Newsletter for U.S. Bishops Sponsored
by the NCCB Subcommittee on Lay Ministry
|This newsletter is developed by the NCCB Subcommittee on Lay Ministry. The purpose of this newsletter is to highlight lay ministry trends, resources, models, and other key information that may be helpful to the U.S. Bishops. Please forward suggestions and comments to:
NCCB Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women, and Youth
3211 4th Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Diocese of Joliet Supports Graduate Study for Ministry
Because the diocese "recognizes the invaluable contribution of lay people in so many areas of Church life and wishes to offer its support in training leaders for the future," a new program to foster lay ministry has been initiated in the diocese of Joliet. Called Leaders for the Future, the program makes available interest free loans of up to $1,000 per year for a three year period to lay leaders for graduate study. In addition, for each year of service offered in the diocese after the completion of the graduate degree, the loan will be reduced by $1,000. The loans are available through the Diocesan Education Foundation which is focused on providing a base of support for the diocese's total mission of Catholic Education and Formation.
Applicants for the loans must be engaged in graduate studies which will directly impact ministries within the diocese and must include with their materials a statement of support from the diocesan Ministry Formation, Catholic Schools, Religious Education, Catholic Charities Offices another diocesan office, or the pastor of the parish. According to Mame Byrne, director of the Foundation, eleven persons are currently using the grants which were first awarded in the Fall of 1999. Included in that group are several school teachers who are working toward an MA degree in Educational Administration and several youth ministers who are working toward an MA in Pastoral Studies. They are studying at such institutions as Lewis University in Romeoville, and Catholic Theological Union and Loyola University in Chicago. The Foundation expects that between 10 and 15 loans will be awarded each year. Further information: Mame Byrne, 815-834-4033
As Lay Ministry Update begins its fifth year
Subcommittee Report Used in Many Ways
Lay Ecclesial Ministry: The State of the Questions, the report of the lay ministry subcommittee is being used for reflection and discussion in many different ways. Lucille Merlihan, Director of the Office of Lay Pastoral Ministry in Chicago will be using it as background material with the commission for certification of pastoral associates. When the board of the National Association for Lay Ministry met in early February, they used it for discussion with Bishop Gerald Kicanas who is their episcopal liaison.
In the Archdiocese of Louisville, the description of the lay ecclesial minister from the report will be used as a resource in discernment sessions for all those who feel called to church service. According to Marti Jewell, Director of the Office of Spirituality and Ministry, the sessions are designed to help people understand the stirrings within their hearts and move toward ordained ministry, lay ecclesial ministry, or service in the transformation of the world.
Angela Barsalow, a Director of Religious Education in the diocese of Burlington, VT, wrote of how well the report summarized the very ground she and other lay ministers had been exploring together and of their plans to study the document together.
The staff of the USCC Office of Education also used the document for their staff day discussions. Because a very large percentage of lay ecclesial ministers work in Catholic schools or religious education programs, the fruits of their discussion will be valuable as the subcommittee continues its work.
Since the last Lay Ministry Update, the first printing of the report has been exhausted. A second is in process and orders can be placed by calling 1-800-235-8722. The report was also published in Origins (January 20, 2000) and is available on the Web at www.nccbuscc.org /laity /laymin /layecclesial.
New Subcommittee Meets, Begins Planning, Names Advisors
Bishop Joseph Delaney chaired the first meeting on the newly constituted Lay Ministry Subcommittee in Chicago on February 1. After studying the responses from the bishops during the November meeting, the members agreed that theological reflection needs to be continued and that practical issues need to be addressed. They discussed a variety of ways to accomplish these goals, noting that dialogues need to include bishops, theologians, pastors, and lay ministers themselves.
The subcommittee also invited the advisors for the past subcommittee, Dr. Zoila Diaz, Dr. Zeni Fox, and Monsignor Philip Murnion to continue in that role. In addition, they named a new advisor - Sister Elissa Rinere, CP, JCD of the Department of Canon Law at Catholic University.
From Our Tradition . . .
Plans for Funding Lay Ministry Needed Now
I think the data will already show that lay ministers are found in large parishes and in well-to-do parishes, and many times these are the same.
I think we could learn a lot from the financial and funding data that we have from our Catholic schools and apply it to lay ministry. We need to put in place now the funding mechanisms so that the poor parishes will be able to have the lay ministry that their parishes need and which they will not be able to have unless we can provide the funding needed.
Some might say the diocese can pay for it. The diocese cannot pay for it unless the diocese - that means all the parishes and people - are willing to participate in a common vision. It is time now, I think, as we talk about lay ministry to make sure that our conversations always include the dimension of how to fund lay ministry for the poor.
As the number of religious women who have made a commitment to serve in the inner city and poor parishes and schools continues to decrease, this question will only become more urgent.
Archbishop William J. Levada, Archbishop of San Francisco, "Reflections on Lay Leadership," Forming Lay Leaders: Church Service in the Twenty First Century, Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, Inc., 1999.
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
Duke Divinity School Develops Program of Spiritual Formation
Based on the conviction that "Theological education ought to be about forming people for ministry, not simply conveying information," Duke Divinity School recently developed a program that addresses three needs identified by their students.
- Students need more intentional reflection on the practices of the Christian faith. Rather than focusing on whether students are in "the worn out categories of theological liberals and conservatives," students are asked to consider what practices and convictions form, nurture and strengthen Christian identity. The spiritual formation program has the goal of "deepening and widening the prayer vocabulary of students as well as building their confidence in providing spiritual leadership in ministry."
- Students need to nurture the interrelation of prayer, study and service. Students are asked to reflect in their spiritual formation groups about the impact of their service (in local congregations, social ministries or mission teams) on their study and their prayer.
- Students need to grasp the significance of "life together" as the fundamental shape of the spiritual journey. Recognizing the persistent individualism in popular Christian piety, the program helps the students discover that "while prayer and the spiritual life are profoundly personal, involving a person's relationship with God, any personal relationship is also determinatively communal."
Group leaders are area ministers, clergy recognized in the community for their leadership, spiritual maturity and wisdom. They also reflect the diversity of the church in age, gender, race, denominational identity and theological perspective. Included are mainline Protestant clergy from a variety of denominations and a Roman Catholic nun and a priest.
The groups meet together once a week for an hour to reflect on their life together in the service to Christ. The leaders share their own joys and struggles in ministry and encourage sharing by others. The group time must also include some portion devoted to prayer and other spiritual disciplines. Some groups adopt formal covenants; others read Scripture prayerfully ; others draw on traditions of free prayer.
Students receive a pass/fail grade with attendance and participation determining the grade. Evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive, from both the students and the minister/leaders. Many returning students chose to participate voluntarily in spiritual formation groups and many ministers agreed to return.
The appointment of a faculty person in the area of spiritual formation and a chaplain for the divinity school strengthened the program. A "greater weaving of beliefs and practices" has occurred because the program is"reclaiming in our classes the close relationship between theological reflection and prayer that has too often been sundered"
L. Gregory Jones and William James Jennings, "Formed for Ministry: A Program in Spiritual Formation, Christian Century, February 2-9, 2000. pp. 124-128
From Around the World . . .
Courts Rule on Preferential Hiring in Canadian Catholic Schools
Fifteen years ago Catholic schools through to the end of high school won full funding from the Ontario government. Recently, after litigation that began in 1995, the courts have confirmed the schools' right to prefer Catholic teachers when hiring. In a separate but related case the Supreme Court ruled that a school board cannot prefer a Catholic when promoting a teacher, but must be able to justify preferring a Catholic in each case. The Human Rights Act allows religion to be a criterion for the job, but the employer must demonstrate that religion is relevant
A small number of non-Catholics teach in Catholic schools because no appropriately qualified Catholic applied for the positions. Only one local school board has a formal policy of preferring Catholics for promotion to such positions as department head, vice principal and principal. The Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association has said that it plans to use the recent ruling againt the local board's policy at an upcoming arbitration hearing.