Sisters of Mercy since their foundation have always identified and answered the call to ministries as they emerge. With this in mind the Sisters of Mercy were the first group to assist the work of the late Mgr. Seán Swayne in Carlow during the late 1960s and to continue with him when he founded the National Centre at Mount St Anne’s in 1973. Since then, Sisters of Mercy from various parts of Ireland have played a major part in the ministry of liturgical formation at the Centre.
For me, working at the National Centre for Liturgy for several years, I have become very conscious of the importance of worship of God in our lives. Our first and final duty is the worship of God. The absence of so many people at public worship is a contemporary form of extreme poverty.
My first formation was in music, providing music and helping people to see the beauty that worship has through music. Liturgical formation in all the ministries is one of the greatest needs within worship so that there can be the full, conscious and active participation that is the right of all who are baptised (SC 14). The biblical and liturgical formation of the people of God, both pastors and faithful, is always an urgent task.
At the National Centre for Liturgy students study liturgy and its related subjects at Diploma, Higher Diploma and Masters Level. Some graduates have continued to study at Doctorate level. The courses offer a comprehensive training in liturgy, empowering people for a leadership role in pastoral work and ministry.
Students at the National Centre for Liturgy have come from across the globe. In my work at the Centre, as well as students from Ireland, others have come from twenty-five countries. The mission statement of its founder, Mgr. Seán Swayne, always insisted that the experience of good liturgical celebration was not a luxury for a liturgical élite, but something to be shared. He was totally convinced of this and it was the energising force behind his legendary hospitality, whether welcoming people to gather around the kitchen table or to gather around the Lord at the banquet table of worship. Certainly, the comfortable cup of tea continues to be part of the Liturgy Centre!
Daily worship is central to the life of the Centre as we celebrate daily Eucharist, working with the Chaplaincy team at NUIM.
The experience of parish life with study and reflection is crucial to good liturgy. In 2004 the Centre began a one-day a week course in Pastoral Ministry and Liturgy to meet these needs. The course is conducted over a period of 20 weeks throughout the academic year. The work of the Centre is also committed to supporting outreach programmes of liturgical formation around the country in order to enrich and energise the participants with an enthusiasm for good liturgical celebrations.
The National Centre for Liturgy has been located in Maynooth since 1996 and houses the National Secretariat for Liturgy which works on behalf of the Episcopal Conference and the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and co-ordinates the work of the various consultative agencies on liturgy, church music, sacred art and architecture and an liotúirge i nGaeilge. New Liturgy is the quarterly bulletin of the Secretariat covering current liturgical issues and news.
In the daily life of the Centre there is a place for prayer, reflection, study, relaxation, hospitality and welcome. Former students love to come back. With visiting lecturers and members of the national commissions, there is constant contact with over sixty five people engaged in the work of liturgical formation throughout Ireland. All our work and ministry at the Centre is about worship as the summit and source of all our Christian activity (SC 10).
Moira Bergin rsm