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
Ecclesial Lay Ministry among Issues Addressed at Synod for America
Several bishops at the Synod for America have included ecclesial lay ministry among their remarks during the first two weeks of synod deliberations. (Complete texts of their remarks are not available; what follows is taken from published summaries of the interventions.)
Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati focused his intervention on ecclesial lay ministry commenting on the numbers of them in the United States and observing that "the Church would be unspeakably poorer without the service of these persons." He also said that "we need to be clear about the nature of ecclesial lay ministry ... without appropriate clarity we run the risk of seeming to say that ordained ministry and non-ordained ministry are the same thing and that lay persons are important to the Church only to the extent that they serve the Church's internal life." Archbishop Pilarczyk stated that "Lay ministers in the Church require authorization or delegation by official Church authority in order to be authentic ministers of the Church." He further commented that "simply being in the employ of the Church does not constitute one as a lay minister unless there is some deliberate self-dedication to the service of the people of God."
Bishop Julio Bonino Bonino of Tacuarembo, Uraguay, spoke of ecclesial lay ministries as a "gift of the Spirit in the life of the communities, offered in the service of the Church and the world." He also said that "The lay ministries are characterized by their 'essence' and not by rank according to the ordained ministry, and can develop within the broad fields of the three functions of Christ, priestly, prophetic and royal, serving the community so that the latter can fulfill its mission in the world."
Bishop Jacques Berthelet, CSV, Bishop of Saint Jean-Longueuil, Canada, spoke about the parish as the place where "the encounter with Jesus Christ takes place." He continued "It is a grace for the Church that several lay faithful, men and women, who have had a good theological and pastoral formation, can participate in the pastoral work. These people accomplish a real ministry. Their contribution towards evangelizing young people, families, living environments, has become indispensable." He also quoted Pope Paul VI "who joyfully and openly greeted their contribution by saying, 'The Church recognizes the place of the non ordained ministries, ... which can ensure a special service to the Church.'"
Bishops' Workshop on Ecclesial Lay Ministry Achieves Goals
The workshop for bishops sponsored by the Lay Ministry Subcommittee on November 9 had four goals: to continue the consultations begun with the surveys and focus groups in 1996; to review the progress of the Leadership for Ecclesial Lay Ministry Project; to engage the bishops in dialogue around a working statement on the theology of ecclesial y lay ministry; and to provide some pastoral and practical helps. Responses from the approximately seventy participating bishops indicated that the goals had been reached.
Describing the current situation were two advisors to the subcommittee. Monsignor Philip Murnion, Director of the National Pastoral Life Center, presented preliminary finding from New Parish Ministers II, a study to be completed by the Spring of 1998, which shows that the trends described in the first study continue and that these ministers look to the diocese for certification, training, continuing education and staff development. Dr. Zeni Fox, Director of Lay Ministry at Immaculate Conception Seminary, cited her own research and experience and noted that "a sense of vocation, of being called to work in the Church, is one of the central issues."
Addressing the subcommittee's working paper on the theology of ecclesial lay ministry were Dr. Monika Hellwig, Executive Director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, and Archbishop Pilarczyk of Cincinnati. Dr. Hellwig spoke of the necessity of distinguishing between theological issues and practical issues, and the further necessity of distinguishing among recognition on behalf of the Church, certification, commissioning, and employment. She asked "Are there tasks that the laity should not undertake at all unless called by the hierarchy or are there tasks to which the laity are called which need hierarchic supervision and recognition?" Dr. Hellwig expressed the hope that the Church would be able to live with the underlying tension and still solve the practical questions. Archbishop Pilarczyk emphasized the necessity of authorization by the Church, noting that the prime analogue for Church ministry is the bishop's pastoral ministry. He also commented that while the ministry of the ordained is distinct from the ministry of the non-ordained, one is not better than the other.
Offering "practical helps" to the bishops were Ms Barbara Shine, Director of the office of Pastoral Ministries, Boston, who described the archdiocesan process for certification of pastoral associates, and Sister Iris Ann Ledden, SSND, Director of Lay Ministry Formation, Lexington,who described their diocese's Lay Ministry Formation Program.
In their feedback sheets, the bishops expressed gratitude for the workshop and the clarifications that are being developed, a caution about "Church from below," a need for integration of the recent interdicasterial document, and a strong desire for continued theological discussion.
From Our Tradition . . .
Abundance of Good Fruits from Collaboration of Non-Ordained with Ordained
It must be noted with great satisfaction that in many particular churches the collaboration of the nonordained faithful in the pastoral ministry of the clergy has developed in a very positive fashion. It has borne an abundance of good fruits while at the same time being mindful of the boundaries established by the nature of the sacraments and of the diversity of ecclesiastical functions. It has also brought about bounteous and tangible results in situations of a shortage or scarcity of sacred ministers.
In situations of emergency and chronic necessity in certain communities, some of the faithful, despite lacking the character of orders, have acted appropriately and within their proper limits in dealing with these realities. The necessary aspect of hierarchical relationship has been maintained while constantly seeking to remedy the situation of emergency. Such faithful are called and deputed to assume specific duties which are as important as they are sensitive. Sustained by the grace of the Lord and by t heir sacred ministers journeying alongside them, they are well received by the communities they serve.
Sacred pastors are extremely grateful for the generosity with which numerous religious and lay faithful present themselves for this specific service, carried out with a loyal sensus ecclesiae and an edifying dedication. Particular thanks and encouragement should be extended to those who carry out these tasks in situations of persecution of the Christian community. This is also true for mission territories, whether these be geographical or cultural, and for places where the church is newly planted or where the presence of the priest is only sporadic.
Some Questions Regarding Collaboration of Nonordained Faithful in Priests' Sacred Ministry, Interdicasterial Instruction
From Around the World . . .
Cuban Dioceses Sponsor Extensive Lay Ministry Program
The Instituto de Pastoral Archiodesano runs a comprehensive five year lay ministry program in the Archdiocese of Santiago and the Diocese of Bayamo Manzanillo in Cuba. The program started in 1990 with 35 participants. As of Sept. 1997, 752 are registered, most of whom are professionals.
Participants are sent by their pastors and must have been in a faith community for 4+ years. Some are already lay ministers when they begin the formation program.
The program is divided into two parts, a one year basic program and a four year advanced program. The basic program gives participants a global vision of faith and includes 3 subjects. Introduction to the Old Testament encompasses understanding the commandments within the perspective of our relationship with a liberating God, and our responsibility to respond to God's call. The second course, Basic Christology, focuses on getting to know Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. The third course, Ecclesiology,discusses the sacraments and also uses the Pauline letters and Acts to discover the history of the the church.
After the first year, students have the option of entering the Advanced Program or attending special workshops which are tailored to 8 specific ministries: Catechists, Eucharistic ministers, Ministers of the Word, Funeral/Grief ministry, Charity ministry (visiting sick and elderly), Ministers of free time (youth), and Missionary work (evangelization).
Students entering the four year Advanced program are trained to become lay leaders in the church. Year 2 is divided between Theology and Anthropology, covering a much more in-depth view of the topics from Year 1. Year 3 has three components: Liturgy, Church History (including the specific history in Cuba), and Moral Theology. Year 4 focuses on Christian Anthropology and what it means to be a human person. This includes the psychology of individuals and of social groups -- usually very popular topics.
During the first part of Year 5, students take a common core on Religious Experience, which includes the study of other major religions. The remainder of the time, they study in a leadership speciality track.
Six leadership tracks are offered: 1) Director of Religious Education, 2) Director of Youth Ministry, 3) Lay Leaders outside the Church, 4) Marriage Ministry, 5) Communications Ministry, and 6) the Diaconate. In addition to covering theological topics, the program is designed to help students think critically and creatively. For example, a graduate of the Lay Leadership track founded a civic group using the Christian principles learned in the program.
The biggest challenges to running the program are costs and drop-out rate. It costs $50 to train each person in the Advanced Program. Participants (or their parishes) are asked to pay $1.50 per year. The rest is sought in outside funding. Completion rate for the first group of students was 62%; whereas, in the second group, 37% completed the five years. The decrease was partially expected since the first group included many life-long Catholics, while subsequent groups include many new Catholics. Part of the difficulty is in work schedules which often conflict with classes, even though classes are purposely held on weekends. To help with scheduling, the Institute has adopted a traveling mode where it offers classes at multiple sites. For more information, contact the NCCB at 202-541-3229.
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
Episcopal Church Convention Calls for Continuing Education Standards
The 1997 General Convention of the Episcopal Church called for each diocese to establish "minimum standards for continuing education [for all clergy and lay professionals], including what constitutes an acceptable program and the number of days ot hours required per year." Each diocese is also urged to provide "the ways and/or means" for such education and to develop "standards and methods of accountability."
In a related action, the Convention urged all dioceses to discontinue the practice of pro forma resignations upon the change of bishops or clergy.
callings, A national news-link for lay professionals in the Episcopal Church, No.35, Fall, 1997