During the Mass on 24 November 2002 Archbishop Hart lead a
Commissioning of Catechists. On entering St Patrick's Cathedral
in Melbourne for 11.00 am leaflets were presented:
Catholic Education Office
Archdiocese of Melbourne
Renewal of Baptismal
The Book of Blessings (De Benedictionibus) has a blessing
for catechists during the Mass. There are general intercessions
followed by a prayer of blessing said by the celebrant.
But the official ceremony is nothing like that in the leaflet:
All sit. Catechists receiving diplomas are invited to stand.
Archbishop: As catechists you stand out because of
your vocation and mission to witness to Christ. Through you own
personal integrity and your sharing of faith with young people
you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you. Are you prepared
to persevere in this mission?
Catechists: We are.
Archbishop: As bishop of the Archdiocese of Melbourne,
I commission you to join your fellow workers in bringing the
Good News of Jesus Christ to the young people in your community.
Do you accept this commission?
Catechists: We do.
Archbishop: I ask you now to pray together:
Catechists: God, in your goodness, you have called us to
work within your Church. Grant that we may be generous in our
commitment to the People of God. May love of Christ grow in our
hearts and in the lives of those we teach. We make this prayer
through Christ, our Lord.
Archbishop: Glory be to God whose power working in
us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be
to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ
Jesus, for ever and ever. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
PRESENTATION OF DIPLOMAS
After Communion, the catechists who are to receive diplomas
are called by name to the front of the cathedral. At the conclusion
of the presentation of diplomas, we are invited to pray:
Archbishop: Let us now pray in thanksgiving for our
All: We pray in thanks, O God of goodness, for the generosity
of our catechists who have been called to hand on the Catholic
faith to young people. May they be a sign of your abiding love
and faithfulness. Bless them abundantly in their work.
Archbishop: May God who called you to this work continue
to bless you and lead you, through Christ, our Lord.
What is wrong with this? Firstly it is not following the liturgical
book. Whatever good they may do as catechists, by participating
in this ceremony they setting a poor example. It is not promoting
unity with the universal Church, but saying "We do things
Secondly it gives too prominent a role for the catechists.
For the institution of a lector all he says is "Present"
and "Amen". For the ordination of a deacon, priest
and bishop all that is said is "I do", "I am"
and "I am, with the help of God" in response to the
various examinations. But this ceremony has the catechists making
a prayer "through Christ, our Lord".
Diplomas should not be presented during Mass. That they should
be given a diploma is good. But it highlights the inconsistency
of the Archdiocese of Melbourne refusing to give a certificate
to Instituted Lectors. According to Canon 156 "The provision
of any office is to be made in writing." But Most Reverend
Denis Hart wrote to me on 20 March 2001:
"... The invariable practice of this Diocese since the
Council has been only to give the Ministry of Lector and Acolyte
to those who are in transition to later ordination to diaconate
and priesthood, and only to give certificates for Ordinations.
In 1985 the Australian Episcopal Liturgical Commission approved
a hymn book: "Catholic Worship Book" for which Denis
Hart gave the Nihil Obstat. After the ceremonies for the
institution of lectors and acolytes it has at 130:
When the local Church wishes to give recognition to other
ministries, such as that of catechist, musician, those who care
for the sick, extraordinary ministers of the eucharist, or those
who help others prepare for the sacraments, a similar celebration
may take place during the eucharist or a service of the word."
I have no problem with a celebration which is given in an
approved liturgical book. Unfortunately the impression is given
that its legitimate to use the ceremonies for the institution
of readers and acolytes as a model for creating ceremonies for
other lay ministries.
By J.R. Lilburne, 25 November 2002. Updated 26 November
2002. I give what I have written on this page to the public domain.