By Susan Gately - 22 April, 2017
All over the world, when priests are not available, the Liturgy of the Word is celebrated in parishes without the distribution of Communion. “We are, in many respects, going back to the future, as not that long ago people would attend weekly Mass without receiving Communion, which was largely a sacrament received only occasionally,” the Bishop of Limerick has said.
Bishop Brendan Leahy was answering questions in relation to an initiative next Tuesday which will see the laity gather to pray in parishes all over the diocese of Limerick while their priests meet together with Bishop Leahy for a clergy conference.
On Tuesday 25 April every parish in Limerick diocese has been asked to host a lay-led liturgy, without the distribution of Holy Communion. Formation and resources have been offered to all parishes via the diocesan website so that “everyone is included in this moment”.
The website explains that in every diocese lay people already lead a ‘ministry of public prayer’ – such as “family prayer (Grace before meals), personal or group prayer (pilgrimage, prayer group or devotional prayers) and public prayer (the Rosary before Mass, Adoration)”.
At the diocesan synod, it continues, “the people of this diocese asked that every parish would support and develop local leadership, to lead public prayers and liturgies, so that every parish can say with confidence, ‘When we needed to gather together and pray, we were able to.’”
Every parish will now have a clear group which offers a Ministry of Public Prayer, it continues, including liturgy when a priest cannot celebrate weekday Mass in the parish – “but each parish group will be different, according to the resources and needs of the parish itself”.
Bishop Leahy said that Communion will not be distributed on Tuesday next, though he stressed that this does not mean it will never be distributed at future lay-led liturgies. It is believed to be the first time a Catholic diocese in Ireland will be without Mass for a day.
The diocese has appealed to people to support the prayer leaders “by joining prayerfully with them on April 25th – in person if possible or through your prayers at home or work that morning”.
Parishioners who have attended formation gatherings will lead the prayer services, using agreed resources available in parishes or downloaded from the website of the diocese of Limerick. The resources include a full service for Tuesday, including readings and questions to help the participants explore the readings in more depth.
“Our Diocesan Synod last year strongly encouraged this,” Bishop Leahy told the Limerick Leader. “As we move forward, we need to prepare for a time when, even though priests are not available, each local community will be prepared to arrange for moments of public prayer for various occasions.”
He said that “No parish should find itself in a position where it is not prepared for such a possibility so it makes sense for us to begin right now.”