Working in the Vineyard: Jungmann Society

In this installment of “Working in the Vineyard,” Pray Tell presents the Jungmann Society, an international professional association of Jesuits with expertise in liturgy and related fields. Below is a written interview with John Baldovin, S.J., the society’s current President.

How long has the JS been around? Tell us about founding and history. The Jungmann Society grew out of an initial invitation in 2002 by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., for Jesuits with academic training and expertise in the liturgy and its allied arts to consider liturgical and sacramental life in the Society as both a wellspring of our religious life and an instrument of ecclesial ministry. Major addresses of that Rome conference resulted in the publication ofLiturgy in A Postmodern World, edited by Keith Pecklers, S.J., (Continuum, 2003), which includes major addresses by Godfried Cardinal Daneels, Timothy Radcliffe, O.P., Peter Phan, Mark Francis, C.S.V., Robert Taft, S.J., and other major liturgical figures.

Almost two hundred Jesuits and guests were at this Rome meeting in June 2002, and we were very fortunate to have the participation of Cardinals Danneels, Shan (Taipei), and Kasper, as well as Archbishop Peter Sarpong (Ghana) and Bishop John Cummins (Oakland). In 2004 we formed The International Jungmann Society for Jesuits and the Liturgy in Bangkok, Thailand. Fr. Keith Pecklers of the Gregorian Univesity and Sant’Anselmo was elected as the first president. The association is naturally named after the great Jesuit liturgical historian Josef Jungmann whose two-volume Missarum Sollemnia: The Mass of the Roman Rite was extremely important for the liturgical reform of Vatican II.

Thereafter we have met every two years: Fortaleza, Brazil (2006), Montserrat, Catalonia (2008), Tampa, Florida (2010), Nitra, Slovakia (2012), Mexico City (2014), Dublin (2016) and Nairobi (2018).

Who are your members? The membership of the Jungmann consists mainly of Jesuits who are working full-time in the field of liturgy, for example teaching at the Gregorian University and various other theologates around the world. Jesuit students who have finished the first two stages of formation are also admitted to membership if they intend to pursue liturgical studies. There are also a number of Jesuits responsible for formation who are members as well as several non-Jesuits like Mr. Peter Dwyer (Liturgical Press), Mr. Toshimitsu Miyakoshi (Japan) and Fr. Mark Francis, C.S.V. (CTU) who have been very faithful to our meetings. Our members come from every continent and at least twenty-five countries.

What is the most important contribution the JS makes to the life of the church? What is your niche?
I think the Jungmann Society serves the Church somewhat indirectly by encouraging good formation in liturgy for Jesuits throughout the world as well as serving as a support organization for those engaged in teaching liturgy or forming others, including many non-Jesuits in our institutions. We are deeply committed to promoting the post-Vatican II liturgical reform especially in line with Pope Francis’ strong commitment to it.

I’m not sure if this counts as a niche, but I don’t think it would be bragging to say that Jesuits have an important apostolic impact on the Church and quality celebration of the liturgy should be an aspect of that apostolic service.

Here’s our Mission Statement:

The Jungmann Society is an international professional association of Jesuits with academic training and expertise in liturgy and its allied arts. It has been founded as a response of the Society of Jesus to the Church’s urgent call for a new evangelization of the world’s many different cultures through worship, scholarship and dialogue. Its goal is to promote the renewal of the Church’s liturgical life as a central dimension of the Church’s mission to preach the gospel effectively in today’s world.

It seeks to accomplish this goal by:

  • helping Jesuits, their lay collaborators, diocesan bishops, and local churches recognize the challenges and qualities of good liturgical practice;
  • providing a venue in which research and practical experience can be shared and participants can receive consultation and support;
  • exposing its members and collaborators to significant elements of worship and to styles of liturgical and religious practice from different cultures in order to make them better scholars, teachers, and practitioners;
  • undertaking specific research projects that study the connections between liturgy, the role of the laity, social justice, and the different cultures of the developing world.

What else do you want Pray Tell readers to know about the JS?
Like pretty much everyone else in the world we have been stymied by the global COVID pandemic. We had planned a meeting in Rome (the scene of the crime as it were) for June 2020. Of course, that didn’t happen. Luckily, we did not reschedule for 2021 because we don’t want to conflict with the years when the Societas Liturgica holds its congresses. God willing, our next meeting will be in Rome in June 2022 – or it will be held virtually. Actually, it will most likely have to be at least hybrid since many of our members will not be able to attend in person.

The focus for this meeting will be the four current universal apostolic preferences of the Society of Jesus:

  1. To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment;
  2. To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice;
  3. To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future;
  4. To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.

We’re hoping to connect the service of the liturgy to these important aspects of our mission. We have also invited Archbishop Arthur Roche, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to address us on how Jesuit liturgists can serve the Church. He has graciously agreed to participate. We’ll have a number of other speakers including Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., speaking on migration and service of the poor.

May God prosper your work!

Working in the Vineyard: TeamRCIA

In this installment of “Working in the Vineyard,” Pray Tell presents TeamRCIA of San Jose, California.

How long has Team RCIA been around? Tell us about your founding vision and primary work.
We started TeamRCIA in 2007. At the time, there wasn’t any online support for catechumenate ministers. We noticed how business leaders were using the internet to share and connect, not just with their customers but also with each other. We thought parish ministers and volunteers could certainly do the same. So we started a blog—a web journal—to create an online community of people who are passionate about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through parish initiation ministry. Today, we provide accessible and effective catechumenate resources and trainings that help parish teams initiate and form disciples for Christ’s mission. TeamRCIA is now a community of over 20,000 parish ministers and volunteers throughout North America and beyond.

How is your RCIA work important in responding to declining church attendance and the reduced influence of organized religion today?
We take seriously Pope Francis’s metaphor for the church as a field hospital. Pope Francis says we have to go out to those who are bleeding and bind up their wounds. He says that when we encounter someone who is bleeding out, it doesn’t make any sense to check their cholesterol levels and ask about their diet. We see our work as encouraging catechumenate ministers (and by extension, their parishioners) to get out from behind the walls of the church and to encounter those who are on the peripheries of society. Focusing on church attendance and institutional influence is a bit like checking cholesterol levels and advocating for a healthy diet. These things are important, but they are not our first priority. Our work is important in that we support parishes in their mission to announce the first proclamation of Jesus’s love and salvation to seekers.

How do you announce that proclamation during a time of such rapid change?
Well, actually our mission is to accompany those whose vocation it is to accompany seekers on the journey of faith. The church’s process for evangelizing and catechizing those who long for something more in their lives is the catechumenate. Its sacramental form is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. We help parish leaders and volunteers understand how to lead seekers on a conversion journey regardless of the circumstances of either the seeker or the minister. The principles of the catechumenate are unchanging. The circumstances in which they are enacted change every time we meet a new seeker.

Are you doing things to extend your reach? Do you have plans, or hopes, for growth? 
As is true for most folks, the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything. Before the pandemic, we were doing about 15 diocesan trainings a year. That all ended when the country was shut down in March 2020. Fortunately, we had previously developed a long-term plan to create a more robust online membership, through which catechumenate ministers could receive an in-depth and comprehensive training in this ministry. The pandemic accelerated our timeline for making that transition. We are still refining the process. The core structure consists of a series of training cornerstones that will help catechumenate ministers feel more confident in their work, help them discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the seekers they encounter, and help them experience more joy in this ministry by eliminating the obstacles that cause stress.

What is the most important contribution TeamRCIA is making to the life of the church?
In 1977, Aidan Kavanagh, OSB, said that many people who were just then learning about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults thought the new rite would be difficult, even impossible, to implement. He said they were correct. Because what they were looking for was improved rubrics. And what the initiation rites call for, said Kavanagh, is “a restored and unified vision of the church.” What we do in our ministry at TeamRCIA is describe and advocate for that restored and unified vision.

What else do you want Pray Tell readers to know about TeamRCIA? 
Since we began this ministry in 2007, we have been encouraging parish leaders and volunteers to claim their baptismal priesthood and take action to proclaim the gospel. So we were excited when Pope Francis launched the recent “synod on synodality.” The word “synodality” is a bit out of our daily usage, but the concept is what we have been promoting to our community.

Just by gathering as a catechumenate community — the parish team, the sponsors, the seekers — and listening to the Holy Spirit and each other, we will be shaping and leading the mission of the church. We will be building the future of the church.

At first glance, listening to the Spirit in just our own small groups may seem insignificant. But we ask folks to remember that time when they had only one seeker. Or even no seekers. That’s happened to a lot of us. And never did we think our ministry was insignificant. We know that the Holy Spirit most often works in whispers and gentle breezes.

If we can do that one, simple thing — listen to the Holy Spirit and each other — everything changes.

TeamRCIA brings this profound gift and tool of listening to our shared life in the church. As RCIA undergoes revisions, be sure to check out TeamRCIA for all the latest in forming Christian community.

Images taken from TeamRCIA’s websiteTeamRCIA’s logo; promotional graphic “A path to becoming a master evangelist;” a large group photograph of a parish community.

Working in the Vineyard: the Church Music Institute

In this installment of “Working in the Vineyard,” Pray Tell presents the Church Music Institute in Dallas, Texas.

How did the Church Music Institute come about? Tell us your history.
CMI was founded in 2006 by an ecumenical group of musicians, clergy, and laypersons who wanted to create an educational and resource entity that would provide a healthy foundation for church music now and into the future. We work closely with professional, secular music organizations like the American Guild of Organists and American Choral Directors Association whose members serve churches, and with seminaries and clergy to enrich their educational options to include a theology and practice of music in worship. These goals are met in giving online access to thousands of pieces of music searchable on dozens of criteria for planning worship, online and onsite workshops and short courses, and regular for-credit graduate courses.

 You’re about “the advancement and stewardship of the best sacred music for the use of Christian congregations.” How do you do that?
At CMI we are continually asking “What is the best_______(fill in the blank)” in choosing the best options among the many available. We try to answer the question in the context of the long trajectory of history and the characteristics of music and worship that have lasted, beginning with scripture, the vast treasury of sacred music, and continuing with tradition, believing the past has much to teach us.

What does that look like?
We look to those most skilled in the present, who seem best able to bring the past forward in practice and new resources, musical and otherwise. Our job is not unlike that of clergy who work with the primacy of texts thousands of years old yet very relevant to today, as music supports those texts as they work in the liturgy. We have a trifold moniker about CMI: “Informed by the past, committed to the present, preparing for the future.”

Who is your audience?
Clergy who understand the importance of music in worship and are interested in planning coherent spoken and sung worship, especially in collaboration with their musician(s). They may or may not be trained in music, and are always seeking to understand how better to utilize musical ways of accessing God in worship.
Musicians who likely are trained in music but may not be trained liturgically or theologically, and who want to become fine church musicians. They want to know how to access the best music for their congregation to worship, and for the musicians in their parish who lead worship.
Congregations who understand the power of music and want to know more about how it works. These are the people who sing in the choir, serve as church leaders, make sure funding is available to provide for excellent music and worship. They seek information to make good decisions about music and worship.

And there is a need for that?
CMI’s membership has grown steadily since inception. The pandemic has solidified the importance of music that lasts and is transcendent in worship. Life is precious and time is not to be taken for granted. What we do in worship matters. The CMI online resources, with their flexibility to adapt for any size congregation and to utilize resources already available, have provided new ways of achieving meaningful worship during this time.

It sounds like you have a message people need to hear.
Music may be the most important and underused “tool” of the church today. Biblical directives to “Sing to the Lord” are abundant; neuroscience now tells us of the power of music for remembering what we sing far longer than words we speak or hear. We know of the benefits of singing together for building community. What might happen if the beautifully written Catholic documents on music were reflected in budgets for educating and empowering skilled musicians, music programs, and helping parishioners sing?

Tell us about some of your exciting current work.
We were recently given the music, theology, and liturgical libraries of Fr. Jan Michael Joncas, undergirding CMI’s intent to train worship leaders. The pandemic has forced CMI to think more broadly in its programming and think creatively how to offer virtual education that complements but not replicates what educational institutions are already offering. The interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary nature of worship lends itself to expertise of multiple people, all possible with virtual offerings, in contrast to residential education. Likewise, students from a wide variety of locations and backgrounds can learn from each other without having to travel to one location. The drawback is the difficulty of live singing and making music together virtually. We are thinking. . . .

What do you see as your unique contribution to the life of the church?
Bringing forward the best music from the past and present from whatever Christian tradition and making it known; seeking out best practices and allowing them to influence practice; being the place for almost-unending-options for planning music for worship.

May God prosper your  work!

The interview with Charlotte Kroeker was conducted by email.

The group picture is of a 2019 Festival of Church Music in Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas where CMI “raised the roof” with 2,000 singing attendees and a mass choir. The zoom shot is of the “Congregational Song” class in Summer, 2021, with students from Beijing to Cork County, Ireland and every time zone in the U.S.