Hospitality, good music are important at every Mass

By Enedelia J. Obregón
Senior Correspondent

In an effort to help those serving in music ministries at parishes, the Diocese of Austin hosted the 10th biennial Hispanic Pastoral Musicians Conference.
The three-day conference at St. Dominic Savio High School was sponsored by the Southwest Liturgical Conference and focused on the theme “Mass, Music and Mission: Singing the Good News.”
Participants attended workshops such as “The Liturgical Year and the Songs that Accompany the Seasons,” “Liturgical Music Resources: Where do we find music which is appropriate for each liturgical celebration?,” and “All that is sung is not liturgical.”
Bishop Joe Vásquez commissioned the musicians at the end of the conference.
“When you return to your communities you need to share what you have learned,” Bishop Vásquez said. “Without giving what has been given to you there is no benefit.”
Father James Burkart, the chair of the Liturgical Commission for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and board member of the Southwest Liturgical Conference, reminded attendees that the musical tradition of the church is an “invaluable treasure that excels any other artistic expression” and is an “integral part of the liturgy.”
The conference opened with “Singing the Good News: Mary of Guadalupe and the Church” by Father Juan J. Sosa of the Archdiocese of Miami, who also is a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Subcommittee on Liturgy for Hispanic Catholics.
Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Garcia of the Diocese of Austin provided a background on the theology behind the “Mass: Roman Missal and General Instruction,” which serves as the foundation for the use of music in the vernacular since the Second Vatican Council.
“Music is not something only the priest does,” Bishop Garcia said. “We say ‘we’re going to Mass’ as if we were observers. No! You and I are called to be alert and active internally and externally. Each one in the assembly has a role to play. We have responses. We have dialogue and silence.”
In song, he said, we are called to praise and express what we believe. Music from the choir helps bring us deeper into the liturgy and should encourage those assembled to participate in worship and should not substitute for the voice of the assembly.
Peter Kolar, senior editor of Hispanic Resources for World Liturgy Publication, presented a two-part plenary on “Music in the Sacred Liturgy.” The first focused on “Who Sings and Why?” and the second on “It is Right and Just (To Sing).”
“Everyone here is a minister,” he said. “That means serving and guiding. Those in music ministry need to minister to the assembly with hospitality and formation.” He asked are we welcoming to those in the assembly? How do we show that hospitality? Do we learn the music and teach it to the assembly to help their faith? 
He explained the importance of music in the dialogue, the acclamations, the responses and the responses. Sometimes, he noted, silence is better than a musical response because it allows the assembly to meditate on what they have just heard or participated in or to prepare for what they are about to participate in or hear.
Music should express the community in communion with Jesus and our efforts to help each other live our faith, Kolar said.
Kolar reminded the musicians that the “gift of the human voice is the most privileged and fundamental” for worship.
“Musical instruments are an extension and a support for the principal instrument –– the voice,” he said. Therefore, choirs and musicians must choose music that is simple and that can be sung by the assembly who may not know how to read music and therefore need simple melodies.
Bishop Felipe J. Estévez, bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida, focused on “Ministerial Discipleship.” This discipleship requires missionaries to evangelize others. It begins at Mass.
“You can’t be a disciple without also being missionaries,” Bishop Estévez said. “Those two words come together.”
“We need to return to the first encounter with the first disciples,” he said. “From that moment life is not the same. That encounter life changed forever because of the transformation of the heart. It’s not just an individual –– it’s not just I. It’s us. We convert as a community.”