John Sibley is a volunteer at CAFOD and an experienced public speaker. Here, he shares his best tips and tells you everything you need to know about speaking at Mass for Family Fast Day. The message? Speaking at Mass can seem daunting, but all it takes is good preparation!
What I learnt from speaking at Mass.
About five years ago, I volunteered to speak at mass and went to Romero House (CAFOD’s London office) for a day of training.
There are different forms of public speaking. Speaking on a soap box to shoppers at a junction on the South Circular Road is different to speaking at St Joseph’s! For example, teachers and lecturers are naturally proficient at speaking, but usually at church, you would not expect to be questioned during your talk as you would in a classroom.
Speaking at Mass: Keep calm and arrive prepared.
Public speaking is not easy and speaking at Mass can be quite difficult for the beginner with little or no experience. In fact, it can be difficult for anyone, with or without experience. The main reason for this is because there is little audience reaction.
But, if you keep your talk short and sweet without mumble or waffle then the congregation will show an interest by looking at you, maybe smiling at something you have said and afterwards giving their reaction.
In my opinion the talk should only be four minutes long. Enough time for the audience to listen without drifting off with other thoughts. And how do you time your four minutes? Practice at home.
Say your speech out loud when the house or flat is empty. It sounds silly and maybe it is but speaking to no one is harder than speaking to everyone! Then look at the clock and amend and practice till you get it right.
There may be a clock at the back of the church or you might take off your watch and put it on the lectern to see how long you’ve been speaking. To be seen looking at your watch whilst talking is not “on.” However with a bit of practice you shouldn’t need clock or watch. You have much to say in four minutes, so there isn’t time to be nervous.
So what do you say?
Use the CAFOD Short Talk, it says it all!
You can also personalize the talk. When I speak at Mass, I usually use this structure:
INTRODUCTION. Thank the Father and maybe mention the Church (eg. A beautiful church or I used to come here on holiday etc). Then ‘my name is X and I’ve come to talk about CAFOD’. Describe the work of CAFOD mentioning Caritas.
THE STORIES. Thank the community for their past donations. With their help in the past CAFOD has been able to help communities out of poverty. Then, use the story of Longora as a more contemporary example of what donations have been used for. You will have been sent the tragic story of a family that we have helped, often by providing irrigation for agriculture etc. There may be a poster on the wall – or school children may have drawn pictures – mention them!
THE ENVELOPES. Understand how the system works. Remember that you might be talking before or after Fast Day.
CONCLUSION. Prayers, volunteers and money. Finish with a short prayer from the prayer card.
That is quite a lot to say in four minutes. It is interesting and should hold people’s attention. Smile in the right places. You can be a little humorous at the beginning and end but don’t tell jokes.
After Mass, you might want stand at the back where you can be seen. You may have to collect the envelopes and money. Have a notebook ready so that volunteers can give their name and details.
It is best if the church collection ushers do the collecting but if you do then take the money envelopes to the sacristy for the priest to put in the safe.
And finally… some practical tips!
– If you are not speaking at your own church, know where it is and where you can park the car.
– Speak much more slowly than you think you should be
– Meet or telephone the Parish Priest a few days before and find out if you are expected to talk in the homily spot or at the end.
– Decide what you are going to wear. Personally I prefer to look smart/casual – perhaps what I would wear to a christening. A young person may wish to wear a CAFOD t-shirt in there own parish. Speak much more slowly than you think you should be.
– Smile at the start and at the end. Look up during the talk if possible. The transformation we are enabling is a story of joy and hope. It also helps if you feel nervous!
– Use different intonations, you are telling someone’s story on their behalf.
– Feel free to change a few words here and there or add a line to two to make it feel more natural to deliver. The talk is written to make it possible to read as is, so don’t feel any pressure!
– Remember that although we may not have met the person mentioned, their story is real and they are happy that we are able to share it on their behalf.
– Each Mass you speak at will be different. The early Mass on a Sunday is usually very quiet, but the mid-morning service is busy and noisy. Generally I have found that the noisier the Mass, the easier it is to talk, but everyone is different.
My guess is that having spoken at Mass once, you will look forward to doing it again! Speaking at Mass is not easy but if you know your subject and what you intend to say it will be much easier. A few deep breaths and off you go!
Take part in a briefing.
Interested in speaking at Mass? Join us for a briefing, and get ready!
When and where?
20 September (11:30 am-1:30 pm) at St John Vianney, 21 Heathfield Road, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 8NP
-An international speaker will join us and focus on her experience in Colombia.
27 September (7:30 pm-8:45 pm) at St Cecilia, 101 Stonecot Hill, Sutton, SM3 9HN