Over the last year the Diocesan Liturgy Commission has been involved in a number of initiatives.

In March and again in May of this year, two special evenings of training for Ministers of the Word took place in Armagh and in Ardee. Approximately 150 people attended over the course of the two evenings which were facilitated by Fr Declan O’Loughlin. A copy of a CD Rom which Fr Declan used on both evenings has been forwarded to parishes and it will be of great use for future training which we may be doing with Ministers of the Word at parish level.

A resource booklet for the celebration of funerals has been completed and it is hoped that it will soon be available to parishes. It contains readings, prayers, reflections, music suggestions, and alternative prayer experiences/liturgies which may be used around the time of death. The resource booklet will undoubtedly prove to be a very useful resource at parish level.

The Commission has also prepared a prayer card with a simple liturgy which could be used in homes at times of death and a copy of this has recently been forwarded to priests. Prayer cards have also been produced for homes/families (similar in size to memoriam cards)…..and it contains a prayer for the deceased and also a prayer for the bereaved.

A course is currently taking place on Pastoral Liturgy (in Synod Hall, Armagh) and it is specifically geared towards Parish Liturgy Groups. While many parishes indicated their intention earlier this year to establish a Parish Liturgy Group, only a small number of parishes are represented at the course. (40 people in total) Those attending are finding it to be very enjoyable and very worthwhile. The programme is helping to deepen an understanding of different aspects of liturgy and it is also enhancing an understanding of what it means to be a member of a Parish Liturgy Group.

During the year, a priest who is working full time with Non Nationals in Northern Ireland attended one of the meetings of the Commission. He talked of his experience in working with the Phillippino community in different parishes and in his efforts to engage them in the life and mission of the Church. Members of the Commission also shared different experiences of involving non nationals in liturgies at parish level. There is a strong feeling at present that we need to integrate non nationals all the more in our local communities and parishes. This is an item which continues to be on the agenda at meetings.
We are also hoping to reach out to families and homes in an attempt to develop faith and prayer. Suggestions include what might be called a “Reach out” Campaign during the Lenten Season, where a candle and prayer card will be distributed to the homes in our diocese.

Prior to the feast of Corpus Christi, the Commission felt that we should try to promote the reception of Eucharist under both species. At the request of the Commission, the Archbishop wrote to the priests of the diocese to encourage this practice. The list of guidelines for the celebration of the Year of the Eucharist which was also prepared by the Commission was also forwarded to priests of the diocese.

Whilst the question of Music in the Liturgy has been raised many times, there is some concern about the need for more resourcing of music ministry in the diocese. In June a very successful evening with Liam Lawton took place in the diocese for those involved in Music Ministry. Approximately 150 people attended and whilst many new resources were provided, time was also given to looking at the development of congregational singing and also the role of the Cantor in the Parish.

The Commission has been taking time to consider the Confirmation Pledge which usually takes place at the end of the Confirmation Ceremony. Members felt that it would be better practice if a Rite of Commitment around drink and drugs were to be included within the Ceremony of Light. With the support of the Diocesan Advisers, a Ceremony of Commitment and Light has now been drawn up and again copies of this have recently been forwarded to parishes.

As we look ahead, we have a few areas which we hope to address in the near future. First of all, there have been concerns raised about the lack of conformity in relation to Postures at Mass. We are aware that some parishes have been trying to address this issue recently. It is our hope to again circulate the liturgical guidelines in relation to this. It is our hope that parishes will address this issue (by publishing guidelines and by speaking on the issue) in order to enable greater conformity and better liturgical practice. Another suggestion is that during the Advent Season of 2007, a small icon be distributed to the homes of our diocese as well as a large icon for all the churches in the diocese. With these, some prayers/reflective thoughts might also be provided for homes and families. It has been suggested that it be an icon of the Holy Family and that focus be given to the icon on that special Feast Day next year. Finally, the Commission are hoping to organise a special Liturgy/Songs of Praise in Armagh Cathedral. It is our hope to invite choirs from across the diocese to partake in the celebration (including non nationals) and we will be greatly dependant on the support of priests in encouraging this.

Chair: Fr. Peter Mc Anenly