For Catholics, Sunday Mass is the place where we meet Jesus Christ in the most profound way. Many of us have a particular Mass that we attend on a regular basis, too. Our whole Sunday routine is built around that schedule; and that Sunday routine forms the routine for our entire lives.
When that routine gets interrupted, it can cause significant stress to our lives and to our relationship with God. I have seen that happen with my own family as the parish we attended as children has undergone some significant changes in the Sunday Mass schedule over the years.
It is with that reluctance, then, that we, in the new North East 10 Family of Parishes of St. John the Baptist, St. Christopher, St. Peter, Holy Cross and Our Lady of the Rosary, will have to begin a new Sunday Mass schedule as of July 1, 2022, as we implement the Beacons of Light Pastoral Planning Process here in this new family of parishes.
I would have preferred to survey parishioners regarding these changes so that they could be implemented slowly and over time. That option is not currently available to us due to the number of priests who will be assisting at Mass. Rather than the anticipated six priests assisting at Mass when the Family was first announced, we will only have two full time priests, with three additional priests in residence or in retirement assisting as they are able. An additional third full time priest will be joining us in a few months.
In reviewing the Sunday Mass schedule when I was appointed as Pastor for this new Family of Parishes, the following guidelines were helpful in evaluating and developing a revised schedule:
- By Canon Law, priests are limited to saying three weekend Masses: one Saturday Vigil and two on Sunday.
- The regular Sunday Mass schedule should be able to be covered by priests canonically assigned here. This allows retired priests to fill in for vacation coverage, weddings, funerals, etc., without having to bring in a priest from the outside. (As a side note: retired priests who have a desire to regularly assist us will be incorporated into the regular Mass rotation, but they also deserve to have the flexibility to take time away as much as they would like.)
- Masses that have an attendance less than 50% of capacity should be evaluated to see if they can be combined.
- Each parish should retain a Mass time, if at all possible.
- If travel between parishes is required for priests, a minimum of 2 hours is required between start times.
- It would be good to keep as much consistency as possible, while also still offering a variety of Mass times for all parishioners within the family.
Using these principles and guidelines, I first invited the priests who are and who will be covering Masses in this new family of parishes to a conversation regarding what we thought might be the best schedule moving forward. We currently have 13 Masses between the five parishes, which we felt were too many Masses based on these guidelines.
With their help, we developed two potential schedules: a more drastic schedule with only eight Sunday Masses and a more consistent schedule that included ten Sunday Masses. These two schedules were first communicated to staff members of the Family of Parishes, as they know the ins and outs of the complexities of the schedules, including all the other things that happen on weekends around the current Mass schedule.
Taking their feedback and making a few tweaks to that, I presented two potential schedules in a joint session of the Pastoral Councils of St. John the Baptist, St. Christopher and Dayton Region XII (St. Peter, Holy Cross and Our Lady of the Rosary) for their feedback and evaluation. I was very impressed with members of Council as they were able to balance their own particular attachment to a Mass with the need of the new Family of Parishes to establish a Mass schedule that would work across the board.
At each moment of consultation, the schedule has been improved and strengthened to both meet the guidelines noted above and to address the pastoral needs of this new family of parishes. With that, Sunday Mass schedule as of July 1, 2022, will be as follows: