3.1 Assessing the Liturgical Schedule

Some of the most complicated decisions parish leaders have to make are about scheduling — and in particular, the Sunday Mass schedule. Nothing disturbs a long-time parishioner more than changing “his Mass” or asking her to come at 10:30 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. Plus, imagine the hassle of changing bulletins, websites and weekly alarms on smartphones.

Yet, forming a sustainable schedule for Mass and other liturgical and sacramental celebrations within your Family of Parishes is an important thing. Thank you to the many parish leaders who took the opportunity, even during Phase 0, to adjust their Mass schedules — in some cases, a change long overdue, but still not easy.

Ideally, changes to the Mass schedule for a Family of Parishes would not take place immediately on July 1, 2022. Hopefully, this would involve deliberation, analysis of status quo, consultation with the faithful and good discussion among the pastoral council, worship commission, staff and others. This work might best happen after your pastor has been in a place for a few years and other aspects of your Family unification have successfully taken place.

However, delaying this work may not be possible for a variety of reasons, in which case it will become a Phase 1 activity for your Family of Parishes.

Three of the parameters for pastoral planning within the Eucharist pathway relate to liturgical scheduling:

  1. The regular Mass schedule for a Family of Parishes may not assume more than two Masses per day per priest.
  2. A regularly scheduled Mass for the Sunday precept must have annual average attendance of at least 50 percent of the church capacity.
  3. The regular Mass schedule must provide the opportunity for priests to spiritually prepare for and be present to the community after Mass.

Click the button below to read more about what these parameters mean and why they matter here.

In creating a liturgical schedule for your Family of Parishes, you may need to make changes to existing schedules.  Please refer to the archdiocesan Sunday Mass Schedule Policy for the parameters around this work.

One of the great advantages of reducing the number of Sunday Masses when Masses are only filling a fraction of the church is that you will have a fuller worship space. This article by local theologian and pastoral minister Emily Strand might be useful to convince a skeptic about the value of reducing the Mass schedule, or it might be good reading for a worship commission and/or pastoral council as they contemplate undertaking this difficult work.  Consider inserting it in your bulletin during the process of Mass schedule changes, and/or share it with the faithful on social media for them to reflect upon it.

If you would like assistance in analyzing your present liturgical schedule for your Family or thinking through options for a future Family liturgical schedule, please contact the Office for Divine Worship & Sacraments. We are glad to consult and partner with you in creating a sustainable schedule.

2.2 Parish Liturgical & Sacramental Inventory

One of the most important functions of a parish worship commission is to evaluate parish liturgical and sacramental celebrations, reflecting the experience of the faithful. The commission should also regularly assess the overall liturgical life of the parish’s worship, liturgical ministers, worship spaces, etc.

If any parish within your Family of Parishes didn’t take the Parish Liturgical & Sacramental Inventory during Phase 0, now is the perfect time to do so.

A relevant staff person or other parish leader (e.g. music director, RCIA coordinator, worship commission chair) should fill out this inventory tool, which is specific to a single parish.

This tool will be used in Phase 2 to help create the vision for a Eucharist-centered parish.

Ministerial cohorts can begin to discuss the common themes and other details found in all of the inventories of your Family of Parishes. 

For more information on ministerial cohorts, click the button below.

Make sure that the worship commissions of all the parishes in your Family of Parishes have access to all of the inventories in your Family.

2.1 Parish Worship Commission

Eucharist Reversed

“Every Family of Parishes will have a unified Pastoral Council, with other relevant and necessary consultative groups for specific areas of parish life.” (Parameter 11)

Among the leaders in a Family of Parishes are the members of the pastoral council, the finance council and other relevant and necessary committees, commissions and other consultative groups. Having strong parishioner leadership will ensure a healthy sense of co-responsibility in your faith community and engender a sense of stewardship for the mission of your Family of Parishes.

Creating a Family Worship Commission is a Phase 2 activity but, in the meantime, it’s important to strengthen your individual parish worship commissions. If any parish does not already have a worship commission, it would be worthwhile to start one, even if only for a few years.

Your parish worship commission (or commission for worship and sacraments) exists as a consultative body to your pastor to foster vibrant liturgical and sacramental life in your parish.

You may wonder why it’s worthwhile to start a commission for just a few years. Isn’t this a waste of time?

For the first few years of your Family of Parishes, each parish within your family is still quite autonomous. While some activities, ministries and services may begin to function at a Family level, many aspects of parish life may remain independent. Worship is probably one of them. Each parish church is likely to have its own culture, character and liturgical practices. Until Phase 3 (when work on the culture of your Family takes place), each parish’s liturgical life — including Sunday Mass — may remain separate from the other parishes.

Thus, each parish needs its own worship commission (even if just for a few years) to provide consultation to its pastor and staff on the liturgical life of the parish. In addition, the members of each parish’s worship commission will be well-formed, invested and ready to help start a Family Worship Commission when the time is right!

With Zeal and Patience

In the fall of 2022, the Office for Divine Worship and Sacraments will be offering the annual workshop With Zeal and Patience: Role of the Parish Worship Commission, and all members – current or potential – are encouraged to attend.  Stay tuned for more details. If you’re not already subscribed to Praenotanda (the news email of the ODWS) you can sign up here.

In the meantime, if you need help getting a parish worship commission started, contact the Office for Divine Worship and Sacraments – we are happy to help!


Eager to get your parish worship commission started, re-started or functioning more effectively? Check out Guide for Liturgy Committees from Liturgy Training Publications, a simple, practical guide for worship commissions.

1.2 Begin Planning for a Worship Department of Staff for the Family of Parishes

As Phase 1 begins, individual parishes within your Family of Parishes will still be mostly autonomous. People will generally worship in their own parishes, and parish staff will generally serve their own parishes. To start, this is a Family of Parishes — not yet one completely unified faith community.

As your Family of Parishes progresses down the Pastoral Planning Pathway, staff will become more and more unified in service to your Family of Parishes, not just one individual parish. In the area of worship and sacraments, your director of worship (or equivalent) will serve your Family by coordinating all the liturgical and sacramental efforts of your entire Family.

But, your director of worship should not be the only “competent and qualified staff” (Parameter 13) serving your Family of Parishes in liturgical and sacramental ministries.  Music ministers, sacristans, initiation ministers, administrative staff and others are needed to support the vibrant liturgical and sacramental life of your Family of Parishes.

Eventually, you should create a Family Worship Department (or Worship Team) to facilitate collaboration among the relevant staff within your Family and to provide more effective ministry throughout the parishes within your Family. While this is a Phase 2 activity, you can begin to consider the makeup of your Family of Parishes Worship Department or Team.

During Phase 1, a ministerial cohort of all staff in liturgical and sacramental ministries can begin to meet to plant seeds for your Family Worship Department and to look together at the parish inventories.

The Leadership pathway for Phase 1 has more information about how ministerial cohorts function with parish staff and the Family Leadership Team.

1.1 Director of Worship for the Family of Parishes

Leadership is the first phase of the Pastoral Planning Pathway. Having the right leaders in place is foundational to any successful initiative, and Beacons of Light is no exception. Forming a Family Leadership Team is a Phase 1 initiative. A director of worship for your Family of Parishes is a critical member of your FLT and even called for in Parameter 13:

Eucharist Reversed

“Competent and qualified staff are necessary to serve the Family of Parishes, especially in the areas of worship, evangelization (including love in action), and administration. As is possible, staff will be unified to serve the entire Family.”

Hiring a director of worship is a Phase 1 milestone:

“Hire or promote from within a director of worship who will be appointed to the Family Leadership Team.”

The primary function of the director of worship is to serve your Family of Parishes by coordinating all the liturgical and sacramental aspects of parish life. As a member of the Family Leadership Team, he or she is a close collaborator with your pastor and supports the pastor and other clergy in the ministries of sanctifying, teaching and governing.

An existing staff member among the parishes in your Family may be promoted to this role. Otherwise, you may need to hire a new staff person assume this role. In either case, he or she should generally meet the qualifications of a lay ecclesial minister as defined by the USCCB.

Depending on the size of your Family of Parishes and how many other staff the director of worship would supervise, this person may also personally direct other ministries (e.g. music, RCIA). Consider the time demands of the position and consult with the Pastoral Center Human Resources Department in crafting a sustainable job description.

Depending on the scope of the position, it may include sacramental preparation (distinct from religious education), unless this falls within the purview of Evangelization.

The actual job title might be “pastoral associate for worship,” “director of worship and sacraments” or something similar.

To-do: Use the sample job description in the Materials tab to create a position that will best fit your Family of Parishes.

Eucharist Overview: Phase 1

Phase 1 focuses on the leadership of your Family of Parishes. The key milestone is hiring or promoting from within a director of worship. This person will serve as a member of your Family Leadership Team and lead other liturgical and sacramental staff within your Family.

If any parish in your Family has not already taken the Parish Inventory for Liturgical and Sacramental Life, it should do so soon and begin sharing the inventory with the other parishes in the Family. You can also begin to consider how each parish’s worship commission can work together to eventually form a Family Worship Commission. If any parish doesn’t already have a worship commission, it can start one!

Finally, if you need to create a new liturgical schedule for your Family of Parishes because adjustments during Phase 0 were insufficient, you can work on this, too. However, this is preferably done later if possible.

“Hire or promote from within a director of worship who will be appointed to the Family Leadership Team.”