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
New Study Indicates Numbers of Lay Parish Ministers Increasing
Most reports and discussions about the numbers of lay ministers in parishes use the 20,000 total of lay and religious employed at least 20 hours a week from New Parish Ministers, published by the National Pastoral Life Center in 1992. A recent study, published by the National Association of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA) (513-421-3134), indicates that in 1996 there were over 25,000 full-time lay parish ministers.
William P. Daly, SPHR, Director of Consultation Services for NACPA worked with the publishers of the Official Catholic Directory (OCD) to compile some new statistics about parish lay ministerial personnel. His report is divided into Parish Leadership Staffing (pastors and parish administrators) and Parish Professional Ministry Staffing (full-time professional staff).
In the first category, the 1996 OCD data include 69 deacons and 262 lay persons who are parish administrators. Of the 262, 190 are women religious and 10 are religious brothers. According to the report, "The smallest dioceses have the most reliance on religious priests and on lay persons [in this study, a group which excludes non-ordained men and women religious]. The very large dioceses have the highest percentage of diocesan priests as pastors and utilize very few non-ordained persons to administer parishes. Religious sisters are utilized similarly in all but the very large dioceses."
The report also gathered statistics about other parish staff members in addition to pastors and administrators. Data from the 130 dioceses that reported were weighted to provide an estimate for all 175 dioceses. This methodology yielded an approximation of the total U.S. Catholic full-time professional parish ministry staff as 24940. Of these, approximately 60% are lay persons; almost 40% are women religious; and 2.3% are religious brothers. The report notes "Since the OCD questionnaire did not specifically provide a response option for permanent deacons, it is not clear whether deacons who work full time on parish staffs are included in these numbers."
Analysis by size of diocese "shows larger overall numbers of ministers in larger dioceses, but ... remarkably similar average full-time professional staff size in parishes regardless of diocesan size."
Dioceses & Universities Collaborate in Lay Ministry Preparation
During their March 16 meeting, members and advisors of the NCCB Lay Ministry Subcommittee discussed the preparation of ecclesial lay ministers with representatives of the Association of Graduate Programs in Ministry. Dr. Mary Garvin of Gonzaga University, president, and Dr. Thomas Walters of St. Meinrad's, past president of AGPIM, presented information about the students and programs represented by their association.
Founded in 1987, AGPIM includes 60 graduate schools of ministry, most of which draw on the theology faculties, but are distinct from theological schools in their goals and programs. The schools for ministry are now attracting an increasing number of younger, recent college graduates, without experience in ministry who want to learn more, to find something systematic as a ground for the religious questions they are experiencing. These students often have a desire for service and church ministry, looking for identity within a religious context. Recent developments include increasing numbers of ecumenical students, often looking for spiritual formation, and a growth in joint programs, e.g. theology and law/nursing/,etc. Some graduate students, already in parish ministry, enroll to meet their self-perceived needs for theological education.
Several graduate programs collaborate with dioceses to provide off-campus degree and non-degree programs. The most numerous, the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension (LIMEX) Program at Loyola University, New Orleans, operates at 46 locations within the U.S. Others are more local and geographically limited; for example, the diocese of Reno is working with the Franciscan School of Theology at GTU (Berkeley) to set up a lay program whose graduates will get recognition in their graduate programs. More extensive use of technology to deliver programs to remote sites is also being studied in more than one diocese.
The place and nature of spiritual formation within graduate programs continues to be a challenge for bishops, who sometimes find themselves asked to certify individuals they do not know, and for universities, who still have questions about the appropriateness of such activities within graduate programs. The practicuum within M.Div. Programs was cited as one more opportunity for collaboration between the university, traditionally isolated and now seeking more partnerships, and the local church.
Dr. Garvin and Dr. Walters also introduced the "common competencies," a list of 26 personal, theological and professional competency goals, developed by Margaret Cooper, SCN and Rev. Joseph Merkt, from the goals established for certification by several professional ministerial associations. Discussion and possible endorsement of these goals is another area for further collaboration between bishops, professional associations, and graduate programs.
From Our Tradition...
Bishops Urged to Foster Cooperation of Priests and Laity in Parish Life
"Changes are also occurring in a positive way in the attitude of Catholics. You [bishops] have taken stock of the spiritual journeys, conversions, and involvement within the Church which express a deep qualitative renewal of Christian faith and action. We see a true source of hope in the willingness of a considerable number of lay people to play a more active and diversified role in ecclesial life, and to take the necessary steps to train seriously for this.
In this context, your essential mission as Pastors spurs you to reorganize your communities. You have shown that developments are guided by large-scale consultations which do not only consider the practical conditions of the consolidation of parishes or the creation of new pastoral units. Priests and faithful must create the conditions so that the Good News can be proclaimed and the People of God guided and assembled by Christ's sacramental presence...
An essential question is obviously that of leaders. To guide and enliven pastoral units, the collaboration of priests and lay persons is increasingly necessary."
Excerpt from Pope John Paul II's Ad Limina Apostolorum to the Bishops' Conference of France on Jan. 25, 1997
From Around the World . . .
Laity's Role And Commitment to The Church in China Increases
In September 1994, 14 countries met in Korea for the first Asian Laity Meeting. This gathering was co-sponsored by the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference Office of Laity, and the National Lay Apostolate Council of Korea.
One of the countries participating, China, stated that "despite its present crises and divisions, the Church in China has been the recipient of many graces that have enabled it to overcome its limitations and make steady progress. One of the graces is an increase in the commitment of the laity to the church's mission in Chinese society."
As has been the case in other countries at different times in history, "in periods of persecution the laity emerges to play an essential role in the process of transmitting the faith to the next generation. This was, and still is, the case in China. It is no wonder, then, that the laity, who make up the vast majority of the People of God, recognize their importance and are quick to assert their own role in the church."
Grounded in the baptismal call of the laity, lay ministry has arisen from the grass-roots level in China. "During the absence of the priest (in some areas priests can come only once a month, and in others, once a year), the laity preached and administered the Sacrament of Baptism. It comes as no surprise that, in spite of difficulties of the last forty years, the Catholic population has increased."
Difficulties arise, however, and "life for Catholics [in China] can be very hard. Most of them have to work on Sundays; Mass attendance demands special sacrifices. In many instances mixed marriages become a heavy burden, especially if either husband or wife is a party member. The enforced one-child policy' calls for hard decisions -- so do the widespread phenomena of divorce and abortion." Many Catholics "have lived heroic lives, and...have preserved their faith in most difficult circumstances."
The countries gathered agreed that "there has been a deepened awareness of the vital role of the laity in the life and mission of the Church in the last 30 years. This means standing up as Asian citizens and Christians, and taking seriously our responsibility to work with other Asian peoples common theme emerged in the small group gatherings -- in creating a better place for all to live." In addition, one of the trends that emerged during the small group gatherings was the importance of increasing the awareness of the Church's Social Teachings "which ought to be a source of inspiration in living out our Christian life and mission."
Proceedings from the gathering were translated into English by the Word of Today Publishing Company and copies may be ordered from the Catholic Lay Apostolate Council of Korea, 1, 2-ga Myong-dong Chung-gu, Seoul, Korea.
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
Focus on Lay Leadership Suggested for Episcopal Church
Dr. R. William Franklin, Professor of History and World Mission and Professor of Modern Anglican Studies at General Theological Seminary, New York, recently addressed the National Network of Lay Professionals in the Episcopal Church, urging a "restoration of visible lay leadership" as a way to "restore harmony to a fractured national church" and to "complement the twenty-five years of debate on the character and qualities of ordained Church leadership."
Dr. Franklin reviewed lay ministry in the early Church, the Reformation, the foundation of the Episcopal Church in the eighteenth century, and at the creation of the 1997 Book of Common Prayer. He concluded with ten suggestions for "turning rhetoric into reality." Among them were having lay persons, as well as clergy, "very visibly and formally present the candidates for bishop, priest, and deacon" at ordination ceremonies; celebrating liturgically "the inauguration of new lay ministries"; giving to lay leaders "financial support to benefit from the theological education of our Seminaries"; honoring lay persons more widely "in the liturgical calendar and in the historic memory of the church, at diocesan and national conventions and in the compiling of parish histories."