Newsletter for U.S. Bishops Sponsored
by the USCCB 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
Conversation on “Entry Issues” Provides Background for Subcommittee
On November 8, twelve resource persons gathered with Bishops Kicanas, Kinney, and Melczek and Subcommittee advisors and staff to discuss issues of recruitment, screening, and discernment for lay ecclesial ministry. The consultants came from large and small, urban and rural dioceses and included an inner-city pastor as well as the directors of ministry formation programs at a seminary and a university. Each came to the consultation with notes prepared in response to some framework questions which they had received in preparation for the consultation.
Among the personal qualities they would seek in a candidate for lay ecclesial ministry, emotional stability, relationship skills, and openness to direction and change were pre-eminent. Among the ecclesial qualities would be a love of the church, connection with a parish, experience as a church volunteer, and acceptance of working within a hierarchical paradigm.
The consultants saw invitation as essential to recruiting in all communities and noted that invitation should be followed by a “calling” ritual, common formation, financial assistance, mentoring, placement assistance, support system. They also noted that formation programs should be welcoming communities for people of all cultures and ethnicities. Discernment must be personal, communal (familial and ecclesial) and institutional, using a variety of processes and methods.
The consultants raised several questions for the Subcommittee ; e.g. What are the roles/jobs for which we are recruiting people, and who is accountable to whom, how and why. They also offered several suggestions to the Subcommittee as it continues its work on the preparation of the proposed “foundational document” on lay ecclesial ministry; e.g. be specific about formation, but allow for flexibility in the implementation of formation processes in individual dioceses and encourage pastors to be proactive in inviting people to consider lay ecclesial ministry.
Region II Consultation Provides Insights and Challenges for Participants and Subcommittee
On October 28-29, forty-four participants, including thirteen bishops as well as pastors, lay ecclesial ministers and representatives from eight graduate schools or programs of formation in the state of New York convened to discuss the theological and practical implications of lay ecclesial ministry within the region. Following a format developed by Monsignor Murnion for the two previous consultations (Region X in 2001 and Region VII in 2002) Bishop Gerald Kicanas, the chair of the Subcommittee, facilitated the gathering. The participants met as an entire group and also in small groups, randomly, by issue, and by role. At the end of the first day, the group identified eight issues which they felt merited significant conversation:
The role of the bishop in relationship to the lay ecclesial minister who shares substantially in the pastoring of people.
Workplace/human resource issues (compensation, portability, family commitments, ongoing formation, retreats)
Terminology (is the current use of lay ecclesial ministry /minister helpful or not? How could it be clarified?)
Diversity in economics/ethnic origins (What can a diocese/region do to ensure that the poor, underrepresented, and rural communities are served adequately by qualified lay ecclesial ministers/)
Collaboration (How can seminarians, diaconate candidates, and lay ecclesial ministers be prepared to work more collaboratively?)
The role of the diocese in the formation of lay ecclesial ministers
Relationship between deacons and lay ecclesial ministers – in formation and in ministry
The challenge of diocesan/regional/national strategic planning, particularly in regard to personnel needs.
In a column in the Albany Evangelist, (www.evangelist.org) written after the consultation, Bishop Howard Hubbard mentioned the need for greater clarity in nomenclature, a concern that lay ecclesial ministry not be defined in a way that fosters an elitism or that seems to diminish laity who are not lay ecclesial ministers, and the challenge of providing “a certain order and coordination” without prematurely describing with definitiveness a still developing reality.
Bishop Hubbard concluded, “I found the whole consultation most hope-filled and helpful. I firmly believe that the growth of lay ecclesial ministry is the work of the Spirit, and that those who exercise this ministry will continue to enhance and enrich the life of our Church.”
From Our Tradition . . .
Formation of Laity Must Be a Priority - for Prophetic Role in Society and in Parish and Diocesan Structures
If the Church is to assume her proper place in Ugandan society, suitable formation of the laity must be a priority in your mission as preachers and teachers. This spiritual and doctrinal formation should aim at helping lay men and women to carry out their prophetic role in a society that does not always recognize or accept the truth and values of the Gospel. The laity are also to be effectively involved in the life of the parish and diocese, in pastoral and administrative structures (cf Eclesia in Africa n. 90). Your priests in particular should be prepared to welcome this more active role of the laity and to assist them in carrying it out.
Pope John Paul II, Ad Limina Address to Bishops’ Conference of Uganda, L’Osservatore Romano, 1 October 2003, p.3
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
Presbyterian Church USA Invites Young People to Consider Ministry
Pastoral Leadership Search Effort (PLSE) kits were recently mailed to the 11,000 congregations in the Presbyterian Church USA. The kits include a video to help churches understand the crisis their churches face in ministerial leadership and materials that assist congregations in identifying young men and women to consider ministry as a viable vocation. High school and college age students with the potential gifts for being pastors can be enrolled in the program. The kits suggest that the qualities which congregations should look for in young people are a love of God and a desire to continue growing in their personal faith, the ability to think critically and creatively, leadership skills and a willingness to serve others.
From Around the World. . .
New Staffing Brings New Life to British Parish
St. Wilfrid’s parish in the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle has new life because of “a passionately committed young couple in a solid, loving marriage; a bishop who sees empowered lay people as an opportunity for new life in the parishes; a priest who does not feel eclipsed by resident pastoral assistants, but works with them; and parishioners who are open to new life in unexpected ways.” Appointed two years ago by Bishop Ambrose Griffiths, the young couple live in the rectory with their year-old son and acknowledge that the beginnings were difficult. But in the two years attitudes have changed and parishioners welcome their leadership as does the priest who serves the parish. They note the importance of mutual trust and a commitment to ensuring that no individual shapes the parish. As resident pastoral assistants they believe that “the lay people and parish council become very important when a priest is absent because they have to take a more active role. A parish can really begin to grow as a result.”
The Tablet, 11 October, 2003
New Resources …
Lay Ministers and Their Spiritual Practices. Edited by James D. Davidson, Thomas P. Walters, Bede Cisco, OSB, Katherine Meyer, and Charles E. Zech. The result of three years of research by two Catholic sociologists, an economist, a religious educator, and a ministry formation director. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, 2003.
National Certification Standards for Lay Ecclesial Ministers. Identifies five core standards, the common specialized competencies and codes of ethics for lay ecclesial ministers. Developed by NALM, NCCL, and NFCYM and approved by the USCCB Commission on Certification and Accrediataion.
In English and Spanish. Available from NALM , www.nalm.org
Ordering the Baptismal Priesthood: Theologies of Lay and Ordained Ministry, Susan K. Wood, editor. Papers from the Collegeville Ministry Seminar by Michael Downey, Zeni Fox, Richard Gaillardetz, Aurelie Hagstrom, Kenan Osborne, David Power, Thomas Rausch, Elissa Rinere, R. Kevin Seasoltz and Susan Wood. Liturgical Press, 2003.
to all our readers.