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
Formation Directors Probe Report on Spiritual Formation
A follow-up consultation on the study of the Spiritual Formation of lay ecclesial ministers which CARA conducted for the Subcommittee was held in Chicago in October. Thirteen formation directors of both graduate and diocesan programs met with CARA and subcommittee staff to probe the report, particularly the role of theological reflection, as well as assessment and the relationship between program completion and the "qualification" of the lay ecclesial minister.
Participants agreed that theological reflection, which is the most commonly required element in lay ministry formation programs, has many meanings and "local habitations." The core meaning is an intentional process for making connections between experience within particular cultures in dialogue with Christian tradition for the sake of transformative pastoral responses. It is different from faith sharing in that it is more systemic and disciplined and intentionally leads to change. For some programs, it is an integrative methodology that knits together all the program elements; for others, it is part of a specific component of the program, most often field experiences.
Students report it as their most formative experience and often ask for its continuity between sessions or initiate it beyond "required" segments. Because the method emphasizes experience, there needs to be concern for balance with church teaching and tradition in general.
Participants also agreed that assessment is both formative and summative and that the latter is less common in lay ministry formation programs than in seminary or novitiate programs. The meaning of endorsement by an institution is not always clear. One diocese represented in the group is currently struggling to find the appropriate way to recognize the vocation of the lay ecclesial minister as distinct from the appointment to a specific role.
Region X Consultation on Lay Ecclesial Ministry Highlights Needs and Responses
The 65 church leaders, including 13 bishops, who gathered in San Antonio in October to dialogue about lay ecclesial ministry in the region surfaced many needs: appropriate education, training and formation; funding for formation and compensation, job security for lay ministers; acceptance; recruitment, particularly of young and bilingual lay ministers. In small groups according to size of diocese, the participants also developed suggestions for meeting these needs which included sharing of resources, collaboration among dioceses and graduate schools, working through the Texas Catholic Conference. In small groups according to church roles (diocesan staff, parish staff, educators, and bishops), the participants responded to those suggestions with more refined plans for the future. The entire dialogue was facilitated by Monsignor Philip Murnion, of the National Pastoral Life Center and an Advisor to the Lay Ministry Subcommittee. Monsignor Murnion also led the group through a brief discussion of planing assumptions or policies which affect lay ecclesial ministry. He also facilitated a discussion with representatives of some of the graduate schools in the region about the programs offered and the needs of the dioceses.
Summaries of all the discussion have been distributed to the participants and Bishop Joseph Delaney of Fort Worth and chair of the Lay Ministry Subcommittee plans to establish a continuing forum of representatives from each diocese to continue the discussion of lay ecclesial ministry and all forms of lay ministry within the diocese.
Evaluations of the two-day experience were quite positive. Several commented on the wealth of ideas and experiences that were shared. A number wrote that what was most helpful was the high level of energy and interest in lay ecclesial ministry. In the words of one participant the "most helpful" part of the consultation was "hearing the bishops talk about lay ecclesial ministry as a relatively permanent gift in the Church rather than a temporary strategy to be used until the vocation shortage can be solved. This gave legitimacy to the discussion of real issues at the local level, as well as giving a boost to the lay ecclesial ministers that were able to attend."
The evaluations also included several suggestions for improving the process, which will be incorporated into the planning for the next regional dialogue, scheduled for Region VII at Mundelein on October 7-8, 2002.
From Our Tradition . . .
Lay People Give Life to Christian Communities
Today more than ever, lay people are again playing their proper part in giving life to Christian communities, liturgical life, theological formation and charitable works. We wish to thank and strongly encourage all catechists as well as those women and men who, through their different talents, and together with priests, deacons, and religious men and women, have dedicated so much love and energy for these essential tasks. In a special way we must give thanks for the living witness of all those who, join their sickness and suffering with that of Jesus and Mary at the foot of the cross for the salvation of the world.
The bishops, for their part, wish to promote the first task of lay people, which is to bear witness to the Gospel in the world. Through their commitment to family, social, cultural, and political life and through their presence at the heart of what Pope John Paul has called "the modern Areopagus," particularly through their work in the media or in encouraging respect for God's creation (Redemptoris Missio, 37), may they continue to bridge the gap between faith and culture. May they gather together in organized apostolates in the important struggle for justice and solidarity and so continue to bring hope and meaning to the world.
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
Episcopal Church Education for Ministry Program in 26th Year
Education for Ministry, a program of the Episcopal Church and the University of the South designed to help Christian lay people continue the ministry of Jesus, began in 1975. It has been through two major revisions and continues today, currently enrolling close to 8000 persons in almost every diocese of the Episcopal Church as well as abroad in a number of English-speaking countries.
All students are in a group seminar under the guidance of a mentor and receive EFM Common Lessons and Supporting Materials (background materials about theology and methods of theological reflection, materials for worship, lessons to organize the life of the group, and a bibliography). The readings in the textbooks are divided into four years with year one about the Hebrew Scriptures, year two about the Christian Testament, and years three and four about the history of the Church and its growth as an institution throughout the world. This section incorporates history, theology, liturgics, spirituality, ethics, and ecclesiology.
The basic expectation of each student is that s/he will attend the seminar sessions, read the materials, and participate in the discussions, reflections, and worship of the seminar group. The mentor serves as an administrator of the group, but also participates as a member of the group.
Seminars usually meet once a week over a period of 36 weeks from 2.5 to 3 hours during the academic cycle. The weekly seminars usually include time for community building, discussion of assigned readings, and opportunity for theological reflection. Students can begin the program in one location and continue their work in another one. While EFM is not an academic program leading to a degree or to ordination, students can earn Continuing Education Units through the University of the South and its School of Theology.
Further information: www.sewanee.edu/EFM/EFMhome/html
From Around the World. . .
Catholic Church in Africa Affected by Emerging Roles for Women
A recent article by the principal of Tangaza College in Nairobi comments on how new social trends in Africa against traditional chauvinism and prejudice are affecting the church as well as the market place and the home. "Women religious and lay people of both sexes are playing an increasingly active ministerial role in Africa's sprawling rural parishes and densely populated urban ones." They work in catechetics and networking basic communities as well as social (health, education, etc.)and spiritual ministries (retreat direction, counselling).
Forms of collaborative ministry are emerging that challenge the traditional subordination and assumed inferiority of African women. "The collaborative process in the Church is neither highly structured nor planned, but it is happening, and it corresponds to trends one can see in modern African society - men and women working together, and female self-affirmation. The new social trends are a feature of the younger generation, not of their parents, but since half the population of every African country is under the age of 25, such trends have a future. Young people and their ideas are an important element of every community and every church congregation and churches ignore them at their peril....The young are also at home with the experience of collaborative ministry which suits their notions of equal opportunity for both sexes.
Aylward Shorter, "Africa's Women Arise," The Tablet, 20 October, 2001, p. 1490.