As Holy Week and Easter Week approach, Catholics in the pews will pay closer attention to one particular ministry: the lectors.
With this in mind, a group of 15 dedicated lectors met in Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Vancouver Feb. 16 and 23 and March 2 to hone their skills.
"Read as if each new sentence is a new revelation," encouraged Father Edward Evanko, pastor of Holy Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church.
The clergyman, a former Broadway actor and singer, had been asked by Father John Horgan, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, to impart tips from his 40 years of stage experience.
"It's not just a matter of public speaking; lectors help us to pray and to understand the richness of God's word," Horgan said.
Evanko started with a fun tip. Before practising, lectors should say "Wow!" as a reminder that it is the Good News that they impart to their fellow parishioners.
"I know it's silly, but we become so used to Scripture readings," Evanko said.
He brought up the lectors one by one and asked them to practise the First Reading for the Second Sunday of Lent: Genesis 15.5-12.
In the reading, God made a covenant with Abram; promising the man from Ur many descendants and a vast land.
"Holy cow!" the ebullient priest exclaimed. "This is something quite unusual: the Lord speaking to Abram."
He urged the lectors not to rush through their preparation. The biblical writers sometimes left hints to the tone of voice implied in a reading.
He used Genesis 15.5 as an example, as the Lord said to Abram, "Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them."
"The Lord is joshing Abram, using humour," Evanko said.
He moved on to how lectors should visualize themselves as method actors.
He brought up the striking visuals and frightening music of an Alfred Hitchcock film as he spoke of Abram frantically driving away birds of prey.
Andy Walsh, a lector at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Richmond, converted to Catholicism before marriage. He has spent over 50 years "relating" the Word of God to the faithful.
Like Evanko, Walsh had a few tips for lectors. In order to read well, knowledge of the material is crucial.
He looks up the correct readings a day in advance and says biblical pronunciation websites are quite an asset.
"We never used to have all this help," he chuckled.
Frank O'Neill, lector coordinator for Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, said, "Lectors are a key part of the Mass. If they botch it, the parishioners lose out."