Worship director appreciates church’s liturgical riches
By Mary P. Walker
David Wood, the new diocesan director of the Office of Worship, has a deep theological understanding of Catholic liturgy and a passion for sharing the liturgical riches of our faith.
Wood explained that often we think of “liturgy” as Sunday Mass. Yet, liturgy is formally understood to be any of the official public ritual prayers of the Catholic Church. The church teaches that we pray as we believe. When we learn about our liturgies and actively participate, we are experiencing God’s saving work and reinforcing our doctrinal beliefs, he said.
“I am interested in helping others appreciate how God encounters us and we recognize God in the liturgy, through postures, gestures, silence, word, music, song, beauty and architecture,” Wood said.
He has earned an undergraduate degree in theology from the University of Dallas and a master’s in theology from St. John’s University. Before coming to the Austin Diocese, he served as the director of the Office of Worship for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for 14 years.
At the archdiocese, Wood grew to respect and admire Bishop Joe Vásquez, who, before being appointed bishop of Austin, was the auxiliary bishop, chancellor and vicar general there. The primary responsibility of the Worship Office is to support the bishop, the chief liturgist of the diocese. The office helps him prepare for the liturgies in which he presides, such as confirmations, ordinations and church dedications. They also coordinate with the parishes where these liturgies will take place.
In addition to working with pastors and parishes for these and other liturgical celebrations, the Worship Office is a resource for the formation of liturgical ministers, including cantors, choir directors, ushers, greeters, sacristans, lectors, altar servers and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion. For growing parishes, the office can help pastors address capacity issues that require changing the worship space, adding weekend Masses, or making other changes to the church or physical plant.
Excited to be part of the Austin Diocese, Wood said that the growth of the Catholic population and the accompanying ethnic and cultural diversity bring both challenges and opportunities. The challenges involve drawing the faithful together as one church within a large geography, across many parishes, and with different cultural experiences.
However, this diversity also provides opportunities for spiritual growth, he said. While it can be challenging for a parish to work in unity to meet the spiritual needs of those who speak different languages and have different cultural heritages, the parish can also learn from and experience the faith traditions of the different cultures. The Worship Office can help when liturgical traditions are under consideration.
“Different cultures experience God, God’s revelation, Christ, and the Holy Spirt in slightly different ways,” Wood said. While this can cause tension when cultures come together, it can also encourage us to expand our understanding of God and appreciate the universality of our Catholic faith.
Wood explained that there are two exciting developments on the horizon that will affect parish liturgies, and he looks forward to helping parishes make the transition. A new Spanish translation of the Roman Missal will be soon be available, as well as a new English translation of the Rite of Marriage.
Wood and his family hope to complete their own transition from living in Houston to moving to Austin over the summer. His wife, Sylvia, is a teacher, and they have been married for 29 years. They are the parents of three adults, Matthew, Michelle and Micah. Impressed by the dedication of the priests, diocesan staff and laity he has met, Wood is happy to now serve in Central Texas.