For months, parishes have been reaching out to parishioners to let them know that some of the words at Mass will be changing soon.
Priests, deacons, music ministers and parish staff members have participated in workshops about the upcoming transition to the new English translation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal. Bulletin, and pulpit announcements have delved into the changes as well as the structure of the Mass.
Yet just as the new translation is about to debut on the first weekend of Advent, diocesan and parish officials are wondering what else they can do to make people comfortable with the new wording and sung parts of the Mass.
"That is the question in every group I’m in," said Father Robert Kennedy, who is pastor of Rochester's Blessed Sacrament and St. Boniface parishes and chair of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. "In one sense we don’t actually know what we are going to do, but a lot depends on what issues arise as we start to use the new missal."
Father Kennedy said parishes will have to be flexible to answer people’s questions about the new translation.
"A great deal depends on how people receive this," he said.
Father Kennedy said work will continue to help priests, musicians and youths become familiar and comfortable with the new words at Mass. For instance, if priests feel they need additional help in becoming familiar with the prayers or with chanting, programs can be planned to address those needs, he said.
Although most parishes initially plan to use the chant Mass setting, he said parish musicians will have a daunting task ahead of them as they choose additional Mass settings to learn.
"Musicians will have to spend time sorting through the 100 new Mass settings that are now available from music publishers," Father Kennedy said.
Faith-formation programs and Catholic schools will continue to teach students about the Mass changes using two dozen age-appropriate lesson plans created by the diocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis. The lesson plans cover topics ranging from the structure of the Mass and Mass gestures to the Invitation to Communion.
In one lesson, for example, children are taught that when they say, "I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof" before Communion, they are not referring simply to the roofs of their homes or the roofs of their mouths, but instead inviting God into their lives. The line references the centurion in Matthew 8:8 who humbly says the words as he begs Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant.
Through a website for catechetical leaders, the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis also has made available four retreat plans on the Roman Missal: the Invitation to Communion, the Gloria, the Creed and a retreat for teens on the Creed.
In January 2012, the office will release a 10-session faith-sharing program called "For You and For Many" that addresses scriptural references in the eucharistic prayers. Potential audiences include small Christian communities, individuals who want to reflect or journal, or parish staffs.
Jonathan Schott, the office's coordinator of adult, catechist and family formation, noted that the evangelization and catechesis staff created the materials over the past year in preparation for the transition.
"While it might not seem like it has been at the forefront of everyone’s attention, we have been working on this all along and preparing for this all along," Schott said.
Some parishes also may opt to put emphasis on helping familiarize infrequent Mass-goers and out-of-town visitors with the new words and music at Mass, especially at such holidays as Christmas and Easter, Father Kennedy said.
"I think every parish is probably trying to make that decision for itself," he said. "Obviously for this Christmas, we will have to say to people, "We’ve made some changes, and you will find the changes in the pew cards or in the missalettes.'"
He noted some parishes have begun practicing the new Gloria so that frequent attendees know the music well in advance of the holidays and are able to assist visitors.
Although many hours of work by parish staffs have gone into preparing for the new missal, Father Kennedy noted that the new translation has presented parishes with an opportunity to remind Catholics of the centrality of the Eucharist and in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
"This is an opportunity for people to renew their sense of participation and how they are praying together," he said.
He noted that at least one group of parishes in the diocese is planning to use the Paulist Fathers program "Living the Eucharist" during Lent to help them connect the Eucharist to their daily lives. The three-year program helps parishes foster spiritual growth and discipleship.
The time of transition to the new translation also presents an opportunity for evangelization, noted Mary Dundas, coordinator of evangelization and sacramental catechesis for the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.
"Anytime something new is happening, it’s an opportunity for parishes to not only help the people who are regularly coming to church and experience this firsthand, but it will give every person in the faith community the chance to talk about their faith and how it’s lived out," she said.