Important Announcement! - 5th July 2015

Announcements are often made towards to end of Sunday Mass. Usually they are brief, but on holidays last year I had the unfortunate experience of sitting for 15 minutes while the presider read out and expanded upon every item in the parish bulletin and a parishioner spoke about the work of the parish care and concern group. This took longer than any other element of the liturgy.

If this is a common occurrence, I am sure that many people tune out during this time or leave after Communion, as a significant number did.

Informing the assembly about the important events of parish life is a good and necessary thing. The announcements offer the assembly opportunities for living out during the coming week the commitment which Eucharist entails, for example, gathering for evening prayer on Wednesday, visiting the sick and housebound, or attending a refugee support group meeting.

Problems arise when every parish organisation considers its work and ministry to be of greatest importance and thus deserving of special mention in the parish bulletin and in the notices at Mass.

The few passing references to the announcements in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal indicate that they are only made if considered necessary and should be brief.

The 2003 Introduction to the Order of Mass from the US bishops offers more guidance. After explaining that announcements help the assembly become aware of the faith life and pastoral activity of the community and invite participation in the ongoing work of the Church, it sets out three principles:

Announcements when required should be brief enough for the people to remain standing.
Because the ambo is reserved for the Liturgy of the Word, announcements are made from some other place.
Announcements may be made by the deacon, by the priest, or by another member of the community.

In some parishes, notices are read out after Communion while people are seated, but this disrupts the rhythm and flow of the Rite of Communion. After all have received Communion there is a significant period of silence (for prayer and reflection, not just so the second collection can be taken up!). The Prayer after Communion follows this time of silence.

Because people stand for the Prayer after Communion and remain standing for the Concluding Rites, they are standing when the announcements are made. Only on rare occasions should the assembly be asked to be seated again for the notices.

Parishes need to have a procedure in place to ensure that notices read at Mass are not open to misuse by people pushing their own special interests and that they are made only when necessary and are kept brief. The weekly bulletin, available both in print and online, should be considered by all as the main source of information for the parish.

A member of the parish pastoral staff needs to be given responsibility for deciding what, if any, announcements will be made at Mass. The latter are best confined to information about last-minute changes and variations from the regular schedule, drawing people’s attention to a major event, and reminding people to read the bulletin.

Elizabeth Harrington