Sunday, April 13, 2008

How do you do Communion for 57,000? - "Safe, Reverent and Timely"

Candles, Clergy and Communion for 57,000 New York Times, by Sewell Chan. April 12, 2008:

With all its spiritual, political and cultural significance, the six-day visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Washington and New York next week is also a daunting logistical operation involving everything from candles and catering to cellphones and ciboria, the metal receptacles that hold communion wafers. Coordinating these and other details are high-ranking clergy, Hollywood producers and veterans of political advance teams, who will communicate in New York via two-way radios that double as cellphones and are equipped with global positioning satellite devices.

Among the profound — and mundane — questions they are confronting: How do 530 priests and deacons give communion to 57,000 people in 14 minutes?

“I just want to make sure it’s done reverently and safely,” the Rev. Msgr. Wallace A. Harris, the event coordinator for the Sunday afternoon Mass at Yankee Stadium on April 20, said at a practice Wednesday afternoon.

For starters, the priests — who are coming from as far away as Australia and Alaska — are assigned based on dates of birth, with the youngest (and most able-bodied) assigned to the upper deck, where stairs are narrow and steep and the winds are strongest. Leading priests on the upper deck will be the Rev. Kevin Malick, 28, who is from Staten Island, was ordained last May, works in a parish in New City, N.Y., and is a Mets fan. “I have a level head and a lot of common sense,” Father Malick said. “I’m not book smart, but I’m good at yelling at people.”

His counterpart on the field level, where the eldest priests are assigned, the Rev. Joseph E. Franco, who works at a Yankee-loving Bronx parish, warned five other priests at Wednesday’s rehearsal: “Remember, this isn’t a Yankees game, this is going to be an older crowd.”

Making Communion "Safe, Reverent and Timely"
On Sunday, April 20, about 57,000 people are expected to participate in Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. One challenge is how 530 priests and deacons will distribute wafers in 14 minutes, the time set aside for communion. The Archdiocese has a video [click link for excerpts] to guide priests and attendants through the process.
(Courtesy of the New York Times).