rn"I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 the Synod of Bishops will be celebrated on ‘Young people, faith and vocational discernment.’ I wanted you to be the focus of attention because I bring it to your heart. Just today is presented the Preparatory Document, which I entrust to you as a ‘compass’ along this path." That is the first line of a letter that Pope Francis wrote on Jan. 13, 2017, to the youths of the Catholic Church. The Preparatory Document for this 2018 synod is available online at youth.synod2018.va. For those of us working in the vineyard of the liturgical life of our parishes, it is wise to reflect on what the focus of this synod might be asking of us and of how we celebrate liturgy in our parish.Every parish of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles is composed of many cultural groups: various language groups or ethnic cultures, children, teenage youth, millennials who are single, millennial parents with small children, elderly single people, elderly couples, persons with various disabilities and limitations, recent immigrants, long time parishioners, new parishioners and the list could go on and on.Parish leadership needs to always be aware of the composition of their membership and regularly be attentive to, and inclusive of, all groups and individuals in one way or another. People of any age or group feel welcome in a parish when they regularly see others like themselves at Mass. This is especially the case for youths (born 1999-2003) and millennials (born 1984-1999). (These age distinctions are those used in the synod 2018 preparatory document of the Vatican.)Here are some things to keep in mind to ensure that parish liturgy is inclusive and that parish leadership focuses time and energy in mentoring new life: Every parish needs to ensure that youths and millennial age liturgical ministers are visible at all Masses in the each of the following liturgical ministries: greeters, ushers, lectors, eucharistic ministers, musicians and altar servers.Remember that commitment to participation in the liturgical ministries does not happen with a general bulletin or Sunday announcement. It happens through personal invitation.Take the time and energy to recharge your liturgical battery! To engage youths and millennials in the Mass requires the same attention to liturgical preparation as for any culture. Parishes could use this year of the youths as an opportunity to re-examine the way they celebrate the Mass.The liturgical leadership in the parish could begin by asking themselves these questions: Is our parish liturgy carefully and lovingly prepared? Is it beautiful, unified, prayerful, expressive and engaging? Does our parish have a liturgy committee that attends to these details? Are the parish liturgical ministries organized and operating effectively?For our liturgies to be inviting and engaging for youths, as for any participants, thorough preparation and communication with everyone involved needs to be a priority. Here are a few simple suggestions:
> Assign people at the doors of the building to welcome the church as she gathers. Be sure that everything everyone says and does communicates: “All are welcome!”
> In the opening procession, be sure that the processional cross is held up high and proudly so we can see, know and feel that it is Christ whom we follow.
> Sing all the verses of the opening hymn.
> Trust the liturgy. Let the ritual speak on its own! Do not explain it. Just do it! Too many words can turn the liturgy into a lesson to be learned, rather than a vision to be shared, or a journey of the heart.
> Be sure your parish lectors are proclaiming God’s word with strength and conviction, not just offering a public reading. Please be sure that all parish lectors have received Office for Worship basic training in their ministry, and that they participate in annual renewal sessions.
> Musicians need to be rehearsed and ready for each musical moment of the Mass. Musicians serving at each Mass in your parish must be given all the resources and training they need.
> Make assembly song a top priority for your musicians, your liturgy committee, and all the leadership in your parish.
> Let the many moments in the liturgy that call for silence be strong and meaningful.
> Please be sure that every detail of each Mass is carefully prepared and organized. Be sure that you have a parish liturgy committee to manage this work. Please be sure that the members of your committee are effectively prepared to serve in this ministry and regularly renewed spiritually.