Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Italian Holiday

Wednesday greetings from here at the "home office" in Franklin Park, Illinois.

This is my last day in the office for awhile.

My parents, Henri and Yvette (are we French or what?) are celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary next month. Many months ago, I wondered about an appropriate 60th anniversary gift for them.

Most of you know that Northern Italy is a place I have visited in the past. The aim of most of those visits has been to find, explore, and study baptisteries and baptism fonts. Well, I wondered if it might be a good anniverary gift to offer to plan a trip to Italy and kind of be my parents' private tour guide. I came up with the idea and posed it to them and they became quite excited.

After months of planning, the day has finally arrived. I am meeting my parents in Newark tomorrow morning and then we are off to Milan. Once there, we will take a train to Venice, where we will spend three days.

Then it will be three days in Florence, with a side trip to Pisa.

My Dad has expressed an interest in seeing a winery, so we will spend two days in Orvieto.


Finally, we will be in Rome for five days. We will be in Rome over the weekend of November 1 and 2.

Unlike previous trips, I have decided not to blog during this one. Frankly, with all the travel I have done in the past year, I am, in a word, tired. I need this vacation. Normally, as a "type A" kind of guy, I spend my time in far away places running around, never really staying put in one place for more than one or two nights at the most. Well, these next two weeks will hopefully be a real relaxing time for me. The itinerary I have put together for my parents says things like "Day Two in Venice: Relax and Sightsee." Unusual for me, but I am so looking forward to it.

May I ask that you say a prayer for us, for our safety, and for good health during the trip? Thank you.


Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newport News: Thank You!

Tuesday greetings from the Midwest.

I wanted to share my experience from this past weekend.

I was at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Newport News, Virginia. I had been invited there to speak about the RCIA on Friday night, "It's the Community that Initiates," and then, on Saturday, was asked to spend a day with people from a variety of ministries from the area parishes. The topic on Saturday was: "Don't Hide Behind Your Theology Books: Leading People Into an Intimate Relationship with Jesus Christ." Both sessions went quite well, despite the fact that I was not feeling well at all; doing much better now, thank God.

I want to talk with you about this parish and their church home. The church was built in the mid-1980's. Fr. Andy Ciferni was the liturgical consultant. When I was escorted into the gathering area, what the parish calls "the commons," I was struck by the doors that lead into the worship space. I had never seen anything like it.

These sliding doors were, in a word, massive. My friends and hosts, Bob and Janet, opened them.

The church's beautiful interior opened before me. The seating is arranged antiphonally. Altar, ambo and font are along the main axis.

 Here is a photo taken from the font, looking toward the doors.

I had the chance to play the pipe organ, which was just perfect for the space. Great acoustics.

The baptism font, seen above, is quite unique. Adults enter the pool for baptism; infants are baptized in the upper bowl. Warm water spills from the upper bowl, along the chains (which muffles the trickling sound somewhat), into the pool. Some more photos:



Outside, there is a beautiful cemetery. Parishioners can have their cremated remains interred here. It was just a wonderfully peaceful place.

Folks, this is a worship space in which the liturgy can be celebrated well. It was so obvious to me that this community of faith put so much thinking and planning into the design of this space. Facing the people of God on the opposite side is such a good thing; you see the face of Christ looking right at you. You see people singing and praying.

I was invited to attend the parish's 8:00 A.M. Mass (my flight left shortly thereafter). I was told that this early Mass didn't have as much energy as the other Masses.

Before Mass began, the announcements were read and concluded with a warm welcome to anyone visiting. Visitors were asked to stand. Two of us did. With the antiphonal seating, people could actually see us, the two visitors. There was a nice round of applause. When I sat down, a hospitality minister found me and handed me a holy card upon which was pictured Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the parish's patroness.

When I turned the card over, my heart was filled with joy and gratitude. You all know of my complaints about parish music programs over the past year during my search for a new parish here in Chicago and my frequent visits to parishes across the country. With the exception of one parish (the cathedral here in Chicago), not one parish announced the numbers of or indicated where to find the acclamations sung at Mass.

The card reads: "So that you can fully participate in our liturgy, you can find the Mass of Christ the Savior beginning at #919 in the maroon hymnal." I spoke with the music director after Mass. She told me that this new procedure was a direct result of the comments I have made on this blog.

This is a very good way of not only welcoming visitors, but also letting visitors know that singing is important to the parish and that the parish is kind enough to let visitors know where to find the acclamations. This also gives visitors information about the parish. Folks, I sang my heart out! And the singing by the congregation was splendid.

I wish I lived in Newport News, Virginia! Congratulations and blessings to this special parish, where the liturgy is celebrated so well in such a beautiful space.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Jury Duty

Hello folks.

Got back to Chicago yesterday from an amazing weekend at Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Newport News, Virginia. I have lots to share about my experience and wanted to do so today, but the City of Chicago had other plans for me. I spent the entire day in a jury pool room in the Daley Center, pictured here, waiting to be called to a trial. But that did not happen; kind of a lost day.

More tomorrow.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ann in Atlanta and Peter in Geneva

Thursday greetings from the soggy and dreary Midwest.

While in Orlando and Atlanta last week, the travel and traveling with the traveling public finally caught up with me. Suffering still with a pretty severe cold for the last week. But I am slowly on the mend.

Following the International Catholic Stewardship Council in Orlando, I flew to Atlanta to present a session on "Rebuilding the RCIA." It was held at Saint Ann parish in Marietta, where WLP's own Ed Bolduc is the music and liturgy director. Here is a photo of the exterior of this beautiful church.

And the interior.

And the baptism font (of course!).

Over the holiday weekend, I went to Sunday Mass in the Rockford Diocese, at Saint Peter in Geneva, Illinois.

Here is a photo I took of the parish lawn; wasn't quite sure what was going on. Then, after Mass I read the sign that said that for Respect Life Month, the parish places 3,650 white crosses on the lawn to remember the 3,650 babies that die due to abortion each day in the United States.

The church was quite full for Sunday Mass. I know I am sounding like a broken record, but there was no attempt made to let the assembly know where to find the sung parts of the Mass. Very, very frustrating. The choir was quite good, as was the cantor. The congregational singing could have been stronger.

Here is a photo of the interior.

The tabernacle is unusually prominent in this space. It certainly seemed like it was added after the church was built. It is its own little building resting atop a long railing of some sort. The choir area and music space is behind it. The chamber behind the crucifix houses the organ pipes.

The statuary is quite lovely, placed amidst the assembly's space.

Parishes should be alert to how a utilitarian placement of a candle-lighter can absolutely ruin the aesthetic, however:

Did you notice it in the first photo of the statue?

The font is in a central location in the space, in the center aisle.

I think the design must work well for daily Mass. There is a "side altar" in the back, with chairs that can be moved to face it for daily Mass.

On Monday, I flew to Houston with our Marketing Director, Jennifer Odegard. We attended and took part in the planning meeting for the NPM convention scheduled to take place there in 2016. Here is a photo I took of Monsignor Rick Hilgartner, NPM's new president, as he led the deliberations.

Despite being sick with this darn cold, life has been busy for this blogger. I am leaving tomorrow for Newport News, Virgina, where I will be leading sessions for faith formation ministers for the Diocese of Richmond. Please pray for healing for this humble servant!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

ICSC and One in Faith

Tuesday greetings from Orlando, Florida, where the International Catholic Stewardship Council is drawing to a close. The closing Mass is being celebrated in a few hours. The choir of Saint Mary Magdalen, in Altamonte Springs, will be singing at the Mass. I was the choir director at that parish in the late 1980's. Looking forward to hearing them sing today.

I had several conversations today about WLP's soon-to-be-released One in Faith hardbound hymnal. Excitement is definitely growing.

We are all lookin forward to holding the printed hymnals in our hands. This is the culmination of nearly three years of work by the dedicated teams at WLP.

Headed to Atlanta very, very early tomorrow morning for an RCIA session on Thursday.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, October 6, 2014


Monday greetings from the Buena Vista Palace Hotel here in Orlando, Florida.

I am here at the International Catholic Stewardship Council, exhibiting on behalf of J.S. Paluch and World Library Publications.

FDLC's (Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions) annual meeting in Lombard, Illinois, was just a delight, but lots and lots of hard work. I took many photos to share with you, but my replacement iPhone, for some reason, is not letting me send the photos to my email account from where I download them to be able to use them here. Ah . . . technology! (A few minutes later . . . just found a temporary fix; I can post to Facebook, then save to my desktop, then post here, hence the photo of our booth above!)

At any rate, the FDLC meeting, which included over forty former North American Forum on the Catechumenate team members, was really a consultation on a new set of National Statutes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults here in the United States. The consultation process was long and involved and excellent preparatory talks were given by Ron Lewinski and Paul Turner. Their talks, from pastoral and theological perspectives, both focused on the recent CARA study of the RCIA in the United States. Looking forward to sharing links with you (when they are made available) so that you can see the results, most of which were not surprising. It is a good thing to have real survey results with real numbers.

The major areas (among others) discussed with respect to the National Statutes were:
Celebration of the "Combined Rites" with catechumens and baptized candidates
Distinctions between these two groups generally
The place of confirmation within the order of the sacraments of initiation and the practice of not confirming children of catechetical age when they are baptized

It was a stimulating meeting. A high point was a video we watched honoring the work of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate which, as you know, closed its doors last year. I needed that video; it was a chance to grieve with my colleagues with whom I have worked passionately for nearly thirty years implementing the RCIA. Cried the entire time. Great, great loss personally and for the Church in North America and beyond.

I was home in Chicago for just a day, then flew here to Orlando yesterday for this stewardship conference. My old parish of Saint Mary Magdalen, here in Altamonte Springs in the Orlando diocese, has a booth right across the aisle from our booth. I don't recognize any of the faces, but I am proud of their work as they receive the 2014 Archbishop Murphy award for stewardship.

From here, I travel to Atlanta to give an RCIA presentation on Thursday morning, then back home and to the office on Friday. On Monday night I leave for Houston to attend the planning meeting for the 2015 NPM convention to be held there.

My apologies for not blogging more regularly; I hope you can understand how travel can impede my abilities to post regularly.

And I miss my colleagues at WLP and JSP so much when I am away. Totally serious.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Long Ride, FDLC, and the Catechumenate

Wednesday greetings from Chicago.

My apologies for not having posted recently; so much going on here!

I was one of the unfortunate ones who needed to fly into Chicago this past Friday. My plane from Memphis was actually speeding down the runway there at 5:50 A.M. when it suddenly slowed down and returned to the gate. When it became apparent that there was no way I could fly into Chicago for many, many hours (which actually turned into days), I decided to rent a car. So I drove the nine hours back home. I can tell you at least one thing. Illinois grows lots of corn and soy beans!

I am preparing to leave shortly for the annual meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, which is being held here in the Chicago area. This year's conference is a consulation on the development of new national statutes for the RCIA here in the United States. I am greatly looking forward to this meeting and to sharing with you the findings of a recent CARA study on the implementation of the RCIA here in the United States.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.