Cooperstown and Kellnersville parish ministers take part in Advent formation

People experience the ‘familiar’ Mass with new meaning, says Deacon Johnson

Deacon Shaun Johnson, divine worship director for the Diocese of Green Bay, speaks to lay ministers from St. James Parish, Cooperstown, and St. Joseph Parish, Kellnersville, on Dec. 4 at St. James Church. Deacon Johnson explored the Mass and specific ministry roles in his two-part presentation. (Submitted Photo | Special To The Compass)

COOPERSTOWN — An Advent formation opportunity was presented to lay ministers at St. James Church. Mass ministers from St. James Parish and St. Joseph Parish, Kellnersville, gathered on Dec. 4 at the invitation of Fr. Santiago Turiano Jr., administrator of both parishes. 

Fr. Turiano said his hope for the program was to provide a deeper understanding of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and to remind people that it is Jesus who is calling us to serve, and Jesus whom we serve during the Mass.

Deacon Shaun Johnson, divine worship director for the Diocese of Green Bay, was the presenter. He pointed out the difference between the secular calendar of 12 months and the church calendar — which  is cyclical, meaning it is observed in repeating cycles. The same feasts and seasons occur each year, but we are the ones who change from year to year, he said.

The Mass is consistent, but Catholics are always in a different place, experiencing it with new meaning, said Deacon Johnson. Even though familiar, people gain new meaning because, as individuals, they are in a different place from one season to the next, he continued. The Mass is both formative and transformative, he said.

Part two of the presentation focused on specific ministry roles. Deacon Johnson used the parable of the Prodigal Son to emphasize the responsibility of hospitality that runs through every aspect of ministry. 

As the forgiving father went out to greet his son, Mass ministers also need to go out of their way to welcome those who come to church, he said, regardless of whether they are regular attendees, have been absent because of COVID-19 or haven’t been to church in 50 years.

Starting in the parking lot, Deacon Johnson said ushers may need to direct people to open spaces, and greeters can open the door with a smile. The church environment should be simple, leading people away from the messiness in their lives, he continued. Choir music accentuates the Word, but it is not the main reason for coming to Mass, he said. 

A good lector is prepared, proclaims the Word so that, even without missalettes, people can understand the message, said Deacon Johnson. The servers and deacon assist the priest to make sure the Mass flows smoothly, he said. 

Finally, said Deacon Johnson, the eucharistic ministers should see Christ in every person who approaches and show reverence in their actions.