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
Forum II for Lay Professional Associations Planned for September
Representatives from 29 national lay professional ministerial associations have been invited by the bishops of the subcommittee to meet with them on September 7 in Washington, DC. Continuing a dialogic process begun at the first such forum in March, 1996, this will provide another opportunity for consultation with lay ministers about project initiatives.
In his letter of invitation, Bishop Straling, chair of the subcommittee, wrote, "The dialogue begun at the [first] forum and the suggestions of those participating have helped shape the project in significant ways. That dialogue has continued in a number of informal and ad hoc ways; we would like to continue it in a more structured way as well.
A major part of the agenda for the meeting will focus on the questions, statements, and recommendations from the colloquium "Toward a Theology of Ecclesial Lay Ministry."
At the colloquium as the group struggled with the distinction between a definition and a description of ecclesial lay ministers, one participant said, "A description sounds like a definition without teeth." "Oh, no," responded another, "A description is a definition with wings!"
CARA Directory Records Growth in Number of Formation Programs
The newly published CARA Catholic Ministry Formation Directory (available at 202-687-8080) contains information about seminary, diaconate, and lay ministry formation programs. Unlike the 1995 Directory of Lay Ministry Formation Programs, this edition does not include programs that are simply adult education or personal enrichment, less than two years duration. Nonetheless, the directory indicates that between 1995 and 1997 there has been an increase of 16 programs and 10 dioceses with programs. Of the programs, 131 are sponsored by a Catholic university, college or seminary and 150 by a diocese or independent Catholic organization. The percentage of Hispanic/Latino students has increased from 12% to 24%. Women continue to be the majority (65%) of the students.
Theological Colloquium Fruitful for All Participants and for Project
When the 46 participants (bishops, theologians, canonists, priests, religious, lay men and women) arrived at the University of Dayton for the colloquium "Toward a Theology of Ecclesial Lay Ministry," they had three goals: 1. to advance an articulation of the theological issues raised by the experience of ecclesial lay ministry, 2. to recommend next steps for the subcommittee to foster the development of ecclesial lay ministry, and 3. to model how bishops, academic theologians, and pastoral theologians can work together in fostering the mission of Jesus Christ. They arrived having already engaged with the content of nine papers written for the colloquium (cf. Update, vol.1, no.6) That engagement was evidenced by the 81 questions which had been formulated by the participants after reading the papers and which the steering committee had arranged into six categories.
The categories included 1. An appropriate and adequate definition of ecclesial lay ministry, 2. Relationship of the baptized and the ordained in light of the needs and mission of the Church, 3. Theologizing from the present experience, focusing on the signs of the times, 4. Appropriateness of forms of ecclesial sponsorship and recognition, 5. Evolution of magisterial teaching on the laity in and since Vatican II, 6. Ecclesial lay ministry within the context of the church as communion, hierarchy, and Spirit-led.
Small groups, each including a mix of bishops, theologians, steering committee, and staff, formed around each category. The dialog in the small groups was informed, lively, and, in the words of one participant, "candid but respectful" of differing perspectives. The large group sessions were similar; participants had taken seriously the steering committee's call to approach the issues with a spirit of discernment , believing that all were there as equals with a common concern.
When the participants left Dayton after two short but very full days, they had accomplished their goals. They had reached a high degree of consensus on "theological statements," and had given recommendations for further initiatives which the subcommittee will develop into a general statement. They had also had an experience that received consistently positive evaluations. One participant noted "the genuine spirit of collaboration, especially maintaining respect despite divergences of views." Another wrote," It was truly a historic moment I have looked for in the last 20 years I have been involved in ministry."
As one of the follow-up activities from the colloquium, the subcommittee has planned A Workshop for Bishops on Sunday morning, November 8, for continued dialogue about the theological understanding of ecclesial lay ministry as well as about the pastoral and practical implications within dioceses. Registration materials will be available soon.
From Our Tradition . . .
Laity Encouraged to Explore, Develop and Share Their Gifts
"As communities of unity and love, our parishes must encourage the laity to explore, develop and share their gifts and talents for the good of the whole church. The synod [of the Diocese of Brooklyn] expressed the strong desire that our church foster, develop and train lay men and women for active ministry on the local and diocesan level. This work is important because committed laity, by virtue of their baptism, must be given the opportunity to serve the community in the pastoral and liturgical ministries which nourish our life together. Those who wish to serve the church in these capacities must be well trained in order to serve competently and effectively. Furthermore, these lay ministries exercise leadership in the community, drawing people to greater faith and a deeper involvement in the church. Those who exercise such leadership must remain faithful to all aspects of the church's teaching and be given the necessary skills with which they can fulfill their work. I encourage efforts to identify and train members of the laity to assume the various forms of ministry that are available to them in the church.
Most Reverend Thomas V. Daily, Renewed Sense of Identity and Mission: Response to Synod of Diocese of Brooklyn.
Origins, Vol. 27,No. 4; p.60.
From Around the World . . .
East African Laity Plan for Council of the Laity
Lay representatives from five of the countries of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in East Africa (AMECEA) met in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 1996 to reflect on the laity's role in implementing the recommendations of the Synod of Africa. In their closing statement, the laity from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia noted that their discussions had included "whether to speak of lay apostolate councils or councils of the laity." While "lay apostolate connotates more the dynamic, evangelizing mission of the laity," the representatives chose laity because "the involvement of the laity in the Church in today's society happens more and more through the small Christian communities and there are many committed Christians working for a transformation of society through political activities, human rights organizations and NGO's. The term laity comprises them all."
As the group analyzed the existing structure of dialogue and planning, they concluded that they are "strong on the parish level ... weak at the diocesan level ... [and] absent at the national level." They stated their opinion that "in the logic of the African Synod's insistence on dialogue, a national pastoral council in which bishops, priests, religious and laity can deliberate important pastoral issues and recommend solutions to their episcopal conferences, would have a positive impact on the life of God's family."
The representatives also commented on the tensions experienced between the small Christian communities endorsed by the AMECEA bishops as the basic structure of church life and lay apostolate movements which sometimes tend to "develop a kind of personality cult" and "to operate outside or parallel to the established church structures and be exclusively linked to their international offices/benefactors."
The representatives elected an interim executive committee for the Council of the Laity of East Africa and scheduled its first meetingfor August 1997 with three delegates from each of the eight countries in AMECEA. There are over 27 million Catholics in those countries, close to 16% of the total population, and over 48,000 catechists.
Catholic International: The Documentary Window on the World, Vol. 8, No.1 (January 1997)
From Our Jewish & Christian Neighbors. . .
US Presbyterian Church Votes New Responsibilities for Commissioned Lay Pastors
After their 1996 General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sent to each presbytery for affirmation amendments to the Church Constitution which give commissioned lay pastors the authority to carry out additional functions of ministry. Those amendments were ratified by a clear majority of the 172 presbyteries and became effective June 21, 1997.
Commissioned lay pastors are those individuals who are "granted a local commission by the presbytery to lead worship and preach the gospel, watch over the people and provide for their nurture and service." The commission is valid only in one or more congregations designated by the presbytery.
When the office of commissioned lay pastor was instituted in the church, it was seen as a"new and flexible approach for accomplishing mission" and a leadership model "for immigrant churches and fellowships as well as isolated and rural churches who cannot attract a minister of Word and Sacrament." They are selected by and receive training approved by the presbytery, are commissioned for up to three years, and are reviewed by the presbytery annually. Ordinarily, commissioned lay pastors are elders (individuals, not clergy, who are ordained by and within a local congregation); but a presbytery may, by a three-fourths vote, authorize a commissioned lay pastor who is not an elder. A minister of the Word and Sacrament is assigned as a mentor and supervisor of the commissioned lay pastor.
When the office was first established in 1984, commissioned lay pastors were authorized to administer the Lord's Supper. The new amendments authorize them to administer the sacrament of Baptism, moderate the session of the congregation under the supervision of and when invited by the presbytery, have a voice in meetings of the presbytery, and perform a service of Christian marriage when invited by the session or other responsible committee, and when allowed by the state.
Information provided by Edna Sinnock, Associate for Churchwide Information Services (800-872-3283), and Rev. William Chapman, Princeton University