Liturgy Committee: 40 years at the service of the chapel


Many students walk into Christ the King Chapel on a daily basis.

Many are there to attend Mass or a holy hour, or even a few minutes of quiet prayer in the Eucharistic chapel. Very few notice that the holy water fonts are cleaned, that the altar linens might be a different color then they were the day before, that father’s mic comes on at the proper time or that the servers and eucharistic ministers know exactly where to stand at the appropriate time during Mass.

If no one notices these things, then Liturgy Committee is doing its job right.

Made up of 18 students, Liturgy Committee is a formed group in charge of the maintaining of ministries and liturgies for the entire campus. A dedicated group, their ministries include EMHC’s, servers, sacristans, sound techs and readers, to name a few. Two students, known as co-heads, serve as the leaders of each ministry and make up the 18 students on committee, all under the jurisdiction of a lead student, known as the student head, and the chapel staff.

Rob Palladino, director of chapel ministries, said, “Liturgy Committee is a group of students who dedicate themselves to the service of the campus by guaranteeing that we have a beautiful and rubric-correct liturgy.”

This Committee did not come out of nowhere, but was a direct call from Pope St. John Paul II 40 years ago encouraging churches to establish a Liturgy Committee to allow lay people to minister in the liturgies, said Palladino.

Liturgy Committee was founded under the guidance of the Rev. Michael Scanlan, TOR.  Though he was not directly involved, Scanlan asked Mary Kay Lacke to form and lead this group known as Liturgy Committee in 1978.

“We formed a committee that had representatives from every liturgical ministry on campus at that time,” said Lacke. Some of these representatives first picked would have been someone heading music, liturgical dance, readers and eucharistic ministers, to name a few.

“This liturgical committee got to be a big deal because these students were instrumental in getting students involved in a particular ministry,” said Lacke. “Some brilliant, very dedicated, very holy people were really dedicated to having a beautiful liturgy.”

This attitude on Liturgy Committee never changed, as many of the students who now serve on the committee feel the same way, and some past graduate students still value their experience on committee.

The Rev. Garret O’Brien, a graduate of the university in 2008 and student head of Liturgy Committee in 2007, said, “I had no idea what I was in for when I began to serve on the Liturgy Committee. You would think that providing for Mass would be a smooth and serene endeavor. But in the context of FUS it was one adventure after another.”

Some of the tasks required of the committee includes heading up all of the liturgies on campus and being the hands behind the scenes of all Masses both in Christ the King Chapel and the Finnegan Fieldhouse.

“Liturgy Committee is at the heart of the Chapel,” said Palladino. “It makes the Chapel function so if the president gives a task to the Chapel that it cannot accomplish on its own, because it’s impossible for the full-time employees to carry out its mission, the employees turn to the student body.”

“We train the students (and) form the students, so they can in turn be extensions of us,” said Palladino, adding that in all 18 students in turn train 350 ministers, reaching out to the student body.

“When I was first thinking about joining the committee, I was already discerning the priesthood,” said O’Brien. “Many of the things I loved about liturgy committee were present in my later duties of being a parish priest. The lessons I learned were about the Mass, certainly, but also about teaching others how to provide for the Mass, learning from the ministers and from the other committee members about being more fruitful and faithful in serving God in this unique way.”

With a thousand students coming to Mass nearly every day, the Chapel is run at more of a basilica level than a parish level, said Palladino, making it necessary to have a committee.

“The Holy Father teaches that the liturgy is the main source of evangelization, so (Liturgy Committee) are guardians and protectors of the mysteries of Christ, and that in turn is going out to the whole university family,” said Palladino.

“One lesson that I began learning on committee and continue to learn to this day is summed up in the line, ‘Liturgy is impressive, not merely expressive.’” said O’Brien. “The liturgy is not a stage for the community to express itself to God, or even worse express ourselves to others, but rather our worship of God is something that each of us receives from the Church.”

Claire Gilligan, a 2008 graduate of the university and head of readers’ ministry on her time on committee, said it was not only the serving done on committee, but also the fellowship and spirituality of the members on committee that touched her.

“For my part,” said Gilligan, “I loved the way that we not only organized the liturgy together but studied it together, discovered its beauty and fell in love with it together.”

Gilligan shared that Liturgy Committee helped for her in the liturgies, aiding her to go on for her masters in Liturgical Studies at the Liturgical Institute.

Gina D’Urso, 2009 graduate of Franciscan, the head of sacred art, or sacred space as it was known, and then student head of Liturgy Committee in 2008, said Liturgy Committee still holds a special place in her heart.

“I loved every aspect of it. I loved the actual meeting with the people, the community that we had just in our small committee and everything that we did together,” said D’Urso. “There is a lot of camaraderie among everyone on the team.”

The point of committee, however, is not to show off all their work, but to remain hidden in the background, causing the committee’s motto to once be “hide and disappear,” after St. JoseMarie Escriva, said Palladino.

“Liturgy Committee is not well known,” said Palladino. “One of our secrets is the personality of Committee to hide and disappear. We don’t like to be in the limelight. We like being in the background.”

“If you’ve done your job well, and you’ve prepared, then Mass will just unfold, because it isn’t a production, it’s a worship service, and your job is to be invisible,” said D’Urso. “It’s your job to handle it quietly and be disrupted in prayer, so you can take on the distractions. You offer that sacrifice for that hour or hour and a half.”

The idea of sacrifice and service among the Liturgy Committee members has not changed, as many of the current members still feel the same way about committee, said Melody Doudna, a senior education major and current student head of committee.

Doudna said, “Committee is just a beautiful time of fellowship with your fellow peers at Franciscan, getting to know the priests better, but most importantly it’s working together to offer all of your sacrifices of making the liturgies here happen up with the sacrifice on the altar.”

“The camaraderie of Committee is what makes me call this my family; it’s my second household,” said Melody. “The family you form on committee is such a testament to the unity of working together in the Mass. The graces the Lord gives us to work together in grace and charity, even when things can be tense in those Fieldhouse Masses, even when things don’t go your way, you work through it.”

“Everybody has different personalities and different gifts, but to know that everyone wanted to serve in the same way was really special,” said D’Urso.

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