By Dr. Karen Shadle, Director, Office of Worship
If you, like me, are active on social media, you’ve likely fought the urge to completely disconnect from otherwise pleasant friends and family who seem to be getting a little too caught up in the political feeding frenzy that clogs our Facebook and Twitter feeds these days. I do not begrudge activism. I myself am an amateur politico, my “other” degree being in political science and my “other” career ambition being law school.
What I do find distasteful, however, is the demagoguery that declares a particular candidate to be the perfect solution – the revolutionary genius – or, alternately, the very embodiment of evil. Aside from cultivating a harmful dualism, this attitude over-empowers leaders and implicitly absolves everyone else from being agents of goodness and change. Leaders are certainly important. They inspire and facilitate. But they are not the answer. We are the answer.
We do not wake up on Inauguration Day to a changed world. It is simply not the case. If we want justice, it requires us to treat others justly. If we want peace, we must be peaceful to each other. If we want a culture that values life, we must treat everyone with dignity. No leader can do this for us. This reminds me of a pastor’s wise words in a recent homily: “Don’t shop around for a more welcoming church. Welcome others right here.” Be an agent of radical hospitality. Culture shifts such as these within institutions require many hands.
This approach to leadership has been on my mind as I have served in my position as Director of Worship. I have been in this role for 191 days, so I am a bit tardy for a traditional “First 100 Days” report, but I would like to share some observations on liturgy, leadership, and ministry in our Archdiocese.
During my first few months, I’ve been visiting with a lot of people-clergy, other diocesan staff, parish directors of music and worship, and parishioners active in liturgical ministry. Each weekend, I try to visit a different parish to celebrate Mass. I very much enjoy this time outside the quiet of the office, getting to know the gifts of others and the diversity of our Archdiocese.
What I’ve learned and been most humbled by is the energy and enthusiasm of the tremendous legion of lay men and women in ministry here. They are not waiting for new leadership or more funding or the construction of a new building, however desperately needed. They very much embody the progress they seek here and now.
This urgency to bring about the Kingdom of God through the beauty of liturgical ministry is what inspires me and motivates me in these early days. Now is always a good time. If people want, for example, to be better lectors or wedding coordinators or campus ministers, or to get involved with communion ministry to the sick, or if they want to start being visible representatives at diocesan events, then my job is to facilitate and then to get out of the way and let the magic happen. This is truly “liturgy,” which means “the work of the people,” not “the work of the priest” or “the work of the Office of Worship.”
My staff and I hope to be great resources and a place of guidance in interpreting the wisdom of the Church and promoting the beauty of the Catholic liturgy. Like any leaders, elected or otherwise, we offer the vision, but we need a great deal of help with the “do-ing” if we are to achieve any meaningful goals. Luckily, there is an abundance of “do-ers” here.