1. The church is not very handicap friendly, including doors, entry ways and parking lot. Is there anything that can be done to improve handicap access to the church?
Answer: The doors to the church, both at the front and the sides, are quite beautiful but very heavy. They are difficult to open for those who lack strength, try to manage a walker, cane, wheelchair or even for children. This has been recognized by Fr. Bob and the Facilities Manager, Mike Bunero. The handicapped parking spaces are a distance from the church entranceways. This has been addressed with the town of Chatham in the hope that new handicapped spaces could be made available. The town has given us several options pertaining to this situation, which are presently being evaluated. Last month the architect who renovated the church came in to provide his thoughts with options that would help people up and down the steps of the sanctuary. Presently, Fr. Bob and Mr. Bunero have made contact with an assortment of people to determine additional ways to make the church handicap friendly. Hospitality ministers (ushers) are being notified to be more observant in spotting people who may need assistance getting in and out of church or in need of help getting to the restroom.
2. The length of the Mass tends to vary among celebrants and mass times, even at other parishes. Why?
Answer: Many questions and comments received about liturgy pertained to the length of time it took to celebrate mass. Parishioners expressed a variety of perspectives. Some questions pertained to particular prayers being recited too quickly, others wished that Sunday mass could be 30 minutes or less due to other commitments. Others were joyful with the blend of music, reflection, and pace of Sunday liturgies. Each priest attempts to do his best to celebrate liturgy reverently. Our Sunday 7:30 am is less festive in that little music is incorporated into the mass, while four different choirs provide music at the other weekend masses. Sometimes baptisms and first communions are added to a Sunday liturgy to make the community aware that sacramental celebrations are part of the community and not private celebrations. The important factor is to keep the mass flowing, yet there is also a need for silent, quiet time throughout the mass for reflection. We live in an age whereby people want things to move fast; therefore, sometimes it gets forgotten that every Sunday is a homecoming of family with community that transpires through weekend liturgies. Although our calendars are packed with countless activities that make up part of a day, the belief that a weekend mass that leads to a 50 or 55 minute celebration, adds much spirit to the richness of our lives rather than seeing our presence at mass as the fulfillment of a Catholic obligation.
3. We should investigate the possibility of using solar panels especially in the Fr. Ed Center.
Answer: At present, the parish has been in touch with Reverend Christa Compton and maintenance personnel at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church located on Shunpike Road since they have solar panels. There is an assortment of options in the manner that the panels are installed as well as the financial investment. A decision will be made on the path the parish takes pertaining to solar panels in the spring of 2015.
4. As a pastor, do you have input or give opinions about other celebrant’s homilies?
Answer: Homilies are most challenging in that they touch a wide range of people of different ages, educations, temperaments and even theologies. I try to make it a point that when the deacons preach, which is the last Sunday of each month, I pass comments to them pertaining to their homilies either after mass or during the handshake of peace. The mass schedule is arranged so that I hear each deacon preach once. I enjoy affirming preachers with feedback in that I am aware of the time spent in preparation. As for the priests that celebrate weekend masses at the parish, frequently I get feedback from parishioners that I pass onto the celebrants both positive and negative in that I do not always hear their homilies; yet homilies are quite subjective. I have come across situations where a parishioner may rave about a priest’s homily while another parishioner may be upset by the same homily; however, some of the most disturbing homilies are often the most challenging in that they cause people to see life from another point of view, which few people want to do. The most frequent complaint I get about a homily pertains to length. If it is over ten minutes, people tune out, and sometimes complain; therefore, my recommendation to preachers is for a 7-10 minute homily based on the scriptures or a seasonal church holyday. I also get numerous emails that pertain to my own homilies. As per my homilies, since each mass brings forth a different crowd of people, I often change stories, openings, or questions that I ask in homilies in accordance to an audience, but seek to maintain the same message.
5. How is music chosen for weekend masses?
Answer: Hymns and choir music for weekend masses are based on several criteria. The text is appropriate for the season of the church year and/or reflects on the scripture readings for a particular mass. The music is of quality, embodies the mood of the mass and is familiar. With a new congregational song, the choir will sing it alone on more than one occasion before the assembly sings it. When a new song is being introduced to the assembly, the music director plays the same music during the prelude as she has the cantor or an instrument demonstrate the melody before the assembly sings it. The range of music over time reflects variety of choice (the music director attempts not to repeat a congregational hymn more than 6-8 times a year or more than twice in a season). The various selections represent a variety of styles, everything from traditional to contemporary, from solemn to upbeat; a higher percentage of music available for use in worship is contemporary. Choir music varies at different masses according to the age and ability of the choir.
6. Are applause and humor necessary at mass?
Answer: There is a correct time for applause and humor at liturgy. The proper time for applause is after the communion prayer. Here it often comes through parish announcements. Recognition through applause in most cases indicates that the parish is appreciative for special efforts of individuals that often include the first time a person serves in a ministry since that person has accepted God’s call to a particular ministry, or through an outstanding accomplishment of an individual/family in a parish such as the baptism of a child, major wedding anniversary, etc. Sometimes applause may also come in recognition for the manner that a particular talent exceeded expectations at liturgy such as in music which requires much practice. However, applause is not recommended at liturgy immediately after an individual or group of people say, do, or sing something that brought forth the spirit of God in an exceptional manner such as immediately after a musical piece or homily. Humor has its place in liturgy either as a way to begin/end a homily if it connects the assembly with the theme of the homily, or if it is incorporated into announcements. Humor that is handled in good taste puts people at ease, and makes it known to all that a parish is friendly and can laugh at particular situations that arise within the community.
7. Do outside parishes supplement St. Patrick School?
Answer: Students who are not registered members of St. Patrick Church pay out of parish rates to St. Patrick School. St. Patrick Church does not subsidize non-parish students. The amount of subsidy given to non-parish students is determined by the parish of the student, not St. Patrick Church; yet, tuition for non-parish students at St. Patrick is much lower than most Catholic Schools in this area both in and outside the Paterson Diocese. Since non-school parishes pay a 4% higher assessment to the Paterson Diocese that goes to Catholic education, it is not expected that parishes in the area without Catholic Schools subsidize St. Patrick School.
8. What does the parish do for adult faith formation?
Answer: There are several scheduled events and programs each year that include a parish mission as well as an assortment of guest speakers who bring to light spiritual growth to members of the parish. There is also weekly scripture study and Walking with Purpose (women’s bible study and small group discussion). Some notable speakers at the parish in the past years include Fr. Jim Martin, S.J., Fr. Carl Arico, Fr. Dennis O’Donnell, and Immaculee Ilibagiza. Each brought inspiration and challenge to parishioners seeking growth in their faith. The parish also advertises retreats and outside programs/missions held in neighboring parishes or institutions such as St. Paul Inside the Walls, Madison, or St. Elizabeth College, Convent Station, that may help a believer grow in his/her faith as long as these programs are made known to us. The priests in the parish are available to provide recommendations for spiritual direction or outside the parish activities at neighboring institutions that could be beneficial to faith formation.
9. Can my offering be directed to a specific program?
Answer: Yes, a note of designation coupled with reference on a check that pertains to the direction that an offering will go is sufficient. This was a target in the recent Partners in Faith Campaign run by the Diocese in 2013. There was an assortment of areas in the diocese that would receive particular funds whereby people were able to either eliminate a particular area of the campaign or designate an area that would receive a donation. At the parish level, since our Sunday collection is put into a general fund, there have been people who designate donations in addition to those that go into the general fund that go to liturgical ministry, youth ministry, faith formation, etc.
10. How can we increase the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation for both adults and children?
Answer: Reconciliation is one of the most rewarding, loving, yet misunderstood sacraments in the church. It is also the most “feared” sacrament. One way it is enhanced throughout the parish and diocese is through the promotions of Monday night penance during Lent where signs are placed on parish lawns as well as on billboards sponsored by the diocese welcoming people to Reconciliation. On a parish level, Reconciliation is promoted throughout Lent and Advent with announcements and bulletin articles; as well as homilies that invite people to the Sacrament. Faith Formation meetings with parents encourage adults to come to Reconciliation with an invitation for parents to be examples for children who are about to receive Reconciliation for the first time. Our Confirmation candidates also experience the Sacrament in a unique way during their Antioch retreat; and our Catholic School holds a day for the children to come to Reconciliation during Lent. This year, the parish began scheduling times on Sunday mornings for children in faith formation, yet it is difficult to get priests on a Sunday. Since many Catholics live with fear of the Sacrament falsely believing that a one on one experience with a priest that is familiar to them is so difficult, some people find a church other than their own parish for Reconciliation while others come to St. Patrick from neighboring churches for Reconciliation.
11. Could there be an increase of books with weekly readings to follow during Mass?
Answer: Recently the order was increased for monthly paperback missalettes; many people use these books to follow the scripture readings during mass. Although the church calls us to listen to the scriptures as they are proclaimed by the reader, and strives to steer the assembly away from the practice of using missalettes, many people find these books useful for two reasons: first, the books provide people who come early for mass an opportunity to review the scripture readings prior to mass, and meditate on them beforehand. Others who struggle with hearing, find these books a great comfort as the readings are proclaimed. The books used at St. Patrick Church are titled, “Give Us This Day.” In addition to scripture readings they provide daily reflections on the scriptures, saints, and an assortment of Catholic prayers as well as the Order of the Mass.
12. Why does St. Patrick Church celebrate Confirmation in the sophomore year of high school?
Answer: The age for Confirmation is determined by the Diocese; however, there is no perfect age for the Sacrament of Confirmation and our Bishop has been quite open in listening to all about their thoughts on Confirmation. Since some of our neighboring dioceses celebrate Confirmation in 7th or 8th grade, this is a common question at St. Patrick since we border the Archdiocese of Newark. The theology in celebrating the Sacrament in sophomore year goes back to 1985 when the Paterson Diocese made strong efforts to encourage high school students to continue development in faith formation believing that pushing Confirmation into high school age would provide strength to youth ministry programs as well as inspire high school students to participate in retreats. Most Confirmation candidates at St. Patrick maintain a positive experience through the retreats/sessions that lead to the Sacrament which bonds them with the community as well as gives them opportunity to share their faith and questions in the preparation process.