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
Diocese Supports Graduate Education for Lay Ministry in Creative, Practical Ways
The diocese of Savannah seeks to assist prospective lay ministers acquire the necessary education. The present Director of Religious Education and Lay Ministry Formation for the diocese, Ann Pinckney, completed her graduate studies in religious education at Fordham University, sponsored by one of the parishes where she worked for ten years before assuming diocesan responsibilities. This year, another woman is a lay ministry student at Washington Theological Union, working on a degree in canon law and sponsored by the diocese. She has committed to serve in the diocese after graduation. Although Washington is some distance from Savannah, she keeps in touch with her "community" there by frequent e-mail messages and volunteers at the pastoral center when she is home.
Not all of those preparing for lay ministry in the diocese need to leave home for their graduate studies, however. In January 1997, the diocese began sponsoring the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension (LIMEX) Program which offers Masters degrees in Pastoral Studies and in Religious Studies. The first class includes 86 people at 7 sites, as Ms. Pinckney says "a very good number in a diocese of only 70,000 Catholics." When asked how she accounts for so many people beginning after a relatively short time for advertising the program, she points to "the very real hunger on the part of many to get a deeper understanding of their faith," a hunger not easily satisfied in a diocese without a Catholic college or university. The students range in age from 27 to 67. Several of them have volunteered within their parishes as catechists and in other roles.
The cost of such graduate programs is often an obstacle for prospective students, but again the diocese has been helpful. Several of the students are being "sponsored" by their parishes, an arrangement by which the parish gives financial support and the student agrees to a term of service after graduation. Even those parishes who might not be able to support such a student are helped by a pooling of funds from more affluent parishes which is providing scholarships for four students this year.
Candidates for the diaconate also enroll in these graduate programs and, according to Ms. Pinckney, the experience of being in classes together is very helpful for all of those who will be collaborating in the future.
Ministry Forum II Participants Advise Bishops on Project
The twenty-two representatives from lay ministerial professional associations who met with seven bishops and three advisors from the lay ministry subcommittee for a forum on Sept. 7 helped the subcommittee in many ways. When he welcomed them, Bishop Straling, chair of the subcommittee, commented about how helpful the first forum, held in March, 1996, had been for the development of the project, expressing similar hopes for this forum.
The first part of Forum II was spent reviewing project activities, particularly the theological colloquium and refining the definition of ecclesial lay minister which the subcommittee had proposed after the colloquium discussions. In small groups, the participants acknowledged the struggles inherent in defining, particularly the reluctance to exclude generous and competent persons, but encouraged the bishops to continue their efforts, particularly on the relationship of the ecclesial lay minister to the bishop. They also noted that clarity about roles and responsibilities is key to collaboration.
The notion of a stable commitment on the part of the ecclesial lay minister led to a discussion of the growing sense of vocation which so many ecclesial lay ministers had experienced. One participant spoke of that awareness as "not just a job, but a life-long-commitment that ‘fits like a coat.'" Another(a seaport chaplain) said that her sense of vocation had enabled her to overcome instinctive fears, like heights and water, and had been supported, sometimes at great cost, by her spouse and children. A third used the phrase "state of life" to describe her experience of her commitment to ministry.
Before the Forum adjourned, the representatives thanked the bishops for their openness and communications and urged that the work continue, whatever the funding situation. The bishops and subcommittee advisors expressed their gratitude for the valued insights which had been shared by the representatives.
Associations represented at the Forum were Assoc. of Graduate Programs in Ministry (AGPIM) ; Catholic Campus Ministry Assoc.(CCMA); Catholic Network of Volunteer Services(CNVS); Conference for Pastoral Planning and Council Development(CPPCD); Instituto de Liturgia Hispana; The National Associations For Lay Ministry (NALM), of Catholic Chaplains(NACC), of Catholic Family Life Ministers (NACFLM), of Church Personnel Administrators (NACPA), of Diocesan Directors of Campus Ministry, of Pastoral Musicians (NPM); Nat'l Assoc. of Diocesan Directors of Hispanic Ministry (NACDDHM); Nat'l Catholic Conference for Seafarers; Nat'l Catholic Education Assoc. (NCEA); Nat'l Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL); Nat'l Council for Catholic Evangelization; Nat'l Federation of Catholic Youth Ministers (NFCYM), St. Vincent Pallotti Center for Apostolic Development; and Spiritual Directors International.
From Our Tradition . . .
Growth of Lay Ministry Encourages Further Ministry
"Lay people are now assuming so many of the tasks which were once an exclusive domain of the clergy and religious. Laity now exercise liturgical ministries as lectors, cantors and Eucharistic ministers, and serve as parish life directors, pastoral associates, directors or coordinators of religious education, catechists, youth ministers, campus ministers, chaplains at jails and in hospitals and nursing homes, ministers for human services or peace and justice programs, chancellors and diocesan department heads. That list just mentions some of the ministries that are common now for laity but would have been considered unthinkable a generation ago. This proliferation of ministries on the part of the laity is in accord with the Scriptural understanding that all the baptized are to use our gifts and talents for building up of the body of Christ and for enabling the Church to fulfill its mission to the world.
"This expansion is unquestionably the work of the Holy Spirit unleashing the gifts and charisms of the faithful, thus ending a long period in history where the laity were viewed as passive or even second-class citizens in the Church.
"The experience of recent years also indicates that the rise of lay ministry only begets further ministry. By modeling lay ministry, by sharing their stories of being called to ministry and by inviting others to an awareness of the Spirit in their lives, lay ministers - both salaried and volunteer - have been a wonderful resource for recruiting, supporting and affirming other laity in the acceptance of new ministerial roles.
"For example, many of the laity who have completed ministry formation programs have enabled others to serve as parish retreat leaders or leaders of small faith-sharing and Scripture-study groups . . .as members of bereavement, hospitality, youth,young adult and social action committees...as participants on AIDS care teams or retreat teams for those in local jails and state prisons or for those with developmental disabilities... and as people willing to share with the wider community their professional expertise in such areas as counseling of the unemployed, assisting immigrants with legal problems and language skills, and offering medical and nursing care in parish or school-based health programs."
Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard, The Evangelist, June 5, 1997
From Around the World . . .
The Bolivian Bishops' Conference Institutes a Licentiate Program
In order to provide formation for lay ministers in the educational field, the Bolivian Bishops' Conference has established a licentiate program in pastoral education.
Two applicants are nominated by each diocesan bishop. One applicant must be from a rural area and one from an urban center. Applicants are lay and receive scholarships from the Conference's Department of Education. They must be involved in service to the Catholic community, must exhibit evangelization skills, and must evidence a strong faith and deep spirituality. All applicants must also have a bachelor's degree and be in the teaching profession. Currently 40 persons are participating in the first year of the program.
The classes are held in Santa Cruz which requires some participants to travel large distances. To accommodate this, the program consists of two workshops each year during school holidays. One lasts for 15 days and the other lasts for 30 days.
Topics include Christology, the role of the laity in the church, application of educational sciences and technology, and human relationships and leadership training. The program duration is 3 years. Upon completion, participants are awarded a license in pastoral education from the Bolivian Catholic University, are accredited by the Bishops' Conference Department of Education, and receive official recognition from the government's Secretary for Education.
In addition to teaching religion to students, the participants are also expected to teach what they have learned to other teachers in their communities. Thus, the program is expected to have a multiplier effect by spreading knowledge throughout the country. The program will be operated for five years, giving 120 individuals the opportunity to receive the license and become educators of the faith in their communities.
The program was initiated in response to a new national law which allows religious education in public schools. It is partly funded the NCCB Secretariat for Latin America.
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
Episcopal Dioceses Commit to "Total Ministry"
A growing number of U.S. and Canadian Episcopal dioceses are committed to the concept of total -or- mutual-ministry, involving all baptized members in the life and work of the church, according to Bishop Eric Bays, bishop of Qu'Appelle in Saskatchewan. The 14 member dioceses of Living Stones Partnership affirm that "all Christian ministry is rooted in the covenant of baptism," and encourage "new ways of engaging in ministry " through sharing and biblical and theological reflection.
"Baptized ministry is the future of the whole church," said Bishop James Krotz of the Diocese of Nebraska. "It is the work of the Holy Spirit seeking to renew the church.
"Everyone here is centered in the concept of mutual ministry. There is passion for this dream. We are sharing resources and strategies."
Rev. James Kelsey of Northern Michigan commented that recognition of the role of baptized ministry is "generally, part of diocesan missionary strategy."
Most of the member dioceses have procedures for the training and ordination of locally selected clergy. Some use of locally ordained clergy - who generally hold full-time secular jobs and donate their time to the church - is prompted by growing financial pressures. Bishops Krotz and Bays noted that use of such clergy is also part of diocesan strategy for ministry development, especially for providing sacraments in small and rural parishes.
Episcopal Life, June 1997. p.11