Friday, August 27, 2010

Moving Forward with the Roman Missal: Laying the Groundwork for Change

I finally started reading my copy of With One Voice, a book of short essays from Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, last night and lo and behold, the opening essay from Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson is about change agency and what is needed to implement the new Missal. While I agree with most of what he says, I strongly feel that catechetical staff and parish faith formation boards need to be a part of the implementation, not just liturgy committees. 

Bishop Kicanas comes from Chicago, and now Tucson, both places where there is likely to be large, well-developed liturgy committees in parishes. I think he is not realizing this is often not the case. Many smaller parishes do not have well-formed functioning committees, and often may have only a part-time musician who is not trained in liturgy.  That fact aside, I strongly believe that liturgical catechesis is the responsibility of both the liturgical and catechetical personnel of the parish (and the diocese).  Implementation of the new Mass texts is an opportunity to work together to provide a better experience of the Mass, and as sacramental enrichment, is rightfully shared ground and an opportunity for collaboration. If the two areas of parish administration work together, implementation may well be perceived by the people as more of an imperative, and not just the agenda of one group in the parish. If liturgists and catechists in a parish have not worked closely together before, this, too,  will be an area of change - and growth for them.

Bishop Kicanas cites a number of experts on change-agency, but the most useful thing I took away from his essay is the contention of William Bridges, an expert on organizational transition. Bridges says there are three stages to change: letting go or losing something, a neutral period of adjustment, and a new beginning.  He says we cannot short-cut this - we need to go through all three stages.

I suggest that parish and diocesan leaders are going to have to engage in these three stages before we can help the people do that. As in the familiar Kubler-Ross stages of grief, we may indeed revisit the loss stage at various points in the process, but to become a change agent, we have first to be convinced ourselves of the need for change. We have to go through our own sense of loss, our own time of neutrality, before we can be energized to move forward to lead implementation. 

"Training the trainers" workshops have been taking place around the country for exactly this reason. Far in advance of the actual implementation, leadership needs to be helped through their own process of letting go and accepting this change, formed, so that they, in turn, can form people in parishes. In our diocese, we will gather parish leaders, beginning in the fall, to talk this through. We will gather them in December to hear Fr. Richard Fragomeni talk about the mystery of the liturgy and liturgical spirituality -- the "soul" of the liturgy that must be addressed even before we discuss changing the words we pray. 

In the spring, our parish leaders will experience the Mystical Body, Mystical Voice event from the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein.  As follow-up next August, we are planning a practical workshop on helping children, youth and adults to deepen their understanding of the Mass (speakers will include Jerry Galipeau and Bob Piercy.)  We will have to talk about the new translation at regional cluster meetings, at adult faith formation leadership gatherings, and on the liturgical side, our diocesan office will be doing the same with their constituents as they, too, have practical workshops on changing the Mass responses, music and more.

Before we can enter this period of re-assessment, renewal and growth, we have to take the time for grieving, anger, resentment, and ultimately, letting go. To become an effective change agent, leaders must first be convinced  of the validity of the change. Personally, I'm well on my way to getting there. 

In upcoming posts, I plan to deal with skills for change agency for church leaders.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review; much appreciated.
    Thank you.