June 24, 2016
As a stunningly beautiful church located in the non-residential West Loop section of Downtown Chicago, the vibrant Old St. Patrick’s is what many would call a “destination parish.” But when pastors hear beautiful church, one word springs to mind: Weddings. That is certainly the case for Old St. Pat’s, who host upwards of 150 weddings each year. Rather than either fight or surrender to the “wedding church shopping” culture, the pastoral staff shifted toward looking for opportunities to evangelize and exercise hospitality.
The Wedding Music Fair is one attempt to infuse the practical planning side with pastoral and catechetical value. When it comes to planning the liturgical details for such a number of weddings, it’s simply not feasible to sit down with each couple in addition to marriage preparation. At the same time, it is important that couples receive adequate guidance and resources when selecting music they not only find meaningful, but also is liturgically appropriate.
As a result, the Music Fair began as a creative way to solve a practical problem.
The parish has hosted the fair since the 1990’s, which is now coordinated by the Director of Worship Music, Jennifer Budziak, who joined the staff of Old St. Pat’s two years ago. The fair occurs on the first Monday of the month, three times a year. Couples planning their wedding liturgy are invited to attend a concert-like event, with the goal of leaving with a good idea of what instrumentalists, cantor, songs and Mass setting they would like to accompany the ceremony. During the hour and a half Wedding Fair, couples sit and listen to a range of pre-approved hymns and Mass settings performed by different instrumentalists and cantors. They do not play entire songs, but just enough to give a taste for the couples.
All the while, Jennifer or another staff person talk about what to expect as well as provide a “crash-course catechesis” on the wedding liturgy itself.
While they sit and listen, the couples receive forms to select their first, second, and third choices for availability sake, which Jennifer or another staff person then sort out and schedules, but the musicians themselves do not see. At first, Jennifer thought the process sounded awkward for the cantors or instrumentalists involved, who may feel as if they are auditioning. Overall, the facilitator of the fair presents the musicians as their ministers, all who are capable of performing a wide repertoire in service of their wedding, and all the musicians are allowed equal time as well as moments to display their individual style and skill.
Even though Jennifer misses some of the one-on-one liturgical planning, she recognizes that with a schedule like Old St. Pat’s, the system helps the couples handle the huge amount of details and eliminate a more time-consuming aspect of wedding planning. Not to mention, the process also frees up time for the pastoral staff to meet with the couples for more marriage, rather than wedding, specific purposes. As a result of their evangelizing and hospitable approach to weddings, Old St. Pat’s has seen a number of couples re-enter active worship in the Catholic Church with their congregation.
By: Evan Ponton, Assistant to the Pastor, Church of the Nativity, Timonium, MD