The Department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship is thrilled to welcome a new Director of Christian Worship, who will help our parishes and ministers through the continued changes of both the pandemic and the transition to Families of Parishes. Get to know our new coworker in the vineyard, Sr. Esther Mary Nickel, RSM, and what she’ll bring to the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Tell us a little bit about your early life and education.
I was born in Detroit, baptized in Garden City, and reared in Ida in Monroe County, Michigan. I attended our public school as well as the parish CCD and faith formation classes. Upon graduation from high school, I went to Lansing Community College for respiratory therapy and then to the University of Michigan to finish a Bachelors of Science, with the intention to study medicine and specialize in pediatric pulmonology. However, I entered my religious community and went on to study agronomy and plant genetics at the University of Minnesota, completing masters and doctoral degrees. I was then given the opportunity to study in Rome, so I completed a Bachelors of Sacred Theology at the Angelicum and a License and Doctorate in Sacred Liturgy from the Pontifical Institute for the Liturgy at Sant’Anselmo.
How would you describe the mission of the Office for Christian Worship?
Archbishop Vigneron has given guidance for this office in the Pastoral Letter “Unleash the Gospel.” Prayer, the worship of God, the sacraments and sacramentals, devotion and popular piety – all of this is needed to ask for the necessary grace to serve as missionary disciples. We cannot forget that in the early Church, it was the celebration of the Eucharist, Jesus himself, that gave the first disciples the courage to overcome obstacles to evangelization. I think the Office of Christian Worship should help equip disciples to go out on their mission of evangelization.
What’s something you hope to accomplish in your new role here at the archdiocese?
First, anything accomplished is a blessing from God, and I hope to serve and not be in his way when he is unfolding his plan for the Church in Detroit. My prayer is that the word in this archdiocese can open paths for other local Churches.
Who has been a significant role model in your life and career so far?
The Blessed Virgin Mary.
Do you see any particular challenges facing the Church related to liturgy, especially during the pandemic?
Of course there are challenges, but these challenges bring opportunities to teach. Many people do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, or understand the gift of their baptism and the necessity to participate in the Mass on Sundays and days of obligation. The other sacraments are also misunderstood, so the pandemic helps us stop and reflect on how we have taken so much for granted and perhaps not expressed our gratitude to God for the many blessings he sends.
Where does your love of the liturgy stem from?
I had the privilege to study in Rome during the papacy of St. John Paul II. Although my faith and relationship with Christ were already well developed, I realized then that our pilgrimage is toward the Heavenly Jerusalem, and that every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass gives us a taste of Heaven. My desire is that we would all share in that awareness.
Do you see your role as helping others gain a better appreciation and understanding of the liturgy? In what ways do you see opportunities for growth here?
Yes, since I love to teach and speak about the Sacred Liturgy – yet when we look at the statistics of Mass attendance, belief, etc. it is a bit dismal. I am convinced that it is because there has been a lack of authentic community that is rooted in a real relationship with Christ. We can study details, but we need to look at prayer and the worship of God in order to recognize why Jesus said to his disciples at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”
Please join us in welcoming Sr. Esther Mary in the EGW Community!
If you want to get in touch with her, you can reach her at [email protected].