Sunday Celebrations of the Liturgy of the Word in an Emergency Situation

From The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop | Issued December 18, 2013

Dear Fathers,

From Apostolic times, Sunday has been the day when Christians have been gathered together by the Holy Spirit to hear God's Word and to offer sacramentally the Paschal Sacrifice of their Lord, the mystery by which the Church is constituted and sustained. As Christians we believe that we are not saved as individuals apart, but as members of the Mystical Body of Christ through his Pascal love. And so it has been important for us all to gather as that Mystical Body every Sunday in order to be renewed in that mystery, through which alone we find salvation.

Blessed John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini, calls the Sunday assembly "the privileged place of unity: it is the setting for the celebration of the 'sacramentum unitatis' [i.e. the Eucharist] which profoundly marks the Church as a people gathered 'by' and 'in ' the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." These words are a constant reminder of Christ's promise: "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20). It is our privilege as priests to lead our people to greater faith and more profound hope each time we gather in unity as community on Sunday  to celebrate the Paschal Sacrifice by which this unity is established and fostered. 

I thank all of you, my brothers in Christ, for your generous and devoted service to the mystery of communion. Your love for the Eucharist and for the people I have entrusted to your care is a constant inspiration to me. I especially thank our senior priests who so readily make themselves available to celebrate the Eucharist whenever and wherever needed.

In recent times, it has become apparent that emergency situations have arisen in our Archdiocese when, unexpectedly, no priest has been available to lead the community in its Sunday celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Thankfully these are rare occasions but it has become obvious that something should be provided for when the occasion might arise. For this reason, the Archdiocesan Worship Commission has created the document: Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word on Sundays in an Emergency Situation. This celebration is only to be used in an actual emergency situation and not for convenience. It is not to be used for weekday celebrations of the Eucharist. In the Archdiocese of Detroit, distribution of Holy Communion is not allowed at a "Celebration of the Liturgy of the Word on Sundays in an Emergency Situation," lest there be any confusion about the nature of the Sacramental celebration which the People of Christ are called to offer to the Father on the Lord's Day. In the absence of a priest, it would be best for a deacon to lead the celebration. If no deacon is available, the celebration may be led by a trained lay person. 

Even as we provide this service to be used in case of an emergency I ask that you and your community continue to pray for vocations to the priesthood. I ask that you continue to be the example of priestly holiness that will continue to attract young men to follow in your footsteps. Asking God's blessings upon you through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I remain,

Fraternally yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit