Q. For many years, ever since I moved into our neighborhood, our parish was staffed by Franciscan Friars. But due to a shortage in their ranks, they have now been replaced by diocesan priests. With that change, parishioners have been asked to make some significant adjustments.
Contemporary music has been eliminated; the choir has been replaced by an organist and a cantor; Communion under both species at Sunday Masses has been eliminated or offered to only a portion of the congregation. Most disturbing, two or three times during the past year a whole week of daily Masses was cancelled because the pastor and vicar were both on retreat or on vacation.
Recently, when our Saturday vigil Mass was cancelled because of a parish festival, my family and I attended a nearby parish that felt much like our own parish used to feel. I am now considering changing parishes, but that would be a major move since I have been involved here for 20 years as an extraordinary minister, member of a men’s Bible study group, volunteer worker at bereavement meals, etc.
I have tried praying and asking for guidance, but I am not hearing any. What advice can you give me? (A close friend who has also been struggling with these changes emailed the new pastor but the exchange was unproductive.) (City of origin withheld)
A. In most cases, with any change of pastors there comes some modification in leadership style and in liturgical preferences. Normally parishioners anticipate this, show some flexibility and can weather successfully a period of adjustment.
It is important, however, that a new pastor be sensitive to the comfort level of parishioners, especially long-term ones, and not move hastily, and that any significant changes be filtered through an advisory group, usually the parish council. But sometimes the transition is too abrupt for certain individuals and the difference too wide to bridge, and then a move is advisable.
People, after all, should worship where their experience of church is a peaceful and productive one. Fortunately, whereas once parishes were territorial (with rather rigid boundaries) now more often they are “intentional” — people go where the liturgy, programs and services suit them best, where they feel most at home.
My guess is that you would be best off in a different parish, one where your prayer experience will be positive and where your worthy volunteerism will find new outlets. Before you do that, though, why not sit down with your present pastor and tell him frankly why you are making a move? In fairness, he needs to know; at least it might help him in the future. (And by the way, my biggest concern is with his cancelling daily Mass for a week while he and the curate are out of town; why can’t they go away at different times, so that people won’t be inconvenienced?)
Q. In our small parish, I teach a sixth grade CCD [religious education] class and have six wonderful and inquisitive boys. I am a certified catechist and can usually answer their questions. But recently they stumped me, and I said I would find out for them the answer. Where are the original writings of the disciples that were used to put together the Catholic Bible? Do we have some of them, how old are they and are they in the archives at the Vatican? (Houma, Louisiana)
A. The Bible is an anthology of more than 70 books composed over a period of some 1,400 years. The oldest known manuscripts of the Christian Bible, substantially in its entirety, are the Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Vaticanus. The Codex Sinaiticus is said to have been penned around the middle of the fourth century and contains all of the New Testament and most of the Old Testament. It was discovered at a monastery in Mt. Sinai, Egypt in the 1800s. The Codex Sinaiticus is named after the Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai, Egypt. A substantial portion is at the British Library in London, while smaller parts are at institutions in Germany, Russia and at its old home in Egypt.
The Codex Vaticanus is a Greek copy that has the Old Testament and much of the New Testament and also is a fourth century manuscript. It has been at the Vatican Library since at least 1481.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at email@example.com and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.
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