During the academic year 2011/12 the College commissioned a survey on attitudes towards mass from the boys. This was as a result of a perceived negativity around the Sunday mass experience and the obligatory nature of their ‘involvement’ in it. The survey was carried out during March 2012, prior to the move to celebrating Sunday Eucharist in the Sports Hall. The format was simple – the students were asked to name three things they liked about their experience of mass and three things they disliked. There was a high degree of unanimity in the responses received. Topping the list of negatives was the length of mass, followed by physical discomfort in the pews in the Boys’ Chapel, and in third place they said that mass was boring.
On the positive side, music was given first place, while receiving Holy Communion was given second place. Reflection/sitting quietly was given third place. Many other interesting factors were highlighted for us by the students during the course of this survey.
Response: The findings of this survey were given serious consideration and time over two meetings with the Jesuit Ethos Sub-committee. We felt it imperative that if the students were to have an authentic experience of a) community and b) the celebration of the Eucharist, that the findings of this survey needed to be acted upon.
These findings confirmed us in our ambition to move the Mass to a new space in which to celebrate Eucharist and which could also accommodate the whole school comfortably. The resultant move to the Sports Hall for Sunday mass has undoubtedly addressed two of the major issues that this survey highlighted – Discomfort is no longer an issue and by extension, the students’ perception of the length of mass is no longer the issue that it was (even though the mass time has not shortened very demonstrably).
The third negative point made by the students about the mass being ‘boring’ has been addressed by encouraging much more involvement by the boys themselves. Physically, they are much closer to various rites within the liturgy and therefore also more visually aware and exposed to what happens. This makes the students more conscious of the need for their own engagement in the celebration of the Eucharist. The sense of a worshipping community on Sunday mornings from within Clongowes is steadily being developed and the feedback from boys and parents is very encouraging.
In tandem with this, Cyril Murphy has initiated a process of Formation in Liturgy which takes place on Thursday mornings for 20 minutes and which offers the students liturgical catechesis. It instructs the boys in the sacramental aspects of the mass along with their spoken and sung responses to it. This initiative was prompted by informal feedback from the students that indicated that they had poor understanding and knowledge of what actually happens at mass. Liturgical Formation has been well received thus far and we hope that it will bear fruit in the long-term.