What To Do When Your Priest Doesn’t Show Up For Mass

My church canceled 6 PM Mass the other night because the designated priest didn’t show up. Could that ever happen at your church? Probably not, but just in case here are some tips on handling an MIA priest.

  1. Establish a cut-off time for going to Plan B. If your priest isn’t there 10 minutes (or whatever window you set) before Mass, start looking at alternatives. In my situation, the scheduled priest was typically late so no one suspected a problem until it was, well, too late.
  2. Know where to look. The contact numbers for the priests should be available in the sacristy. If the priests live nearby, those addresses should be on hand, too. If substitute priests from another parish or mission are potentially available, add them to the list.
  3. Spell out the steps needed to perform a Communion service without Liturgy of the Eucharist. Your sacristan can provide this information. If you can’t have a full Mass, use the lectors and eucharistic ministers on hand to conduct a prayer service.
  4. Know where to find a copy of the bishop’s homily. If you go forward without a priest, you can still have a homily read. In my parish, the bishop’s weekly homily appears in the local diocesan newspaper and online.
  5. Identify the Mass times of other local churches. If you can’t offer your own Mass, let your parishioners know about alternatives.
  6. If a decision is made to cancel Mass before it’s started, send out a message to your Twitter account for quick notification. Consider sending a message to your emergency list as well.
  7. Apologize. A discussion on Facebook was how I found out that the last Mass of the day was canceled at my church. The next day on the subway, I ran into more people who were talking about the situation. Armed with these anecdotes, I encouraged my pastor to issue a statement about the situation. Don’t way until people are talking about the situation—because you know they will—to address the problem.

Has anything like this ever happened at your church? How did you respond?

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