QUAERITUR: Triduum – 1 priest with 2 parishes

From a priest reader:

I have recently been appointed Parish Priest (Pastor) of what are at present two canonical parishes. (The two parishes will eventually amalgamate to form one new parish with 2 churches).  As the season of Lent approaches my mind is moving forward to the celebration of the Easter Triduum. 
Obviously I cannot celebrate the entire Triduum in both parishes.  I am currently thinking of celebrating Holy Thursday and Good Friday in one parish and the Easter vigil in the other and then alternating the following year.  At the Easter Vigil I would bless 2 paschal candles but only light the second at the end of the Mass to carry it out in procession ready for use in the other church the next day.
I would be interested to hear your views and that of your readership about my proposed idea.

Any thoughts?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Peggy R says:

    I just happen to check in and be first.

    Our diocese is somewhat rural and some priests are responsible for more than one parish/church. A “cluster” of two parishes in the next 2 towns from us has one pastor. He alternates the Triduum each year. In one year, it’s all at Parish A using their choir etc; the next year, it’s at Parish B and their choir. [Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil.] He has Easter Sunday mass on his usual Sunday schedule covering both parishes. A busy man. He prays the confiteor and Roman Canon, all too often absent at novus ordo masses.

  2. Supertradmom says:

    As it is important for communities and families to have anticipated schedules, I would suggest that the Pastor does the same thing every year instead of alternating. His idea of Holy Thursday and Good Friday at one place and the Easter Vigil at another poses the problem of one parish not having all three together, which seems so important. Cannot there be Holy Thursday at Parish A, Holy Friday afternoon at Parish A, Holy Friday evening at Parish B, Vigil at Parish A and Easter Sunday morning Mass at Parish B? I think the same schedule should happen every year, whatever is decided, rather than switching and causing confusion. Most lay people are creatures of habit.

  3. Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    Is your correspondent asking a canonical question? A logistical one? Is he sure there will/can/might be no assistance from a visiting/flying/retired/religious priest(s) throughout the week?

    Is there a deacon at either parish? Both parishes?


  4. Tim Ferguson says:

    depending on how close the churches are geographically, would it be possible to have the Holy Thursday procession of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass at parish “A” go to parish “B” for repose and adoration?

    As the parishes are coming towards an amalgamation in the (near?) future, any pattern set now will likely stay on long-term. I’m sure there are a lot of local politics that go into decisions like where to have which liturgies, so I’d hesitate to make a recommendation not knowing the facts on the ground there.

    Liturgically (and canonically) I think you’re on solid ground blessing 2 paschal candles, but leaving one unlit. (I don’t think I’d recommend lighting it and processing out with it at the end of Mass – the symbolism seems off to me, and it has the “feel” of making up a ritual, but I am certainly open to correction there)

  5. Kris says:

    I’ll start by saying that hopefully the worship office of the diocese can be of some help (although perhaps not).

    I would lean toward all three at a single parish for a year since they are treated as one single liturgy broken into parts. Preparing two Paschal candles at the vigil and processing out with one of them is what was recommended in our diocese.

    You could complement the liturgies by encouraging devotional practices (Stations of the Cross, etc.) take place at the other parish with both together.

    Bless you Father, it’s a heavy load. I hope you have plenty of help throughout the season and the year! Things like having a Master of Ceremonies can help you out through the liturgies too.

  6. jesusthroughmary says:

    Supertradmom –

    I agree, but for a different reason. If these parishes were clustered, I think the people would adapt to whatever schedule the pastor proposes if it is reasonable. However, being in a diocese where only 16 or so out of 124 parishes have gone through or are going through this type of merger, I have seen this issue come up a lot. One of these parish churches is going to be the “parish seat”, where the sacramental registers are kept and where the primary religious activities will occur. The other is going to be merely a “worship site”, basically overflow Masses are offered, for people who can’t get to the main church. It’s usually clear in these situations which is which, and the Triduum should be offered in the church that will become the parish seat, so that once the merger happens, the parish has adapted.

    Hopefully, this process will not drag on for more than two years at the most.

  7. kab63 says:

    Our rural parish in Maine had this situation (one priest, 2 churches 20m apart). We alternated, as you suggested. The choirs would combine and we would look at each other as a shared parish for Holy Week. I guess the logistics were difficult but we didn’t think that way; we just did what had to be done. I actually liked the sense of a shared community, the opportunity to celebrate with a larger group of dear friends. The importance of Holy Week became emphasized. Good luck!

  8. Widukind says:

    I had two parishes for nine years, and tried a couple of different ways to accomodate the liturgies. The time of the liturgies proved difficult, and the exhaustion on my part was overwhelming. In the end we did as has been proposed. The Liturgies of Holy Thursday and Good Friday in one parish (I kept these two together because of the Holy Eucharist and its reservation), and the Holy Saturday liturgy in the other. On Easter Sunday, the first Mass was at the Holy Saturday parish, and the second, the main Mass, was at the other. For this Mass, the Paschal Candle was prepared beforehand and blessed with the prayers according to the ritual for the Vigil. It was carried in procession and place in the appropraite place and incensed. At the time for the Renewal of Baptismal Promises, as no water had yet been blessed, I blessed the water with the prayer from the Vigil, including the triple dipping of the Paschal Candle, and then went on with the renewal and the sprinkling. This seemed to be the most practical solution to the problems at hand, although I do not know if it was exactly liturgically or canonically correct. Separating the liturgies like this also made the liturgical preparations a bit easier, as two sets of everything did not have to be prepared, nor two sets of servers to be trained. For the three liturgies of the Triduum, the servers, lectors, etc. were from both parishes, and the choirs were also combined.

  9. JohnMa says:

    I heard Fr. Z is available to help out dear Father. :)

    But seriously, the one time I lived in a parish that was in a similar situation they alternated Holy Thursday and the Vigil at once parish and Good Friday at the other parish. However, it was mainly because one parish was mainly Spanish speaking and the other was mainly English speaking. (Latin would have solved that problem but I digress.)

    I think doing all three at one Parish would be the best thing to do if your writer has enough good will with one of the parishes to do so. It shows the continuity of the liturgy.

  10. chironomo says:

    When I served at a parish in Southern Florida, we had the “Main” Church, and then a chapel about 10 miles away, and then a really remote chapel about 50 miles away. Triduum Masses were at the main Church and the parishioners from all three were invited to the one place for Mass. The idea of “one Mass here, the next night over there..” was considered, but the confusion likely to ensue made that an undesirable option.

  11. The Egyptian says:

    Our Priest is serving five parishes with no attempt to combine them, (there would be war), all are within a 8 mile area. All are vibrant and self supporting with active memberships. He currently has an associate to help him till June, them hopefully some one new will fill in for 6 months. WE also have one deacon however he is elderly but does what he can.

    Last year all five candles were blessed at one parish, not sure how the rest of the Easter service was split up, (I forgot).
    Anyway I’m sure our priest would be glad to give some advice to your questioner
    Here is our web site and a link to the bulletin.


  12. everett says:

    When I was a seminarian, I assisted a pastor of two parishes. About 20 minutes drive between the two, he actually did both Holy Thursday and Good Friday services in both locations. Which parish got the true “Vigil” mass alternated year by year.

  13. a catechist says:

    Is anyone being baptized? If only one of the parishes has catechumens, I’d say that’s the one where the Vigil should be. If both parishes have catechumens it’s more complicated, of course. But if only one parish is welcoming the unchurched into the Body of Christ, the catechumens should be baptized in the parish that’s formed them. Prayers for the priest!

  14. Kimberly says:

    I think it is a well thought out plan. Our parishes (we have three) do something similar. You will have a few grumpers but once it’s put in place they will settle down.

  15. jpmulcahy says:

    I am Pastor of two parishes and have done the following: I had two Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord Supper (one at 5pm the other at 7pm), two Good Friday Services (one at 3pm, the other at 7pm) and I alternated the Easter Vigil from parish to parish. I am fortunate because I have a retired priest do the Easter Vigil at the parish where I am not. So far, so good.

  16. uptoncp says:

    IIRC the rule for the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services in any given church used to be “both or neither.”

  17. Sid says:

    Writebackers above have a number of good suggestions. I would add that the three main liturgies of the Triduum — Holy Thurday evening Mass, the Good Friday Commemoration, and the Easter Vigil — (and these are the most important liturgies of the year) are in fact one big liturgy. For this reason there is no benediction and dismissal in the first two, and no introit or greeting or Confiteor for Good Friday and the Vigil (just instead an elaborated procession, one with prostration, the other preparing and carrying the Lumen Christi, and then the readings). And the Precious Body for Good Friday is consecrated at the previous liturgy.

    I say one big liturgy, because the act of the Redemption includes not just the Cross but also the Resurrection, as Paul reminds us (Romans 4:25). The Resurrection is not just an epilogue or nice afterthought to the act of Redemption but an essential element of it (as the Eastern Church has always insisted). And the Eucharist (Holy Thursday) is the consequent of the Redemption.

    Thus the Lucan/Pauline theology of The Pascal Mystery (Romans 6:1-4; Colossians 2:12). Thus it would seem that the faithful should attend all three liturgies of this one big liturgy in order to receive the liturgical grace of the entire Pascal Mystery.

    If I am right about this, then something seems incomplete for one parish to have Holy Thursday and Good Friday, and the other the Easter Vigil. Perhaps it would be better to alternate between years: one year the Big Three in one place, and Easter Sunday morning and Solemn Vespers (which ends the Triduum) in the other.

    Off topic and with no wish to dig a rabbit hole: The Three Days of the Pascal Mystery are the Christian Eleusian Mysteries.

  18. jesusthroughmary says:

    Sid –

    It’s also incomplete to have one priest be the pastor of two parishes with no help. While preferable, it doesn’t seem necessary for all three events of the Triduum to occur in the same building if there are other pastoral concerns. I actually typed out largely the same argument when I advocated your position (a position with which I still agree), but I didn’t post it because I don’t think it’s the most compelling reason to hold them all in the same building.

  19. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I think this is spelled out to some degree in a document–the name escapes me–on the celebration of the Paschal Mystery. For a rather authoritative document, it seems rather unknown, but I’ve read it. I will look it up later and post the name and a link, if someone else doesn’t beat me to it.

    I dealt with this several years ago, and read many things and gave it a lot of thought.

    Ideally Holy Thursday-Good Friday-Vigil all happen in the same place, but I am not certain they must. I think specific allowance is provided for, but I may be mistaken. We do have the tradition of stational ligurgy, after all.

    That said, if not in all one place, then at least there should be a Holy Thursday liturgy corresponding to an Easter Vigil. The Missal foresees the possibility of the Good Friday liturgy being “repeated,” but not these.

    Also, it is fine to have someone other than the pastor celebrate Holy Thursday or the Vigil, but it may not be practical, especially if that means relying on someone elderly or uncertain.

    Here, with my two parishes, we did the following:

    1) One Holy Thursday, alternating depending on where the Vigil is. If the Vigil is at parish “A,” Holy Thursday is at parish “B.”

    2) The location of the Vigil is based on who is being baptized in which parish. It doesn’t alternate each year necessarily, although in practice, it has.

    3) We have but one Vigil for both parishes.

    4) We have two Good Friday liturgies, one at each parish, they don’t change year to year.

    Some practical considerations:

    5) The procession with the Eucharist is somewhat different at each parish, but stays at that parish–the churches are too far apart for a procession at that point.

    6) It is necessary to bring the Blessed Sacrament from one parish to the other for Good Friday. I don’t like this, but I haven’t arrived at a more satisfactory solution. We do it reverently.

    7) Each parish has an Easter candle of course, but only one is carried in the procession. We only have one savior, so I think this would be a strange change to make.

    8) The parish that doesn’t have the Vigil simply has its candle in place, ready to be used. I haven’t addressed the question of blessing the candle, but my conclusion was that if it wasn’t blessed in the Vigil, I know of no other, suitable way to do it. I am disinclined to make up my own for liturgy. I suppose I could bless it privately, but I haven’t done that.

    I hope this helps. I’m open to further suggestions, and as I said, I’ll find that document later, must run now!

  20. CarpeNoctem says:

    I was in the same situation with two parishes, about 20 mi apart. I did have a retired priest in the parish boundaries, but there was some question as to whether his health would hold up. He was willing to help, in fact, he wanted to celebrate the Triduum Masses (which I would expect any good priest would want to do), and so I have expanded what I would have done on my own and scheduled him in.

    The schedule was built so that if his health was not sufficient, I could cover it all myself on short notice. In the ‘mission parish” the retired priest had an early evening Mass on Thursday and I one 2.5 hr later at the main parish. On Friday we switched, with me going in the afternoon at the mission and he at evening at the main parish. There was only one vigil at the main parish and the retired priest did not wish to celebrate his own, but he did take on an ‘extra’ Mass added at the main parish on Easter Sunday.

    I would simply add that if I were a retired priest, a student, a professor, or perhaps a religious away from my community, or in any case, without a regular ‘home’, I’d think that I’d appreciate an invite to go someplace where otherwise the Triduum would not happen. This, of course, presumes good health, good will, and good sense. I suppose I don’t formally need his help, as I could do it all on my own, but because this retired priest is a good priest, it is a gesture of not simply charity, but one of brotherhood to invite him to minister at the high holy days. Not to mention, it’s good for the people too!

    Two more things… I wholeheartedly agree with the necessity to be consistent year to year to year. Secondly, I believe that doing as much of the Triduum as possible in each place is important way for a parish to maintain its identity and to complete the Lenten fast well. This made sense in my place where there was no movement to merge the parishes canonically. If on the other hand your parishes are merging, YMMV.

  21. Cath says:

    From a practical standpoint are both churches large enough to handle the number of people who will attend the Triduum? The parish I usually attend has two churches who just merged and one is larger and could accomodate more people (it is very beautiful also).

  22. Fr Martin Fox says:

    I promised to find and report back the document on celebrating these solemnities. Thankfully, EWTN has it: PASCHALES SOLEMNITATIS
    The Preparation And Celebration Of The Easter Feasts
    If perchance the link doesn’t work, the web address is: http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWEASTR.HTM#3.

    It has lots of good stuff, anyone concerned for the sacred liturgy would benefit from reading it. Contrary to my sometimes misleading memory, it did not address every question raised by the pastor, but he would find it helpful all the same. It was very specific: one Easter Candle in the Vigil liturgy!

  23. Liturgical continuity is important. The disposition that we have toward the various celebrations of the Church ought not to be functional but rather we should attend closely to the rhythm of the Liturgical Calendar. We should be particularly attentive to Christmas and the Triduum because they are the two axis around which the entire Liturgical Year turns. With this in mind, it does not make sense to separate the Triduum and scatter about its respective parts. The Triduum is one (1) Liturgical Day and though it encompasses three temporal days it is important to treat it from the perspective of its eschatological and liturgical meaning. Liturgically speaking, what makes more sense is to alternate the entire Triduum between each parish and celebrate the dawn/morning Mass at the other parish. The compromise could be, the parish that had the Midnight Mass of Christmas this year would not celebrate the Triduum, switching this ordering the next year. This way each parish receives one of the two equally high Solemnities of the year in alternating succession. This will not please everyone but it seems to make good liturgical sense while being sensitive to the pastoral considerations.

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