Lay Ministry UpdatesVol. 1, No. 6
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:
Lay Ministry Project Coordinator
NCCB Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women, and Youth
3211 4th Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Theological Colloquium Begins with Consultation of Lay MinistersWork on the theological colloquium"Toward a Theology of Ecclesial Lay Ministry," scheduled for May 11-12 at the University of Dayton , has begun with the consultation of professional lay ministerial associations on the first background paper for the colloquium. The leaders of those associations have been asked to review and comment on Dr. Zeni Fox's paper describing the reality of ecclesial lay ministry. Once that paper is in its final form, it and a paper by James Heft, SM, Ph.D. on theological approaches to the reality will be sent to the writers of the other colloquium papers as context for their work.
The other papers will be on Baptism, History, Scripture, Governance, Magisterial Teaching, and Pastoral Responses. All of the papers will serve as background for the colloquium discussions which have as their goal "to make some progress toward the articulation of theological responses to the issues raised by the experience of ecclesial lay ministry." Whatever statements or papers result from the colloquium will be distributed for further consultation after the colloquium concludes.
The fifty participants in the colloquium include theologians and canonists; some of whom are bishops, some of whom are lay, and some of whom are religious. The steering committee for the colloquium includes Zeni Fox, Ph.D.,Immaculate Conception Seminary, chair; James L. Heft, SM, Ph.D., University of Dayton; Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Chicago; David Power, OMI, STD, Catholic University of America; Elissa Rinere, CP, JCD, Archdiocese of Los Angeles; and Bishop Emil Wcela of Rockville Centre. Facilitators for the colloquium will be Jean Marie Hiesberger and Loughlan Sofield, ST.
The Subcommittee on Lay Ministry is sponsoring the colloquium as one initiative to address the need to re-visit the theology of ecclesial lay ministry, a need which received highest priority in the survey of bishops, dioceses, professional associations and graduate programs, in the Bishops' focus groups, and in the forum of professional lay ministerial associations.
Subcommittee Initiates Discussion of Human Resources IssuesAt their November meeting the bishops and advisors of the Subcommittee on Lay Ministry began to address the human resources issues which were identified as priority concerns during the initial activities of the ecclesial lay ministry project. Assisting them in their work were two representatives from NACPA (National Association of Church Personnel Administrators), William Daly, Director of Consultation Services and Mary Kessler, Coordinator of Member Services.
According to their research, there are approximately 25,000 laypersons, brothers, and sisters in full-time professional (paid) ministry in parishes and over 8,000 laypersons in full-time diocesan positions (excluding Catholic Charities, cemeteries, and hospitals, etc.) Approximately 70% of all diocesan central office positions are held by laity.
NACPA's survey of lay ministers' appraisal of their work environments found that laity ranked continuing education, training for leadership, supervisory skills and team building and spiritual growth as very important and often overlooked. About half of those surveyed struggled with their inability to meet personal and family needs at their current compensation levels. Regarding long term job security, only 42% of women religious and 22% of laity reported feeling very secure. There was a high level of satisfaction for involvement in ministry and job responsibilities, while not as much recognition of the work performed.
Bill and Mary reviewed with the subcommittee 10 important elements of the human resources function: Personnel Policies, Recruitment Methods and Practices, Valuing Cultural Diversity, Compensation (Pay Scales and Benefits Programs), Communication (Orientation, Dispute Resolution), Performance Appraisal, Professional Development, Fair Discipline and Termination Procedures, Employee Assistance, and Participatory Work Environment.
Currently, most human resources offices serve the diocese; a small number also serve parishes on an other than "crisis" basis. The importance of having someone on a diocesan staff who can assist parishes , especially with issues of placement, compensation, termination, grievance procedures etc., was stressed. Acknowledging the wide variety among dioceses, the subcommittee learned that while these functions must be addressed no matter how small the staff, the general ratio of overall organizational staff to human resources staff is 100 to 1.
From Our Tradition...Diverse Ministries Are Gifts to the Church
The point I wish to emphasize is this: diverse ministers and diverse ministries are gifts given to the Church by God to respond to different needs and different situations. Some needs are constant in the life of the Church - teaching the Word of God, for example. Others arise in response to specific historical circumstances - for instance, contemporary ministry to the separated and divorced.
I underscore the reasons for diverse ministries to avoid "ranking" service in the Church. For, when we "rank" ministries, we separate ourselves from one another and cause disharmony and discord within the Body of Christ. Tensions can and have arisen because "different" can easily be understood as "better." Differences may imply, in the popular mind, ranking or a superiority of certain forms of ministry over others. Paul's image of the one body with different members cautions us against setting diverse ministries in contrast or competition with one another....
Ministers can be differentiated by different forms of ecclesial recognition and designation. Deacons, priests and bishops are designated as ministers of the Church in virtue of their ordination. Others are designated for ministry by receiving a canonical mission. The Church in some official way "sends" a person to carry out a particular task - for example, teaching in a specific faculty of theology. The Church designates others by instituting them for a particular ministry. At this time in the universal Church, there are two such ministries, that of lector or reader and that of acolyte or minister of the altar.
Others exercise a particular ministry because they have ecclesiastical approval for their service - for example the official assignment of religious and lay people to offices of the archdiocese or their assignment as associates in parishes. The Church, in effect, supports the service they render and attests to the fact that it is an approved way of witnessing to the reality of the presence of God and building up the Body of Christ. Finally, some are ministers in virtue of the supervision exercised by the Church over their particular service. This may occur, for example, when a parish commissions certain people as catechists.
Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, The Ministry of Service: An Introduction to Ministry, 1985. pp. 32-33
From Around the World . . .English and Welsh Bishops Address Collaborative Ministry
In September 1995, the English and Welsh bishops' conference working party on Collaborative Ministry released its report titled, The Sign We Give. This 62 page report "addresses the urgent need that we have to establish patterns of working and collaborating in the church -- patterns which respect and cherish the essential dignity and consequent responsibility for the life and mission of the church which belongs to every baptized."
The Conference's Working Party consists of a bishop, 4 priests, 1 religious sister and 6 lay people resulting in a total of 6 men and 6 women. The purpose of the report is not so much to make recommendations, but rather to assist readers "to think more deeply and imaginatively about the theology and practice of collaborative ministry." The document states that the working party "does not presume that collaborative ministry alone is the way forward; but it stands firmly by the conviction that it is an inescapable element in whatever ways forward we find." All priests and pastoral councils are asked to read the report.
The report may be ordered from Matthew James Publishing Ltd., 19 Wellington Close, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 2EE; phone: 01245-347710; fax: 01245-347713. Also, the September 25, 1995 issue of Briefing: The Official Documentation Service of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales and of Scotland (Vol 25, Issue 9, pp. 3-5) gives a summary of the report. A later issue of Briefing (Vol 25, Issue 11, pp. 27-29), dated November 16, 1995, gives Bishop Crispian Hollis' opening address to the Joint Council of Priests and Laity of the Portsmouth diocese in which he focuses on collaborative ministry and the implications of The Sign We Give.
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .Presbyterians Call Small Churches to Focus on Mission and Ministry
When leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) small churches came together for an August 1996 conference, they concluded that "It's not growth that small churches need as much as it is committed lay leaders and a staunch refusal to fear change."
"The whole concept of laity being called - that's a new phenomenon in terms of being acknowledged ... though we've always [stressed] the priesthood of all believers" said Diana A. Stephen, associate for church development strategy in the denomination's evangelism and church development program area.
A pastor from Minneapolis reported that he's seeing more and more lay people come forward these days to respond to - or search out - a call. "Pastors need to be making room so lay people can lead," he said, recalling how he had watched a recovering alcoholic first conceptualize then create a still growing Saturday night worship service for those in recovery in an inner city.
According to Rev. Robert Sackmann, the executive in Ohio Valley Presbytery, it is the solid core of visionary lay people who provide the continuity in what "church" means; since pastors come and go, the importance of lay ministries cannot be overlooked. "Growth may be the outcome of a [ministry]," said Sackmann, "but it should never be the goal.... Growth may happen...when a church suddenly discovers it has a unique mission".
News Briefs, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), No. 9638, Sept. 20, 1996
Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women & Youth
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000