Consultant helps parishes tune up Sunday liturgies
Musician provides suggestions
Fifth in a series on Bishop's Appeal 2004
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor
MUSICAL HELP: Anissa Melotte, diocesan consultant for sacred music works with Jim Clauer, coordinator of music, and Ann Westenberg, choir director at St. Matthew Parish, Green Bay. (Rick Evans photo)
It's time for Sunday Mass. The music starts. You stand to sing that old familiar hymn, Number ...
But why that hymn? Why not old number 100? Or "Jesus Christ is Risen Today?"
Because several people working behind the scenes - and often behind the keyboard - knew
that the particular hymn you are singing relates to the readings you'll hear later in Mass - and to the entire theme of this particular Sunday, as well as the focus of this liturgical season. For now, that's Lent.
"What we try to do is look at the overall theme, so people can see that it's not just picking a song," explained Anissa Melotte, consultant for liturgical ministries for the Green
Bay Diocese. "We look at the overall season, and bring some of those themes and
Before joining the diocesan staff nearly four years ago, Melotte had served in various parish music ministry positions since she was in eighth grade at St. Stanislaus' in Stevens
Point. So she knows firsthand what music ministers, worship committees, organists and choir directors go through to plan for each liturgy.
"Our Sunday liturgy is the one time," she said, "when people connect with their parish, even if they're not active in any other way. So people who plan liturgy have an awesome responsibility for the spiritual formation of their assemblies."
With that in mind, and after several requests for lists of music resources, Melotte compiled a "Music Planning Guide" for the Sundays of Ordinary Time, from summer until Advent
2003. It contained a synopsis of the readings and themes for each Sunday, with background into the seasons and holy days, and a long list of songs tied to the those themes. While she'd only planned to issue the guide once, response was so favorable that she has just completed and sent out a fourth guide - this one for the seasons of Lent and Easter.
Connie Merrick, pastoral musician at St. Thomas More Parish in Appleton, finds the guides an invaluable tool, in a number of ways.
What: Bishop's Appeal, the Green Bay Diocese's annual fund-raiser to support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and individuals.
Where: All parishes in the diocese.
When: Right now.
How: Making a cash, check, credit card (MasterCard, Visa and Discover) or pledge donation. Materials have been sent to homes and also are available through parishes. Some employers offer matching gift programs, for which Catholic Charities may qualify, since
it serves the general public; additional information is available through Human Resources departments.
Theme: Offering a Helping Hand.
Target: $4.8 million.
Related articles ...
"Sometimes, the four readings (including the responsorial psalm) follow one theme and that helps in planning the songs," said Merrick, who has served in music ministry for a several
parishes and schools. "When you look at a synopsis, you can plan more fully that way. It was nice to see, at a glance, all four Sundays (during the season of Advent). It gets into your head what the themes are."
Melotte's main reference is the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, which offers suggestions for songs from a variety of liturgical sources. Most parishes use hymnals from four publishers - Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), GIA Publications, World Library Publications and Liturgical Press - as well as a yearly missal. Since parishes pay copyright fees to each publisher to use its songs, most can't afford to use all the hymnals and resources available. So the diocesan guide leads them to similar songs in sources they already have.
Michelle Blatz, organist and chair of the Worship and Spiritual Life committee at Chilton Area Catholic Ministry, finds the guide to be a fantastic resource for choosing songs.
"It's just nice to have that there," she said. "It'll give you another idea for another song. It triggers ideas. As an organist, it helps to have a good list of those sources."
Pauline Morrissey of Ss. Peter and Paul in Hortonville said her parish primarily uses the OCP. She has found Melotte's guide, "to correspond and be helpful as well as offering a wider
selection" of useful songs in choosing the Sunday songs based on Scriptural themes.
Once the music resources are gathered, what do parish ministers do next? How does the process go from readings and a list of songs to the first notes you hear Sunday morning? Melotte outlines four steps:
1. Sitting down with the lectionary (the book of Scripture readings) to look for the main themes. "Don't plan Sunday by Sunday," Melotte said, "but get an overall look at the season
and try to develop its theme, focus and thought patterns from what the evangelists and readings present."
2. Once the theme surfaces, musicians "normally focus on that theme." This is where the diocesan guide can be especially helpful. Merrick finds that, not only does it help her locate songs that her parish already knows, but also helps them learn new ones. "When you want to teach a new song," she said, "(You can look at the guide and say) 'Wow, we have a Sunday that talks about justice and here is a new song about justice.'"
3. As Merrick also noted, an overall theme can become a teaching tool. Melotte stressed that what musicians in the parish do is "not just picking four songs, but weaving together music, readings, prayers, so you come up with a whole package." And that involves several parish ministers - from the leader of worship, to an art and environment committee, to musicians and choirs.
4. Parishes also blend the "service music" with appropriate themes. This music includes various Glories, Alleluias, Holy, Holys and Memorial Acclamations. Each parish uses several
types of service music, depending on the seasons, such as "The Mass of Light" by David Haas for Easter. According to Melotte, there are dozens of different types of service music (called Masses). Merrick noted that, when she hears new service music at another parish, she can gauge if it would work well with her parish family. Currently, her Appleton parish is learning music from "The Mass of Angels and Saints" by Stephen Janco, which Merrick first heard at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay.
5. Finally, the completed package is given to the organists, song leaders and choirs to prepare for the upcoming Sundays.
Appeal tops $2 million
Bishop's Appeal 2004 received 18,791 gifts for a total of $2,174,814 as of March 1. That represents 45% of the $4.8 million target. Average gift is $115.74 and there are 2,014 new donors.
Gifts to the Appeal support diocesan programs and services offered to parishes and individuals.
Besides serving as a resource for Sunday and Holy Day planning, the Music Planning Guide also lists upcoming workshops for parish music ministers. For example, the current guide announces an upcoming liturgical music workshop in July at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., and the NPM (National Association of Pastoral Musicians) Convention
being held in Milwaukee next year. Merrick, who has long wanted to attend this national convention, was thrilled to learn that it would be held so close to her parish and hopes to be able to attend.
Additionally, the guide lists several workshops offered by the diocesan worship department, including one for funeral liturgy music, led by Melotte, on April 27 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in De Pere, and "The Funeral Workshop 2004" on April 30 at St. Elizabeth
Seton Parish in Green Bay.
Melotte and Diann Wimmer, director of worship for the diocese, also offer workshops on liturgical issues for various seasons of the church year and planning guides for wedding and
funeral music. Their department, which is partially funded by the annual Bishop's Appeal, also keeps a selection of CDs of music for rituals, RCIA planning and collections by various liturgical music artists that can be loaned out to parishes.
"Music is something that touches people in a way that nothing else can," said Melotte, adding that her department's goal is to "provide guidance" as ministers in parishes go about
the work of "nurturing people's formation."