Notre Dame Center for Liturgy to host summer series on disaffiliation, affiliation and the liturgy after COVID

Author: Anna Bradley

ND Experts

Timothy O'Malley

Timothy O'Malley

McGrath Institute for Church Life

Center for Liturgy Summer Series
Center for Liturgy Summer Series

The Notre Dame Center for Liturgy in the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame will mark its 50th year of programming with a virtual six-week series during summer 2021 addressing liturgical life in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic has accelerated trends that were already visible in the Church, according to Tim O’Malley, academic director of the Center for Liturgy. 

“The recent Gallup Poll has found that for the first time fewer than 50 percent of U.S. residents belong to a religious congregation. COVID has exacerbated this lack of belonging. My undergraduates, for example, say that their lives of faith have withered as Masses and retreats have been missing or only offered online. Belonging to an assembly is no guarantee, especially for a generation that has profound distrust in all institutions including the Church.”

“Will They Come Back After COVID?: Disaffiliation, Affiliation, and the Liturgy” begins with a week-long session devoted to disaffiliation and features Gwen Adams, visiting assistant professor of theology at the Augustine Institute, as the keynote speaker. 

Other sessions will feature discussion on the Eucharist, sacred beauty, affiliation and popular piety led by keynote speakers including Stephen Bullivant, director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society and professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St. Mary’s University in London; Nichole Flores, professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia; Sister Jeana Visel, O.S.B., professor of spirituality in the department of pastoral studies at St. Meinrad; Tim and Sue Muldoon, authors of “Reclaiming Family Time; and O’Malley. 

Each week will offer participants two video interviews with theological and pastoral experts conducted by O'Malley or Carolyn Pirtle, program director of the Center for Liturgy, as well as a live Q&A session with those experts, moderated by Center for Liturgy staff. Weekly recommended reading lists, opportunities for discussion, and experiences of prayer and spiritual formation will also be provided.

“Our hope for the series is that we recognize that disaffiliation is the major question for the Church over the next 10 to 15 years,” O’Malley said. “And yet, we cannot solve the problem simply by studying why people don’t belong. We also need to know why they belong, what belonging means and how it is connected to the Eucharist. The Church is not a club, but those who gather to bend the knee before the Eucharistic love and who leave the assembly to sanctify the world. Those who disaffiliate from the Church leave us all poorer, fracturing the communion to which the entire human family is called.”   

Prior to the onset of COVID-19, the Center for Liturgy’s primary educational outreach initiative was Liturgy Week, a four-day conference held at the University of Notre Dame each summer for Catholic leaders in the area of liturgical and sacramental formation. The conference included keynote addresses by bishops, academics, theologians and nationally renowned experts in liturgical and sacramental education. 

“In the future, we’re turning our attention to creating the next generation of liturgical leaders in the Church. These leaders will not only need to be able to put ribbons in the right place in liturgical books but to offer an apologia for the liturgical and sacramental life, to re-propose the full liturgical tradition as a source of human happiness. This is a theological, spiritual and contemplative challenge for the Church,” said O’Malley.

The 2021 summer series will begin June 14 and conclude July 23. Registration costs $50 for individual participants or $125 for a group of six participants and closes on June 14. Visit for more information. 

Contact: Amy North, program director of communications, 574-631-2894,

Originally published by Anna Bradley at on March 31.