Identifying the Need to Change our Mass Schedule
The weekend of April 27/28, Fr. Neville announced the need to modify our Sunday Mass schedule. The modification was necessary because we have had an unbroken and continuous 15 year decline in Mass attendance which has impacted the vibrancy of some our Sunday liturgies. Additionally, Fr. Cris Janson’s stroke in February, left us without an associate pastor. Facing these realities, Fr. Neville along with the Parish Pastoral Council, the staff and Corporators determined that a modification to the Sunday Mass Schedule was needed. Fr. Neville acknowledged that announcing the survey at this time felt uncomfortable as we were just concluding our 150th Jubilee celebrations and coming off the joy of the Easter liturgy. He also noted the need to be courageous in faith. “There were many changes made in the past 150 years to help our community respond to the situation it faced, and there will be others in the future. Facing the reality we are in courageously is a faith response; a healthy one.”
Surveying the Parishioners
To that end, a survey to determine parishioner preferences for Mass times took place the same weekend. An on-line version of the survey was available from Saturday, April 27th through 9 pm on Tuesday, April 30th. In completing the survey parishioners were asked to please consider:
• Reducing the number of liturgies gives us a real opportunity to celebrate more vibrant liturgy with abundant voices, renewed music ministries and better planning.
• Our liturgies are richer and more vibrant when they are celebrated in sanctuaries that are more full than empty.
• The survey seeks to get peoples’ preference for Mass times; it does not address the musical or liturgical style at a particular liturgy. Should, for example, the 5pm liturgy not receive much support in the survey and it is decided it should be dropped that will not be the end to the music ensemble that regularly sings at that liturgy; it will be accommodated at an earlier time.
• The Archdiocese of Baltimore stipulates a 3 liturgy rule for priests. The liturgy schedule needs to be designed for no more than 3 liturgies, per priest, per weekend. On any given weekend, pastors may also be preparing for weddings, funerals, reconciliation, and other sacramental or pastoral events.
The New Mass Schedule
We recognize the new Mass schedule has been slightly altered from the options presented in the survey. A careful analysis of the second question on the survey—“What is your ideal Mass time?”—provided additional data for consideration. While answers that named Sunday morning times ranged from 7:00 AM to 12:00 NOON, the highest percentage fell in the 10:00-11:00 AM period. Weighing that with the other considerations needed, provided an opportunity to present a new schedule that only reduced one Mass and provided for the new 10:45 time which falls within the most-desired 10:00-11:00 AM spectrum.