Lismore bishop says God has not abandoned priestless parishes
Bishop John Satterthwaite of Lismore has said that Jesus is present when the faithful gather in his name, even if a priest is not.
In a pastoral letter to his diocese this week, he said the effects of the vocations crisis are fast becoming evident, and it is inevitability that priests will not be available to celebrate Sunday Mass in all parishes. He said that increasingly the laity will be called upon to fulfill the collaborative role in ministry envisaged by Vatican II.
He said: "In these circumstances, God does not abandon his own. Rather Jesus is present when the assembly gathers in his name, when his word is proclaimed, when the reserved Eucharist is distributed among the faithful and when the various liturgical ministries bring about full, active, and conscious participation in worship."
Bishop Satterthwaite said that while some ministries like the distribution of Communion, baptising and officiating at funerals are the normal function of the priest or deacon, lay people may fulfil these functions as Extra-ordinary Ministers if there is a need.
He emphasised the importance of lay people being trained to assume these responsibilities, assuring the faithful that norms governing liturgical services at which laity preside will be issued. He added that there will be no blurring of the differences between the full celebration of the Eucharist in Mass and Liturgies of the Word at which Communion is distributed.