of St. Luke Parish in Ocean City, Md. “Everybody had a little growing pains, but a year of catechesis paid off,” he said. “I’d say we did 98 percent, we get an A-plus.”

Father Timothy Nolan, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Elsmere expressed similar feelings. “It went very, very good,” he said, and said for the most part, people were “very positive.”

Many Wilmington diocese parishes have laminated cards in the pews to help parishioners learn the new responses in the new Roman Missal. (CNS)

With 29 years of experience in education, including two stints at Padua Academy, the former Holy Cross Parish high school and Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Easton, Father Paul Jennings Jr., pastor of St. Christopher Parish in Chester, Md., said he kiddingly graded his parishioners after all the Masses.

“All of them got an A-plus, except for one Mass” he joked. “I told them, ‘you have a C-minus; you want to work up.’” Everyone ended up with a “good grade,” he said.

Parishes prepared for the implementation of the new Missal in various ways. At St. Luke’s, parishioners received catechesis information through their parish bulletin for a year. At Corpus Christi, Father Nolan said he and Deacon David DeGhetto used their Sunday homily time during the three weeks leading up to the feast of Christ the King as a point of instruction, talking about “what will happen and why it was important.” At St. Christopher’s, Father Jennings used a three-week approach, first talking about why the changes were happening, and then addressing the changes themselves. The third class “zeroed in exclusively on the Gloria and Creed” because they had the most changes, he said.

Laminated pew cards in parishes helped the congregation to follow the responses more easily. At St. Luke’s, Father Smith mailed copies of the cards to all parishioners prior to the implementation of the new Mass, in addition to providing them in the pews.

St. Christoper’s parishioners also used pew cards, and at Corpus Christi, Father Nolan observed parishioners using both the cards and the “Breaking Bread” missals to follow along.

“Anybody old enough to remember the translation from Latin, that was a much more major sea change,”  Father Nolan said. He said that younger people, being used to a world that changes more quickly are likely to adapt more easily.

Changes for the priests were more extensive than those for the congregation, and as a result, Father Nolan said he thought his parishioners “did better than I did” with adapting to the new responses. Father Smith and Father Nolan both said that as they celebrate the Mass more, they become more comfortable with it.

Ordained in 1974, Father Jennings said he didn’t find the changes particularly hard after so many years of celebrating Mass the same way, but “for the first time in years, in the middle of Mass, I found myself glued to the book like I hadn’t been since my first Mass.” He said he also felt his cadence was off because of the change in phrasing, but said it went “even easier” this week.

While the priests become more comfortable with each Mass they celebrate, that’s not to say it won’t have its challenges. On Dec. 8, priests from the four parishes who are connected to All Saints School will concelebrate a Mass for the schoolchildren for the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

“It will be my first time concelebrating,” Father Nolan said. “This will be interesting, probably for my brothers too.”

Father Smith said it will take time to adapt to the new translation. “Like a new pair of jeans, you’ve got to break them in.”