As I reported last week, my Pastor informed us that at the request of Bishop Murphy (Diocese of Rockville Centre) that the church would be moving the tabernacle back to the center of the church. I wasn’t sure at the time if this was a general request or something limited to my parish. If it was limited to my parish, what provoked this request? Well now I know. The Bishop visited at confirmation time and was not pleased with what he saw. My Pastor, Father Joe, printed the request of the Bishop this week in the bulletin for all to read along with his response. I will print the Bishop’s letter here along with my recap of Father Joe’s response. My emphases and [comments].
Dear Father Coschignano:
Recently I had the pleasure and the privilege of confirming young men and women in your parish. It was a beautiful moment and one that I very much appreciated. I thank you for the warm welcome that you gave to me and also for the way that you and all those who work with you strive so much to make the experience of worshiping the Lord such a fulfilling and fruitful one.
As I mentioned to you during that day, I am very concerned about the comportment of the faithful in your parish church prior to the celebration of the Eucharist. I am not blaming anyone. I am not trying to say that anyone is at fault. I am simply saying that the comportment is not compatible with proper preparation for the celebration of Mass. This interferes with the ability of the people to enter into the liturgy and have the kind of active participation that the Second Vatican Council calls for.
In my judgment, a major reason for this is the fact that the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a separate chapel that is so removed from the main body of the church that no one knows where the Blessed Sacrament is. I don’t mean that literally but I mean that conscious awareness of’ the presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is lacking to those who enter the main body of your parish church. This is further hampered by the fact that the music ministry is set up in front of the doors into that chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. That means that anyone who wishes to go and pray needs to go through the paraphernalia of those who provide music. I find this problematic. [Yes! Yes! Problematic is a very diplomatic understatement.]
In the document of the United States Bishops “Built of Living Stones – Art, Architecture, and Worship” [Irony! Built of Living Stones being used as a defense of common sense. That made me laugh!] which is the normative document of the Bishops Conference in the United States on liturgical matters § 74 §, it is clear that the Blessed Sacrament is to be placed in such a way in the body of the Church that whether it is in the chapel or not, it must be visible to those who come to worship. This is consistent with the documents of the Second Vatican Council as well as with the most recent documents of the Holy See including Redemptionis Sacramentum. Therefore, I am directing you to begin a process of locating the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament in the main body of the ‘church. The most simple thing would be to place it in the center of the reredos in the place which clearly set up to have a tabernacle, and where at the last liturgy I celebrated there was a bouquet flowers. [I loved this line.
Courtesy of Leticia at
Causa Nostrae Laetitiae
The Church has a beautiful reredos. the flowers there in place of the tabernacle has always annoyed me. I am glad to know that I am not alone.] However you do this, I would like to have you give me by September of this your plan for the relocation of the tabernacle. Relocating the tabernacle in and of itself will not be sufficient. Therefore, I am asking to begin a process of educating your people about the reverence that is due to the Blessed Sacrament when they enter church and so long as they are in church. [Father Joe has started this. More on that in a bit.] If over summertime and into the Fall you can do a series of articles in the bulletin announcements from the pulpit or a combination of these and other things, I believe you would do a great service to the People of God in Saint John the Evangelist Parish you would have a parish that would become ever more closely united to the Lord and bear much fruit not only in terms of the spiritual life of your parishioners but also in other important elements for the life of the Church such as vocations to the priesthood. [Amen!]
Please do net see this as anything but an act of support for you and for the good work you do as pastor. You and I share the pastoral responsibility for Center Moriches. I would be remiss if I did not say this to you. I say it to you as my brother and as my collaborator with full confidence that you have both the love of your people and the pastoral skills good and holy priest to bring this about for the present and future good of the Body Christ in Center Moriches.
Please know that The Office Worship is at your disposal to help you in this process. If I can be of any help, you know that wish so to be.With my prayers and best wishes, I am
Fraternally yours in Christ,
Bishop of Rockville Centre
This is wonderful! Trust me when I tell you the St. John’s is by no means the poster child for irreverence. I have been to many other parishes that are much more in need of a similar loving correction.
With that said, I am so glad that Bishop Murphy took notice of the problem, keenly identified the root cause, and followed up. This is excellent pastoral leadership. Equally good has been Father Joe’s response. He quickly and happily complied with the Bishop by printing a series of articles in the bulletin about proper deportment in Church and then spoke at all the masses last week on the topic. He also indicated that he will be moving a number of activities out of the church itself so as to foster an environment of prayer.
He has also announced that he is preparing for a ceremony to move the tabernacle. I cannot wait for this. My great thanks and appreciation for their wonderful leadership and pastoral care in helping making the Eucharist, source and summit of our faith, once again front and center.