By Verna Adams, Guyana
Somewhere in the 1970s [1977 onwards] – I think – I began attending the Antilles School of Liturgy in Trinidad. Across the Caribbean, countries were discovering themselves as individual countries/nations. In the liturgy, Latin had given way to English. Change was the magic word. In the Catholic Church one of the important means of maintaining a sensible balance and educating Catholics was liturgy school – a space where Caribbean Catholics could meet and share, ponder, argue, get clarification/learn about the changes promulgated by Vatican II.
For me, it was my first experience of encountering/mixing/sharing with Catholics from across the Caribbean and further afield. It was a mind-blowing experience. Later on, I would become a member of the Antilles Liturgical Committee, so my experience at liturgy school was of great help.
Guyana at that time was very ‘British’. Steelband music and calypso, for example, were considered improper; Caribbean music, folk hymns were just being born. It was a time of discovery of who we were as Caribbean Catholics. For others, it was a disaster. Change is never easy.
There were great arguments about what is ‘proper’ church music: organ vs guitars and drums, and people jumping around. Liturgy school was instrumental in creating a balance, fine-tuning the over-enthusiastic; helping to reassure and create a sensible balance between Catholic theology/practice and the birth of innate Caribbean Catholic worship.
In Guyana, we started our Formation Programme for lay ministers in 1972. I was invited and was able to share at more than one liturgy school, the Guyana experience of forming lay people to embrace lay ministry, sharing with the participants our diocesan policy regarding lay ministry; and helping participants to understand that lay ministry is really sharing in the ministry of the Church.
A shared ministry recognises and celebrates the gifts of the baptised and begins, not with the downward distribution of the pie of authority by ordained ministers but with the recognition and celebration of the gifts of the baptised who are all called to ministry, granted in different ways and at different levels (Jn15:8).
Discipleship demands a relationship; relationship involves understanding, and moves one to commitment; commitment gives birth to fidelity. For the lay person, this commitment takes place/is demonstrated in one’s ministry in the community. Developing a good prayer life is important, retreats, and days of prayer strengthen one’s desire and stamina for ministry.
No lay ministry is for life. Every year, lay ministers, catechists, Extra-Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and RCIA instructors retreat to reflect upon whether or not they wish to continue serving in the particular ministry – and at a Sunday Mass, renew their commitment to serve for another year.
Was liturgy school a success? Yes! Participants from Guyana not only enjoyed their experience: they learned a lot which they put into practise when they came home and built lasting relationships with people from other Caribbean countries. Liturgy school was a blessing!