Celebrating the Triduum with one parish priest and several churches – Part I

Celebrating the Triduum with one parish priest and several churches – Part I

Very large parishes often have more than one worship centre. The situation where a priest pastors more than one parish is now becoming increasingly common.
In both cases, decisions have to be made with regard to celebrating the Easter Triduum. Where are the three major rites held? How and when is a community’s new paschal candle blessed if the Easter Vigil is not celebrated locally?

In this column I will look at one possible option, along with its positive and negative aspects, and consider some other possibilities next week.

Option # 1: The entire parish gathers at one church for all ceremonies

The main advantage of this solution is that it gives a sense of unity as people from different parishes or communities come together for worship at the highpoint of the Church’s liturgical year. The initiation of adults from the whole area would take place at the one Easter Vigil. The most competent liturgical ministers from the various communities can be used to help ensure a worthy celebration. Worshipping as part of a larger gathering can be an uplifting experience for those who are used to celebrating liturgy with a small group. Holding the Triduum ceremonies in the one location also adds a sense of unity and continuity to the three great days of Easter.

This option does have several drawbacks. People who will need to travel to another church may feel a degree of resentment about being dislocated. Those ministers who miss out on their traditional roles in the Easter ceremonies may also experience a sense of disappointment. Pastoral teams will need to consider what impact this arrangement will have on those catechumens and candidates who will celebrate the rites of initiation in an unfamiliar church.

While this solution is obviously the ideal one, its feasibility will depend on whether the parishes sharing a pastor are in a remote area where churches are widely scattered or in an urban area where worship centres are located within relatively easy travelling distance of one another.

A decision will need to be made as to which church will host the liturgies. In the instance of one parish with several worship centres, the Triduum ceremonies clearly should take place in the ‘mother church’. Where several separate parishes share a pastor, the decision about venue would need to be based on matters such as convenience of access and seating capacity.

People’s inability or reluctance to travel might be overcome if transport is provided from their own worship centre to the chosen venue. Separate communities might retain a sense of identity by travelling together to the host church. Auxilliary services such as Stations of the Cross or Evening Prayer could also be held locally.

It needs to be made very clear that this is indeed a joint celebration of the various communities and not a case of being guests at the chosen venue’s liturgy. Planning will need to done by representatives from across the various parishes or worshipping communities

If this solution is chosen, Easter candles for each parish or community could be lit from the paschal candle at the end of the Vigil and given to representatives to take to their own churches. Perhaps a solemn entry of the Easter candle could take place on Easter Sunday or on the Sunday when the parish will next gather for worship.


Elizabeth Harrington