Stewards take presiding seriously
Special classes help to prepare leaders to conduct certain services
Second in a series
By Deacon Jerry Cross
We all know how to pray. Even St. Paul in his conversion experience spent three days in discernment and prayer before his eyesight was restored and he began his journeys of evangelization.
Do you quietly feel like God is calling? Has your pastor or others in your parish community mentioned that maybe you could help the parish in other ways - perhaps in a position of leadership? Is your prayer life and spiritual life such that you are discerning a call of helping your parish by leading prayer services when requested?
The Diocese of Green Bay, in conjunction with Silver Lake College, offers a course entitled "The Ministry of Presiding for Deacons and Lay Leaders of Prayer." This liturgical course is a 'hands on' type of class led by a team of instructors that includes Diann Wimmer, Anissa Willkom, Fr. Greg Smith among others.
We all know how to pray. But to lead others, or even the parish congregation, in prayer may seem a bit too intimidating. Suddenly we may ask ourselves - "How do I pray in front of others? What words should I use? What if I pray 'wrong'?" This class allays some of those fears and concerns. The classes are made up of instructions, explanations, examples and the opportunity to carefully watch and critique the presiding of the Official Rites and Liturgical prayers of the Roman Catholic Church by team members of six. The six Rites are: Morning and Evening prayer, Weekday and Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest and finally the Vigil and Committal Rites of Christian Burial.
This class also offers a practicum for the attendees. Each person chooses a Rite and presides at prayer for the Rite in a small group. This "practice" session is videotaped for personal review. Most personal fears of presiding are diminished after the videotaping and critique.
Another benefit from this class is that it eases stress and boosts confidence. The reason is the attendee has the opportunity to participate in the Rites as demonstrated by the Team instructors, and then is able to identify the faith-filled (or not so "filled") presence of a presider in prayer and other liturgical services.
It is especially beneficial for deacons, once the qualities and skills are identified and they have observed and practiced - if he is asked to preside at baptisms and weddings. Many of these qualities are also used when assisting at the Eucharistic liturgy.
Even homiletic reflections/homilies are discussed. Especially for first-time presiders, the session on homiletics helps ease the stress associated with breaking open Scripture and making the Word come alive with the congregation.
Many of the topics discussed have helped others to assist the parish staff, for example, with writing the Prayers of the Faithful (Petitions). For others, this class has allowed them to become comfortable with leading a spontaneous prayer following a general format of prayer.
The "Ministry of Presiding" course is one of many courses offered by the Green Bay Diocese and Silver Lake College through the Commissioned Ministry Leadership Formation Program. This program of college level classes helps form, train and spiritually enhance individuals who have been called forth by their pastor and parish community. For more information contact Tony Pichler at (920)272-8268 or 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8268, or by e-mail at [email protected].
(Dcn. Cross serves at St. Mary Parish, Menasha. The Commissioned Ministry Leadership Formation Program is funded in part through the annual Bishop's Appeal.)