New director of archdiocesan Office of Worship hopes to help people understand ‘the liturgy is not just Mass’
Nov 22, 2021
Timothy Johnston, a former editor and training consultant at Liturgy Training Publications (LTP) with the Archdiocese of Chicago, has been named the new director of the Office of Worship for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.
He assumed his post Nov. 8, and describes his new job as “primarily advising the chief liturgist of the archdiocese who, of course, is Cardinal (Wilton) Gregory.” The Office of Worship is responsible for coordinating archdiocesan liturgies at which Cardinal Gregory presides, and for offering training, workshops, and catechesis for liturgical formation.
“My job also involves a lot of ceremonial and ritual preparation,” Johnston said. “But, we are also a resource source for those who have a question about celebrating a particular rite or who have a general liturgical question.”
A native of Missouri, Johnston was a former novice at St. Norbert Abbey in Wisconsin. He earned a master’s degree in liturgical studies from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and a master’s degree in Christian doctrine from Marquette University in Milwaukee. Prior to working with LTP, he was the director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, Utah, and for the Diocese of Saint Cloud, Minnesota. He has also served in numerous parishes as the director of liturgy and music.
He has authored the book, “Pocket Prayers for Times of Trouble,” and co-authored several other liturgical books. Right now, he is working on composing music for antiphons and hymns that can be sung at infant Baptisms. “It’s part of the rite that most people don’t use or know it even exists,” he said.
“I have been enamored with the liturgy since the first grade. I sang in the choir, and was always in awe of what was going on in the sanctuary,” he said. “It was the place I felt most loved by God and the place I felt most at home, and that has continued. I am blessed to be in this ministry.”
In his new post, Johnston said he hopes to help people understand that “the liturgy is not just Mass, but so much more than that.”
“I want to help the assembly ultimately understand that what we do Sunday after Sunday is the culmination of our life in Christ,” he said. Mass “is the place where we encounter the living God, where heaven and earth meet. How can people not get excited about that?”
One aspect of his new job that Johnston is looking forward to is offering liturgical formation for anyone involved in the liturgy – including lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, choir members and even those involved in hospitality ministry. “Formation is for everybody, not just the experts, because formation is also catechetical,” he said.
“We can provide ongoing insight on what the liturgy really is, and how we can continue to grow spiritually and in the practice of that ministry,” he said. “By helping people break open the mystery they celebrate – and reflecting on that mystery – it deepens their relationship with God through the power of the Holy Spirit. It can radically transform how they live their daily lives when they think, ‘How was I challenged? How was I formed? How was I loved?’ at Mass.”
He also would like to help the faithful realize that “our default in the Catholic Church is getting together just for Mass, but we forget there are many other ways we can get together to pray. There are other sacramental rites – either inside or outside of Mass – that are also liturgical.”
Newly relocated to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, Johnston is a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland. His hobbies include playing the piano and singing, reading historical fiction, hiking, visiting museums and attending movies and live theater. He has a particular devotion to St. Norbert and St. Augustine, whom he calls “my go-to guys.”
Johnston said that he is a member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Silver Spring, “but I think I am going to do a little bit of traveling to get a flavor of the archdiocese. We have a very diverse community here.”
“I want to get a sense of the flavor of the local community,” he said. “I want to get a sense of who are these diverse communities, and what are the gifts they bring and offer to the Church. It’s hard to minister to communities you are not familiar with.”
He said he envisions his Office of Worship as being “a wellspring of liturgical knowledge, and if we don’t know the answer we’ll find the answer. But right now, I am taking some time to feel things out, see what’s needed and determine how I can best help people in their spiritual lives.”