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Our readers asked:

Is the preferred term “presider” or “celebrant” and why?

Julianne Wallace Answers:

In the Mass, the entire gathered assembly celebrates together with the priest (or prayer leader). Since the whole community celebrates together, the term “celebrant” is not the best way to describe the role of the priest in the Mass, because it sets the role of the priest against the role of the rest of the assembly (if we say that the priest is the only celebrant—what about the assembly?) Some liturgical texts use the term “priest-celebrant” which indicates the special role of the priest within the celebrating community. However, the term “presider” best describes the role of the priest in the Mass. A presider is someone who is called forth from the community to be a leader of prayer and to be a representative of Christ within the gathered church community. While all celebrate the sacraments together, we must have a leader, someone who will guide us deeper into the mysteries of Christ.

The Author : Julianne Wallace
Julianne E. Wallace is the associate director of faith formation, worship, and ministry at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. She earned an M.T.S in Word and Worship from the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. and a B.A. in Music Performance from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Julianne is passionate about sharing the joy of liturgy with others and helping everyone to worship well.
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  • Joejoe

    “Presider” is not the better term, and “celebrant” does not set the priest against the remainder of the congregation. A priest can say Mass on his own, so he is not presiding at that point — but he is celebrating.

    The older language in which the priest celebrates and the rest of the assembly is referred to as “assisting” is far more accurate and does greater justice to the proper roles of the ordained and the laity. It does not connote a superiority of the ordained, but simply speaks to the different graces and different expectations of God’s people.

  • Jerry michels

    What you say implies that anyone could be “called forth from the community” to celebrate Mass. That is not true, only a priest or bishop can celebrate Mass. I can’t, not being a priest, nor can you. However, I can preside over a meeting, a prayer group, or many secular fucntions. The priest celebrating a Mass is the de facto leader, not a master of ceremonies.

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