Nearly one hundred fifty leaders from eighty-five dioceses gathered in Bloomington, Minnesota October 3-5, for the forty-eighth annual national meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC). Their focus was “Touching the Hem of His Garment: The Pastoral Care of the Sick.” Specifically, they examined the rites of the Pastoral Care of the Sick, their proper celebration, and the pastoral activities which surround them.
The members of the FDLC were greeted by Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “The faithful of this diocese are very proud that the State of Minnesota and her liturgists have been on the forefront of liturgical renewal within the Catholic Church for decades. One need only recall the pioneering work of Benedictine Monks like Virgil Michael and Godfrey Diekmann; or the beloved hymnody of Joncas, Haugen, and Haas; or the worldwide impact of the Liturgical Press, to recognize the that Minnesotans have consistently shown a commitment to that full, conscious, and active participation in the sacred liturgy that is the right of the people of God.”
FDLC’s Executive Director, Rita Thiron, brought the meeting’s theme into focus: “When illness strikes, life as we know it, stops. Doctor appointments become more important than our usual daily schedules. The care of a loved one becomes our only concern. We realize our helplessness in the face of something we cannot control. So we rely on our faith to make sense of suffering. We rely on the power of Christ and his sacramental grace. We rely on the power of our communal prayer. And we become more acutely aware of those who cannot be with us as we gather around our Eucharistic Table.”
Perhaps the most powerful reminder of the helplessness caused by illness came during the Opening Prayer when Minneapolis native Rev. J. Michael Joncas recalled his own near-death experience with Guillain-Barre syndrome, a fast-moving virus which attacks the body’s muscles and neurological systems. Within days, only his eyelids could blink answers, but he still recalled the power of a priest’s anointing and the symbol of the cross on his forehead. His captivating reflections were interspersed with Scripture and song.
An impressive group of presenters aided the discussions in Bloomington. Bishop John M. Quinn of the Diocese of Winona spoke of the power of presence to those who are ailing and how visits to the sick have been part of his priestly and episcopal ministry for decades. “The sick are an integral part of the parish community. They are visible signs of the Paschal Mystery. Let them evangelize the community for they have much to teach us.”
He was followed on Wednesday by two equally-eloquent keynoters – Msgr. John Kasza of the Archdiocese of Detroit who spoke on the richness of the rites found in the liturgical text and Sr. Esther Mary Nickels, RSM who spoke of her experiences with patients in her work as an emergency-room respiratory therapist. Both related their work to the healing work of Jesus Christ, the Great Physician.
On Wednesday, the “Study Day” was opened to local participants. Healthcare professionals, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and pastoral care staffs were present to hear the plenary sessions as well as six workshops sessions. Father James Bessert of the Diocese of Saginaw spoke on the continuum of care as found in the Pastoral Care of the Sick and the Order of Christian Funerals. Father Andrew Menke of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship and Mrs. Jan Benton of the National Catholic Partnership for Disabilities examined the new USCCB “Guideline for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities.” Father Thomas Knoblach, a renowned expert on medical ethics, spoke on end of life issues in light of Catholic teachings. Dr. Johan Van Parys shared his experience with “Healing and the Arts,” a very successful parish program at the Basilica of St. Mary. Sr. Sandy DeMasi, SSJ, of the Diocese of Newark, spoke on the RCIA, specifically on the rites of initiation for those in exceptional circumstances and for those in danger of death. Finally, Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a world-renowned cardiologist from the Mayo Clinic, shared his own experiences with the rites for the Sick -- both as a doctor and as a cancer patient.
Since its founding, the FDLC National Meeting has been co-sponsored annually by the FDLC and the Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship. On Thursday, diocesan leaders heard updates on the progress of the translation of liturgical texts, on the status of liturgical books currently under review at the Vatican, and on other liturgical initiatives. They were especially interested in next year’s implementation of the third edition of the Misal Romano and the Federation’s plans for liturgical catechesis.
The celebrations of daily Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours were integral to the meeting. The attendees also participated in a Eucharistic liturgy at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis where Archbishop Hebda served as principal celebrant. Twenty-eight people received the anointing of sick during the Mass.
The three-day event closed with a banquet at the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel. Mr. Christopher Ferraro was awarded certification as a Director of Worship. Rev. Leon Strieder of the Diocese of Austin was honored with the fourth annual Alleluia Award which recognizes a member for distinguished service to the mission of the Federation.
The FDLC’s highest honor, the prestigious Frederick R. McManus Award was presented to the Liturgical Press of Collegeville in recognition of its ninety years of outstanding contributions to liturgical scholarship and ministerial formation. Publisher Peter Dwyer accepted the award on behalf of the staff and monks of the Abbey.
The business sessions also contributed to the mission of the Federation. The members passed a resolution to produce information on proper practices for rites as found in The Pastoral Care of the Sick. Various committees met to plan liturgical formation, to anticipate the reception of the revised Misal Romano, to review current projects regarding pastoral liturgy, to improve technology related to member services, and to plan the Federations’ fiftieth anniversary celebration!
The FDLC was founded in 1969 by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy. At that time, members of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions from across the country were called together by the bishops in order to provide formation on the liturgical books, newly revised after the Second Vatican Council.