BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Editor’s note: The following is the first in a two-part series about the diocese’s Office of Worship and Office of Music, which assist the bishop in coordinating and overseeing diocesan liturgies and other functions. For this first installment, we spoke with Lauren Johnson, who with Fr. Brandon Williams is the co-coordinator of the diocese’s Office of Worship. A story about the Office of Music will appear in the WKC’s December 2019 issue.
What are the biggest diocesan liturgies that your office helps plan?
Chrism Mass is the largest liturgy for the Office of Worship. This is because not only are we planning a Mass at the Owensboro Sportscenter, but it involves coordinating the preparation of the blessed oils to be ready to be distributed to the parish representatives by the end of Chrism Mass. That involves buying 16 3-liter containers of olive oil, preparing more than 300 glass bottles for the oil to be separated into, setting up stations for bottling of the newly blessed oil during Chrism Mass, and getting at least 12 volunteers to bottle the newly blessed oil behind the scenes at Chrism Mass.
Other larger liturgies include ordinations to the priesthood or diaconate, Rite of Election (there is one in Paducah and one in Owensboro), the Office of Catholic Schools’ Rainbow Mass (every other year) and priests’ funerals.
What are smaller events that people might not realize you also plan?
Before men are ordained, there are other rituals that must be planned which include rite of admission to candidacy, institution into ministries of acolyte and lector, and the profession of faith and oath of fidelity. The Office of Worship also helps with the Women’s Religious Jubilee, National Migration Mass, provides support to other diocesan office liturgies when requested, prepares blessings for the bishop when he goes to parishes to bless parish halls, altars, and more.
What does your office do besides plan liturgies?
We promote the implementation of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation) by offering education, training resources and consultation. We also provide information/education concerning liturgical updates coming from the USCCB and others, and order materials for parishes at a discount. We also offer consultation and continuing education on liturgical matters, such as art and environment.
What is your favorite part about this role? What’s your least favorite?
My favorite part about this role is preparing the various liturgies. I feel incredibly blessed that I get to spend so much time with the different prayers and rituals. As I continue to gain experience in this office, the more I learn, and the better I am able to enter into the liturgy myself. I’m very grateful to be working with Fr. Brandon Williams who has taught me so much about preparing all the little details of the liturgy so that the people can be prayerful and better disposed to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in the liturgy.
Do you have any top stories of a time in which you felt incredibly blessed while working in this role?
Definitely! The first ordination I helped to prepare was for Deacon Stephen Van Lal Than, and that was a significant experience for me. I was able to become well-acquainted with the ritual and prayers, so that when I heard them on the day of Deacon Stephen’s ordination, I was better equipped to witness the reality of what was happening. To see the efficacy of those spoken prayers and gestures (laying on of hands by Bishop Medley) in action, whereas before they were only words on a page, yet now with the action of the Holy Spirit, has the real effect of conferring Holy Orders! It was exceptionally heartwarming to see the joy in Deacon Stephen after his ordination.
Originally printed in the November 2019 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2019 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic