A new Diocesan Worship Commission is serving as an advisory group to the director of the Office of Worship, assisting the bishop in his work as the principal liturgist of the Diocese.

Members of the commission are committed to the on-going renewal of liturgy in Vermont in light of the traditions and liturgical documents of the Church.

“I think parishes need resources, guidance and ongoing support for music and liturgy in general. I think the commission will provide some of that,” said member Celia K. Asbell, music director at Immaculate Conception Cathedral and St. Joseph Co-Cathedral in Burlington.

One of the first priorities Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne established for the newly established Office of Worship in 2016 was the creation of a Diocesan Worship Commission to voice the challenges of parish life as it relates to liturgy and to assist the Office of Worship and ultimately, the bishop, in addressing those challenges.

The Diocesan Worship Commission provides counsel on liturgical matters pertaining to the Diocese including the construction or renovation of liturgical spaces, the implementation of directives and other matters in which the bishop or the Office of Worship seeks their advice.

The Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy as well as other Church documents call for the establishment of such advisory bodies to support the liturgical work of the bishop.

In January Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne appointed 10 members of the Diocesan Worship Commission — one priest, one transitional deacon and laity from throughout the Diocese who are involved in music and liturgical ministries at their parishes.

Deacon Phil Lawson, executive director of evangelization, catechesis, divine worship, marriage and family and respect life; and Msgr. John McDermott, vicar general, serve as consultants to the commission.

Asbell agreed to serve on the commission because she is interested in liturgy and knows it will provide opportunities to learn and collaborate with others from throughout the Diocese.

The committee will meet four times a year (March, May, August, October) at the diocesan office building in South Burlington.

Josh Perry, director of worship for the Diocese of Burlington, visited parishes during the past year, and he found that they celebrated the liturgy with reverence and had dedicated members of the community assisting in various roles in the liturgy. “I sensed that the liturgical life of parishes are important to communities. More than simply recognizing the Sunday Mass as a form of worship, many that I conversed with spoke of the deep nourishment they receive from participating in Mass,” he said.

“Many also spoke of the challenges faced when celebrating liturgy, challenges which I have observed first-hand: the lack of youth involvement and engagement in liturgical celebrations, the lack of resources for music ministry (both material and personnel), the desire and need for ongoing formation not only for liturgical ministers and musicians, but for the community as a whole – simply responding to why we do what we do at Mass,” he continued. “These lacks affect the celebration of liturgy and a community’s very engagement in the liturgy. People default to what they know, and ritual risks becoming rote.”

Perry recognizes the love and care that the clergy put forth toward the celebration of liturgy and the sacraments, ensuring that parishes make the sacraments and devotions available as much as possible in the parishes despite various demands on time and resources. “These competing demands cut into a pastor’s time for forming liturgical ministers, their own commitment for their own ongoing liturgical formation and quality preparation for homilies, which obviously affects the celebration of liturgy,” he said.

Referring to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, which emphasizes the “full and active participation by all the people,” Perry called this engagement.

“This engagement is both internal and external. It involves the body – not just the mind. This engagement fosters our faith; it reaffirms our faith, sometimes it challenges us out of a sense of complacency. It makes us believe what we say, and practice what we preach,” he explained. “Good liturgy fosters this engagement in diverse and beautiful ways. Good liturgy fosters this engagement by unlocking and touching the treasures in our Catholic tradition — the ritual, gestures, postures, signs and symbols, music, silence, art, architecture.”

Good liturgy, Perry said, “allows us to encounter the presence and power of God.”