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
Research, Symposium, and Institute Address the Spirituality of Lay Ministers
At least three different groups are currently researching and discussing the spirituality of lay ecclesial ministers.
The Subcommittee on Lay Ministry, with funding from an anonymous foundation, are conducting a study of the current practices used by diocesan and graduate programs for the spiritual formation of prospective lay ministers. In October, the subcommittee convened a group of eighteen program leaders for a consultation on the meaning, goals, and programmatic aspects of spiritual formation. Participants came to the consultation having reflected on NCCB documents on adult faith formation and the formation of priests and deacons. The key findings from the consultation included
- Spiritual formation of lay ecclesial ministers must recognize and build from the tremendous diversity of lay ecclesial ministers themselves.
- Common elements of spiritual formation include personal and communal prayer, development of a sense of mission, discernment within dialogue, and leadership development.
- The structure of a spiritual formation program should include an intentional community of faith, a connection with the tradition of the Church, theological reflection, and service that is other-oriented.
- Lay ecclesial ministers can be assessed as to their level of spiritual formation by formal assessment tools and by discernment assisted by peers and others.
In March, St. Meinrad School of Theology will sponsor an invitational symposium on the Spiritual Formation of Lay Ecclesial Ministers. During the symposium, the findings of a survey completed by 1,100 lay ministers in five dioceses profiling their spiritualities will be discussed. Presentations will be given by Dr. James Davidson of Purdue University, Dr. Katherine Meyer of Ohio State University, Dr. Michael Downey of St. John Seminary, Camarillo, CA, and Ms. Sue Weber who directed a lay ministry study for four Indiana dioceses. Further information from Dr. Dorothy LeBeau, 1-800-334-6821 or dlebeau@saint meinrad.edu. In May, the National Association for Lay Ministry will sponsor an institute for ministry formation directors called Spiritual Formation of the Minister. Zeni Fox, Ph.D., an advisor to the Subcommittee, will present the opening address: "The Spiritual Formation of the Minister: Issues, Concerns, Components" and the closing institute reflections "Integrating Christian Spirituality and Ministerial Identity." Scheduled for May 29-31 in Baltimore, the institute will use an experiential approach reflecting on adult models of learning; attend to prayer and modes of reflection; provide integrative sharing opportunities; allow time for resource sharing and peer networking; and assist participants in formulating a spiritual formation action plan. The institute immediately precedes the NALM 25th Anniversary Conference and Celebration. Further information from
NALM, 773-241-6050 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A Papal Blessing for the Lay Ministers of the Americas ...
Suzanne Elsesser, currently the Regional Director of the Ignatian Lay Volunteer Corps in New York and a long-time supporter of lay minister through her work with the Humanitas/Brencanda Foundation, was among the U. S. delegation participating in the Jubilee of the Apostolate of the Laity in Rome in late November. Sue was one of ten representatives chosen to receive from Pope John Paul II copies of the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
During his homily, Pope John Paul reminded the lay people that "To you the Council opened extraordinary perspectives of commitment and involvement in the Church's mission. Did the Council not remind you of your participation in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ." (L'Osservatore Romano, 48-29 November 2000)
Sue and a woman from Cuba were the only ones from the Americas. While kneeling in front of the Pope, Sue asked his blessing for "the lay ministers of the Americas." The Holy Father responded by making the sign of the cross with his hand.
Web Provides Ministry Resources
Two relatively new Web sites are among those that offer information of interest about church ministry: www.ResourcingChristianity.org, a website "for pastors, lay leaders, and scholars" contains information and reflection on selected projects funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. "Ministry Resources" is also one of the categories for Barna Research Online, www.barna.org.
From Our Tradition . . .
Ordained and Other Ministries Can Flourish for the Good of the Whole
While the wisdom ot the law, by providing precise rules for participation, attests to the hierarchical structure of the church and averts any temptation to arbitrariness or unjustified claims, the spirituality of communion, by prompting a trust and openness wholly in accord with the dignity and responsibility of every member of the people of God, supplies institutional reality with a soul.
Such a vision of communion is closely linked to the Christian community's ability to make room for all the gifts of the Spirit. The unity of the church is not uniformity, but an organic blending of legitimate diversities. It is the reality of many members joined in one body of Christ. (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12). Therefore the church of the third millennium will need to encourage all the baptized and confirmed to be aware of their active responsibility in the church's life. Together with the ordained ministry, other ministries, whether formally instituted or simply recognized, can flourish for the good of the whole community, sustaining it in all its many needs: from catechesis to liturgy, from the education of the young to the widest array of charitable works.
Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Inuente" for the Closing of the Jubilee of the Year 2000 #45,46. Origins, January 18, 2001, p. 503.
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
Theological Union and Consortium Sponsor Ecumenical Discussion of Lay Ministry
The Washington Theological Union and the Washington Theological Consortium will sponsor on March 15 a one day program titled "Laity in Church Ministry: An Ecumenical View." (The Union was founded in 1968 by six of the religious order seminaries in the Washington area. It is a member of the Consortium which also includes Catholic University of America's Religious Studies Department, the Dominican House of Studies, Howard University School of Divinity, Lutheran Theological Seminary,Virgina Theological Seminary, and Wesley Theological Seminary, with the College of Preachers and Saint Paul's College as associate members.)
The first part of the program will be an overview of professional lay ministries presented by Rev. Richard McFail of the National Capital Presbytery, Mr. Dennis Beeman of the Diocese of Richmond and the National Association for Lay Ministry, and Ms. Nancy Gable of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, PA.
The afternoon will begin with presentations by Dr. Kathleen Staudt of Virginia Theological Seminary and Wesley Theological Seminary and Sr. Amy Hoey, RSM from NCCB. Their topic will be Spiritual Preparation for Laity in Ministry.
The final presentation will be given by Dr. Diane Kennedy, OP of Aquinas Institute of Theology of St. Louis who will speak on Professional Development of Lay Ministers: Present & Future.
Further information from Jim Curry (WTU) 202-541-5230 or Rev. John Crossin (WTC) 202-832-2675
From Around the World. . .
Canadian Dioceses Appoint Laity to Parish Ministries
In December 2000, the Archdiocese of Ottawa appointed a group of pastoral coordinators, lay people and religious women to oversee administration of some parishes and, in cases when a priest is not available, perform marriages, baptisms, and funerals. The move was seen as unusual for an urban center like Ottawa. However, Archbishop Marcel Gervais noted that in some outlying areas of the diocese, especially francophone parishes, the need for church representation is strong and clergy are just not available. The archbishop sees the model of church this represents as one where administration and coordination are tasks lifted from the parish priest, allowing him to focus on priestly duties. He sees this as a return to the priests true vocation. "I don't think a change to the vision of celibate clergy is all t hat is required. What is at issue is what is priestly work. Is administration priestly work? If not, then what is the limit we could set for lay mission."
The diocese of Labrador City-Schefferville, northwest of Ottawa has a long history of laity taking on the traditional role of the clergy in the more isolated missions. They hold Sunday services, marry and bury fellow members of the community and bring Eucharist to the people. Bishop Doug Crosby says "This has been going back for 25 years. People have learned a new way of living as a community of faith. Our pastoral animators provide a stable presence in communities where priests may pass through every number of weeks. It's important to have them because the life of the parish continues even when the priests are not there and they provide continuity."
Bishop Crosby does not see this as negating the presence of clergy in the community. He says it should be a call to those who feel a vocation to the priesthood to step up to the plate."If anything it encourages us to promote vocation to the priesthood. It's part of our culture as Catholics."
Archbishop Gervais said he hopes these appointments are temporary and explained that they were made because of urgent need while he acknowledged the rejuvenating aspect of parishioners involvement in leadership - for both the community and the clergy. Bishop Crosby noted that even after 25 years " we are still in the early stages of this and there is need for learning and talking about the issue."
At the time the Ottawa appointments were featured in the local media, a spokesperson for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops explained that they were made with the authorization of the Conference as indicated by the Code of Canon Law.
New Catholic Times, 28,2 ( January 28, 2001) p.1.